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Cycling In Majorca and a ‘Miraculous’ Recovery

Cycling in Majorca

 

You might have noticed a distinct lack of new posts from the Grimpeur over the past 10 days. The reason? Like Bradley Wiggins, I’ve been on a mid-season training camp in Majorca. Or as my wife calls it, our family summer holiday.

The holiday was an extended family affair. As well as Les Petits Grimpeurs (?!), we also had my parents, and my sister and her fiancé along for the ride.

I’ll admit, I exerted Merckx-iavellian influence to ensure that we went to a cycle-friendly location and booked my bike hire a good four weeks before arranging the rental car, but I didn’t truly expect to have the opportunity to do lots of training.

My persistent knee problems, which I talked about in my posts about buying a new bike and undertaking a professional bike fit, have tended to prevent consistent blocks of training. Despite having rented a bike for 8 of the 10 days of our holiday, I anticipated maybe 2 or 3 rides, with knee-enforced rest in between.

How wrong I was. And, thankfully, wrong in a good way.

What a Difference a Day (Two Weeks, a New Bike, New Pedals And a Bike Fit) Makes

I may as well go straight to the punch line. My training went an awful lot better than I expected.

I managed six rides in total, with the following stats:

Total ride distance:  275.8km (171.4 miles)

Total metres climbed:  4,887 metres (16,033 feet)

Total time in the saddle:  13 hours 45 minutes

And the best part of it all: my knee felt great throughout. I noticed the odd twinge at the start of my first big climbing day, but that was probably a case of being oversensitive in advance of what I knew would be a reasonably challenging ride. I felt no soreness in between rides (other than the good sort that presents in the muscles to tell you that you’ve done ‘a good job of work’).

The block of training seems to have worked. When I returned to the UK and did a 40 km route that I’ve done a couple of times before (both sessions resulting in more-than-usual knee discomfort), I knocked 8 minutes off my previous best time, completing it in under an hour and a half. And without a twinge or a hobble to show for it. Good times (in all respects)!

Cycling in Majorca (Is Awesome)

Whisper it, Majorca is almost as good for cycling as the Peak District. For someone looking to get in a good stint of training (whilst wearing minimal clothing), the largest of the Balearic Islands is perfect.

I’ll be doing more posts on cycling in Majorca in the future, so I’ll try to keep this cycling lettre d’amour brief.

Smooth As A Royal Baby’s Bum

Majorca has beautifully smooth roads, even going up and down the mountains. The roads tend to be quiet (though you’ll want to time your rides to avoid hitting the hairpins at the same time as the tourist coaches). The weather is splendiferous (though in the summer, rides at the start or end of the day work best).

The climbs (or at least the ones I did) tended to have reasonably constant gradients. They are not so extreme that you find yourself running out of gears (provided you’re riding a triple or compact chainset). It’s easy to get into a steady rhythm.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

The climbs are longer, and go higher, than the majority of the climbs in the UK. It’s quite easy to find climbs that are 7–10km+ in length, with vertical heights climbed of 700m and beyond.

If you want to do that in the UK, pretty much the only comparable climb would be Bealach-na-ba in the Scottish highlands (which most people would find considerably more difficult to get to that Majorca).

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Once you’ve gone up, you get to come down. Quickly. The same lack of rolling resistance that sped (!) you up the climb, helps you to fly down at whatever speed you feel comfortable.

The absence of potholes mean that wheel-busting surprises tend not to lurk around every corner (other than the occasional suicidal goat). Even the steepest roads were two lanes wide, with lane markings down the middle. Provided you stay on your side of the road, the risk of finding yourself parking your bike on the roof of a car (Peter Sagan style) is low.

I’m not sure I need to say this again, but compared to the sharp, steep and bomb-cratered climbs we’re used to here in the UK, climbing in Majorca is a pleasure.

Riding On The Shoulder Of Giants

Sa Calobra Switchbacks...

