Last week we were lucky enough to revisit the cycling paradise that is Mallorca. Based in Port de Pollenca, we rode many of our favourite climbs in almost perfect weather. We hope this blog will inspire you ahead of your next trip.
After arriving at the villa, we dropped our bags and headed out to spin the legs. Day one was all about enjoying the refreshing and calming sea front. The short journey south from Port de Pollenca to Alcudia is completely flat. Turn your head to the left and take in the refreshing sea views. Turn your head to the right and you'll get a glance of the Tramuntana mountains which await later in the week.
After heading inland from Alcudia, you'll pass through rural Mallorcan farms, via undulating and often less than immaculate tarmac en route to Caimari. The first of the weeks climbs lies just ahead, the Coll de Sa Batalla. 7.8km at almost 5%, this climb won't hurt the legs too much, and is a nice gradient to find a steady rhythm to adopt for the rest of the week. After reaching the summit, there is the fast and flowing descent of the Coll de Femenia to come (a descent you'll master by the end of the trip) before riding the flat and straight road back to the sea front.
There are few more scenic climbs in the world than Cap de Formentor. The road to the lighthouse and most Northern point of Mallorca is simply stunning. Loaded with switchbacks from the very beginning of the route out of Port de Pollenca, every turn provides you with a new view to take your breath away. The first section of this route will see you tackle the Coll de La Crueta, a steady climb in itself which culminates at the car park and viewpoint for the road ahead. Unless you head out first thing, expect the road to be packed with tour busses and cars.
Thankfully many of those vehicles go no further than the car park, leaving you free to enjoy the incredible descent towards Formentor, a small taste of what's to come. After reaching the flat lands of the forest, you're faced with a few KM's of straight and almost flat tarmac, before the real fun begins.
Head left at the junction and you'll soon begin to climb again towards the lighthouse. Initially surrounded by trees, you'll soon be greeted with vast open views of the Mediterranean. One of our favourite viewpoints is of an idyllic bay, just ahead of the only tunnel en route to the lighthouse. We always make a point of visiting that bay, but never have.
After the tunnel, every twist and turn provides a new perspective on this amazing island. Don't expect it to be a constant climb, it's as undulating as it is beautiful. Eventually, every turn sees you almost completely surrounded by sea. At this point, you can just feel the lighthouse looming. Sure enough, after rounding a final left turn, the lighthouse jumps into view.
A welcome descent allows you to take a breath and take in the view, before climbing the final few turns to the car park and cafe. Take a second to look back on the route you've travelled, there are few more picturesque views in the world.
The best part? You get to experience the whole journey again on the return to Port de Pollenca.
The jewel in the crown; Sa Calobra, or the Coll dels Reis to give it it's formal name, is for many cyclists, the main reason for visiting Mallorca. This absolute delight of a climb is as unique as it is breath taking.
Beginning our ride in Port de Pollenca, we quickly reached the Coll de Femenia. 7.5km at 6%, the Femenia is a deceptively leg sapping climb. Situated on the main route from Pollenca to Lluc and Sa Calobra, its a wide, twisty and open climb which on our Garmin at least, seemed to average closer to 8%. Given that there is a short descent and a relatively flat section towards the summit, if you underestimate the Femenia and go too hard, your legs will likely suffer on the big climb to follow.
After a relatively straight but short descent for a couple of KM's, the road rises again, with twists, turns and undulating tarmac which seems to go on for far longer than is expected.
Eventally we pass the signs for Lluc, which means one final push uphill to reach the turn for Sa Calobra. We pass under the ancient arches and past the outdoor cafe in pursuit of Sa Calobra.
You have no doubt heard that Sa Calobra is unique in that to climb it, you first have to descend it. Whilst that is true, there are still a few uphill KM's from the arches to the summit to contend with. These short turns start to give a feel for the brilliance to follow.
Once we each the summit, nicely situated between two huge rocks where the road narrows, we're greeted with one of the most recognisable images in Mallorcan cycling; a spiral bridge, one of just 5 in Europe and probably the only one available to cycle. This 270 degree bend is a symbol of the phenomenal road engineering to follow.
Once we pass under the bridge the views open up. It's too tempting not to take a quick stop to view the road we're about to travel. Looking down the climb, it's as if the road builders took every great corner, from every great Formula 1 track, and built them onto the side of this epic mountain. Words and pictures don't do it justice.
The first section of the descent is tight, twisty and somewhat nervous whilst we find confidence in the brakes on our carbon clinchers. Pretty soon we're on longer sections where speeds reach close to 50kph. The banking on the switchbacks helps to accelerate out of the corners towards the next turn - of which there are many.
The road continues to twist and turn, for another few KM's, before we eventually reach the peaceful bay of Sa Calobra itself. On the day we're amongst the first riders to arrive. In fact, we only passed one car on the way down. We pick the seats in the sun, and enjoy a coffee and a cake whilst watching other riders roll in, and plotting our attack on the way back up.
Almost immediately the road rises. There are 9.4km ahead at an almost consistent 7.1%. We settle into a steady rhythm, not letting the heart rate go past 155bpm. The lower slopes are tree lined and relatively enclosed. Once the trees pass we have the chance to look up. It's an incredible sight. To reach the summit it appears you have to rock climb out of the harbour. The switchbacks hardly coming into view towards the summit.
Pretty soon we find ourselves on those incredible switchbacks, and we're able to see the astonishing path to the summit. By now the traffic has picked up, cars and various other cyclists are descending while we climb. Then the tourist busses appear, at one point we have to come to a complete stop to allow the bus to descend a particularly tight switchback.
Within the final few KM's we start to reach the steeper slopes, the Garmin displays 12%. The legs are tiring, the views keeping us going. The 270 degree bridge comes into view, finally. We're almost at the summit. Many riders choose to stop at the cafe by the bridge, not us. We're not done until we reach the true summit at the gap between the rocks. Once there we have a few KM's of twisty but fast descending, before we stop at the cafe by the arches to take in more water. Why not, we've earned it.
The route back to Port de Pollenca is once again undulating, but eventually mostly downhill. You'll descend the Femenia once again, probably quicker than yesterday, before reaching the flat straight to the sea front. We sit back, open a beer and relax. What a day, what a ride.
The big one. 121km with over 3000m of climbing. Leaving Port de Pollenca we once again find ourselves on the Coll de Femenia, and shortly after we reach the arches and the exit to Sa Calobra. The rode rises, we're on the climb of Puig Major, or the Tunel de Monnaber to the natives. This is the shorter side, but still represents a good test of the legs.
What follows is a stunning section of road, which passes two stunning reservoirs, the water appearing green through the lens of our sunglasses.
Soon after we hit the descent. 14km of fast, rolling turns on impeccable tarmac. We pass other riders on the climb, sweat pouring from their faces. We'll share that pain soon. For now we enjoy the view over the top of Soller. Every turn in the road brings a new view of this impressive looking town.
Eventually we reach the Port of Soller and the sea front. A very welcome coffee and cake awaits before we climb out of the port, and begin the longest climb in Mallorca, the 14KM climb of Puig Major. It's gradient averages almost 6%, and like many of the climbs on the island, it's possible to find a steady rhythm, only the sharpest of switchbacks make the road rise steeper.
We reach the summit once again, the black tunnel being a welcome site. The route back to Port de Pollenca is by now familiar. It's a 5 hour ride, but oh so worth it.
Thanks to James Shorter for providing the incredible imagery.