You probably know that Mallorca is a big favourite with cyclists, but perhaps you didn’t know that it’s also becoming a destination for charities to raise significant amounts of cash through “Challenges”. A couple of weeks ago 25 cyclists of varying abilities and sizes, and ages, gathered together and took on some serious mountains over a three day challenge, covering 300km to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Led by Dan Marsh from the cycling concierge company, Marsh Mallows (www.marsh-mallows.com) and facing climbs of four to six per cent gradients up the Tramuntana Mountains, stretching along the backbone of the island, the adventure certainly gave the visitors a taste of the toughest terrain Majorca has to offer, and some of its fantastic culture. The main group participating came from CAPITA (who are in the business process management and outsourcing solutions business in the UK). They travelled over as a big team and are on target to raise a whopping £50,000 for the famous children’s hospital.
The ride was photographed by Oliver Neilson. Dan Marsh told me about how the event went.
“We broke the adventure up into three day stages” Dan told me, “Firstly we had a “Prologue” which was a 30km ride with a 360m vertical climb including a timed category 3 climb of Coll de sa Creueta mountain (4km, 193m vertical at 5 per cent). The next day we did a flatter stage: 145km with 1,350m vertical climb, but including another category 3 climb of the Ermita Bonay, 3.7km, 187m vertical at 5 per cent. And the last day was the big one, the Tramuntana mountain stage; 140km with 2,400m vertical climb – including the category 3 Coll de Soller mountain (4.9km, 253m vertical at 5.8 per cent) and the timed category 1 Puig Major mountain. Soller to Monnaber tunnel (14.2km, 821m vertical at 5.8 per cent)”. Now, if you are a cyclist living in Majorca then you may have attempted some of these climbs, or even do them every weekend, or alternatively wouldn’t dream of ever, ever trying and think they’re all mad. It must be pretty tough to keep a group of people of mixed ability and fitness together, and indeed frustrating for everyone involved, if one group want to shoot off at top speed and the others can’t keep up. But Dan, has a technique to allow everyone to go at their own pace, “On day one the riders climbed Coll de sa Creueta, this was an exercise to assess their fitness as their recorded times seeded them into 3 groups. Then each group had two guides, who coached and guided them for the next two days. We work with very experienced and talented guides including John Sowerby owner of BICI Metrics bike fitting in Mallorca & Juan Horrach ex-pro rider for team Katusha.”
Day two sounded quite fun, mostly because it was on the flat. I’m not sure that I would cope well, or even have the will to try the steep mountain climbs that they were doing. “Yes, the next stage was our long, flatter stage. In terms of distance and vertical metres climbed, it is similar to Ride London 100. The terrain is undulating, and with a likely head wind for the first part of the day, it was always going to be a challenge! It took them into the heart of Majorca and combined some of the quieter country roads with some of the more popular cycling routes.
“The day kicked off with a 5km ride along the Bay of Pollensa. Passing through Can Picafort and then inland onto the rolling roads to Petra. Here they tackled the main climb of the day, up to Ermita de Bonay (a monastery built in the early 1600's) at 301m above sea level, the bird’s-eye view from the top allowed them to see the Bay of Pollensa, with the backdrop of the Tramuntana Mountains in the distance. While it is a short 3.5km climb averaging 5 per cent (10 per cent in places), it will gave them a taster of what to expect the following day. The route then passed the villages of Vilafranca, Porreres, Llucmajor and Randa. Then we quickly descended into the town of Montuíri. From there, we headed to the town of Sineu and the afternoon refuel stop at Son Matgi outdoor velodrome. Before they arrived back to the hotel they headed towards Llubi, Buger and then to Pollensa town. The final road is straight and undulating – which is a killer for energy, so they really worked hard on this stage.”
Saturday on the other hand did not sound like much fun at all. But then this is why these guys were sponsored to do it: it’s not supposed to be easy. ”The final stage was all about the mountains. The route took them along the valley floor and through the vineyards of Binisalem and Santa Maria. Then we headed towards the lovely village of Bunyola and into the Tramuntana. The 4.9km of the Coll de Soller going north was a nice loosener before the main event. At the top of the Coll de Soller we stopped for lunch and admired the panoramic views over Palma before the real work began!
“Following 61 hairpin bends and the technical descent into the amphitheatre of Soller, we regrouped before we tackled the longest climb on the island – Puig Major. The 14.2km, which featured in Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins: a Year in Yellow documentary and part of this year’s Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) pro event, was a timed climb.” You can only imagine how hard it was for some of the less fit members of the group to get up that mountain, but they did it, and well done to them all. All in the name of charity and challenge.
The best part of going up is the going back down again, and they definitely enjoyed the 25km descent down to Port Pollensa and a celebratory drink in Tollo’s, where Bradley Wiggins headed following his 2012 victories in the Tour de France and Olympic Games. You can only imagine how sore their legs were the next day! But somehow they managed to hobble back to the airport and back to their lives.
As Mallorca continues to change and develop new offerings for tourism it’s wonderful to hear these sorts of events are not only helping our local businesses grow, but also benefitting good causes around the world. Dan Marsh is also involved in Calobra Fest which by the time of this article being published will have just happened. It’s a time trial up Sa Calobra, a steep and iconic 10km climb. It’s an exciting new event and one that they think will become very popular. Check out http://calobrafest.com
Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only English language daily paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.