A story of the perfect ride: beautiful roads, incredible views, great friends, and amazingly real, fresh food. Veloforte goes riding with Australian professional road cyclist Tiffany Cromwell of the Canyon/SRAM racing team in Mallorca, on the Velusso camp.
The Perfect Start
Sunrise on the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains. A cockerel crows in a nearby finca, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the Velusso Villa. It is May, and I am on the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca.
Perfect preparation leads to the perfect ride. As our small group of riders congregate for breakfast, a simple but luxurious spread of fresh fruit, bircher muesli, fresh bread and poached eggs is brought to the table.
"Natural fuel is the key", says Tiffany Cromwell, our Pro rider and coach on this trip as she sips on a Maca tea.
"What you put into your body is what you will get out. It's not always easy to eat well, but it makes a huge difference if you try"
Nutrition is certainly a fundamental focus for our hosts Velusso, they know that the riding in Mallorca is challenging, and a day in the mountains without the correct fuel for your body would be like running the Moki Jeep dry out of gas - it is a long push back to the villa, (and that's happened). Hence the well-stocked breakfast table and emphasis on the best of natural produce.
Outside the bikes are ready to roll. Chains lubricated, tyres inflated, and computers pre-loaded with today's exciting and undulating route.
Fuelled up on a tasty breakfast, our riders begin to kit up. Short sleeves are all that will be required for today's high-twenties temperatures. Hydration will be paramount, and as the guests file out onto the terrace to collect their bikes, they take chilled bottles of electrolyte drink from the kitchen.
In the past, I’ve struggled in warm weather to eat enough fuel to keep my energy levels high without ending up with digestion problems. Today, natural fuel is the name of the game, and I slip a simple electrolyte tablet into my bottle to help with hydration and load up my pockets with Veloforte bars. The fruit and nuts found in these bars provide the ideal combination of powerful natural energy that is gentle on the stomach, with Tiff’s advice in my mind I head out with the group.
The Perfect Climb
From the villa, the route takes us southwest, into the towering Tramuntana Mountains. It is an 8-kilometre climb to the ancient Lluc monastery, which provides an early test of the legs and spirit. The gradients are steady, and the views spectacular, but everyone begins to work up a sweat in the early summer heat.
Tiffany rides alongside us amateurs, and passes on useful advice:
"keep your upper body still, think of that wasted energy", "consider your cadence, spinning is a lot more efficient"
The tips help, and the kilometre markers come faster and faster.
Despite the heat, foreign surroundings, and even more foreign terrain, everyone seems to be looking strong. The balanced breakfast, quality fuel, and helpful advice allow everyone to push a good constant effort. Of course, Tiff makes it look easy as she spins between riders spread out up the climb.
Regrouping at the top we regain momentum on the fun and technical descent of the Coll de sa Batalla. We follow Tiffany's line as she sweeps the apex of each hairpin, scrubbing off just enough speed before hitting each corner; flowing down the mountainside.
At the foot of the descent, we roll out onto the open central plain. Quiet back roads and lanes allow us to roll along in tandem, enjoying our ride snacks, and fuelling up for the next climb.
On previous rides, I have found a lot of energy products leave my stomach feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Some of the products on the market are high acid content or contain sweeteners and preservatives. These additives can unbalance the body, and lead to stomach discomfort and sub-optimal performance. I listen to Tiff’s suggestions;
"Bananas and natural fuel are a lot kinder on your stomach than heavily processed products. You need to think about what you use, when you're putting it in your body day after day"
Wholefoods are nutrition in their more natural state, so fruit, nuts and natural flavourings are best for long days in the saddle allowing you to fuel better and feel better. The combination of the Veloforte bars I loaded up my pockets with, the freshwater and a decent breakfast seems to be working for me.
The Second Monastery
Out of the haze looms our second climb of the day - the ascent to the famous San Salvador monastery.
"This is a great testing climb" says Tiffany. "It's popular with the Pro's. My best time was in 2015 - around 20 minutes, which makes it a great threshold test"
We are not going for any records today, but even so, the climb is still tough enough to challenge us. We are grateful for the shade from the pine trees that line the single-track road, as we push the gears in the mid-day sun.
It's at moments like this, on the second effort of the day, when your preceding nutritional strategy really shows through. I’m grateful for the advice and the food I took on earlier in the day.
Dehydration now would lead to cramps, and a lack of proper fuel would lead to 'bonking' and low energy levels. There is none of that in our group of riders though, we’ve taken the good advice on board; we push onwards to the summit with eager anticipation.
Our keenness is because we know that at the summit our Velusso host will meet us, to present a splendid picnic of fresh salad, fruit, Spanish Tortilla and chicken sandwiches. It is like a feed station from heaven. All-natural fuel that will help us recover, replenish and ride out again with renewed vigour.
The Road Home
The route home is flat and fast.
A tailwind pushes us northwards towards another espresso stop, in the historic town of Sineu. The caffeine, combined with a mouthful of a Veloforte Classico bar helps to keep our engines firing; the mix of strong Spanish coffee with the taste of oranges and almonds is a beautiful and fitting combination given our Balearic backdrop - it also gives us the kick we need for a strong, fast finish.
Before we know it we are back in Pollença, resting bikes against the villa wall, and heading straight to the pool. Despite the heat and the climbing, I’m still feeling good at the end of the day. I’ve paid attention to my hydration and my stomach has comfortably tolerated the fresh foods and natural bars I’ve been eating all through the ride.
My legs are satisfyingly tired but I don’t feel drained. Time for a quick swim, whilst the table is being laid.
For dinner, we are presented with a rich spread of tapas, featuring tuna and chickpea salad, seafood, and spinach and ricotta quiche.
Recovery is a fundamental part of nutrition and training and once again Villa Velusso gets it absolutely right. Protein is our priority now; local delights that will help repair our satisfyingly tired muscles.
The day comes to a close with a gentle stroll into town; gentle activity that helps to loosen joints and keep the blood circulating.
We all know in the back of our minds that we need to prepare, as tomorrow, another challenging ride awaits.
Author: Tim Wiggins (@tim_wiggins1) is a dedicated endurance cyclist having just returned from an epic 400 mile solo ride across the Black Forrest.