by Michael Ferguson
I arrived a few months too late for the Team Sky training session on Mallorca, one of the Spanish Mediterranean islands, so had to settle for two days of solo Team Blotto rides. There are so many amazing rides in Mallorca it was a difficult chose which routes to take, but one non-negotiable was the famous Sa Calobra (The Cobra).
Day one was a cruisy ride along the coast, into Valldemossa and over Coll de Soller in preparation for the main event on Day Two.
I was staying in the picturesque port town of Soller in the Serra de Tramuntana, the mountain range on the north-west coast of the island. The best way to get to Sa Calobra was along the MA-10 over Puig Major, the highest peak on Mallorca. This is a fantastic climb in itself (14.2.km, 821m, 6%) as you rise out of the valley and up through the pine trees and olive groves, sheep and goats roaming alongside the road, bells clinking as they walk.
From the top it’s around 10 kilometres of undulating descent, through tunnels and along the stunning Gorg Blau, to the start of Sa Calobra. An interesting quirk of the climb is that because the road stops at the village, you need to descend Sa Calobra before ascending it. From the turn-off the road heads up briefly before it opens up to views of the ocean and the magnificent decent ahead.
Sa Calobra is a ridiculous piece of engineering. It snakes its way from Coll dels Reis at the top 9.4km down 668m to the small port village and beach at the bottom. The road looks like someone has painted it onto the side of the hills with manic strokes, it runs alongside sheer cliffs, between rock faces, loops under itself with a 270 degree turn and coils up the mountain in switchback after switchback.
I left early from Soller as I knew traffic would be terrible on Sa Calobra by late morning once the tourist buses arrived. This was definitely the right move as I had the road to myself, with a handful of other cyclists descending as I climbed up. Coming back to Sa Calobra later on another day confirmed this was the way to go when we had a few sketchy moments waiting for coaches to swing round the hairpins and just dodge our car. But it was completely worth the return visit to get back down to the beach again.
After a quick stop at the beach and café, I started the climb back up. It’s a fairly steady climb with an average gradient of 7% and a max of 12%. I’ve definitely done harder climbs but can’t think of a more spectacular one. The amazing road, weather and scenery provided a welcome distraction from the burning legs as I tried to get a decent time up the climb. I was happy with my effort given the lack of form, but comparing myself with the who’s-who of pros at the top of the Strava segment was extremely humbling!
Not a bad place to stop halfway through a ride…
Look at those curves!
#baaw at the Gorg Blau