Dan Marsh admits that he only got into cycling about ten years ago but, spurred on by the passion for the sport in the perfect cycling environment of Majorca, Dan and his wife Emelie have thrown themselves into the sport and the rapidly expanding tourist industry.
"All my life I’ve been extremely sporty, but just over ten years ago I injured my ankle playing squash and had to look for a new activity. I opted for cycling and that was that.
"But it wasn't until we moved here to the island six years ago that I discovered the true passion for cycling amongst the Majorcans. My background as a director in the hospitality industry in London led me to setting up a luxury cycling company with a bit of a difference, and we offer bespoke cycling breaks which are tailored to what the clients want. For example, if they want to cycle with a pro rider, we can organise that, and we work closely with the likes of One Pro Cycling, Canyon Sram women, Irish Track team, Matt Prior, Colin Charvis and Guy Andrews.
"Most of the training camps run over three to four days and we cater for couples to groups, covering up to or more than 100 kilometres per day. It all depends on what the clients want; they may just want to spend their time on time trials in Sa Calobra."
Over the past six years, Dan has witnessed the cycling scene change radically on the island and for the better.
"Cycling is definitely taking over from golf in Majorca, the sector is growing so fast. Never mind the fact that it is in the blood of the locals and that there are so many Majorcan cycling clubs out on the roads every weekend; Majorca is becoming the destination for cycling tourism and training camps. The fact that Team Sky, Team GB and most of the other international cycling teams use Majorca for their winter training camps sends out an extremely important message to the rest of the cycling world. And now they are coming in their tens of thousands to cycle here.
"One has to consider the fact that the average gradients in the Alps, for example, are 7% to 8% and last for about 20 kilometres. Here, we’re talking about 5% to 6% and for about five kilometres, so that makes the island attractive to the professionals teams.
"But more importantly, you can cycle here all year round, apart from perhaps two cold weeks. Even at the height of summer, I’ve been training and I’ve had groups out. In fact I love it because it means an early start, say around 6.30am when there is nobody around, no cars, nothing. It’s like you have the island to yourself, and you’re back at base by around 10.30am.
"And apart from the gradients and the flats on roads which are generally in good condition, the overall infrastructure for cycling has improved significantly. Now we have a host of large hotels offering all the equipment and workshops for cyclists and a growing number of companies specialising in cycling tours. Although I do think that, with so many coming to Majorca, we do need some form of etiquette cards designed which can be given to cyclists and will list the ‘dos and don’ts’ while cycling on the island.
"I don’t think the local drivers have problems with cyclists. As I’ve said, cycling has been a huge sport and activity on the island for decades - it may be the holidaymakers or foreign residents - so I think some form of attempt should be made to educate both cyclists and drivers so we can bring an end to this love-hate relationship and also make the roads safer. It’s something that has to work both ways, that’s for sure."
For family and professional reasons, Dan tends to use the Hotel Esplendido in Puerto Soller.
"That said, we’ve got to be flexible and able to work round the requirements of our clients. But the hotel is excellent, has all the right facilities and is well located for cycling. And it has become so much easier to be flexible. So many bars and restaurants around the island have also joined the cycling revolution. For example up in Lluc, they offer an amazing cyclists’ breakfast. It includes everything a cyclist would need to recharge his or her energy levels. Many petrol stations are now stocking energy bars and gels and sports drinks, so the island is thinking and really gearing itself up for the cycling market, which is only going to continue expanding.
"With so many flights from key markets such as the UK, Scandinavia and Germany, it’s so easy to get here. And we also provide important training, if required, such as how to descend safely, how to check if roads are damp and potentially dangerous by checking out the foliage cover and the amount of moss by the side of the road etc.
"On a long and sharp descent you can pick up some serious speed: you come off, and you’re in problems. We’re all for having fun, but it’s got to be in a safe environment."
For those perhaps wanting a more relaxed Majorcan experience, Marsh-Mallows offers it all, just check out the website.
Charity TT cycle
Next Sunday (25 September), Marsh-Mallows will be hosting its annual charity time trial in Sa Calobra, with all the money raised going to the local organisation ASPANOB. The association of parents of children with cancer in the Balearics has been working for 29 years with the aim of improving the quality of life of children suffering from cancer as well as that of their families. The charity offers sheltered apartments in Palma and Barcelona, psychosocial and educational support. The aim of the event is for the participants to have a great day out on the bike and raise some money for a good cause - it is not just for the dedicated cyclist weighing 65kg. It is for anyone that enjoys riding a bike.
Entry costs 75 euros and Dan said a donation of between 50 and 75 euros will also be expected. The TT Sa Calobra event includes professional cyclists and VIPs, registration and timing chips, TT Sa Calobra cycling cap, food and drink at the restaurant at finish, bus and bike transfer to the start of the TT, full mechanical support and guides and doctor, a 70km ride from finish of TT to Bunyola, prize presentation and drinks in a private house in Bunyola with buses departing from Puerto Soller and Bunyola at 8am.
The start is at the very bottom of Sa Calobra by the sea and the finish is at the Nudo sa Corbata (under the bridge where the road loops round 270 degrees).