By Robbie Broughton
The Ride: Caimari - Coll de Sa Batalla - Pollenca - Campanet - Caimari
50.9 km, 893 metres elevation gain
September in Mallorca: it’s been too hot in recent months to get out on the bike much. But by now, if you set off bright and early it’s just edging above the 20 degree mark. Blue skies and only a gentle breeze make for perfect cycling conditions.
Ashmei have sent me their merino wool short sleeve jersey and a pair of bib shorts to try out. I may be cool now, but I know that I’ll be pretty hot and not a little sweaty after the 400m climb that awaits, so a good opportunity to try out its wicking qualities.
Sa Batalla is a col that sits atop a road that snakes its way up through the Tramuntana mountains. At an average gradient of only 5% it remains long enough at 8km to make you feel that you’ve had a decent work out.
Turning left out of our front door in Caimari on a Sunday morning we clamber onto our neglected bikes and head off through our sleepy village, still too early for the cycling café up the road to have opened its doors to the myriad of cycling types and nationalities it will serve throughout the day.
Just warming up those indolent muscles, we start the gentle rise into pine trees and views of ancient caves carved into the gorge on our left. A couple of short hairpins sees us rise in altitude surprisingly quickly.
It’s quiet at this time of day, no cars or motorbikes yet. The occasional early rising cyclist whizzes down in the opposite direction, wheels humming on the smooth tarmac. Other than that the only sounds are those that nature provides – the calling of a hawk, the bleating of a sheep or the croaking burp of, “Arse!” from a goat. Funny animals, goats.
It feels great to be on the bike again and the new kit I’m wearing gives my legs an extra spring. Ashmei launched their Australian merino wool jersey in August – wool may seem a strange option for hot weather cycling but its wicking qualities remain superior to artificial fabrics, they claim. This jersey was brought out with The Woolmark Company and the result is a piece of kit with “incredible temperature-regulating attributes.”
Apart from the technical aspects of this jersey, it feels lovely to wear and I’m told that it looks pretty good on me too – despite a few weeks of inactivity that have seen the scales tip a kilo or two in the wrong direction! I like the detailing – two different coloured panels on the front – grey and light blue. The little dots on the back and left breast are a really lovely pattern and offer an alternative to the bland colours commonly associated with high end jerseys.
The bib shorts have thick straps that avoid cutting into your shoulders, while the legs don’t bite into your lower thighs the way that some do. And that Ashmei logo screams class, good taste and impeccable technical quality.
I feel a little superior next to all the eponymous Mallorca 312 jerseys (did they really all do that ride or just buy the jersey?) and garish German cycling holiday freebies. As for the High Wycombe CC jerseys we pass…well, surely they belong on the grey A404 by-pass and not in this paradise!
Halfway up this climb the road levels out and we spin through a pair of opposing sandstone monoliths that frame the way ahead. Then there’s a low wall on your right that offers scant protection to the vertical drop below but allows you to admire the fabulous view to the south of the island.
We’re hot now and stop to take a drink while we admire the wispy mist hanging over the fields far below. Up here it’s clear and fresh, the smell of pine needles in the air. Pressing on we reach the steepest part of the climb – three or four hairpins, the road festooned with painted messages to other cyclists. There’s no way of putting this politely but, by the time we reach the café and service station at the top, I’m streaming with sweat!
We crack on – breakfast in Pollenca awaits and we take the right turn down to the monastery at Lluc. A little bit of uphill, then some rolling terrain on this high plateau before we plunge at break neck speed through this other-wordly landscape. This is a stunning descent, with long straight downhill sections, sweeping turns and the occasional hairpin that has you squeezing on the breaks. Our broad smiles of delight are testament to our joy and exhilaration and are met with wry grins by passing cyclists, toiling up the slope in the opposite direction.
The warm breeze dries me off quickly and I thank Ashmei for providing me with kit that does indeed have excellent wicking qualities after all. Before long we have the long straight into Pollenca town and we turn off into the charming little back streets that lead us into the main square. It’s strange to hear so many English and German voices as holiday-makers mill about in the market. We’re so used to the guttural Mallorquin sounds in our village - the cheerful but gruff, ‘Bon Dia!’ and ‘Gracies’.
Café con leche and a croissant down the hatch, it’s time to head back. The sun has risen and with it the temperature has gone up a few notches and we set off across the flat plain to Campanet which soon rises to a devilish little climb that punishes legs that have been inactive for too long. But we’re home in no time. Time to revel in that delicious feeling you get from well-worked muscles and, without wanting to make you feel jealous, a dip in the pool to cool off.
Verdict on the kit
Jersey: well I certainly got hot and sweaty but soon dried off on the descent. It’s a lovely fit and looks great and stylish. I’ll be wearing it a lot, especially in September and October when it’s still pretty warm in Mallorca.
Bibs: great fit, again, and I really like the wide shoulder straps. Comfortable all over and plenty of padding down there without being uncomfortable to walk in. Dark enough not to reveal embarrassing sweaty bits.
Top marks Ashmei! Look forward to trying out some winter gear when it’s cooler.