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  Posted February 10th, 2010 by Zdenko  in Cycling, Travel | One comment

Top rides

By: Zdenko Kahlina

Getting ready for new racing season in Mallorca (Spain)
While here in Edmonton we are still shoveling snow on our driveways as the best preparation for the new cycling season, somewhere in “normal” world, cyclists are beginning their preparation with the road rides in the warm climates.

Beautiful city of Palma de Mallorca

Balearic islands

Malecon in Mallorca

It’s tough to maintain a regular training regimen 12 months a year. Taking a break from your usual routine for an off season, winter training program will not only help you maintain a good foundation or base for those early spring rides, but also help to avoid burn out when it’s time to resume those tough, regular season sessions.

The more-informed pro-cycling fan would know that Mallorca is a favorite pre-season training destination in Europe. It’s more famous for the pre-season Tour of Mallorca, which follows its own revised stage-race rules (“ride the stages you want”), reflecting perfectly the laid-back lifestyle on this welcoming island.

Mallorca is located due-south of Barcelona in the Mediterranean sea. From Barcelona, it’s about an hour by plane, or about 6 hours by ferry. It is the largest of the Balearic Islands, a four-island archipelago including Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. The islands are well-known for their spectacular weather, unique scenery and beaches, beaches, beaches. It is a vacation destination for much of Western Europe, and its economy relies on summer tourism. It is also world-renowned for its sailing and yachting. Check-out the décor of local bars and cafés, and you’ll notice photos and jerseys of local cycling legends and pros who frequent the areas.

Cycle-Tourism is encouraged by the local government! Imagine It! The beach-lovers typically arrive after Easter, and the temperature is comfortable for riding long before that. The sun shines, the roads are smooth and traffic-free, and cyclists rule. Several commercial operations rent first-rate bikes at reasonable rates. Some offer complete packages of hotel, bike, airport pickup, and supported rides. In one day, a very experienced and fit cyclist can reach anywhere on the island, but the ride back home may be more than you can take. Many tour companies will bus you to a remote start location for long day trip making your way home.

The island has a vast network of restricted-access roads designated as bike routes. Don’t mistake these for the bike paths you may be imagining; they are full-fledged roadways, euro-narrow of course, with restricted access to cars and low speed limits. On Mallorca, you can ride among 1000m+ high mountains, and on empty arid plains near sea level, all in a single ride.

To the North American cyclist, it is an unusual experience to ride where you and your bike are welcome on the roads as part of the culture. Cycling spreads tourism wealth into the center of the island, instead of leaving it concentrated at the coastal resorts. I’m convinced that at some point, amid the familiar political struggles between road users, somebody here actually counted the beans. It appears the conclusion was that supporting and promoting cycle-tourism, rather than discouraging it, was more economically astute. The island as a whole benefits from a longer tourist season, a high density of tourists with low density of traffic, and cleaner, fresher air for sure.

While weather is generally great on the island, when you consider how much can go wrong with lightweight portable camera equipment (batteries failing, cameras failing, incorrect aiming, a lens collision with a bugs you don’t notice for hours) and you add the possibility of poor weather, then you know that spending only a week on location is gambling against long odds. I was also eager to gather some “solo riding” footage. Some friends have indicated they might like more of these rides. While I prefer to have riders in frame, the “solo ride” point of view showcases the landscape a little more. It’s interesting as long as the scenery is particularly beautiful, and certainly Mallorca qualifies.

In Mallorca this scene is common.

Mallorca’s largest city is Palma. This area has several seaside hotels and a beachside-strip where you can watch peloton after enthusiastic peloton, leaving each morning. They arrive back each evening a little more splintered and sullen. Without exaggeration, you see several hundreds to thousands of cyclists here. Staying in this area was new to me, and I chose it to be within easy reach of several spectacular climbing rides among the Sierra Tramuntana. You can cover the solo-rides from here and likely meet up with many riders and new friends in the process.

Why did my parents never send me to this kind of camp?

Plenty of places to stop and re-caffeinate.

Joining up with returning pelotons.

Ancient trees and stone walls built and rebuilt by hand, line the many roads of Mallorca.

Gruppo Rapido clips along steadily, until the final hour or so. Then you’ll have to hold tight to a wheel.

You Can’t Have A Bad Ride On Mallorca
Every ride in Mallorca will be group affairs which eventually divide between gruppo rapido and gruppo relaxo. There are plenty of excellent coffee stops (read that both ways: excellent places to stop for coffee, and places to stop for excellent coffee!), and your guides know them all. Depending on weather and the whims of your group, you could find yourself on the beautiful northern coastline, featuring sheer mountain cliffs soaring up from the sea. A trip to the most westerly Cap Formentor is always a hilly, watery highlight and plenty of other riders will accompany you to the lighthouse.

A ride along the northern coastline is breathtaking…physically and visually.

An aqueduct emerges from the high cliffs along the road to Lluc, marking the famous turn to the Cobra.

Forge Your Own Tales
Tales from the Big Ring™ endure because our memories are etched deeply by intense experiences, whether it’s from the pain and suffering of climbing or the euphoria of descending a serpentine road in a rocky chasm, chasing after gruppo muy rapido. They are the raison d’être of the sport-cyclotourista experience. A trip to Mallorca with your club friends or alone is a great way to add more vivid tales to your repertoire. I can guarantee you after the trip to Mallorca, you’ll be ready for the season in front of you!

Have a good and healthy season.

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  1. Comment by Fred:

    I love the layout of this site, it looks very pro! Is the template a free one or a premium one?

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