Majorca as an island is known for many different things: a beautiful holiday destination, a crazy place to go for a party, an escape for retirement or a training ground for keen cyclists. For Neil Moore, MD of Guy Leonard and Co, it’s a home away from home, somewhere he’s been visiting with his family since his childhood, and a place his children have grown up to love.
Until a few years ago, cycling in Majorca, or indeed cycling at all, had rarely been in Neil’s intentions when planning holidays to Majorca. But after starting up regular cycling trips with personal trainer Alex Ryan of South Downs Health and Fitness, Neil has taken on challenge after challenge, cycling the South Downs Way in three days and the Isle of Wight in two. Majorca was the next step up and an ideal excuse to head out to enjoy the island in springtime and see some undiscovered places via cycle routes. The challenge was without doubt a step up though, with the Traumantana Mountains to the North East of the island presenting nothing short of the most epic challenge Neil has ever faced.
Keen to document this challenge to share with everyone back home, Neil created a log of the cycle which provides an interesting and at times amusing insight into what they were facing:
‘OK, whose idea was this I am wondering as I sit contemplating the next four days cycling, what kind of fine mess I have got myself into this time. Last year I completed the South Downs way and a cycle around the Isle of Wight with my co-rider Alex Ryan. I think it was the wind and the rain on those challenges that made us decide it would be better to do the next challenge somewhere hot. I know the island of Majorca well and felt cycling the island would be a great opportunity to see the island in a different way. I suppose it was complete naivety that caused me not to consider the hills and mountains which dominate the island in too much detail!
Having done a lot of off road cycling, we decided not to go to the extra expense of purchasing road bikes and instead took along our hybrid mountain bikes. We planned a route around the island, breaking the 200 miles up into 4 days, and separating the mountain days as we began to acknowledge these would present our biggest challenge.
Day one started at 7.30am, with the first challenge being to rebuild our bikes after they had been packed away for the flight. An hour and some backwards handle bars later, we set off into thick fog…this wasn’t the deal! We headed around the East coast of the island, and area of the island which boasts stunning coastal views, which we couldn’t see because of the fog! We made quick progress along this delightfully flat coastal road and ended up in Felanitx for lunch and some inspiration from the home of the Majorcan cycling champion Guillem Timoner.
Bradley Wiggins has been quoted as saying that Majorca is like Scaletrix for cyclists, and I have certainly never seen so many of them all in one place! And every single one of them had a gorgeous, carbon fibre, light weight racing bike. Our mountain bikes were looking clumpier and heavier by the minute. Day one ended in the town of Arta after 63.5 miles of really rather enjoyable cycling.
The route for day two began our mountain challenge, setting off from the far North of the island and winding our way Eastwards from Soller to Port de Pollensa. The ride began with a 10 mile climb up the mountain. To say it was killer is an understatement, it was truly one of the most challenging rides we have ever done, making the hills of the South Downs Way seem like childs play.
The emotion I felt when hitting the top of the hill and beginning a rapid descent was intense, heightened by the speed with which the next uphill stint hit us! At this point Alex and I developed a real resentment towards those whizzing past us on racing bikes, and Alex likened what we were trying to achieve as being like running the London Marathon in a Mr Blobby suit! The final descent into Pollensa was nothing short of exhilarating, and we got stupidly brave going as fast as we could around the corners! That is until we passed ambulances coming to the rescue of a British cyclist who had overshot a hairpin bend and ended up going straight over the barrier and 20 metres down the side of the mountain.
Day three began with a leisurely ride around the bay of Palma, a part of the trip I had been particularly looking forward to. The bay is flat and beautiful and we zipped round it in record speed. We then had to head back up and over the mountains to reach our end point for the day in Andratx. Having always used the motorways to get around the island on holidays, I was unprepared for the unspoilt beauty through the villages of Calvia and Es Capdella. Stunning views met us, with almond farms and lone goats wandering around the roads with the bells jangling. In sharp contrast to this was the military zone we had to pass through, which was a little scary as we found a used shell on the road we were cycling along. We made good time to Andratx and as ever our faithful driver, my daughter Polly, was there to meet us for an end of the day beer and debrief.
Day 4 was the best days riding I have ever had. I began the day with great in trepidation….we were back in the mountains. Gulp. However the initial climb did not seem quite as horrendous as day two, and we were soon met by some exciting down hills and some charming villages. We whizzed through Valledemossa and Banubalfa, stopping for a quick coffee and an energy bar in Escellencs. Once again the scenery was incredible and we found ourselves having to stop regularly to take in the terraces and olive groves. A slightly less natural view was presented when we were forced to stop for 20 minutes whilst a Jaguar advert was being filmed on the mountain roads. We got to see the whole thing and I was fully convinced of the need to buy a new XF!
We made excellent time again on this day, exhilarated by the end being in sight and the immense fun of the final days riding. We ended up at the beach in the small town of Sant Elm, surprising Polly with our early arrival as she had just settled down for an afternoon relaxing on the beach. We claimed our final reward with a few beers on the beach and a relaxing afternoon soaking up the sun. What a day!
Cycling around Majorca was a fantastic challenge, with challenge certainly being the operative word. I saw the island that I love in a new light and faced difficulties and challenges I didn’t know I could cope with. The trip would not have been the same without my fellow cyclist Alex and my driver Polly. Alex was a fantastic support, offering constant encouragement whilst struggling with his own pain, always ready to offer words of wisdom, sports massage or entertaining anecdotes! Polly was on hand at all times, turning up where we needed her to be and always providing food and drink when needed. Without these two I would not have done this challenge, so thank you.’
Neil and Alex are already thinking about their next challenge, with the focus this time of being which country is outstandingly beautiful but also flat…Holland maybe?!
Neil completed this cycle challenge in aid of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust, and has already raised over £1000. His JustGiving page is still open though and any donations would be greatly appreciated: http://www.justgiving.com/GLNeilCycle