Completely done with the rainy weather in the Netherlands I booked a last minute trip to Mallorca in a quest for some climb training and some sun to keep my training spirit as high as possible. Mallorcan roads are well maintained, cyclist are really welcome and I really enjoyed it last year. My flights to Mallorca where horror, my first flight to Madrid was delayed so I missed my connection. The next available flight had a situation with a broken plane at the gate so on the end I spend 6 additional hot hours at Madrid Airport in the worst lounge I’ve ever seen. Crappy wifi and the food & coffee were even worse. To make it even more fun, my throat got sore and I was not feeling particular well.
Feeling crap – #TCRmode
After a bad night of sleep I woke up early feeling even more worse but I didn’t spend money to be laying in bed so I picked up my bike at Berganti Bikes. Good experience with them last time so an easy choice when I saw their latest offering: the new Moozes Gilavar bike. I had emailed them my bike measurements so everything was already set to go! My throat was really hurting but the rule is, as long as you don’t have a fever, you can ride. Off I went, in TCR mode (Trans Continental Race riding mode: no thinking, no feelings, just ride) and just after 30 minutes I had to put on my rain jacket. Great, I basically just warmed up from my shivering trip last week and now I was riding in rain again. Hopefully that mental exercise will get me through the though moments on my way to Turkey in August. I did a short ride since I didn’t want to spend too much time in the rain and was feeling worse by the minute so I ended the day with just 65 kilometres in the legs.
The bike was performing really well. Unbelievable how stiff the frame was, transferring so much of the power onto the wheels. That stiffness also meant I had to get used to the steering behaviour and the effect of the serious wind speeds: but once you had some tailwind, the bike went like crazy. It was the first experience for me with brakes on a carbon rim wheel: I’m not a fan at all to be honest. Especially since I now have some experience with disc brakes, they should forbid riders to use carbon based brakes. In wet conditions you lose so much braking power and because dosing the braking is so much more difficult in general, it is a reason for me to rent another bike next time. During the week I had several other negative experiences during descents, that made me slower compared to last year (probably also due to 12kg additional weight J) and I was not feeling safe enough to push the bike to the limits. Last year I had a number of top 15% descent times, now the best was a top 50% time.
To ride or not to ride
About Sunday I can be short: I woke up with a severe fever, had a quick breakfast, woke up at 3pm to watch the fantastic final kilometres of Brussel-Kuurne-Brussels race, had diner and went to bed again. I haven’t felt so miserable and without energy in years, so probably sleeping for 18 hours was the best thing to do. That seemed to have worked a bit, the fever was gone the next morning but I still was coughing and sneezing a lot. The people in the room next to me actually asked for another room since I was keeping them awake so I had nobody to annoy me with their noises anymore 🙂
No fever meant riding again: I just wanted to do an easy ride with a little bit of climbing so I went off in Western direction to find some unexplored roads. Once I was halfway the main climb (road Ma-1016), I encountered a few “Closed road” signs. It was quite windy and the rigid bike with the deep rims was a bit unstable during the decent. I almost hit the guard rails twice but I managed to get down in one piece. To keep things simple, I just road back the route I took along the coast line. A nice and easy 75km ride to get the legs warmed up again. During summer months this would be drama, there is just a small bikelane along the coastline and people are walking all over it. Tourist season is just starting this week: a lot of restaurants and shops start opening up after their winter break and coaches full of people start arriving at the hotels. Just got away in time I think.
At Tuesday the weather was deciding my route again. Since the wind was getting stronger and stronger during the day, I decided to right west again so on the way back I would benefit from a nice tailwind. I rode a little lap in the West Tramuntana region. Had a nice lunch in Peguera and did some average challenging climbs. Legs were getting better again, but far away from feeling strong. Riding along the west coast on great roads accompanied by a nice sunshine was good enough for me to enjoy myself for the day which resulted in a nice 100+ kilometres logged.
Attacking the Cap de Formentor climbs
Getting more energy by every night, I decided I was fit enough to go for some more distance and get some personal records on some serious climbs I rode last year. The climbs to get to the most Northern part of the Island, Cap de Formentor, are the ones you see on postcards: one of the best surroundings for climbing and this will keep the motivation up once you’re starting to feel your legs. The weather finally turned into a nice 18 degrees Celsius with a 4 Beaufort breeze to keep the body cooled. During the way to Port de Pollenca, via the M-30 and M-13A roads I had a nice tailwind of around 4-5BFT. From Sa Pobla you’ll need to take the Ma-2200 to get to Pollenca, a great road to get warmed up. Combined with the great quality asphalt I averaged a nice 32km/hour pace for the first two hours. In the harbour of Pollenca I fuelled up with some great coffee and cake, ready to attack the two climbs up to Cap de Formentor.
