The Peloton vs The Tourist

The weather has been pretty crappy lately so I haven’t gotten as many rides in as I wanted.  Today was overcast and only around 11 degrees at sea level and colder in the mountains — but at least the rain took a siesta for a little while.  In true Wayward fashion, I didn’t really have any idea where I’d go or for how long.  I found myself catching a group of about 15-18 riders from an under-23 team from Prague [Note: they actually stay at the same hotel that I do, so I knew we had gone similar distances to arrive at the climb].  They were going slow and I didn’t feel like joining their group so I finally got around all of them and continued my way into the headwind towards the Category 2 climb, Col de Soller.

Snow in Mallorca

Puig Mayor - Screenshot taken from headcam video (no digital camera today)

Just before the start of the climb, I glanced over my shoulder to find 18 cyclists in a tight double paceline not far back.  I really wasn’t in a mood to race and hoped they had a coach to pull back the reigns because young guns love to race… I know I did.  After 1 or two turns, I was relieved to discover that most of the 18 riders were fading back… except for 4 guys storming up the 5.6km switchback climb.

Col de Soller is not very steep, but the numerous switchbacks make it more famous than other climbs of its size, especially when approaching from the south.  Since it is not very steep, the wind can play a major factor.  The wind was not too bad today, but it was a headwind nonetheless.

I glanced at my heart rate, “146 bpm… good pace for today” I thought, but then I noticed some shadows closing in.  “I really don’t want to go too hard, but I’ll put in a little effort”, I conceded to myself.  I pushed harder… 160, 165… they were still there.  I wasn’t going to “attack” because I find that extremely bad form (read: rude) when you aren’t racing or training.  So I just kept a high pace and the Prague boys were happy to be out of the wind.

170… 180… “Ok, now we are really pushing it”… I noticed that one rider had fallen off the pace.  We zoomed past other riders slogging up the mountain… I wondered if the racers behind me knew I was just a glorified tourist just like the chaps we were passing.  For 14 minutes I lead up the Col du Soller and in the final 50 meters 2 of the riders sprinted ahead for the “victory” – complete with fist pumping and butts bouncing on the saddle.  The 3rd guy who rode beside me mocked them.  I liked him.  After their celebration was over, they pulled off for a break.  I noted to myself that they incorrectly thought the top of the climb was the scenic lookout, when actually it is the official “Col de Soller XXX meters”  sign 100 meters up the road.

Oh well, I’m sure they had a good rest at the scenic lookout. I rolled over the top and immediately started the descent as I still had 75 miles of riding to go and needed to keep pedaling to get back in time for work.  Still, despite slowing down at the top due to my lack of enthusiasm for sprinting for the “win”, the time up Soller was still 14 minutes 48 seconds, my fastest ever — besting the 15:07 from 2 weeks ago and the 15:10 from last year.  However, it required an almost incomprehensible average heart rate 180bpm… which is pretty high for an aging cyclo-tourist like me.

On the descent, I noticed clumps of snow left over from the frigid temperatures Mallorca experienced a few days earlier.  A few switchbacks later, Mallorca’s highest peak, Puig Mayor, came into view.  It looked like a beautiful scene from the Alps instead of a tropical Mediterranean scape. The top was completely covered in snow with numerous channels of white cascading down it’s slopes into the village of Soller.  The image was enough for me to decide… my next waypoint was Puig Mayor!

The ascent up Puig Mayor was fantastic!  It might be the only time in my life where I could ride along side palm trees, grab an orange off a tree, and then grab enough snow off the roadside barriers to throw a snowball… all while still riding the bike on the road. (Ok, Ok, I didn’t actually do all those things, I would never steal from local farmers… but the snowball thing… yeah, I did that 🙂 )

The rest of the ride was tough but fairly uneventful besides witnessing sheep who seemed a bit confused by all the snow.  On the way back, it looked like it was going to be a 84 mile ride, but I was in need of a milestone so I did a little 17 mile detour to get in 101 miles on the day.

Distance: 101.3 miles
Time: 6 hours 11 minutes
Avg Speed: 16.3 mph
Max Speed: 43.4 mph
Avg HR: 134 bpm
Max HR: 185 bpm
Climbing: 8483 feet
Calories: 3934

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