Sa Calobra doesn't have the pro racing history of Alpe d’Huez or the Passo dello Stelvio. Instead, it’s the climb’s spectacular physical characteristics that make it so special.
Hairpins? Yes. Smooth road? Tick! Not too long, short, steep or shallow? No way, José. You see on Mallorca, climbing heaven does exist – at least outside of the main tourist season of May to September. Sa Calobra is unlike Alpine or Pyrenean cols – to get to the start of the climb you have to first descend it. It's a dead end road, with a sleepy fishing village at its base, and the ride down is a thrill. Almost like a race track, the predictable surface and smooth hairpins (plus an actual, bonafide loop-de-loop) allow you to swoop down the 9.5km in no time. Tourist buses can ruin the fun though – keep to spring and autumn and it's just you and a couple of hundred other two-wheeled enthusiasts.
Turning around at the bottom, you're faced with a 668m height gain with gradients between 7-12%. Never too taxing, most riders can expect to be back at the summit in around an hour. If you've had a few coffees, then why not go for the record – plenty of pros train here, and Team Sky's David Lopez currently tops the table with 24'59”.
The scenery of Sa Calobra is quite frankly spectacular, with the aforementioned ‘loop’ allowing you to ride back over the road you’ve just ascended, perhaps throwing a wave to the riders chasing you further down the climb. And then there’s the ‘wall’ of hairpins that cling impossibly tightly to the sheer cliff face plunging toward the sea.
Mallorca is a world-renowned destination for cyclists, and with good reason. Cheap flights, quiet well-surfaced roads, cycle-friendly accommodation, spectacular scenery, and year-round sun – it’s one for your bucket list.