Sa Calobra Switchbacks…

The Majorca trip contained my first ‘proper’ classified climb. The highlight of the trip (and the focus of my training in the early part of the week) was our ascent of the climb from Sa Calobra (at sea level) to the Coll dels Reis (the climb is known amongst cyclists as ‘Sa Calobra’, even though strictly that’s the name of the village at the bottom).

According to the sign at the bottom, its a 9.5km long climb, with an average 7% gradient. In some places it ramps to 10% steepness and beyond. The total vertical height climbed is just under 700 metres.

It’s used by the pros that train on the island, including those from Sky Pro Cycling (who I think stay in a hotel in Alcudia) and British Cycling.

I could try to describe the climb in minute (yet entertaining) detail. It wouldn’t be accurate though, as I spent the best part of the 58 minutes it took me to crest the climb focused primarily on my front wheel (when I wasn’t on lookout duty for coaches). Luckily I can link to the accounts of other cyclists that have climbed it in a far more coherent frame of mind than I.

I mentioned that professional cyclists frequently test themselves on Sa Calobra. If you want to see them in action, road.cc kindly gathered together videos from three of the smaller British pro teams.

Strava classifies Sa Calobra as a Category 1 climb. Montgomery classifies it as ‘awesome’.

Conclusion

So that was my summer holiday. Other things happened as well (beaches, swimming pools, kids-in-meltdown, cerveza, barbecued squid) but frankly that all pales into insignificance against the cycling.

Now I need to focus on putting the finishing touches to my training (such as it is) for RideLondon (only 12 days from now) and think about logistics, equipment and nutrition. I’m sure there’ll be posts on these topics in due course.

I hope your training is going well and that you’ve been able to do some of it in the sun (whether that’s at home or abroad).

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • IWearSpandex1 July 23, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Wow, a category 1 climb…awesome! Congrats on that climb as well as the great cycling. I’m glad I’m not the only dad who plans his trips in a specific order…cycling, beer, and then family. Seemed to work well.

    • Andrew Montgomery July 23, 2013, 9:01 pm

      Thanks Brian. If you ever make over to Europe then I recommend Majorca as a great place to combine cycling and other more family-friendly activities (including lots of flatter routes for the kids to enjoy).

  • Giles Roadnight July 24, 2013, 7:54 am

    Well done on what sounds like some pretty impressive training! I did most of the Surrey section of the ride 100 last weekend, a ride totalling 75 miles. I was pretty happy with how it went, the hills were fine and I didn’t stop or eat anything for the whole ride so I think the actual 100 miles with proper stops and food will be fine. Maybe see you there! 🙂

    • Andrew Montgomery July 25, 2013, 11:16 am

      Thanks Giles. With a block of training behind me, it feels like I can focus more on enjoying the day rather than wondering whether I’ll limp in under the time limit.

      Yeah – with that 75 miler, it sounds like you’re pretty much done. Not quite sure how you managed it on no food…

  • Global Nomad July 31, 2013, 9:54 pm

    was there in April on a holiday with the non riding wife. Agree with all your descriptions. Nice whether even then but the culmination of the week was the Duva Sportive and it rained heavily with snow on the mountains. huge amount of climbing but very satisfying despite the weather.

    • Andrew Montgomery August 1, 2013, 6:39 pm

      Is that the one where the military allow you to climb Puig Major? That would be something special.

  • Global Nomad August 2, 2013, 1:57 pm

    No this is just up to the highest normal road point. The last 200m climb is open only once a year due to the military road as you say.
    here it is on Strava
    http://app.strava.com/activities/47896817

  • Andrew Montgomery July 25, 2013, 11:15 am

    Thanks Tomas. I will forgive your shameless plug for your local area 😉

    I’ve been on a number of family holidays to the Algarve (around Lagos), 15-20 years ago and would gladly go back.

    The main reason we chose Majorca over the Algarve this time round is that me and my wife learnt some Spanish whilst traveling on our honeymoon – Spanish holidays allow us to try to keep our language skills limping along. In Portuguese, I’m limited to Obrigado and Bom dia.

    You do have piri piri chicken though…

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