[caption id="attachment_2398" align="alignleft" width="300"] Get out the way, I want to see the view![/caption]
Well, did you manage to guess who from the From S to N team went on a 'top secret' training camp in Majorca recently? Full marks if your answer was Mark Charlton, with an extra gold star if you didn't need the extra clues for your guess :)
Mark divulges more about his trip in today's Guest Post...
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] Ahh, that's better ;)[/caption]
Those of a certain age might remember an old Heineken advert. It was a send up of My Fair Lady and featured a Sloane Ranger being trained to talk in a cockney accent. She fails miserably, until one swig of the amber liquid has her drawling, The worta in madjorca, don't tayste like it orta!
Recently I've been to see for myself- not drinking lager but riding my bike with Andy Cook Cycling. It was my first visit to Majorca, and before going I'd have struggled to say much about it. If you'd pushed me I'd probably have ventured that Magaluf wasn't quite my kind of town! The truth is, our pre-conceptions of places are often pejorative and unfounded - and no more so than mine of this stunning island.
The day I left, a friend sent me an email vouching deep envy. She'd once worked on an environmental project in the mountains near Alcudia - by coincidence, where I was staying. She wrote of eagles and kites, of fabulous coves and of ancient monasteries in the hills. I saw all of these and more, riding 400km in the Serra du Tramuntana, through orange and lemon groves, under cobalt skies and a temperate sun. On Wednesday I rode to Cap Formentor, the northern-most tip of the island - mile for mile I can't think of a more scenic ride in thirty years of cycling.
It's estimated over 80,000 bikers come to Majorca each year, providing an early boost to the tourist season. I vaguely knew this, but wasn't aware how comprehensively the island has embraced the influx: the resurfaced roads, the signed routes, the cafes with free oranges and cakes, the cries of hola from the locals. Add those to the mountain landscape and it is near enough cycling heaven.
You might suppose that hills and heat would make it more like a cycling hell. But it's surprising how the landscape inspires. One lady on our trip had never peddled more than 30 miles; she rode 100km with us on Sunday and beat me to the top of a 400 metre climb. I spent much of another day riding off the back with Andy, the trip organiser and a friend who goes back almost as far as those Heineken adverts. Confidence makes the biggest difference we agreed, and I thought how it applied to him too; he left a steady job to start his business two years ago, a leap of faith that's paid off in self-belief as much as financial returns. Hopefully both will continue to grow.
I came home on the Thursday, into a damp Bristol with the usual queues and traffic jams. Soon afterwards I rode the Fosseway in a southwesterly headwind, the sky inking and the temperature barely 6 degrees. Not quite cycling heaven, but just as surprising in its way. As I turned for home, a male bullfinch was calling from the top of a hawthorn, its peach-pink chest as dazzling as the Majorcan sun - actually, that's not quite true, but you know what I mean.
Thanks, Mark for telling us all about your trip! We'll be catching up with Mark again, plus some of the other people who took part in last year's From A to B challenge, in Dispatches very soon.