With Majorca becoming a hub for cyclists, Frederic Manby gears up for chance to pedal without the mud.
Majorca, popular for its nightlife, is now developing a healthier reputation as the fitness island. Warm weather when ours is getting colder makes an ideal climate for amateur and professional athletes. It is, after all, the birthplace and home of Rafael Nadal, the great Spanish tennis player.
Keen cyclists will know about Majorca but other sporting stars are finding what they need on the island – and locals who are ready to oblige with facilities, whether you are a runner, cyclist, swimmer, triathlete – or tennis hopeful.
The British rowing squad was in the north of the island for a fortnight last autumn, at the plush Vanity Golf Hotel near Alcudia. They were alternating strenuous road cycling with gym rowing, on a regime of high protein breakfasts – heaping scrambled eggs, omelettes and boiled and even fried eggs. The egg chef was at full stretch, as no doubt were hens. It did make it a bit hard to get an egg when the scullers were at the trough.
The strapping women strode past us mere mortals, focused on eating and training. Normal guests are more likely to mooch by the pool or go through the security fence to the beach for the sun loungers under bamboo parasols and safe swimming in the small bay.
The crack Sky cycling team team and the dominant British cycling squad are familiar visitors. Sky booked exclusive use of the hotel over winter. Bradley Wiggins has a house nearby. The canary yellow bike on which he won the Tour de France in 2012 hangs at the back of Tolo’s. This bar restaurant is popular with cyclists and the sport’s heads of state. It’s a must-see for riders: good food, naturally.
A word of advice. Go to Majorca in the cooler months unless you are a hardened hot-climate rider. I was there as a guest of Jet2 to sample its new cycling packages with the Viva and Vanity hotel group. Vanity are adults-only hotels. The Viva hotels are for families, with children’s play areas. They looked great fun.
Viva cycling stations offer secure storage, repair and sales, and they hire out bikes at affordable rates. Riders can take their own bikes while others will find it easier to hire either a mountain or road bike – maybe alternating the disciplines. It eliminates the handling fuss of taking your own bike on a plane.
Unlike its small neighbouring Balearic islands of Ibiza and Menorca, Majorca is big enough for testing climbs. Sir Bradley trained for his Tour win on the Sa Calobra, 10km with dozens of tricky hairpin bends. Sir Chris Hoy named his new road bike after the hill.
The flatter central area is good for speed work or a relaxed jaunt – usually on designated cycle lanes. Traffic density is low and drivers give plenty of consideration. You’ll be very unlucky to be cut up by a car or truck or bus driver.
Our sample ride was on dusty tracks through cane and eucalyptus groves in the Albufera natural park. We were on £500 Scott Aspect bikes, mid-weight, with reliable disc brakes and bump-soaking front suspension. The guide was Biell Coll, who races on and off road, has the legs and tan to prove it. He has a degree in tourism from Manchester – where he rode at the velodrome.
The 35km ride was mostly flat – thankfully because in late October the temperature wasn’t hitting its usual 30C. Biell overtook, pushing a weaker rider! Oh well, half my age, better bike, better looking, whatever.
Great fun and no mud! We rode on to a sea-fresh lunch at Tolo’s. Race riders were refuelling, and even if you don’t cycle you’ll get a buzz from the arrival of those who do. No? Oh well, there’s some modern art on the walls.
Biked out? you can go on a guided walk with an expert called Antoni Homer and see the coastal defences installed by General Franco as you walk paths rich in the scent of rosemary and chamomile.
Nearly pooped? Laze around the historic walled town of Alcudia and drift into its shops and cafes.
Jet2holidays bespoke cycling holidays to Majorca are available from £195 per person for one week and £60 deposit from eight airports including Leeds Bradford, East Midlands, Newcastle, Manchester. Bike lovers can book the full package atwww.jet2holidays.com/cycling which includes a graded route guide.The price includes airport-hotel transfers.
Hire or BYO bike? The carriage charge is £60 return with a 20kg allowance for bike and container and a £16.29 supplement for airport transfer.
On the island you can hire through www.bikesviva.com where a Cannondale SuperSix full carbon road racer is 90 euros for five days.
Do check your travel insurance for cycling on or off-road.