Back in the saddle: Wallpaper* joins David Millar at Mallorca's Jumeirah Hotel and Spa
With the nights drawing in and the days getting shorter and colder, the cyclist undergoes a kind of reverse metamorphosis, adding insulation, windproof layers and water resistant skins. Autumn and winter is when the roads get quiet and the fair-weather rouleurs pack away their carbon steeds and retire to the heated exertion of the turbo trainer. But the all-seasons cyclist is made of tougher stuff. He’s out in all weathers, racking up the clicks, rolling up the hills, clattering the descents.
In the back of his mind, as cadence maintains a steady rotation under chilly, bootie’d feet, is the promise of better times. Long days in the sun, arduous mountain passes and coastal roads, freewheeling olive groves, monastery climbs, post ride cervezas by the sea. Mallorca, mostly.
The Balearics' second most famous island has now firmly established its credentials as the premier go-to resort for the serious cyclist; its immaculate roads and dizzying, serpentine ascents long-favoured by Cavendish, Wiggins, Froome and the rest of the apparently invincible Team Sky alumni for its off-season training. And thanks to a new partnership between Jumeirah Hotels and ex-Garmin-Sharp team pro David Millar, amateur cyclists can experience Mallorca on the wheel of the professionals.
With the hilltop Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa as a base, and the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range as a back drop, the location is straight-out-of-The-Night-Manager spectacular, setting the tone for what Millar and Jumeirah are branding 'Ultimate Cycling'; a series of three-day programmes (in spring and autumn – Mallorca is too hot and crowded in the Summer) riding with the former captain of the British team in the World Championships and Olympics and the only British cyclist to have won every Tour de France jersey. The food, drink and accommodation are exemplary. The support cars are Maseratis and you also get to wear Millar’s Castelli-manufactured Chpt.III clothing.
But make no mistake, guests embarking on the Millar/Jumeirah challenge will certainly earn their massages at the hotel’s Talise Spa after a hot session at the cranks, because Mallorca’s mountains are nothing short of Alpine.
You begin with a tram-dodging cruise along the boardwalk at pretty Port Sóller but that’s where the flat ends. For the rest of the day, its either up or down; Puig Major, Coll de Sóller, the iconic road snake that is Sa Calobra. The surfaces are smooth, the terrain magnificent. The combined experience of freedom, escape, speed and exertion utterly exhilarating.
But this is no race. Despite a glittering career in the peloton competing for pink and yellow jerseys, Millar will go at your pace, at pains to make outdoor indulgence, an appreciation of surroundings and robustly catered, post-ride good times key features of the three day events. You can, he says, upload the day’s achievements onto your laptop via the Strava smart phone app if you please, but Millar urges his Mallorca groups to forget about stats and just ride their bikes for the love of it – to take in the Mediterranean scenery and luxuriate in the mountain air.
The man the French media nicknamed 'Le Dandy' is, of course, a great role model and ride buddy; a natural in the saddle, oozing elegance and souplesse with every pedal stroke (and fun to have around when the cava is pouring). As we climb Coll de Sóller, Wallpaper's man struggling at every pine-scented hairpin, Millar is describing how the pros (i.e. him) would go at this same ascent with such vigour during races that they actually have to brake on the corners.
Helpfully, Millar provides boosting pushes to the saddle when the gradient gets extra tough. On the downhill, he's in your slipstream, barking instructions, encouraging a more bold and adventurous racing line through the bends. 'No brake, no brake, no brake... brake!'
After a delirious five hours and 80km, we're back on the Port Sóller front, ready for the final, 25 per cent, granny-ring climb up to the Jumeirah. A cold beer, a shower, a massage. A glass of chilled rosado, a dip in the infinity pool. Dinner soon. This is how the contemporary, luxe cyclist likes to roll.
The experience will run again between 20-24 October at Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa, and is available from £3,499 including return flights.