I’ve been home a few days now so the wistful glances back to the day I spent climbing, rolling, descending and climbing again around some of the most spectacular roads I’ve ever ridden are still occupying my mind relentlessly. Mallorca was everything I’d hoped it would be – fun, challenging, a change from the norm, sunny, amazing. It had looked at one point though like it might just turn out to be a very wet and disappointing squib. Initially I had booked my hire bike for the Saturday, however biblical rain had meant I needed to move the booking to the Monday. Bozhidar at Speed Bike Mallorca was incredibly flexible and accommodating, indeed the service here was first class from booking to handing the bike back at the end of the ride.
Having picked up my whip for the day and – a light, responsive Basso Venta, just what I needed for a day in the mountains, I pedalled away through the morning sun and light sea breeze towards the Iberian countryside. Rolling through towns with beautifully Spanish names like Cases de sa Font Seca and past the Iberostar Stadium, home of Real Mallorca FC, I eventually turned off the main road and onto some very quiet country lanes bordered by poppies and olive groves, the silence only pierced by the call of the local birdlife.
Passing through old idyllic Spanish villages and farms the road curled and undulated gently as a soft breeze cascaded over the roadside flowers. Sadly, to make my way towards the mountains I needed to leave this serenity and rejoin a main road. Although this carriageway was the main route to my next town, Lloseta, the traffic volume was low, indeed there were more roadies than vehicles and even when I was passed by a car I was given ample room. The riding never required any serious effort and I rolled along comfortably taking in the scenery and the warm air.
I made my way through Lloseta, birthplace of Olympic cyclist Miguel Martorell, and carried on along the Ma-2113 and Ma-2114 to Selva where the road began to pick up as the mountains moved from their distant position on the horizon and suddenly were front and centre; here we go I thought.
My first climb was the Coll de sa Batalla, a 5 mile ascent at an average of 5% reaching a height of 567 meters, amongst a UNESCO world heritage site which is as stunning as the awarding of this status suggest, with the beautifully smooth road snaking its way up between the mountains and wooded areas, punctuated with rocks and views across down into a ravine that leaves your jaw banging against your stem as the beauty of the place keeps on coming. I lost track of the times I felt compelled to stop and just look and soak it all in. The climb itself is fairly easy and I remain in the saddle all the way up, reaching the top feeling pretty fresh, perhaps if I’d been a bit more serious and less touristy about it I’d be feeling it a bit more – I’d certainly have recorded a better time! I take the obligatory stop in the little café at the top by the petrol station and refill my bidon, get a baguette down my cakehole and push on to the next ascent, Coll dels Reis at 682 meters.
This is where the climbing proper starts. Making a mental note of the refreshment stall at the entrance of the road to Sa Colabra (which the climb is more commonly known by) I take the slight descent before it kicks up, and up towards the summit. By now the switchbacks have become familiar and it’s no different here, but before long this category 2 climb is done. The view is stunning and after a quick pause for a photo by the sign designating the height I sit on the wall and look out across the valley for a few minutes before I head onwards, the iconic road to the coastal town of Sa Colabra awaits.
This 6 mile weaving, looping road is a dream to descend, barring the occasional car or coach (more on that later). I roll down to sea level taking each perfectly asphalted switchback and bend with ease as I enjoy every metre of the downwards spiral and the awe inspiring surroundings, down through the clouds to the warmth of the sun, through rocks and areas brimming with glorious greenery, all the while joined by roadies sharing the same passion as me; its as if each individual grin are coming together to create one huge communal smile.
A feeling of disappointment washes over me at the bottom, I wanted that to carry on and on and I’m sad that it’s over. I guess all things must pass though, so I chew on an energy bar, and head back up. Just past the turn off to Cala Tuent I get stuck behind five or six coaches, and have to wait at the side of the road for about five minutes whilst they and a bunch of cars creep past me. I don’t mind letting vehicles past if it’s safe and the right thing to do, but this greatly impacted my time for the climb and left me feeling all hurumphy and a bit annoyed. Bloody cars.
The climb itself seems harder than I thought, more so for the final third, the two thirds prior to that being challenging but by no means punishing. I should have been alerted to this by the look of pain on the faces of the climbers as I went down but I was too much in the moment of the descent to properly acknowledge this. I’m in the saddle for the majority of the climb, only standing for the rides that require that extra push or to give my back a rest and my legs a different position. As I pass other riders I approach a switchback and just in front of me are two guys riding together, I chase up to the wheel in front of me and then as we come to the next switchback take them on the inside and pull away, managing to hold a 50 metre gap until the summit before I give in to the lactic.
As someone who wouldn’t call themselves a climber I absolutely loved this one. Perhaps it was due to the iconic status of this climb, perhaps it was knowing I was riding on the same road as the pros? perhaps it was the setting? perhaps it was the camaraderie amongst all those other roadies? or maybe it was because there’s nothing like that here? Whatever the reason I was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat at the top. What I didn’t like, apart from those pesky coaches, was the amount of empty gel wrappers I saw on the ground. Why do some people think it’s ok to litter the countryside, and somewhere so special in this instance? Grow up folks, you’re not a pro in a race, being followed by a team of litter pickers who are there to clear up your mess. Stick the used wrapper in your pocket and get rid of it at the next bin. The arrogance and disregard this shows is disgusting.
I returned to where the Sa Colabra road meets the main Ma-10 and the little refreshment shack selling fresh orange juice and sweet and savoury snacks; I decide I must have some food. The man behind the counter has other ideas, he only takes cash I don’t even have enough for a Snickers (€1.50). I’ll just have to wait until I get to the next place then. I set off along the velvety asphalt road that hugs the mountains, undulating all the way through tunnels, round hairpin bends, alongside the Gorg Blau (a mountain lake that shimmers under the afternoon sun and is as still as a mirror) towards Sóller. This road is a lot of fun, the number of cars et al is very low and the road begs to be ridden, so tucking into the bike and assuming the aero position repays in droves as I roll along at about 40mph without much effort.
Sóller is where the third and final climb begins. Coll de Sóller is a 4.5 mile ascent at about 5.7% to a height of 497 metres that takes in over 20 switchbacks as it steadily goes up. As I rode up with my near empty bidons and the heat now reaching about 26°C I became increasingly tempted by the orange trees that grow sporadically alongside this tarmac of this quiet climb. Fortunately for me, and the orange, I rounded the next corner (or was it two?) and reached the top where upon I came across a small café selling sandwiches, drinks and gels etc. I stopped here desperate to fulfil my desire for liquids and to indulge my appetite once more. After devouring a cheese sarni, glugging on a can of full fat Coke and refilling both bidons I begin the descent. More switchbacks took me spiralling down, past cars that pulled to the side to let me past – they just can’t take the bends like me, the view that stretched for miles disappearing all the while as I make my way back to earth. I’m eventually dumped back on to the monotony of the main Ma-10 to Palma. However this is now pan flat and with a gentle tailwind I make good progress back towards the bike hire shop.
As I hand the bike back and walk away I am suitably exhausted, but in a great, fulfilled way. The day exceeded my high expectations from start to finish and is something I’d advocate to everyone who gets the chance. All I need to do now is work out when I can go back. Perhaps a Centuries.cc training camp/holiday?
Here’s a little video from near the top of the descent down to Sa Colabra: