Stephen Roche Cycling Camp 2002

Stephen Roche

I had my first experience of the Stephen Roche Cycling Camp in May 1998, when the European Rotary Cycling Club had a week at the camp. It was a fantastic place to cycle, with some really hard climbs up through the hairpins to the Cols, exhilarating descents, lovely coastline routes, some flat routes, and lots of other cycling groups. The hotel is excellent, on top of the cliffs, overlooking the med, and the pool restaurant has a great view of the beach at Palma Nova.

Carole & I decided to try it again on our own in the school mid term holiday in October this year; Carole did the sunbathing bit, whilst I suffered. The flight on Sunday was direct from Aberdeen to Palma, but by the time we got to the hotel and unpacked it was 1.00am on Monday, and the cycling starts at 8.45am. After breakfast I went to the office to register, but it was closed. Then down to the garage, to see if they would give me a bike without registering and take part in the run that day. I was given a bike, which they adjusted for me, told not to crash as I was not insured, and rushed out of the garage to join the 3rd group, with only one cycling mitt on for almost half of the run.

I was given a map of the Island, and on the reverse side of the map are the circuits that they do. The route the first day was called the "Circuit Des Montagnes", for 70Km. This is the difficulty factor of the climbs:

1 Col de Galilea 5Km @6.4%
2 Col de Superna 4Km @ 6%
3 Col d'es Tords 4Km @ 3.5%
4 Col de sa Creu 3Km @ 6%

The first climb was the worst lasting for almost an hour, most of it out of the saddle, and when you look up the mountain you see the road zigzagging round hairpins going up for miles. There are four groups of cyclists, plus a touring group, each has a guide, and each day the Estate car comes to a feeding station with drinks, cakes etc. and has spare wheels and bikes. The groups follow the same route, but you are placed in the group according to your speed, and are set off at ten minute intervals, so the faster groups all pass the slower groups. With the temperature being about 75, you need to drink a lot; and I used 3 large cycle bottles a day. I was quite happy with my first day, managing to be about the middle of the cyclists on the climbs, and descending with the bunch, but I found it hard to keep up on the flat, but just managed and did not get dropped.

Next morning I suffered: for what with the lack of sleep, being late (and the crickets outside our window of our room), and the hard first day for me (the others had been there on the Sunday for a gentle opening Circuit). I joined the Tourist Group for a run through Palma.

Graham with Stephen Roche

Wednesday is a rest day; Thursday we tried to do 85 Km Circuit de la Corinche, but it was windy and as we got half way round it started to drizzle making the roads very greasy; ok going up but really hairy descending going round the hairpins - you need to keep the bike as upright as possible which means very slowly round the corners. We decided to go back the main roads, but still clocked up 75 Km that day. On the Friday the weather was warm again, and we did the flatter Circuit du Col d'Orient.

We found the cyclists and partners that were there very friendly. We had about eight Americans, there were about 12 French, 20 from the UK {including a Cyclist from Glasgow who was in the Ivy CC, but originally came from Auchnagatt, and a very fit and vivacious 68-year-old Lady from England called Jill). We had a group of 20 from Cork, Ireland, and they were really good company once they recovered from their hangovers from the night before. When they left the Hotel on the Saturday Feighil lost his keys and the coach was delayed for 20 minutes, with the coach driver threatening to leave them. They fancy coming to Scotland, and would do a reciprocal to Cork.

Stephen Roche always comes to the Camp every week, This time riding with all the groups on Thursday morning, he was in the boutique/office in the afternoon, then in the evening he came round the tables and spoke to everyone, signing autographs, etc. Great holiday, hope I can get back sometime.

Graham Gerrard

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