RECIPE FOR ADVENTURE

RECIPE FOR ADVENTURE

Rapha recently launched their Explore campaign with an off-road trip to Argentina - an inspiring adventure that looked endearingly magical. But the thing is, I hate gravel...

Anyone who has ridden with me knows I am a complete wuss that would rather wreck my cleats by walking than risking inevitable death across those cobbled shitters, staring at me with their uneven and uncontrollable tendencies. This doesn’t mean I don’t love adventure. That’s because exploration, and what Rapha are actively encouraging, is a mindset not a road surface. Choosing to ride different because we know what is comfortable for our mind is what often reduces our world.

So below I have highlighted eight key ingredients to make a hot-pot of wanderlust that still gambles but doesn’t gravel. To illustrate the list is photography and stories from our most recent adventure to cheer on Scarpa at a road race last week.
 

1. A sketchbook

I'm a self diagnosed ‘sketchbook sl*g’ and a slave to paper. My pen is my zen. The process of writing a plan and then documenting the moments are what transform a ride to an adventure. It promotes awareness and being hyper switched on to the small things that often go unnoticed or are quickly forgotten.

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2. A new route

We all have our ‘go to’ ride. The comfortable one that we can complete without the need for a map. There’s a place for those routes but not in this recipe. Grab a different GPX or ask a friend for a recommendation. Some cyclists may encourage no route, but my 'controlled spontaneity’ doesn't stretch that far.  

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3. A bag or musette

There’s something invigorating about riding with a musette or handlebar bag. You’re promoting freedom by feeling content with only what you can carry. You’re not adding more (in the hope EasyJet don’t charge you extra), you’re reducing until all that is needed is left in the musette. Which is often too many scooby snacks and not enough inner tubes. 

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4. A new cafe stop

The girls often joke that after 5 mins of pretending to explore the menu we remain fiercely loyal to eggs. No adventurous food choices here (unless you count the cheese we added to our fries on Sunday). However, push yourself to find somewhere new to fuel. Sometimes it pays off and you discover a haven that gives you free haribo in paper bags for the road.


5. Good conversation

Compliment riding on new roads with travelling somewhere new with your conversation. Ask valuable and considered questions that spark debate and opinions you may not have had the privilege of hearing before.

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6. Bike lights

Charge and pack your lights. Reduce any avoidable reasons why you can’t keep exploring (especially, like on Sunday, if you decide to stay much longer at the cafe than expected). 


7. Bike friends

Adventure means nothing without good people along for the ride. Choose those who can still laugh after you snap the valve off the fourth and final tube you packed - explore friends are those that can quickly adapt, not quickly paceline. 


8. A higher purpose

Don’t go further for the sake of it. Find a reason that makes the journey, and whatever happens between A and B, worth it. That could be a ride home to see parents (see Scousetour) or to cheer on your team at a race that you would have otherwise missed. Make it a voyage with purpose and let that purpose fuel the inevitable f**k ups along the way. 

If you find yourself with 20 minutes to spare on a commute or waiting for your next artisan coffee, write down an adventure in the lists section of your iPhone. It doesn’t require rocket science, just a dash of curiosity, permission to leave your comfort zone and the ability to deal with high levels of faff. 

Choose your own ingredients, pepper them with some personal spices and enjoy the taste of exploration - which for me, can often be described as early morning porridge or melted back pocket sweets.... Bon bon appétit, adventure. 

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BEHIND THE ROAD RACE

BEHIND THE ROAD RACE

The post-race elation can sometimes be the cause of forgetting the challenging journey to get there. People often only see athletic photographs from the race or symmetrical documentation of number pinning which completely masks the effort and unglamorous moments behind it all.

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To make it to the start line, most women will have beaten demons, problems and early starts. Bike issues, self doubt and food spillages in their bag. Whether it's the uncertainty of what lies ahead or the monumental amount of faff, racing is built up of many hidden steps than most people don't see. As the first Road Race of the season finishes, here is a small insight into a few of them. 

