Former pro-cyclist Doug Petty has been bringing cyclists to the Balearic island for more than 50 years to ride the famous hairpin bends on its spectacular mountain roads
Last modified on Fri 20 Apr 2018
Mallorca attracts more than 200,000 roadies a year. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome are usually credited for popularising winter riding on this Spanish Balearic island, but it’s two others who really put the island on the cycling map, one of them quite literally.
1950s pro cyclist Doug Petty has been bringing cyclists to Mallorca every year for 51 years, and he’s been able to keep them coming because of the lure of two twisting roads built in the late-1920s by local engineer Antoni Parietti, who built the snaking carreteres to attract motor tourists. Sports car drivers still head to the Coll dels Reis and the Cap de Formentor mountain road, but the majority of those now skimming Parietti’s curves are pedal powered.
Petty started leading road-bike tours of Mallorca in 1968 and the sprightly 88-year-old is still doing so, with Parietti’s roads being the key draw.
Both are bucket-list climbs with killer sea views – and are usually bathed in sunshine, with advice from ride guides to “drink plenty of water.” But when I was there in mid-April, there was plenty of water falling from the sky.
Mallorca doesn’t usually get much rain, but it got plenty that week. I’d left the beach resort of Alcúdia at 6.30am to climb through the Unesco world heritage listed Tramuntana mountains to the top of the Coll dels Reis, wanting to get there before the crowds. Tourist coaches and fellow cyclists can clog the hairpins, I’d heard, but there were none when I was there. Unusually, this famous ascent has to be descended first. Parietti built the road to kick-start the tourist industry in the two-house fishing port of Sa Calobra, which then as now can only be otherwise reached by boat.