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Road Culture

Riding with the King: Feeling the burn in Mallorca

Life does not pause

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Editor’s note: Be sure to check out Ben King’s other diary entries

It’s been months since I sent my last race report to friends and family, but after 6000 miles of training in the “off-season,” I’m back at it, and want to include you, my readers in the action.

At camp, after our team presentation, we dealt with media, equipment, and laid both a relational and physical foundation for the season. Having accomplished these tasks, I remained in Mallorca, Spain until my team returned for the next camp.

My local friend, Kiko Bernat, introduced me to the subtle beauty of Mallorca and the rich heritage unique to each quaint pueblo on the island often overshadowed by hotels and tourism. From a party with the AEG cycling team, to a child’s birthday party in the family’s 300-year-old farmhouse, I tasted the traditional food, drink, and customs.

Cycling, a major industry in Mallorca, keeps foreigners coming, specifically in the winter months, when quiet roads and (usually) comfortable climate provide an escape for icebound mainlanders. AEG-Cycling Team Organizer, Victor Gutierres, points to mountains, flats, sun, and sea, as the elemental fabric of Mallorcan cycling. I crossed paths with other pros each day as I explored every corner of the island. View some of these rides here.

Riding into Palma with Kiko one day, we noticed the old city center pulling in riders from all directions like some massive bike magnet. Succumbing to the force, we watched as over 10,000 riders of every shape, size, and costume departed for the Diada Ciclista Parade. This indicates the strength of the local cycling foundation that supports cycle tourism and entices the best pros in the world to kick off their season with the Challenge Mallorca.

I enjoyed my time immersed in Mallorcan culture with my local host. Yet, as stated in my previous diary entry, life does not pause. Spinning my wheels in circles around the island, thoughts of home nagged at my heart wanting reason for the separation. Racing, at last, provided that purpose and pumped life into my labor.

Trofeo Migjorn: 171 km

Despite reading on the bus, a practiced pre-race routine, and confidence in my fitness, the long break from racing showed in my inefficient navigation of the peloton. At times, I found myself riding the breaks even as I pedaled. As I adjusted to the flow and speed, a four-man breakaway escaped. A blustery wind made the entire peloton nervous and a number of high speed crashes ensued.

Mid-race large hail stones pelted us in the face. Our team gathered around our sprinter, Dannielle Bennati, and maintained a presence at the front. We caught the break with 25 km to go, and a crosswind briefly fragmented the peloton. With ten km to go, we hit the front of the compact peloton full gas. We had control until under 3 km to go. After my last pull, I drifted out of trouble. In a hectic sprint, Benna was forced out of position and finished 11th.

Trofeo Deia: 151 km

Six categorized climbs intensified the relentless pace. Cynical of the pain in my legs, I scrolled through my power meter which confirmed after four hours of racing the genuine strain of this race. Linus Gerdemann escaped in a fifteen-man breakaway. Team Euskatel missed the break and chased hard. Climbing the snowy heights of Puj Major, I thought of Aunt Gretchen receiving chemo at that moment, and ignored the lactic acid searing through my veins like an IV.

With clear leaders on the team, I looked for an opportunity to assist the team before my implosion. We planned to attack the Col du Soller with 30 km to the finish, so I cut the wind and dragged the team up the beginning of the climb in first position. When the road narrowed and cut back and forth, Tiago and Jackob pounced, surpassed the breakaway, and arrived at the finish in a group of five to place 4th and 5th.

I trickled in ten minutes behind, making friends with a young Euskaltel-Euskadi rider, Pello Bilbao, in improving Spanish.

I’m satisfied with my first races, having participated in support of the team, and regaining my race sense against a nervous 200-rider field.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.