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The Toilets

You'll visit the toilet on average 103 times before a race. Unfortunately, the facilities are often restricted and far removed from any lightbulb framed mirrors. You become accustomed to getting changed in very small spaces and finding the inner patience of a buddha on a bike when there's only one toilet for 50 nervous women. 

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The Packing

Race organisation never gets easier and plagues your mind for the entire weekend. Accept the fate that you're now a slave to faff. Rediscover your Tertris skills and pack that bag like the child computer game hero you used to be. Or buy a KitBrix

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The Uncontrollable's

Unfortunately it's not a family of superheroes or the sequel to The Incredibles - the uncontrollable's are exactly that - unplanned and un-avoidable issues. Like that time my gel exploded and not only caused my hands to be covered in gunk but flew over the face of a fellow racer. Or this weekend, when Gem punctured and her race was suddenly over after all that effort and preparation to be there. The uncontrollable's are unfair. 

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The Tupperware

I'm a porridge advocate. Ambassador to the oats. However, 'best served when' is not eating them at 0600, in tupperware that's leaking and whilst my stomach is more interesting in butterflies than bananas. 

The Nerves

After finishing a race, we forget the nerves in favour of finding the elation again. But those nerves - those stomach turning, mind numbing, pant shitting nerves - are nothing short of horrific. 

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The Washing

A race doesn't end at the finish line. After travelling home - when you want to be a couch potato and eat a kg of the latter - your body, bike and bag all need some TLC. If your race hasn't gone the way you wanted, there's nothing more demoralising than unpacking the remains of a sweaty jersey covered in the smell of failure (and the rest of that exploding gel). 

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As in life, racing favours those that are willing to put the work in. We're constantly served up opportunities but fall victim to the belief that the tough emotions are stop signs (I've lost count of the amount of times I've wanted to bugger off after the race sign on). But I've come to realise that these unglamorous moments are why I'm so obsessed. Heightened emotions, no matter how uncomfortable, are hypnotic. They provide something so raw that it strips you back completely. We shouldn't fear them. We should thank them. 

Racing is bloody tough. But, darling, women are tougher. To all the women who make it to the start line, I see those hidden moments and congratulate you. You too have beat the uncontrollables to become your own, often unseen but forever faffing, superhero. 
 

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SCARPA RACING

SCARPA RACING

A team. A group of people working together towards a collective goal. Whether in work or in sport, it's arguably one of the most powerful formations humans can take. In cycling, that formation provides physical protection and endless performance benefits. For us, launching a team has given us a female force that has power way beyond the peloton. 

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"We were four friends, who, for various reasons, all wanted to come together to be part of something positive and encouraging, and that's really what underpins the whole ethos of scarpa racing" - GEM

At the end of 2017, Scarpa Racing was founded. A new female race team based in London, born out of a conversation with one of my best friends, and all-round cycling mentor, Gem Atkinson. The combination of friendship, experience on the bike together and vision for what a female team could be, was a perfect set of ingredients to start a team. 

The Scarpa ethos is mostly driven by development but glittered with individual and team goals throughout the season. We all possess different strengths and so form a mega mix of experience to support each other. 

"People are constantly looking for something to be a part of and I’ve found my tribe, a group of misfits who have made racing something much bigger than that" - KPP
 

The three other girls (Gem, Olivia and EJH) are powerful, amazing and inspiring females. Bosses on bikes who are full time hitters and part time trolls. 

"I’ve had some frustrating races in the mud but post race, the girls are there to pick you up" - OLIVIA

We'll be wearing our new team kit from January 2018, proudly supported by Rapha Custom and Camden Watch Co, with a colour palette of navy, green and black (with adidas slides to match). 

SCARPA FLOW.
COCKNEY RHYMING SLANG FOR LET'S GO.

From testing new tactics to challenging ourselves at different races, the team culture is underpinned by 'never mind' always being better than 'what if'. 

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SCAPPARE
MEANINGTO RUN AWAY

The team are there for each other, on and off the bike. We have started something new and hope to bring a unique flavour and approach to the female circuit (as well as gin, beer and an impressive array of bobble hats and snacks).

