The Serpent’s Sting

By Vicki McLeod

Photos: Taz Darling

The Serpent (PHOTO CREDIT TAZ DARLING)

As the traditional family summer holiday season in Majorca gets shorter so the cycling season is getting longer. Dan and Emelie Marsh run Marsh-Mallows,  which is Majorca’s premier luxury cycling concierge service. They’re a registered tour operator based on the island,  attracting guests mainly from the UK.  Recently they ran the first ever Sa Calobra Time Trial which attracted a good mix of professional and amateur riders to the event. I went along to meet Dan to find out more.

Vicki McLeod: Tell me about yourselves.

Dan Marsh: I have always been actively into team sports.  About eight years ago, I got into cycling and when we moved here from London in 2010, I discovered a true passion for cycling amongst the inhabitants of Majorca.  My background as a director in the hospitality industry in London led me to setting up a luxury cycling company with a bit of a difference. I cycle with virtually all our groups and am still incredibly passionate about food and drink.  This island is addictive and I love nothing better than showing my clients the spots you would never normally find. Emelie is the brains behind the operation, she’s a professional show jumper, originally from Stockholm.   

 

VMc: So how would you describe the business?

DM: We create bespoke cycling trips for private and corporate guests.  We host luxury cycling holidays in Majorca and run a number of charity cycling events on the island.  We also organise trips to a number of sportives both here and in Europe.  

 

VMc:  Is it a training camp or a luxury cycling holiday?

DM: Definitely a holiday. Generally our daily rides are about 100km/60miles, we always include some challenging climbs (total ascent +1500m/5000ft) and we love non cyclists. Most trips are perfect for couples and groups of friends that want an active break.

 

VMc: Why the Sa Calobra TT?

DM: Sa Calobra is without doubt, the most feared climb on the island and a must do for many cyclists.  The route is 10km of tarmac draped off the side of a mountain. The 26 hairpin turns, climbs 668 metres from sea level, at an average of a 7.1% gradient.  The final hairpin is so extreme it does a full 360° turn and heads back over itself! It’s nickname is The Serpent, and it’s certainly got a sting in its tail.

 

I had been working with Bernat Vallori from the Escorca council to look at ways of creating a cycling event that encompassed Majorca’s most challenging and iconic climb.  This year we tested the format with about 30 cyclists with a view to developing it into a viable fundraising event for the future – the money would go to two cancer charities ASPANOB & Cancer research UK.

 

The vision is to create an event that has a community and inclusive feel but has a competitive element. I want it to involve professional and amateur riders and be a vehicle for raising the  profile of young riders from Majorca. Because of the way that Sa Calobra is we would never be able to have more than fifty participants at a time so it will always feel special and won’t be a mass participation event. And I wanted it to promote the true culture of Majorca and the Tramuntana.

 

VMc: Ambitious!  

DM:  We were fortunate enough to attract a great deal of professional cycling support and interest. We welcomed to Majorca:  Veit Hammer, the Marketing and Event Director of the MTN Qhubeka team, Barbara Guarishi from the Velocio-Sram Cycling team, who was returning from Richmond as one of the World Champions in the Team Time Trial, Joan Horrach who is from Majorca and for the last thirteen years has been a professional rider from 2000-13 riding several Tours de France, Giros and Vueltas, George Harper, Chris Opie and Sam Williams from One Pro cycling, Guy Andrews, the founder of Rouleur Magazine and publicist, James Golding a three times cancer survivor and cycling world record chaser who had just returned from completing the Haute Route triple crown and Jakub Pieniazek, the current coach of the Active Jet Pro Continental Team.  

 

VMc: Wow! That’s impressive.  How did the day work out?

DM: We were really happy with how it was received and how the day went, so a success I think. A coach and bike shuttle service transported the bikes and riders from Port de Soller to the Gorge Blau lake. Everyone hopped out and cycled to the start – up over Coll de Reis and the descent down to Sa Calobra. The time trial worked with randomly generated start times, with a cyclist being released every 30 seconds at the bottom of Sa Calobra, the professionals’ start times were spread throughout the field. The finish line was under the bridge where the road loops round in a full 360 degrees. Once the riders had finished their ride they then could take a seat at the cafe at the finish and watch their fellow competitors drag themselves over the finish! After we’d done the prize giving we all cycled the 75km (800m vertical) back to Port de Soller via Caimari, Santa Maria, Bunyola and then over the Coll de Soller and went straight to Hotel Esplendido where a hot paella was waiting for us.

 

VMc: I can imagine that if you were an amateur rider knowing you had a pro rider right behind you might be either terrifying or electrifying! What a great idea. Was the event supported by international cycling businesses and local businesses as well?

DM: Yes, we had four main sponsors. The first one was One Pro Cycling which is a UK professional team. It  is owned by retired professional cricketer Matt Prior and businessman Simon Chappell. The team officially launched on this year in February in the UK domestic road race scene, their highlight of their first year has been picking up two jerseys in the Tour of Britain in September. They are already using Majorca as a training camp, spending  two and a half weeks this spring in Port Pollensa training and developing the culture of their team. They are intending on competing internationally and have applied for a UCI Pro-Continental licence as the next step towards competing in Grand Tours.  Our other three sponsors were Cervélo, a cycling brand making top class bikes, Hotel Esplendido where we catered for the riders after the Time Trial, we often use this hotel in Soller for our cycling trips, and SEO Iberica, who provided our web and SEO design.

 

VMc: Why do you think the Time Trial appealed to the visiting non professional riders?

DM: It is one thing to ride the same roads as the professionals, to ride the same bike as the professionals, to wear the same clothes as the professionals, to compare your performance to the professionals. But to ride in the same race as the professionals, at the same time at the professionals,  that is something different. The Sa Calobra Time Trial allowed them to genuinely compare their time with the pros and appreciate the speed they race up Majorca’s most feared climb. 

 

VMc: How are your plans developing for a repeat of the Time Trial next year?

DM: I’ve been very lucky to have had the support from Bernat Vallori at Escorca Council, I’m hopeful that between us and with the continued support of our sponsors we will be able to make it happen! I’m hoping to raise a lot of money for charity in the coming years.

 

For more information about other events that Marsh Mallows runs visit http://www.marsh-mallows.com

 

RESULTS TABLE BELOW

Results

Male Professionals
Harper, George 00:27:40
Williams, Sam 00:28:45
Horach, Joan 00:30:00
Female Riders
Guarishi, Barbara 00:37:47
Handyside, Katie 00:45:07
Neudorfer, Johanna 00:48:47
Local Riders
Wright, Harry 00:31:13
Fernandez Minino, Miguel 00:32:03
Goitia, Ignacio 00:32:06

 

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