Inspired by the likes of Chris Froome, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, amateur cycling has exploded, with cycling holidays now the new golfing breaks. Luxury London discovers how Mallorca became the ultimate two-wheel destination
Arriving in Palma, there’s not a cloud in the sky. As I make my way to Castell Son Claret, a recently renovated castle offering five-star accommodation pitched towards the cycling community, it becomes apparent just how popular Mallorca has become as a cycling Mecca. Cyclists litter the island’s picturesque roads everywhere you look.
Even sitting in the back of a car, I can feel how faultless the roads here are. No wonder Wiggins chose to move his family to Mallorca in pursuit of year-round cycling perfection.
Castell Son Claret, it seems, is a cyclist’s paradise. When I arrive, £10,000 Colnagos, Pinarellos and Cervelos clutter the entrance, as intrepid cyclists devour well-earned lunches in a restaurant behind. One couple I talk to have travelled all the way from Toronto to be here. It appears this country has found a home in the hearts of cyclists the globe over. Wisely, the hotel in which I’ve been invited to stay has begun offering cycling packages to cater for this well-heeled clientele.
Opened just four years ago, and located near Calvia, one of the wealthiest municipalities in Mallorca, Castell Son Claret sits within a 325-acre estate bordered by some of the best cycling roads I have ever seen. At lunch, making the most of Claret’s amenities, I gorge on protein and carbohydrates at the superb Olivera restaurant, knowing that I will soon be burning through calories at speed.
After lunch, I find myself clad from head to toe in the newest, most technically advanced cycling get-up from Rapha, and although I don’t feel like a professional cyclist, I sure as hell look like one. Meeting Guido Eicklebeck, manager of Bikecamp Mallorca, former professional cyclist and winner of the infamous Paris Roubaix, I’m more than a little nervous.
Even sitting in the back of a car, I can feel how faultless the roads here are. No wonder Wiggins chose to move his family to Mallorca in pursuit of year-round cycling perfection
After making the necessary adjustments to my bicycle, a brand new, fully carbon-fibre BMC, we head out for the day. Guido, a man who cycles 20,000 kilometres a year, makes the numerous climbs look easy, as I puff away, gritting my teeth to keep up.
“Cycling is the new golf,” Guido declares, as we approach the climb to Coll de sa Crue, deep in the Tramuntana Mountains. “Last year, many of these cyclists would have been on a golf course; now they’re here, cycling. Cycling is growing faster and faster year-on-year.”
A quick sip of water and we’re off again. We navigate hairpin after hairpin as we rise, and at the top we’re rewarded with panoramic views of stunning mountain ranges, Palma and across the Balearic sea.
Before long, Guido edges his bike forward and the race is on, cycling at well over 50kph all the way into Palma’s old town, via La Seu, the mighty gothic Roman cathedral, and along the coastline stopping finally for a much earned coffee before returning to the hotel.
“It’s a great way to explore Mallorca,” says Guido, “You get to experience the sights and sounds in an entirely new way.”
Averaging 35kph for almost five hours was tough, and I immediately jump in Claret’s outdoor pool to cool down. More food on the sun-kissed terrace of Olivera before heading to the spa for a massage and then onto Alaró, to meet former Olympic track cyclist and current Irish track coach, David Muntaner, to discuss all things cycling. I wonder what it is about Mallorca that’s transformed it into such a cycling hotspot?
“Firstly, it’s the weather,” says Muntaner. “Secondly, the roads; the drivers respect the cyclists so it’s very safe. And thirdly, it’s the climbs and the ability to do every kind of training – you’ll find everything you need here.”
“It’s a great way to explore Mallorca. You get to experience the sights and sounds in an entirely new way.”
Muntaner says that the island welcomes more and more cyclists every year, and that everyone who comes, normally comes back again. It’s easy to understand why – I’m in awe of the morning’s ride and itching to discover more of Mallorca’s spectacular roads – albeit on a different kind of two-wheeled transport this time.
The following day I rent a 1974 Moto Guzzi 850-T motorbike from Albion Motorcycles, a local vintage motorbike expedition company. Cycling may be having a moment in Mallorca, but motorcyclists have been coming to the island for years.
I hit the road early, with Albion’s resident factotum and guide, Marcus Weber. We ride through the Tramuntana Mountains to Valldemossa before cruising back along the sweeping coastal road. Marcus tells me this is a popular cycling route, and even at ten o’clock in the morning there are dozens upon dozens of cyclists hammering the asphalt. I grin, happy to be discovering some of the longer routes from the comfort of a motorcycle.
This summer, like most summers, the Tour de France will see weekend cyclists across Britain don their bib-shorts, lycra shirts and SPDs and hit the road. When the cycling bug bites, it bites hard. A mere two-hour flight from London and you’re pedalling along some of the greatest cycling roads in the world. Trust me, it’s a flight worth making.
Mallorca’s Best Cycling Routes
(courtesy of Mallorca Cycling)
Route: Valldemosa & Coll de Sóller
Exiting Sóller via the Coll den Bleda, this 50km route takes the coastal road west to the artists’ town of Deià. The route then moves inland towards the pretty town of Valldemossa, a great cafe stop. The route descends rapidly out of Valldemossa, then turns back north for the climb of the Coll de Sóller back to Sóller town. The route packs in more than 1,000m of climbing, so is also a great workout.
Route: Puigpunyent, es Grau & Valldemossa
A 60km route takes in some of the most convenient climbs from Palma. Despite the proximity to the capital, most of the roads on this route are quiet. From Palma, the route enters the Serra de Tramuntana and descends into the valley. The small rural town of Puigpunyent is a great choice for a cafe stop and comes just before the climb of es Grau. After another descent the road begins to climb towards Valldemossa. From here is a fast drag back into the centre of Palma.
Route: Palma, Deià, Sóller
A 132km (82mile) route on the west of the island. Featuring the climbs of Coll de sa creu, es Grau, Coll de Sóller and Coll d’Honor. A spectacular ride along the northern coast and a chance to stop at the historic and picturesque village of Deià.