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SCARPETTA.
URBAN DICTIONARY, MEANING THE ITALIAN GESTURE OF "MOPPING UP ONE'S PLATE OF FOOD WITH BREAD"

If all else fails, we can certainly podium at that....

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Follow the team: @scarparacing
Read our interview with Camden Watch Co
Register your interest for Rapha Custom

#SCARPARACING
#DK

#FESTIVE500 2017

#FESTIVE500 2017

Every year, Rapha hosts the infamous #Festive500 - a challenge to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. 

For 2017, I kept the plan simple with a handful of rules:

1. Explore. Stop at new cafes and not just the usual ones
2. Document each day
3. During each ride, think back and be grateful for 2017 (I went one stop further and listened to my Spotify 'top songs 2017' playlist)
4. Don't rush any of the kms
5. Get out early to be home early

As per Rule 2, I took the below notebook out on every ride. And as two of my 'Top Songs 2017' would say, I documented 'All These Things That I've Done' and came out the back of it 'Stronger' (thanks Kanye). 

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Parting words to #Festive500 can be summed up by three other songs from my 'Top Songs 2017' playlist: 

- Intoxicated, Martin Solveig
- Hurt, Johnny Cash
- I lived, One Republic

ATTITUDE OVER OUTCOME

ATTITUDE OVER OUTCOME

What goes up, must come down. What's seen as fitness one month will be seen as 'losing fitness' another month. What's deemed success will be seen as anything but the year later. How do we remain content when goal posts are constantly moving and uncontrollables are often thrown in our way? 

We, as humans, have a terrible habit of not only struggling to retain contentment but actually find it in the first place. We think we know the secret to discovering it, but are proven wrong when we reach a chosen destination but our wandering eyes set sail somewhere else immediately. Or we find ourselves riding the wave of momentum, onboard what we think is the contentment train (one way ticket to fulfilment please), only to be de-railed by a sudden problem or injury. We're disheartened, struggle to find the station again and often decide to give up. Until, that is, we set our sights on the next lofty goal. 100% sure that this time, it will lead us to contentment.

I think we are getting it wrong. In particular, I am. 

Goals are great. I have discussed, talked and written a lot about the power of having goals and working consistently towards them. A focused mind is a forgiving mind. However, to retain contentment in this life (no matter what goal you are working towards) the secret could simply be in choosing 'attitude over outcome'. 

Attitude over outcome.

Externals are not in our control. Our attitude always is. This isn't just referring to our ability to handle the world when shit hits the fan. It's about knowing your life rules. Preferences that become our individual truths. Being crystal clear on what decisions and behaviour give us contentment, and then letting go of the rest.

Recently, my sciatica problem returned meaning my plans and goals were well and truly messed up. No riding and no end of season racing. The emotional journey began of frustration, anger and sadness. Struggling to deal with being out of my control and the plans I thought would lead to contentment were broken.

A few days later, my mind became more open and understanding. Adapting quickly and wonderfully the way humans always do. I sat with the concept of being focused on 'attitude not outcome' and realised a life truth of mine is 'find progression'. Instead of being overwhelmed by the backwards progression of racing, I focused on the upwards progression of back rehab. What initially felt pointless became purposeful - stretching daily, walking daily and reaching out to a specialist. I found my progression, just in a different way. 

'Contentment' isn't judgemental. It doesn't wait for external factors to be aligned or certain goals to be achieved. It's an emotion that favours the flexible and the forgiving. So find your truths - those preferences that no matter what happens, you can stay true to - and say yes to the daunting and inevitable concept of external change. No matter which road you take, it turns out contentment is just like coffee. Consistently there for you, no matter what. 

ALLEZ LES FILLES

ALLEZ LES FILLES

L'Etape du Tour. An epic blend of faff, fun and f**k me this is hard.
It's a sportive not a race. This year it was 180km and 3800m up, finishing on the infamous and seemingly never ended Col d’Izoard. 

Below are four pieces of advice you're likely to read when you google L'Etape du Tour. But often, our sassy human minds and real life get in the way of simple theory. So underneath are stories from the weekend without the censorship. Salty arses and all. 
 

