Sa Calobra - Hard Core Biking

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This week I have been on training camp in Mallorca. Focus is on biking as I am travelling with a biking group, but I have also taken time to do some swimming and running on my own. Biking has been intense, averaging some 100+ km per day in the "Tinto" group, which has included the best bikers here. Everyday has been a challenge to maintain the pace and stick with the group, but so far so good. Mallorca at this time of the year is packed with bikers starting the season, and it has been really fun and inspiring. God weather and beautiful landscape for sure has helped.



After five days the time had come for the toughest ride of the week, a full day in the mountains including descent to and ascent from Sa Calabra. Sa Calabra road is famous in Mallorca cycling for its stunning beauty, with the serpentine road clinging to the mountainside all the way down to a picturesque beach with a restaurant. After descending the 10km/682 m, you now have to ascend the same way all the way to the top, so it is also very tough. And on top of that, to get to where the road starts, you need to do some 70km+ and some major climbs first... I had never heard about Sa Calabra before coming to Mallorca, but after reading some blogs from a biking friend, I understood that this trip could be epic. I actually started getting nervous a fews days before...

I slept bad the night before, partially from discovering a few potential cracks in my bike frame. Could I use the bike for the ride? Could I get hold of a rental bike early enough in case it was not safe to ride? Would I have enough power in my legs to go through the 160+ km and 2800 meters of ascent??? Thankfully, the bike checked out OK the next day from our group leader, so I could put that to rest.


We started of at 9:30 from Arenales and headed up to our first climb, up the Soller pass. It was some 20+ km ride up there, and as always the pace was fast, between 30-35km/h, and we were only 6 in the group today. I had my doubts, felt very nervous about the trip today. Would I manage all ascents? Is it worth the fatigue to do this??? Once at the first ascent (3.5 km up, 5% grade), focus was now fully to make it up. Steady pace, steady cadence, focus on puls and breathing, turn by turn, ignore the buring legs, just keep on going... No problem getting up, now we had the descent down to Soller. Some 8km, with the first 4km with serpentine roads. Hands down on the bars, controlled breaking power, easy through each bend... Going downhill on serpentine roads is just as exhausting physically and mentally! The last 3km down to Soller is along the highway, and here the rest of the group blasted away, while I tried to stay below 60 km/h...


After passing Soller came the second climb, and this one I wasn't prepared for. The sign said "13.7km, 6%" up to the tunnel by Puig Mayor!!! That felt like eternity and some more!!! But same recipy here as always: steady going, same cadence, easy gear, focus on breathing and puls, ignore the legs. Just keep going... And what do you know, after about an hour the tunnel appeared and we had reached the top of the second climb, and the highest point of the day. A short break here with some energy gel, bars and drink, and then some 10km descent to where the road to Sa Calabra starts.



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Before descending to Sa Calabra, there was another 2km ascent, and then the 10km descent started. Winding serpentine roads, steep cliffs, sharp bends, magnificent views (that I could barely enjoy as I concentrated on the bike) and many many many bikers going up and down. Check out this video that I friend of mine (Lars Stjernfeldt) shot the week before showing the full descent (15 minutes). You get the idea looking at the first 2-3 minutes...





At the bottom I quickly turned around to start the ascent (we had agreed to descend/ascend each in our own pace and regroup at the top). From friends I understood that a good time for the ascent was about 45-50 minutes, so I had hoped to make it in about 50 minutes as I felt rather tired by now. Again chugging upwards, meter by meter, curve by curve... Now I pushed myself a little harder and it was very inspiring to see the top of road after a while. I managed to get up in about 42 minutes, which I considered very good, very happy with that! As we regrouped and ate some sweets and drinks, I finally felt the mental pressure blow away, I had managed the three ascents and a very good time up from Sa Calobra. Yehaaa!!!



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The things is, we still had 70km back home... First 20km downhill to where we were to have lunch. Now I felt my legs were extremely tired, and any small ascent made my legs burn. Mentally I had kind of already checkd out as I had made the three ascents... Downhill required sharp concentration, and shoulders and arms were tired from braking and manouvering the serpentine bends downwards. A quick lunch...and then 50km more! Tired, tired, tired. Barely managed to keep up with the group... A final gel shot at the end gave me some energy back and I could more or less enjoy the beautiful roads through wineyards and flowering fields all the way down to the hotel in Arenales...


In total we biked 167.7km with approx 2800m of ascent. Time on the bike 6 hrs 33 minutes and about 2 hours of stopping time spread out. Always rewarding (?) afterwards when you have pushed your limits, and my greatest admiration to my stronger team mates that seemed to barely break a sweat. But then they do 10,000-20,000 km biking per year as well!

ll in all, a fantastic and unforgetable experience! Cheers!


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