Olly our Product & Operations Director writes about juggling his passion for cycling with the perfect family vacation, where every member of the family is looked after…
Although I used to work in our villa program I never really understood why anyone would want to go on a Scott Dunn villa vacation. Vacations for me were about getting on the water, up mountains or into restaurants and bars in as many different places as possible. Lounging by the pool and eating in never crossed my mind and dressing up in lycra could never compete with the thrill of mountain biking (not that I am admitting to dressing in lycra being a thrill).
The arrival of two baby girls and a carbon bike made me think again about many aspects of life and three years and as many Scott Dunn villa vacations later, road biking and a villa with a nanny and a chef go together like Lords Wiggins and Brailsford as far as this MAMIL is concerned – and my wife won’t even consider another vacation until the girls start school.
Mallorca is a road biking mecca for good reason. Many professional teams hold training camps here because the conditions are among the best in any part of the world. However, the riding is as good for novices as for experts – albeit a reasonable degree of fitness is something of a pre-requisite. So whether you are training for an Ironman or are contemplating trying road biking for the first time having watched your friends (or more likely your husband) become obsessive, it is hard to imagine a better place to start.
So what makes it so special? Well it turns out that all that EU money wasn’t entirely wasted as Mallorca is blessed with roads that are smoother than Galaxy chocolate, wide enough for even the least considerate motorist to pass while maintaining a sense of humor and they are completely deserted (at least by comparison with the South East of our overcrowded island). The climate is perfect – dry, warm and rarely windy (the nemesis of any amateur roadie as far as I’m concerned) and the Tramuntana mountains offer the perfect combination – the hills are challenging but the gradient never gets too silly, the descents are exhilarating but nowhere near as hair-raising as the Pyrenees or Alps and the scenery can be as breath-taking as the climbs.
Pollenca makes the ideal start line as there is a flat 10km to warm up before the first climb begins – whether you head west to the Tramuntana or east to Formentor (and the monastery at Lluc is about as good a coffee/cake/ice cream stop as you will find anywhere). As our fourth villa stay approaches, a pattern is emerging that resembles some kind of cyclist’s groundhog day nirvana and the support of a chef, host and nanny ensures that my family are equally relaxed and happy.
Each morning, a healthy, hearty breakfast is followed by pumping up tyres and filling bottles before heading out for a ride (you can read about our three favorites here) before it gets too hot. As long as you are fit enough to ride 20 or 30km, you can access some great rides and scenery while some of the most epic routes can log as much as 140km. Navigating around the island is easy and intuitive which is another important aspect of riding in an unfamiliar place.
On arrival back at the villa, my wife, who normally juggles lunch prep with supervising fractious toddlers, is sunbathing with iced home-made lemonade and is already on her second book while Amelie and Mattie can hardly believe their luck in a playroom which is Hamleys-esque. A fabulous lunch spread bursting with great local fish and produce can be enjoyed in the knowledge that you don’t need to count calories before heading for the pool leaving the Scott Dunn team to clear away. It seems hard to believe that our elder daughter, who was once so petrified by swimming, is now positively amphibious after three villa vacations and the garden and pool games have been the epitome of “quality family time”.
Come the evening, the traditional domestic stress of working out what to cook after bath-time is replaced by a perfectly mixed gin and tonic waiting at the bottom of the stairs paired with a ten minute warning for canapés.
One day we will no doubt try somewhere new, but for now, this is cycling dads’ utopia.