GOOD ADVICE 01

Fuel well. Don't wait till you're hungry.

REALITY 01

Don't rely on hotel breakfasts (I consumed something that resembled half omelette half cake). Locate the local bakeries. You’re probably going to eat cheese with every meal. Go to the supermarket, buy provisions and set up a work table in your hotel the night before to make ‘back pocket picnic’. Brioche rolls filled with warm cheese and melted guacamole may not sound appealing, but you’ll prove yourself wrong 100km in. The food stops should only serve as top ups. Putting overnight oats in a McDonald's cup ready for the 0500 breakfast is absolutely fine. The only thing shittier than the progressively terrible toilets would have been dehydration. Keep drinking. We went  through 10 bidons each. 

GOOD ADVICE 02

Pace yourself. 

REALITY 02

Jump in with a group for the long winding flats. Don’t smash the first incline because you get carried away when the French crowds are screaming ‘allez allez’ or because everyone around you seems to be going faster. Find your rhythm and stick to it. Forget about the clock. No one actually cares apart from you (well, maybe also your boyfriend who is waiting at the end in a car parking space due to expire).

GOOD ADVICE 03

Take in the atmosphere. Look around you. 

REALITY 03

Watch the tour on TV because those pirate camera views are much more spectacular than the handlebars you’ll inevitably be staring at during your ride. You won’t be able to ‘take in the atmosphere’ when half way up another 15km climb, sweating through your helmet and hunting out the next km marker. Instead, make friends with the flats. Chat to more people. We only had two meaningful conversations with strangers even though we were surrounded by 10,000+ people. You’ll more than likely pee in a bush with thousands of people riding past and you're more than likely to have salty sweat marks in places you'd prefer people not to be looking... take in that atmosphere too. 

GOOD ADVICE 04

Be prepared. 

REALITY 04

We laughed at the guy who had packed toilet paper into his jersey. 130km into the ride was a bad time to realise he was right. Take time to prepare your finish line backpack with the precision you aligned your socks with that morning. Makes sure it includes food, drink, a hoody, face wipes and fresh socks. Pack layers - this is one ride where you’ll have to get over the aesthetic rule of bulging back pockets. The start line was freezing. Lara and I sat on the floor wishing we’d brought a cheap jumper that we could throw away once we got started. There was one guy with cardboard taped to his legs. Interesting. But do what you have to do so you can feel as comfortable as possible before the 180km of discomfort commences.  

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If you're obsessed with this beautiful sport, taking on the Etape will give you another level of profound respect for the pro peloton. As you're taking a week off and recovering with all the beige foods you can find, they're back in the saddle racing again. Without the indulgent food stops. Without the novelty of a melted cheese baguette at 80km. And without the possibility of pacing and picture taking procrastination. 

If you’re looking for a new challenge, then wear the cleats of a pro rider for a day. Be inspired by the superhumans and ride your own great race, and by doing that you'll no doubt inspire someone else. 

Allez au héro de tous les jours.
- Go on the everyday hero. 
 

VEGGIE DINNER

VEGGIE DINNER

Good things come to those who... get absolutely pissed on en route to the start line, don't bring enough layers to warm up and probably shouldn't be racing because of a head cold that hasn't cleared. 

I managed my first proper win this month at a 3/4 race at Bovingdon Circuit. The incredible feeling of crossing the finish line first can only be explained by how strong the desire is to feel it again. I definitely don't have the magic answer on how to do that, as I'm pretty sure mine was 90% luck, but here are a few personal learnings:

1. Perfect form doesn't exist in your mind.
I 110% convinced myself I was in shit form - don't believe everything you think. 

2. Comparing is the devil.
I still have a terrible habit of not feeling good enough when looking at others. The infamous 'shut up legs' should be changed to 'shut up mind'.

3. Have a game plan and stick to it.
For once I had time to breathe and figure out a plan. Even if it doesn't turn out how you envisioned, 'never mind' is a much more positive force than 'what if'. 

4. Know your strengths (I don't have many so this is easy for me).
Use them rather than kicking yourself about things you're not so good at. 

