Mallorca is riding away as the top cycling destination in Europe
Mallorca, with its extensive road network, has become the main destination in the Mediterranean
Mallorca has become a Mecca for many of the best amateur and professional cyclists in the world with a diverse selection of routes, be they flat or in the mountains in a spectacular environment. | R.L.
Cyclists, and cycling, are rather like Marmite, you either like them or hate them, but whatever your attitude towards Lycra, cycling is big business for Mallorca and this year is expected to be a boom season.
A substantial number of hotels have opened much earlier than usual and many are fully equipped to care for cyclists with on-site mechanics, workshops, cycle storage, coaches and trainers, spas, wellness facilities, sports massage therapists, guides plus special transport services for those wishing to cycle further afield, equipment shops, rental outlets and food and nutritional options for those who need to keep their strength up.
This week, for example, the area around Puerto Pollensa, Alcudia and Sa Pobla, was a hive of activity with cycling teams and clubs from all over the world enjoying what has been a few glorious days, despite the snow capping the mountains.
One group of British cyclists from Dulwich on the island for a week told me that the conditions were perfect - clear blue skies, relatively mild temperatures for northern Europeans and excellent services in the hotel and out on the roads, with more and more restaurants and bars catering for cyclists. And it is not just the north and northeast of the island which is benefiting greatly from cycle tourism, which enables hotels to open much earlier than usual as part of the Winter in Mallorca campaign launched by the Council of Mallorca.
Before the pandemic, the cycle tourism market meant that more than 150 hotels in the Playa de Palma, Playa de Muro, Alcudia-Can Picafort, Cala Millor, Cala Serena, Capdepera and Paguera areas were able to extend their activity beyond the summer season months and this winter/spring the expectations are extremely high.
The cycle tourism season covers two very specific periods, from autumn to Christmas and from February until after Easter and, come the end of the cycling season this year, over 200,000 cyclists are expected to have come to Mallorca according to hoteliers, specialised tour operators and the Council of Mallorca.
Mallorca, with its extensive road network, has become the main destination in the Mediterranean. The objective set by the tour operators and the hotel sector has been achieved, because the market share lost due to the pandemic has been recovered and the number of cycle tourists has increased. The overall economic impact on the island during their stay, for all the services they consume, will reach 300 million euros from October to the end of April this year.
The director of the PortBlue Club Pollentia Resort & Spa, located on the sea front between Puerto Pollensa and Alcudia, Bernardo Dahlhaus, told the Bulletin that the hotel, which opened on February 27, is already seeing clear indications that this season is going to be a good one.
“Last year was extremely good but there were still a few nerves about the pandemic. This year, I think it’s all been forgotten about and the cycling teams and clubs and flooding back. Right now, occupancy is higher than we expected and 70 percent are cycling teams. And while the vast majority are from the UK and northern Europe, we have a team from Brazil; this is the fourth time they’ve been based with us with their coaches and trainers.
“Yes, it’s big money, it’s top-end tourism and we’re used by some of the best clubs and amateur teams in the world, not to mention athletes, hikers and birdwatchers we attract as well as family tourism.
“But I think we can talk about a cycling boom this season. Cycling camps have been set up and the feedback is extremely positive.
“I think the big attraction for cyclists is that Mallorca offers a diverse range of opportunities. There are short or long routes plus we have the Tramuntana, which offers some of the most exciting and demanding cycle routes in Europe in a spectacular environment. Cyclists know they can head out to pretty much anywhere on the island and be back in the hotel at the end of the day and that goes for nearly all of the hotels which specialise in cycling across the island.
“There are plenty of options for accommodation, and the riding is perfectly varied with a mix of flat coastal paths, rolling terrain and the beautiful Tramuntana Mountains close by.
“And the complementary offer, such as bars and restaurants, are enjoying the benefits and are offering special quick stops, high-energy food and drinks for cycle groups and teams not to mention the number of cycle shops which have opened catering for all their needs; it’s become big business and enables us to enjoy a much longer season,” he said. One of the attractions for bars and restaurants catering for cyclists is that large groups do not tend to hang around. They want a quick energy boost and then get back in the saddle and carry on, so it’s a quick turnaround for the bars, which means more customers can be served in a relatively short period.
And to push Mallorca as a premier cycle destination, the Council of Mallorca has signed an agreement with Eurosport to promote the island as an active tourism destination, as well as the sponsorship of Mallorca 312, the Mallorca Cycling Challenge and the UCI Track Champion League. Furthermore, Mallorca is not only a Mecca for amateur cyclists, but many of the best teams in the world.
For the best part of 20 years, Alcudia and Pollensa have been the base for Team GB and the former Team Sky, which is now Ineos Grenadiers, who have brought a host of world champions and Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España winners to the island to prepare for the season. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain, Team Sky), Chris Froome (Great Britain, Team Sky), Geraint Thomas (Great Britain, Team Sky) and Egan Bernal (Colombia, Team Ineos) are all Tour de France winners. Froome won it four times, not to mention one Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España twice, and they have all started their seasons at winter training camps in Mallorca.
Even Lance Armstrong organises tours of Mallorca for which cyclists pay 20,000 euros just to ride with him. This is just another example of the evolution of cycling tourism in Mallorca. Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich met up again in Mallorca at the end of last year and were joined by another cycling legend and Mallorca home owner Sir Bradley Wiggins - and the United States market is another new feeder source for cycling teams. Apart from the more general market, there are groups of cycle tourists who choose to stay in five-star hotels “because they are looking for maximum comfort and to be able to enjoy their hobby in a different way, which benefits restaurants, car rental companies, fashion shops and complementary offers”, according to cycle camp organisers.
“There is a wide diversity of businesses that depend on the arrival of European cycle tourists to remain active and open practically twelve months of the year,” say hoteliers.
And it is not just road cycling. The Palma Arena velodrome is also a hive of activity when the professional teams are on the island because some team members need indoor fast track training; the velodrome provides just that.
So the infrastructure of excellent roads, an increasing number of which are being adapted for cyclists, and the opportunity of being able to train in the velodrome make Mallorca a cyclists’ paradise, something which the airlines have also got a hold of and provide special services for those traveling with their bikes, some of which cost more than a performance car.
Mallorca, with its extensive road network, has become the main destination in the Mediterranean. The objective set by the tour operators and the hotel sector has been achieved, because the market share lost due to the pandemic has been recovered and the number of cycle tourists has increased. The overall economic impact on the island during their stay, for all the services they consume, is vital for the local economy and job creation.
But a great deal of time and money has been invested in establishing Mallorca as one of the top cycle destinations in Europe, if not the world, due to its close proximity to so many cycling countries in Europe.
Back in 2015, Sir Bradley Wiggins helped promote sports tourism at the Balearics stand at the World Travel Market. He gave his full backing to Mallorca as a cycling destination. For him, the Tour of Mallorca (Challenge Ciclista a Mallorca) cycle race was “fantastic” - it has become one of the first major races of the season, especially on the European tour.
Wiggins was accompanied by Ireland’s Sean Kelly, one of the greats of road cycling in the 1980s, who, though he retired in 1994, still comes to Mallorca at least three times a year as do tens of thousands of cyclists from across the globe.
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Yes, at the expense of residents of the villages they pass through. We have our parking banned for the whole day, for 20 mins of ride through. The last one was accompanied by the entire island motorbike police force! Our small rural roads are clogged before these races by cyclists practising, making car journeys tedious. Who gets the money? Our roads haven't been repaired in many years.