February 16th, 2016
A Guide to Climbing in Mallorca
It’s not just the east coast of the US that’s been hit by snow – many parts of the northern hemisphere have been suffering a cold snap recently. So it’s no surprise that many cyclists are dreaming of getting away for some warm, sunny riding.
Prime destination for Europeans: Mallorca. Riders from across the continent flock to the small Spanish island in the Mediterranean, to ride its amazing roads and climbs, and give their early-season form a boost.
And it’s not just amateurs: it’s also a classic destination for pro teams’ training camps, and pro riders dominate the leaderboards.
So if you’re heading to Mallorca this spring, here’s the climbs you shouldn’t miss – as well as the names you need to measure up against.
Like most of the climbs on the island, the Coll de Soller is in the rugged north of the island, in the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. It leaves the town of Soller and ascends at a nice steady gradient of 6% for 7.3km, topping out at 491m above sea level. The KOM is held by Lotto-Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot. He took it in January during the Challenge Mallorca, and most of the top 10 is also occupied by pros from that race – including Sky’s David Lopez and Michal Kwiatkowski. The Challenge Mallorca comprises four back-to-back one-day races on the island, and it’s popular with the big pro teams because it replicates the demands of a stage race but without the pressure of an overall classification.
The segment may have a longer name, but cyclists know this simply as ‘Sa Calobra’. Why? It’s the most famous climb on the island because it’s the most glorious spaghetti mess of a road, looping up and over itself for 9.4km and accessed through a narrow gap between two enormous rock faces. It’s also a dead-end climb. Descend off the cliffs down to the picturesque Sa Calobra port and have a coffee, perhaps, before testing your legs on the way back up. KOM of the 7% slope is Team Sky’s Sebastian Henao, while the QOM is held by the former Lotto-Belisol pro Emma Pooley, who is now a professional triathlete and world Powerman duathlon champion.
The road to Cap Formentor from Port de Pollença was built by Antonio Parietti, the same engineer as the Sa Calobra road, so expect something almost as spectacular. Mallorcans also call the Cap the ‘Meeting point of the winds’, so you can expect it to get a little blowy up there, but the spectacular views near the famous lighthouse more than make up for it. Watch out for the local goats, who are so blasé about cyclists coming past that they don’t bother moving out of the road! It’s OK to stop and check out the views on the way up, as you’re probably never going to get close to the KOM, Team Sky’s Ian Boswell.
Pollença is a great base for a cycling trip to Mallorca, so lots of riders pass through this segment. It’s actually a bit of a drag, with more than 6km of false flat leading to the bottom of the real climb (which is also known as the Coll de Femenia. Eneko Lizarralde, an under-23 pro is KOM, while track world champion and Olympic gold medallist Dani King is in the women’s top 10.
At 10.6km, this isn’t the longest Puig Major segment but it is one of the most popular. It climbs out of Soller towards the eponymous mountain, which is, at 1,445m, the highest peak on the island. The road only takes you up to 605m, but it features some beautiful views of the arid hills, as well as passing a couple of sapphire-blue lakes on the way. KOM is… Michal Kwiatkowski, who was clearly on fire during the 2014 Challenge Mallorca.
It’s not all about climbing in Mallorca, and towards the south you’ll find mile upon mile of well-surfaced, gloriously empty roads for recovery rides or TT training. However, if you do head to the other side of the island and fancy a little climb, try this one out of the pretty town of Felanitx to the San Salvador sanctuary, which was the last working monastery on the island. It’s perched on top of a hill at 509m, and has glorious views of the plains stretching in almost all directions. Tiffany Cromwell, now riding for Canyon-Sram, holds the QOM.
Ride north from the picturesque village of Selva and you’ll have to conquer the Coll de sa Batalla. It’s a really nice, steady 7.8km, 5% climb through fragrant forests, and is again a favourite haunt of pros. Dotted over the QOM and KOM leaderboards are Olympic gold medallist Joanne Rowsell Shand and Trek’s cyclocross queen Katie Compton, as well as Trek’s Maxime Monfort, Cannondale’s Joe Dombrowski and Etixx’s Niki Terpstra, the Paris-Roubaix winner and current Dutch national champion.