5. Surround yourself with the right people.
The advice and encouragement I was given on the day was much more useful than the words I was telling myself. 

6. Keep going. 
The shit ton of hours in the saddle which don't feel progressive or the races that are too fast to grasp are just stepping stones not obstacles. 

7. Journal.
Even on a scrap piece of paper. I genuinely try to follow the rule of three and often have three things I'm working towards to keep me busy. And that doesn't just mean: Gin. Tonic. Cucumber. 

8. Race to race. Not for results.
When your parents used to say 'winning isn't everything', it turns out they were right. Don't wait for a first place to feel content. And don't wait for a win before a celebratory gin. It's cliche but it's true - turning up to race is amazing. Results only tell half the story. 

9. Fake it till you make it.
I still feel like I'm turning up to a party I've not been invited to. The outsider who didn't get the dress code or laughs along at the wrong jokes. Belief doesn't come easy to a lot of us. Force it so your mind and body eventually follow.  

10. The real winner...
was the girl who brought a down jacket for before and after the race. I looked on at her with such envy as I depressingly looked on at my shivering arms. 

The £20 prize winnings will be framed. Not as a reminder of the good times or a reminder that I did actually win a race once (probably won't happen again for a while). But as a reminder that even when you win a race, you're still a loser if you cross the finish like looking like this: 
 

ASS KICKING

ASS KICKING

I’m still very new to racing so every day is a school day and this weekend, travelling to Eastbourne for a seafront criterium, was definitely a lesson in problems not podiums. 

0900 PRE RACE FAFFING 

Control that which is controllable, because racing is anything but.  

1200 THAT TRANSFER TRAIN

Waterloo was full of people dressed up for the races.
And there I was, heading to the races too, but instead I was wearing lycra, sipping coffee like it was champagne, donning a Rapha cap as my fascinator and with 15-1 odds of getting my ass kicked. 

1400 NORTHERNER LANDS IN THE EAST

Swooning over the seafront was soon replaced with pre-race panic when I saw how technical the circuit was with corners as sharp as my tan lines. 

1500 PUNCTURES AND PINS

Where there is a bike there is a ball ache.
60 minutes before the race one of the tubeless tyres I was riding burst. 

I then ripped my skinsuit in a public toilet, whilst trying to pin my number on.
 I couldn't find anywhere to buy water and there was nowhere to store my bag.
 It felt like a finish line when I finally made it to the start line. 

1600 40 MINUTES + 5 LAPS

Fast. Technical. Painful. Repeat. 

1735 LONDON BOUND

Ass officially kicked. Finished 6th.
I cycled off the course avoiding the white dress of a bride who was watching the race, picked up my bag and headed to the station.
I spent the 2 hour journey home disappointed and over analysing the race. 
Gin and tonic please. 

Sometimes it's just not your day. But inbetween the issues and the oil stained tissues, there's  moments that mean more than a medal. I strengthened my ability to ignore my ego. I'm now clued up on tubeless tyres. I was made aware of how far I have to go on this racing journey, and that's ok. I was reminded that if I'm feeling tired, it means I need to rest, not give up. I learnt that no matter how strong your backpack tetris skills are, your yoghurt can still explode on the train home... Thanks Eastbourne for the sun, the type II fun* and for reminding me that race days can sometimes be a beach. 

Strava link
*Type II fun: Sucks the entire time you are doing it, but you are excited to either brag about it at the bar later or look back on it and value it as a character-building episode.  

VUELTA GRANOLA

VUELTA GRANOLA

VUELTA GRANOLA 2017

Photojournal of a four day training trip to Mallorca.


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SUNDAY 0345
MAKING OUR WAY TO THE ISLAND

"How many people does it take to fit three bikes into the back of a VW golf?"

Bike hire: Rapha Mallorca
Car hir: Gold Car
Hotel: HSM Lago Park Apartments



SUNDAY 1600
THE 'BIG SHOP' AND FIRST FORMENTOR RIDE

"CAN I PUT GIN AND TONIC IN MY BIDON NOW?"

