When the summer activities come to an end and the winter sports season begins, fall is a great time to go out. This year I had the opportunity to go on a nine-day road bike tour to Mallorca, Spain, and experience spectacular scenery.
The tour was led by world-class athlete Mike Kloser and his equally sporty wife Emily. The Kloser’s started cycling tours in Europe in 2015 and are out and about in the Dolomites in Italy and in the Tyrol region in Austria. When the pandemic halted international travel, the Kloser’s were able to keep trips going by running rides along some of the most scenic back roads in Colorado.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands off the south coast of Spain. The island is a popular tourist destination due to its climate and leisure activities. According to some locals we spoke to, around 35,000 cyclists flock to Mallorca annually to enjoy the temperatures and the terrain.
Our group cycled in the north and northwest of the island along the Serra de Tramuntana. When we arrived at the airport in Palma, we drove about half an hour to a small village called Valldemossa, which became our home for the next few days.
Instead of lugging our bikes across the Atlantic, we rented bikes there. We were all paired with these fantastic high end Pinarello racing bikes from the Pinarello Experience Bike Shop and headed off on our first ride, just a short ride to test the bikes and make sure we picked as follows for longer rides became day.
We drove from our hotel to Port de Valldemossa and I think I have never seen streets narrower than these. From the top of the drive you could look down and see all the switchbacks and it almost made you dizzy. But we went down to the harbor and up again and it was exciting. Thank goodness the cars on Mallorca are pretty small – lots of Fiats!
The timing of this trip was perfect. There is no better way to reward yourself after a summer of cycling and training than taking a trip that will bring you the most beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. The thought of sore muscles disappears when you see the endless waves glowing in the water from a winding road on a cliff. The blue water seems to fade into the blue sky with no limit.
The terrain was very hilly and the average gradient of the climbs was usually between 6-10%. The switchback technique was amazing and almost drove you into the next stretch of road. You will pass countless olive groves and goats and sheep grazing in the open pasture. You hear the bells that the animals wear and the occasional “baaaaa” from one of the little baby sheep.
After a few day trips on the streets around Valldemossa, it was time to cycle to another city and a new hotel. We traveled 76 kilometers from Valldemossa to Port de Pollença. This route took us over the highest peak in Mallorca, the Puig Major, which is 1,445 meters above sea level.
As already mentioned, the roads on Mallorca are very narrow by US standards. There isn’t much shoulder to ride, but the drivers are very conscientious and polite and are used to lapping bikers around, which was a good thing because on the way back from the lighthouse in Cap. I dropped a chain while shifting de Formentor and there was no hard shoulder and a lot of tourist traffic. I thought, “Please don’t run over me!”
I had to park my bike on a stone “guardrail” structure, which was the only thing between me and an approximately 100 meter high fall into the turquoise water below. Fortunately, Prisca Boris, another Vail local on the trip, had stopped to take a picture of the beautiful scenery and came after me, braving the narrow road and tourist traffic and helping me get my chain back on my bike bring to. Thank you, Prisca; I owe you a beer!
Mallorca is a mecca for racing cyclists. We would see large groups from all over the place every day. Germany, France, England … they were all there. It would be fun to see their bike gear and find out what language they spoke and where they were from.
Along the routes, our group stopped at cafes geared towards bikers. Here we grabbed a cappuccino or an ice-cold Coca-Cola from the bottle. Nothing tastes as good as a coke while driving. We also ordered almond pie, apple pie, lemon pie, fudge brownies, all sorts of pastries along the way. Having such homemade goodies doesn’t require a processed energy bar.
Speaking of food, there was no calorie counting on this trip. We had fabulous multi-course meals each evening either in our hotel or in restaurants nearby. The menus were all very international and you could order a variety of dishes such as fish, steak and sushi. We had a lot of Iberian ham, sobrassada sausage, olives and aioli. “Mallorcan style” sea bass was prepared with spinach and tomato sauce.
You may think that on all of the daily drives we would leave at dawn. That was not the case. “Breakfast is too good in Europe to skip just to leave early,” said Emily Kloser. Every morning we started our day with a breakfast buffet and eggs cooked to order. There was plenty of bread and there was often a sausage board for breakfast. Even the gluten free people smuggled some bread every now and then because it was just so good.
The view distracted from the exertion and at the end of the day we were rewarded with time either at the pool in Valldemossa or on the beach in Port de Pollença. Here we would talk about our driving experience over a cold beer or a Spanish wine or the occasional tequila and lots of potato chips.
After our rides we also waited for a massage. Adam Plummer from Vail, who is part of the Kloser team on these bike tours, is not only our bike mechanic for problems on the ride, but also our masseur. Adam set his massage table right by the pool so you could either soak up the sun or still be part of the conversation with your bike buddies by the pool.
Our group consisted of 14 bikers who were all there for different reasons. Some were there for the challenge, some for the journey of a lifetime, some cycled for lost loved ones and some were there to make a fresh start. They change over the course of the nine riding days. As you travel, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie with your new-found friends. You get used to living with them day in and day out, talking about random topics on the rides or at lunch, in the cafes or on the beach. You smile, laugh and are grateful to be on the journey. Memories are made of this.
“Take the trip, eat the cake, buy the shoes” is a motto I live by, and if you get the chance to go on a trip like this, jump on it. Take advantage of the off-season travel we will all be too busy to go anywhere before you know it.