Mountainous cycling, a temperate climate and an ideal location are just three of the reasons cyclists flock to Mallorca each year (Getty Images)
Mallorca is widely regarded as a cyclists’ paradise, and with good reason. With its year-round warm, sunny climate, long mid-gradient climbs and well-maintained roads relatively free of traffic, thousands of mile-hungry tourists flock there each year to sample what they’ve been missing out on at home.
It’s not just holiday-goers who are in on the open secret. Most of the world’s top professional cycling teams and many amateurs hold pre-season training camps on the slopes of this Mediterranean island, awakening their sleepy off-season legs in a climate a world away from most of Europe at that time of year.
Flights into the capital, Palma, are often cheap and easy to come by, with low-cost airlines flying frequently throughout the year. The whole island offers fabulous cycling, but it’s the hilly north and western regions, in from the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, that arguably provide the most varied and exciting terrain.
Team Sky are just one of the pro teams who train on Mallorcan roads before the start of the season
Port de Pollenca is just under an hour’s drive from Palma and sits at the northern tip of the Island. It provides the perfect base to explore everything the island has to offer.
Take your own bike by all means, but should you be reluctant or unable to bring your own, hiring one is no problem at all. Pro Cycle Hire, based near the seafront, claim to be the only rental firm on the island to offer bikes (the full titanium Van Nicholas range) with electronic shifting (Shimano Ultegra Di2). They’re well worth checking out. They also provide full holiday packages, as well as tour guides should you be in need of a bit of local experience.
The town is also attractive given the variety of cycling available. If you want to ease your way into the holiday gently, you can follow the many flat, interlinking roads down the coast to Port d’Alcudia. Once you get off the main roads and onto the beaten track, the narrow, quiet lanes are reminiscent of those in the UK, only with a lot more sunshine beating down on them!
If you’ve found your climbing legs, there are 30-minute ascents right on your doorstep. The 5km climb out towards Cap de Formentor, the northern-most point of the island at the tip of a stunning peninsula, is a killer first thing in the morning but well worth the effort. The only way onto and off the peninsula is via a single, rather bumpy road of about 20km. But the reward is craggy, 400m high cliff tops with stunning views on the descents, should you dare take your eyes of the road.
Team Sky on a mountain climb out of Port de Pollenca this winter
Many of the best climbs are in the Serra de Tramuntana range, including the Coll d’Honor, which rises about 550m over 8km. There’s also the even tougher stretch of road up to Lluc. Mallorca can get extremely warm in the summer months, with the mercury on the road reaching 45 degrees at times. Therefore, the big climbs are best tackled either in the spring or early on summer mornings.
There’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes, both in Port de Pollenca and tucked away in the mountains. A particular favourite is Hotel Llenaire, a stunning villa with a cracking view overlooking Pollenca bay. Much of the food it serves is grown amid its 150 hectares of surrounding land and large groups of hungry cyclists are always welcome.
Should you want something a little more competitive, you might want to time your holiday with one of the island’s sportives. The Mallorca 312, in its third year in 2012, charts the full circumference of the island (the clue’s in the name – 312km). With more than 4,300m of climbing, you get 14 hours to reach the finish. Held at the end of April each year, it’s not an event for the faint-hearted, and sees riders approach Mallorca’s highest point – Puig Major at 1,445m. The WiW Duva International, held a week before, offers a 135km event on the Saturday and a 95km sportive on the Sunday.