Strava link



MONDAY 0600
THE SALTY SA CALOBRA RIDE

"HI. WE'RE CANYON SRAM!"

Strava link



TUESDAY 0830
THE ORIENT EXPRESS RIDE

"IS THAT JERSEY LIMITED EDITION...?"

Strava link



WEDNESDAY 0600
THE FINAL SUPPER RIDE

"ZEN IS WHEN I GET MY SECOND CORTADO"

Strava link



VUELTA GRANOLA STATS

Days: 4
KM: 355km

Climbed: 4,700m
Punctures: 0
Ice creams: 8
Boxes of granola: 3
Ride bars: Lost count
Films watched: 1
Bike Computer: Wahoo Bolt


MALLORCA PHOTO JOURNAL

MALLORCA PHOTO JOURNAL

Palma De Mallorca. With high amounts of switchback porn and cycling racks outside each cafe, it's an island built for cyclists. Ride, eat, drink, repeat - my holiday zen. 

This week, I travelled over with a group of 13 who were completely new to mountains. By day, varying ability on the bike. But by night, a shared expertise of good food and large alcohol consumption. 

Below is the holiday's top fives, covering riding, eating and planning. Simple information designed for those who are also heading out for the first time and need to know some of the best and none of the overly complicated rest:  
 

RIDING.

1. Ride Formentor. The infamous climb to the lighthouse and back. There are goats en route. It's often windy. Stop at the top for coffee, cake or savoury snacks but be aware that the queue often takes as long as the climb.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/959020525
 
2. Ride to Campanet. For a rest or easy day, this is a flat and scenic route. Stop in the square for coffee or lunch. Cortado was 4/10.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/959971459
 
3. Ride the Lluc loop. 8km switchback climb that never gets too steep. 25km from Pollenca, there is a 'splash and dash' coffee stop before you reach the mountain. The climb finishes at the petrol station where you'll be met with a zoo of other riders. If your legs are asking for more, you can answer with a Formentor finish.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/961396518

4. Take on Sa Calobra. The legendary and beautiful climb. It's a bumpy and big day out but you're spoilt with views, smooth tarmac roads and plenty of coffee along the way. 
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/964658547

5. Enjoy Pollenca to Palma for a tourist day out. We did the route to drop our bikes off at Rapha and followed the Ma-13A. Flat and fast. Get an ice-cream in Palma and then ride back. Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/966303456

EATING.

1. Visit Tollos restaurant, Port De Pollenca. Part owned by Brad Wiggins. The chips and dip starter is a winner. Book a table in advance. 

2. Visit Rapha. Have the flat white. Joe also recommends the carrot cake. If you need ride leaders, they also host weekly rides. 

3. Visit Cappucino, Port De Pollenca. Great lunch or breakfast stop. Varied modern menu including eggs and avocado on toast for anyone craving London life. 

4. Visit The Braserie. Located at the bottom of Col de Fem. Amazing home cut chips. Shandies are a bit odd - cloudy lemonade rather than normal lemonade. Embrace it. 

5. Do a Supermarket trip at the start of your holiday. We spent 50 euros and got all the provisions you need, including too much gin.

PLANNING.

1. Get a taxi from the city, not the airport, if possible. Approx 80 euros into Pollenca, including bikes. 

2. If you're an RCC member, hire your bikes from Rapha. Otherwise, try Procyclehire. They have mechanics, a bike shop, pumps outside for anyone to use and a cafe. 

3. Have your routes in a spreadsheet, so you can be flexible if the weather changes. The island has everything from 50km flat routes to 150km+ mountainous rides - enough web and strava stalking and you'll discover them all. 

4. Bring playing cards. After a long ride, there's nothing better than sitting in the sun and playing Gin Rummy whilst drinking it too.
 
5. Bring layers. Mallorca can drop a thunderstorm at any mile. A few of us were wearing a musette of regret as we descended without arm warmers or gilets.

Next week, I travel back to the cycling love island. A mini training camp with the girls ahead of L'Etape. Our spreadsheet is printed, whatsapp group created and the holiday hashtag is confirmed. Onwards to #VueltaGranola.