Spain is home to ‘La Vuelta a España’, one of the three Grand Tours which shape the European cycling season. It has a rich cycling tradition and its profile as a quality cycling destination has risen rapidly over the last 15 years. The now disgraced Lance Armstrong first put Girona in northern Spain on the international cycling map when he lived and trained there, bringing along many of his former US Postal teammates. They were quickly joined by other pro-team outfits such as Garmin Cervelo. In recent years though, the trend has shifted to the Spanish islands of Mallorca, Tenerife, and Lanzarote with a huge influx of pro cycling teams looking for places to escape the winter chill of mainland Europe.
Mallorca provides the perfect base for European cyclists looking for some quality early season training. While the rest of Europe is caught in a freeze and mountain passes are buried under metres of snow, the cycling season on the Balearic Islands can begin as early as February. During February, Mallorca enjoys calm and clear weather with temperatures typically ranging between 10-15 degrees Celsius. The chance to train at this time of the year definitely gives you a head start; just ask 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who bought real estate on the island during 2012 and spent early 2013 training on this cycling haven.
Mallorca – is it really the new Cycling Mecca?
So why exactly have cyclists sought out Mallorca of all places? Perhaps it is the stand-alone airport bike carousel, or perhaps street vending machines that sell bike tubes rather than cans of coke. In all seriousness, the first wave of international cycling tourists arrived to Mallorca about 25 years ago due its warm temperate weather, sandy beaches, long days, excellent accommodation and fresh food. They discovered a variety of cycling terrain, lightly trafficked roads, and the chance for enjoyable loop rides combining picturesque coastal views, interior scraggy mountain rocky landscapes, and fertile green central fields and pastures.
Mallorca offers a range of cycling terrain which means the island is accessible to beginners through to professionals; anyone with an interest in pedal power. The island measures 3,640 square km and has a well organised and interconnected road network; depending on where you call home there will be door to door cycling options available. The island also opens itself to 10 to 12 unique cycling stages which will take you through the flat central sections of the island to the mountainous and remote southern and northern roads. Though “remote” might sound strange for a relatively small island, the mountain roads are exactly that. Cycling switchback after switchback, up and over its ten categorised climbs, the chances of being passed by a professional cyclist on his daily training ride is greater than being passed by a petrol fueled vehicle. Don’t let them get you down though as they speed by. For what it’s worth I prefer being overtaken by a professional cyclist than a car any day!
The Mediterranean island also boasts the spectacular World Heritage ‘Serra de Tramuntana’ mountain range to the north and west of the island. Cycling this mountain range is a treat for those looking for elevation gain. There are seven Category 1 and 2 climbs available which range between 5-14km in length and have average gradients between 5-7%. The two Category 1 climbs to ‘Puig Major’ and ‘Sa Colabra’ are a must do. Puig Major rises to Majorca´s highest point at 1445m and offers amazing island views, and the battle to ‘Sa Colabra’, with its 26 switchbacks, is a test of concentration, all the while though enjoying the beautiful landscapes.
Mallorca and its Cycling Calendar
From the 10 million tourists who visit Mallorca annually, approximately 70,000 thousand are cyclists. Almost half (40%) of this number are women, so the island is a great cycling destination for individuals, couples and families alike. There are also many events on the Mallorca cycling calendar which are attracting cyclists of all breeds: competitive, social and challenge seekers. The fact that professional and recreational cyclists return year after year speaks volumes for the royal treatment they receive and the cycling experience that awaits them at every kilometre marker.
The cycling season in Mallorca is split into two periods from January to May, and September to October. A list of some of the key events on the calendar is provided below:
1. Challenge Iberostar Mallorca
Pro tour event which is held every February.
2. Marxa Cicloturista de Femines
Cyclo-sportive event solely for female participants and held every year during late May.
3. WiW Duva International
Cyclo-sportive ride which is held during April and includes 95km & 135km options.
4. Mallorca 312
Cyclo-sportive event held during April which is a serious challenge and not for the faint hearted. Mallorca 312 takes cyclists around the entire circumference of the island (312km) and includes over 4300m of elevation gain. If you think you can beat the 14 hour time limit, then this could be the next challenge ride for you!
5. Tour of Mallorca for Masters
During October, a full week of Masters racing is available for those looking to test themselves against the best ‘veteran’ riders from Europe.
Establishing your Mallorcan cycling base?
This is in no way an exhaustive list of regions to choose from, but the most popular towns for cyclists looking to establish a cycling base include Port de Alcudia (Puerto de Alcudia), Port de Pollenca (Puerto de Pollenca) and Portocolom. These regions are all to the east of the island and far away from the capital Palma de Mallorca and its tourist masses.
Orica GreenEdge (the original Australian pro team) made their first official training visit to the island in February 2013 and called the Hotel Iberostar Playa de Muro home for a week. It is not difficult to see why this hotel has become a magnet for cyclists. With over 2000 road bikes on site for hire, one can quickly see that this hotel is prepared to satisfy the hungry demand for cycling tourists. It is obviously a hit with the tourists as 90% of their guests travel to Mallorca without their bikes. The hotel also includes resort like features with many pools, spas, sports training rooms and its own private beach. Not forgetting the cycling memorabilia that is littered throughout the hotel from pro teams including Katusha, GreenEdge, Garmin, and Omega Pharma Quickstep to name a few.
Cycling is full of tactics and Mallorca, while being a fun holiday destination, could well be your next secret training paradise.