Dan Marsh talks about one of the best cycling routes in Mallorca, from a cycling & culinary perspective.
At Marsh-Mallows, we have many enquiries about the best cycling routes in Mallorca, people wanting to emulate the professional riders, test their descending skills or just get out with their friends in a warmer climate. As ever, the best routes are those that challenge & inspire each individual, but also really depend on what you want to get out of the day(s) cycling.
The reasons Mallorca cycling is so attractive to road biking is due to the different types of terrain – the hills are challenging, but not too steep. The hairpin climbs of the Tramuntana mountains (at 5-6%) are an ideal playground for the professional teams to kick of their early season training in January and for us enthusiasts any time from March onwards.
Stage 3 of the Vuelta de Mallorca 2013 covered, to me, one of the most impressive stretches of terrain on the island and is where the majority of our Marsh-Mallows cycling is done. For the professionals competing in the 4 day “Mallorcan Challenge”, stage 3 allowed the climbers to come to the fore, with the race heading over to the south-west coast of Mallorca for a 153km mountainous route. The route contained two third-category climbs, two second-category climbs and an ascent of the first-category Coll de Puig Major, the summit of which comes 19km from the finish line. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the stage in 4:04:57, for a photos of this years race from a Team Sky Cycling perspective see www.teamsky.com
For us mere mortals……. those wanting a tough challenge – feel free to tackle it in a “oner”; the more sensible may incorporate bits of it in their route or use a motor vehicle/taxi and just enjoy the food & wine. Starting in Deia the route heads west, along the rugged cliff top all the way down to Andratx and then back inland through Calvia, Esporles, Bunyola, Soller and finishing over Puig Major. We have combined this iconic cycling route with a guide to the local culinary masterpieces that you would not ordinarily stumble across.
Deia, with its groovy local village life, has traditionally been the preferred location for the holiday homes of the “rich and hairy”, Sir Bob Geldoff, Richard Branson, Catherine Zeta-Jones to name but a few. It also has an abundance of fabulous restaurants (neither of these two are cycling stops, but great culinary experiences)… Xelini Restaurant, in a property that dates back 130 years serves wonderfully authentic Mallorcan tapas, be sure to book for a terrace table +34 971-639 139 www.xelini.com. Another to look out for is Bens d’Avall Restaurant on the way from Sóller, family run since 1971, it has funny daily opening times, but is a must if you are up for it and staying in the area (3 courses €60 – modern European food) +34 971 632 381 www.bensdavall.com .
Leaving Deia, it’s an instant cliff top climb up to Coll den Claret (499m). Spring & summer time is the best time to enjoy the spectacular setting & views, but in late Jan/early Feb it can be v blustery and tackling it this way round, is often straight into the wind. The BP garage just before the turning to Valldemossa serves as a good stop should you need refuelling. The route to the edge of Andratz winds its way through the villages of Banyalbufar & Estellencs. For those looking for a rest in Banyalbufar, definitely pop in to see Marcos (a keen cyclist himself) at Son Tomàs 971 61 81 49 – on the left as you exit the village. He will look after you either in his Restaurant on the first floor or in the coffee shop at street level. From Estellencs you head inland and then enjoy the down hill run down to Andratx – the newly surfaced road & sweeping bends present very few surprises, so you can really go for it.
At the roundabout on the edge of Andratx, you turn left, back on yourself towards Es Capdellà and pass the vineyard Santa Catarina, should you need a tipple, it’s a cracking little vineyard in the middle of nowhere www.santacatarina.es – you can preorder picnics! Careful as you corner, the road here is not the best quality and has some loose gravel on the top in parts. The quick snack stop in Es Capdellà is the wonderful wooden fronted tiny supermarket on the right opposite the turning to Galilea, they have all the usual stuff, but make fresh baguettes while you wait – mind the step on the way out!
Out of Es Capdellà.. you next hit the beautiful village of Calvia (who’s district includes the delights of Magaluf and all that sail in her). The food stop here is the traditional Mallorcan restaurant of Meson Ca’n Torrat www.cantorratcalvia.com – cycling experts and culinary kings, I cannot recommend these guys enough. The route out of Calvia and onto Establiments (the home of yours truly) is 14km and is undulating – with a number of short climbs and a super descent through the trees onto the Puigpunyent Road (can be slippy in Nov-Feb).
You pass Son Gual Equestrian Centre and at the lights in Establiments you turn left on yourself, not before sampling one of Mallorca’s best pizza restaurants “Il Forno a Legna” 971769279 – the Italian TV in the bar and the accompanying shrine to Napoli & Diego Maradona are clues of the authenticity. As you climb out of Establiments, after about 1km, raised up on the left, the typically Mallorcan bar/restaurant Es Muntant www.esmuntant.es has received much acclaim for its original bar features and 9€ Menú del día – choosing from the 5 available dishes for each of the 3 courses is akin to playing Russian Roulette, however, the complementary vino tinto is guaranteed to make your eyes water.
From the centre of Establiments to the right turning at the BP garage, just before Esporles, it’s a slight incline of 7 kilometres through the valley, you then have a 4.5km smooth run down (30-45kph) to the roundabout on the Valldemossa Road. Should you need a cheeky stop before then, head up to Esporles, the stunning French inspired mountain settlement, with a number of restaurants on the raised terrace on the left – Es Brollador www.esbrolladorrestaurante.com serves a cracking Pa amb oli (means “bread with olive oil” in Mallorcan, and it is as commonly eaten in the Balearic Islands as pa amb tomàquet – this recipe can be embellished with a topping of jamón serrano, cheese, olives & anchovies). If you refuel mid morning on a Saturday, you will instantly be incorporated into the all encompassing energy that is the weekly fruit market.
From the roundabout on the Valldemossa Road, you head eastwards for a flat 6km, over the railway that carries the wooden train from Palma to Sóller and left up into Bunyola. For 6 months a year, the small square in Bunyola is teaming with cyclists, heading up or returning from Orient or Coll de Sóller – It is well worth a refuel here as it’s now time to find your mountain legs.
Bunyola to the base of the Puig Major climb it’s 20km, but you need to tackle the 57 or 61 (I always lose count) hairpins bends of the Coll de Sóller – at an average of 5.2% you cycle for 5.8km, climbing 304 metres. At the top, the D’alt des Coll (closed on a Tuesday) is the restaurant to plump for – the food is unbelievable for a hill top spot, plus you have a wonderful panoramic view of Palma. Last time we stopped there, those that opted for the lobster soup (a strange choice I felt at the time), very much regretted 4 km past Deia.
Sóller to the entrance of the 1st tunnel is 14.4km and you climb 832m at an average of 5.9% – there is no time to turn off after 4km for a bit of sight seeing in Mallorca’s prettiest village Fornalutx. From the lake to Lluc it’s just under 19km, with the majority of it with your hands in the drops – descending 560m, passing the second lake & the turn off to the iconic Sa Calobra
A word of caution, if you are setting out in mid March along this stretch, it is worth double checking the route of Mallorca’s Classic Car Rally www.rallyislamallorca.com – their route takes in most of the Tramuntana Mountains and completely scuppered a Saturday morning locals ride this year.
Enjoy…. please email us with your Tramuntana Tales or any questions regarding cycling in Mallorca