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The day of Sa Calobra

By  May 12, 2016

After what had been a tough week already in Mallorca we still had Sa Calobra to complete as our last ride. All the climbing and miles done prior to this ride had to plenty of strength into the legs so I was feeling good for it.

I’ve done Sa Calobra before so I know I’m capable and also what to expect, plus we’d done Puig Major twice in the week which is longer and steeper so this was going to feel somewhat easy in comparison.

For those who don’t know Sa Calobra is a hugely iconic climb and a big attraction for the cyclists, it’s also one of the most beautiful roads. It’s 10k long, 26 hairpins and averages at 6% but you don’t mind suffering up it with the views you have.

Plenty of pro teams head out to Mallorca over winter and use Sa Calobra as a good test, the Strava KOM is 24 minutes but rumour has it, Bradley Wiggins holds the unofficial KOM at 22 minutes the year he won the Tour De France. Pretty impressive, Wiggo!

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Well, I’m no pro nor a quick climber given my ‘not so climber’ build so I wasn’t expecting to get anywhere near his time. Last year I got 1 hour 50 seconds, I was told the first time doing that an hour is a respectable time so I was pretty pleased with that. I was more happy about completing the climb without stopping. With just over an hour as my PB last year I was hoping for anything less than an hour this year, that was my main goal for the Holiday, although holiday is a loosely used term.

Anyway, 58 minutes and 34 seconds was what I did it in so I was pretty happy! I felt less fit this year but my legs were stronger and I think that’s what helped me through, as well as knowing the climb a bit better. I did make a conscious effort to increase the speed on the flatter sections just to knock some time off and it seemed to have done the trick!

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One thing about Sa Calobra is that you descend first to then climb back up. It’s a one way road from the mountains straight down to sea level and the only road out is the one you have just came down so going down you do have some doubts knowing you’re going to ride up this shortly.

At the bottom there is a small little village with a few restaurants and plenty of coaches come down this way so the best time to do this would early as possible as it does get very busy. The coaches do slow you down on the way down but going up they are patient and give you plenty of room overtaking on the way up which is good to know.

The route before Sa Calobra is definitely not flat, far from it actually but there’s nothing out of the ordinary there it is all longer climbs with nicer gradients. One other big climb we did that day was Coll de Sa Batalla, this is 4.8 miles at 5%, a perfect warm up!
When we did this the roads were quite damp and greasy so there were some doubts whether to do Sa Calobra or not, even more so when I saw a guy come off going down the descent but he was riding like a maniac.
There’s a nice café at the top of here and also with a well stocked petrol station with good sports nutrition to stock up on gels, bars and drink before Sa Calobra since it is the last place to stop before hand.

From the café to Sa Calobra its one big undulating road until you hit a steep climb before the descent to Sa Calobra, it’s actually a tough climb itself but once you reach the top its straight onto the descent of Sa Calobra. Straight away you can see the winding roads alongside the mountains and the picturesque 720 degree hairpin.

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It’s not the most technical of descents other than the hairpins. Most corners you can fly threw without needing to break or maybe the odd touch of the brake before the corner but it’s mostly free flowing. The Hairpins aren’t too tight and the bank of them helps you go even quicker coming out the corner, it’s so fun and possibly my favourite descent.

Coming up

This is definitely a tough climb, its rated as a category 1 climb and for most part it is steady but it does kick up in part to over 10% which you do feel since you are deep into a climb as it is.

You don’t need to be a great climber specifically as such to get up but you do need to have a good degree of fitness to see it out and grind up.

I’m quite good at finding a rhythm on climbs and just cracking on with it but knowing its around an hour long it was going to be quite lonely so best to do it with music. For those interested it was along the lines of Paramore, Fall Out Boy and Panic! Which saw me to the top of the climb, I needed something which had a high tempo.

I always try and climb in a lower gear and spin quicker rather than pull a big gear. The Pinarello I had hired came with a 32t cassette as I requested as I think it would be a long grind with a 28t and always nice to have the gear there in case you’re not up to it. I was probably flicking between the 30t and 28t for most part of the climbs and spun a decent cadence, well it felt like I did anyway.
I was doing everything by time on this climb.

I knew exactly how long it was this time and a rough idea as to how long it would take me so every 5 minutes I was to get out the saddle to stretch my back and legs and to also increase the pace slightly to knock some time off.

I was trying to reserve bit of energy for a quick finish in case I was going to fall short of the hour mark but I didn’t have much in the tank at this point so kept it steady, other than the sharp effort when my club mates were taking pictures waiting at the top!

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Once we had all met at the top, had a drink and took some pictured we were ready to set off. It’s mainly downhill coming back on this main road. Undulating again but you do one climb which is a couple of miles and then there is a huge descent back right to the hotel.
The feeling coming to the crest of this climb was amazing, it was the last climb and I knew that all the hard work had been done by this point so to make the most of the descent. This is called Coll de Femenia and you come down it after most rides if you are heading out into the mountains, we came down it three time in six days and it get better each time. Long corners and its very quick and as it’s at the end of each ride you don’t have to be reserved with having to use your energy because it is right at the end.

The whole ride is truly amazing. In total this ride was 65 miles an near 9000ft of climbing. If you’re into your cycling and haven’t headed out there yet, you should do so or certainly look to do!