Excellent riding weather made the route busy with other cyclists: having people ride in front of you during a climb is the best motivating factor to push even harder. My body was not working 100%, I could just get my heart rate a little above my functional threshold levels (173 beats per minute) but I was really maxing out. The feeling was powerful and I was able to pass many other riders on my way up. Great feeling and when I uploaded the ride to Strava, I moved up from the 90% last year to 20% fastest riders until that date. Not bad considering my shape at the moment. On my way back I decided to go through the mountains for the first half part, trying to avoid the wind a bit by taking the Ma-10 and climbing Col de Fermenia. My legs were hurting but I managed to get to the top, the time it took was a bit disappointing but considering I gave everything on the first three climbs of the day, I didn’t bother. I’ll be back to set some better times on that col later this year!
In the mountains I had lunch at the Monastery of Lluc, beautifully situated between the mountains tops. Great steaks and probably the most & best spend money during the week. After descending down via a nice set of hairpins, I had to fight some strong headwinds. Good for training, not so good for the mental part but I was back at the hotel just before diner and totalled 187 kilometres with almost 3000 meters of climbing.
Following the long day, I took an easy ride out at Wednesday. Just tour around the flat part of Mallorca a bit, enjoy the sun and wind. I was still having troubles with my lungs but as long as my legs were working, I could ride. Another XX k ride to add to the tables and I was enjoyed by some 6-7BFT winds. Crazy considering it was a constant stream of wind in your face and [ruis] in your ears. That is probably the only disadvantage of going to Mallorca early in the year.
Queens stage: Sa Calobra + extra’s
Today it was time for the main stage of the week: riding down to Sa Calobra and try to destroy my personal records! Wind was still going strong so the first hours was just easy pedalling towards Inca and Selvia were I first had to combat the Col de Honor before I could descent towards the little harbour of Sa Calobra. After a three hour warm-up, 1100 meters of climbing and an expensive coffee at the bottom I went off for 10k’s of pain. The climb averages 7% with a 2km section of around 9,5% in the last part. It was not busy at all so I had the road alone.
The climb is well known because of the great views and the numerous hairpins. The final corner is actually a full 360 degrees turn around. Corner after corner I saw the meters adding up and I was going well at a stable pace. In the last 4 kilometres I tried to speed up a bit but it seemed I was already maxing out. The result was OK, last year it took me over an hour for the complete climb, now it just took me 43 minutes. From a 95% to a top 40% fastest time classification. Nice goal for next time would be to end up in the top 20% for this climb too. I’ll probably need to lose another 10 kilo’s and get better used at riding at steep climbs but it is a nice target to set.
Once at the top, I had a quick break and went off for the third climb of the day: ascending the [geen idée] next to the two lakes in between the two mountain ranges provided great views. The wind was a little bit annoying so my speed was not so great but the quiet scenery made up for it. The descent was awesome: the complete road down to (or actually up to Puig Major) was resurfaced with new asphalt and wide corners. While not feeling safe on the bike, that was the only descent I actually had some reasonable times. In Soller I had a nice chicken sandwich to fuel up for the last climb of the day. Last year I rode the Col de Soller from the South side coming out of Palma, this time I took it from the other side. Since there is a tunnel for motorized traffic, the climb is almost solely used by cyclist. At that stage of the ride my body was toasted, no energy in the legs left so I just rode up without thinking.
There were some other cyclists that challenged me half way which resulted in a couple of funny hairpins were I took the steep inside to get back into the wheel and on the straight parts I had to let them lose for a number of times. With 150 meters of climbing to go I cracked and lost contact with them. Nice battle for sure! The day ended with a straight and windy descent into Palma, were I raced some taxi’s on the designated bus & taxi lane. There are bicycle paths across the city centre but they take all kinds of touristic routes, crossing walking lanes and were not really headed into the direction I needed to go. Sprinting from traffic light to traffic light with taxi’s is much more fun anyway. Total climbing was over 4000 meters, on a 145km ride. The only ride I ever made that had higher numbers was the 5800 meters I did in December during the 187km ride on the El Teide.
The last ride was probably the most random one: I just wanted to go out and make some more meters but I really didn’t care where as long as I did not had to climb a categorized climb so I just rode southwards along the coast, profiting the tailwind knowing I had to get myself back too. During the ride I decided to not go too far, just a relaxing few hours to finish a though week resulting in a nice 85km.
Overall it had been a though week, I never fully recovered from the cold I got and dealing with that cost a lot of energy. I planned routes for 1000 kilometres and ended up with around 720km for the week and spend almost 30 hours of riding. Not bad either, but not what I had hoped for. However, it was a great week for mental training, something that will be useful for the Transcontinental later this year so from that perspective: perfect week! Now back to recovery mode, need to get used to healthy eating again (the buffets were so full of sugars and fats I probably gained weight) and change my training more towards threshold and interval training now I’ve built a decent base condition. It’s time to get some speed into the legs!