First race of the season for me as I fly to Mallorca for the Playa de Palma challenge Ciclista Mallorca - it makes a change from my New year-ly pilgrimage, this time to be flying out for a race instead of a Sky training camps which have seen a sleepy island turn into a Cycling Mecca for bike junkies in search for some warmth in the icy winter months…. This time there’s not the media frenzy scrambling to get to the latest Sky team Grand tour winner, but a more relaxed attitude to the Spanish event than I’m used to. As I queue for my easy jet flight I over hear the chap behind me excitedly explaining on the phone that he’s taking a trip to Mallorca for a race and 'not just your usual race - it’s got some real Pro tour teams in it!’ Said with eager anticipation. It dawns on me that I’m not on my standard race there’s a healthy mix of riders of differing levels and seemingly not that used to having some of the big names in their midsts, with teams bringing large teams along because riders don’t have to compete everyday of racing - due to it being a series of one day races.
My introduction to the Press room is equally laid back as they hand me a road book,lanyard and a ‘Prensa’ sticker for my car and I’m all set.. The only information given to me in English was a statement to say I must wear my accreditation at all times and if I disobey the rules (of which are all in Spanish…. Did I mention my Spanish is weaker than a happy shopper tea bag) this accreditation will be removed forthwith (or words to that effect)…. 'Fair enough' I think and as the sun sets over the over the ocean I’m taken by the peacefulness of beach front - after all this races is all about the Playa de Mallorca - hurrying out of the Beach hotel I race to grab the final glimpse of sunlight from the day as locals and their dogs enjoy Playa de Palma’s winter solitude.
The next day the US Rally Team asked me to take some photos whilst I’m here and I manage to grab ride on the first lap in the team car with team Director Pat McCarty - the new car is being pimped up with the latest gadgetry including the route mapped into an iPad with gradient info..Its early days the rider’s first race of the season, so everyone’s a little nervous. Suddenly the parade of team cars come to an abrupt halt and soigneurs and medics go running - riders are falling in front of us - one of the Rally team’s rider’s ‘Rob Britton is caught up in the bundle - fortunately he's now on his feet and walking out of a field as people are strewn across the road.. By the time we arrive Rob is back on his bike and already catching the pack. Pat expertly manoeuvres the car around the melee with wheels and bike parts scattered amongst the bodies, this time everyone continued with just a few bumps and bruises, it turns out Rasmus Iversen (Lotto Soudal) in his debut as a pro rider later that day was not so fortunate breaking his clavicle along with Movistar’s Mikel Landa whom reportedly fractured his collarbone.
The roads are noticeable slippery under foot, the mixture of dry days and a thin layer of dust across the surface of the road added to short showers on the second day proves to be a force to be reckoned with. The Rally boys are having trouble and are dropping like flies trying to deal with continental road conditions they're not accustomed to - that afternoon Rally Director Eric Wohlberg shakes his head - 'we’re not going to risk our guys in the first race of season’ he puffs these roads are just too greasy!
As we reach the final day of racing I race around the course to find as many photo opportunities as possible settling for a great vantage point overlooking Palma with it’s towering Church of Sant Miguel in Luc Major jutting out from the landscape. As the race draws to a close I descend behind the riders in the final kms of the race who take a few circuits along the seafront to give me time to get into place shoulder to shoulder with my fellow photographers awaiting the sprint finish we’d all been expecting to witness the inimitable Marcel Kittel taking the final sprint in tongue wagging glory!
© Pete Goding