I recently came back from a wonderful trip to the sunny Spanish Island of Mallorca. I was there for two weeks doing a cycling training camp with my friends from the Central London CTC.
I’d never before climbed up mountains so it was a steep learning curve on the intricacies and strategies that cyclists use to tackle these giants. I was particularly intrigued by the descents, suspecting that with my fear of heights I would be terrible at them. On the contrary I kicked some butt! Not so much on the way up though!
Mallorca is a fun playground for cyclists because it has a good mix of flat and mountain roads. You can take on a big climbing challenge and ascend 2,500 meters in a day’s ride, or you can do a brisk recovery ride on beautiful rolling roads. You can even take part in time trials which are organised regularly during the cycling season. And the island has indoor and outdoor velodromes where you can test your speed. Whatever your aims are, you can accomplish them in Mallorca.
The most famous of all climbs is the fabled Sa Calobra, or The Cobra, at 683m in the Sierra de Tramuntana Mountains. The peak, officially Col de Cal Reis, overlooks the deep blue Mediterranean sea on one side and rocky mountain terrain on the other. The views are amazing and at times you can witness the thin tarmac road snaking across steep hills in a never ending array of hairpins. This is not for the faint of heart.
In a way that is very counter intuitive, the descent comes before the climb. You start at the summit and the road takes you down to sea level where there is a small rest area with two restaurants next to a pretty cove with emerald colour waters. Once at the bottom, there is only one road, the one where you came from.
I gave it two attempts. On the first one I had chosen to exert myself by going on a group that was slightly faster than my previous group. The trick to conquering Sa Calobra is surviving the first mountain that you have to climb before getting the top of the Col de Cal Reis, and I was already struggling to keep up with the group on this one. So when we got to the Col de Cal Reis and everyone had already headed down Sa Calobra I decided to go down half way only so as not to make everyone wait for me to head back to the hotel. On the next try I went solo, having stayed behind after the official training camp had ended. I went at my own pace but having had cycled for 7 consecutive days I felt stronger than during my first try. And it was great because on the climb up Sa Calobra, I put on my headphones and rocked to Michael Jackson tunes!
Sa Calobra is team Sky’s unofficial pre-season testing ground and although Wiggo can reportedly complete the climb in 22:30, I consider my 59:30 pretty decent. I will always remember the day I climbed Sa Calobra. I will also remember the night before, when that name kept popping up in my head and wouldn’t let me sleep. It was a true challenge and having done it on my own made me feel empowered and on top of the world. If I did Sa Calobra, I could do anything!
Ride like a girl.