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Cycling In Mallorca

There are no two ways about it, Majorca is the holiday destination for cyclists. But why do they flock in their tens of thousands to this, the largest of the Balearic islands, each year?


Pedro Delgado, the Spaniard who won the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in the late 1980s, says it's simple: "In Majorca you can find everything.”"Majorca is a special place to cycle because the weather is good and you can find flat terrain or mountains; Majorca offers riders of different abilities good opportunities. I think it's a perfect place to ride. When I was I professional, I used to come here for our team training camp in January, it's where we planned for the season. You see it still nowadays with many professional teams still coming to Majorca in the early part of the season. Majorca's a perfect location to start the season because the weather is warm and there are good routes to ride."

Indeed, having ridden around the island many times, one thing that always strikes me is the variety. While Tenerife remains a playground for pure climbers and Gran Canaria, too, a favourite with the mountain goats, the beauty of Majorca, for riders of all levels, is its accessibility: there are few climbs here that will prove too difficult for the average rider. It is the north of the island from Port de Pollença and Alcúdia south along the coastal road towards Playa de Muro, where most cyclists base themselves during their stays on the island. And with good reason. With easy access to the Serra de Tramuntana range of mountains, the popular ride to Cap de Formentor, the most northern point on the island and the flatter routes south of Sa Pobla towards Sant Llorenç des Cardassar, the north is the perfect base.

Truth be told you could base yourself anywhere on the island and find ridable routes, with good road surfaces and away from the bigger towns, little traffic. The islands hoteliers, unsurprisingly, have welcomed the new-breed of tourist to their island with open arms. "The type of tourist we used to attract in and around Alcúdia wanted to drink and party all night, nowadays they are more focused on health, fitness and enjoying Majorca, all of it, not just the bars and beaches," explains Miquel Pericàs of the Viva Hotels group. "Of course, there's still Magaluf for those that want to party, but here in Alcúdia it's much quieter than it was 15 years ago.” Alcudia attracts cyclists - rather than those looking to drink and party all night.

Pericàs, whose hotel group regularly houses the British Cycling squad and Team Sky during training camps on the island, understands the need better than most for attention to detail. Though just one of the hundreds of hotels aimed at the estimated 150,000 cyclo-tourists that head to Majorca each year, Viva Hotels set the standard. From secure bike storage facilities that are monitored 24/7 through to bike-washing facilities, on-site mechanics and in-house shops stocking branded kit, tools, inner tubes and whatever else the cyclist abroad needs, Viva Hotels has it covered. They even supply small packed lunches for riders each morning.

With an industry that is worth around €150 million according to a recent European Union-funded study it is little surprise that where there were once bars selling mojitos by the bucket load, there are now bike shops. Lots of them; good ones too. But it's the roads that attracts the thousands of riders to the island each year for the monstrous sounding but wholly manageable for any half-decent amateur, The Mallorca 312 cyclo-sportive. Originally conceived in 2010 when 199 intrepid riders set off for a single 312-kilometre lap of the island, Majorca 312 has rapidly grown and in 2016 attracted 4,500 riders. Of course, to enjoy the Mallorcan roads you don't have to commit to organised events such as Mallorca 312. After all, if you did you would miss one the gems in the island's crown: Col de Cal Reis, or Sa Calobra as it is more commonly known. Designed in the 1930s by Italian engineer Antonio Parietti who also to built the road from Port de Pollença to Cap de Formentor, is one of the most unique mountain roads in Europe. To cycle up the 9.9km climb, riders must first descend down towards the small fishing village of Sa Calobra before turning around and dragging themselves all the way back up again.

On Sunday, I was in Santa Maria for lunch at one of the town’s oldest Majorcan restaurants. Despite the clouds and the odd drop of rain, the restaurant and bar terraces along the main drag were heaving with a mixture of locals and cycle clubs. The rows of special cycle parking racks were all full and some of the cycle groups were 20-strong, if not more, and they were spending a small fortune. Had they not been in town on Sunday, Santa Maria would have been half empty, but instead the bars, restaurants and local grocers were cashing in on the island’s flourishing cycle tourism industry. Scores of bars and restaurants across the island have cottoned on to the needs of cyclists offering secure "parking" and special menus. and what the hostelry sector loves even more is that cyclists don’t hang a round too long. They will stop, refuel on carbohydrates, liquids etc., enjoy a brief rest and then cycle off, only for their seats to be occupied by another group of cyclists. It’s a quick and lucrative turnover in areas, which as a rule and especially out of season would not be so busy.