The Sandal Boiyz do Mallorca: Toros De Gravel
Words by Benedict Wheeler, photos by Kyle Kelley
Note: this article contains NSFW imagery. Blame Benedict!
Mallorca was a place that every true fan of pro road racing knows about. Especially if you are into the DEEPly nuanced euro trash aspects of the sport…
Mallorca is where the professional teams come to train and party in the winter months. Scores of doping scandals, both performance and party enhancing, have clumsily unfolded with the spanning mountains and electric blue waters of Mallorca as a scenicback drop. Would simply going to Mallorca allow me to be immersed in cycling scandal like all of my heroes of the golden doping age? Would Michelle Ferrari notice my talents on the beach and pump me full of ox blood in his secret lab/discotheque??
You’ll have to read further to find out.
Or if yer in a rush: “no”
Now feel the house beets thump through your digital device and allow Kyle’s photos and my words take you on a journey to a euro gravel party island situated in the Spanish Mediterranean amidst the softening light of late euro autumn.
If you have read any write-ups or reports on cool happenings in Europe, then chances are Bregan Koenigseker is involved in some way. Bregan just has a friendly deliberate way about him; not to mention a way about promoting and conceptualizing inventive events. This particular gathering included 4 days of supported rides on gravel roads and trails around Mallorca; base camped at a swimming pool in the middle of a Velodrome. Dubbed ‘Toros De Gravel’; which I understand means “freebasing gravel” in Spanish…. Nam and I were already cycle touristing the European Riviera, so we when the invite arrived on my 2-way pager, I QWERTY’d back “HI, OK”. And Kyle would be going too. Fun!
Day 1: we all fly into the Mallorcan airport where even though we are in Spain, everyone is speaking German. It’s late evening, and we are ushered to the velodrome to find our “camp”. Cool idea in having 15 euro vacation tents set up all around the velodrome with a pool in the middle just in case you wanted to test your swimming skills on the way to pee in the middle of the night. I pee in bottles next to my bed, so this was fine for me.
Day 2: bike fits and more wine than water. That’s not a bad day when you type it out like that. Also went on a little ride to get to know everyone. Turns out we were riding alongside a former German national road champion and various other German Olympic athletes. No problem for us, as we are American Instagram influencers; always at peak fitness for a few photos when it counts.
The evening is capped with paella at a winery on top of a hill. We all ride back in the dark on some twisty and chunky farm tracks. A few brush-ins with the EU recognized ‘Federation of Demons, Devils & Fire Beasts along the way. Namz spooks easily and figuratively peed her pants. Typical night.
Day 3: A longer ride with more wine and a long climb through a picturesque glowing sandstone canyon that reminded me of places I’ve been in the American southwest. This was Spain however, so naturally, the road ended at a small castle that served us more wine. There is a theme here.
Day 4: the longest of the rides. This was the big day that we had done all of those other relatively big days to prepare for. All the wine and olive oil hydration running thick in the arteries, it was off in the fog of early morning to criss-cross the island a few times. Or maybe just once. That whole day is a blur to me, but I can say it was a fun blur as far as blurs are concerned.
We took it slow and relished what it meant to be “sandal boiyz” on a vacation island. With the fine company of Julia Eliot and Sami Sauri, the 4 of us explored a beautiful new place that is best seen (as most) by bicycle. My euro PRO dreams had come true 15 years after inception… but now I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to ride road bikes in a place like this when there is such premium off-roading. It’s either premium grav, or Dr Ferrari’s secret performance lab for me… the in between is hollow, and without meaning. With no sign of my ox blood bags, a gravel overdose would have to do…oh and iiiiiit did.
The route was unreal. I don’t know how the designer was able to link together all those tiny tracks through the spiderweb of sheep, goat, pig, and tourist trails. It was enjoyably obvious that the island held endless potential for mixed routing routes, and not just grandma gravel either… we are talking some chunky tapas here! Course after course of premium chunk n’ 2 track tapas drizzled with local goat trails paired with a “naturalist beach” for dessert. That’s about as far as we made it cuz those post road gravel curious euros we had been chasing were starved animals, and that gravel was raw ground chuck to them. We made it as far as the beach and shortcut our way back.
We roll into the velodrome well after dark to find the atmosphere alive with the village harvest party. There is a raging bonfire in the middle, with a flaming chariot of demons devils and fire beasts pedaling around the banked perimeter. Bregan had rented a mechanical bull and a DJ named “Timo”, and Namz kept everyone up partying until 6:00am. Not me though; I quietly passed out on my cot at 11, awakening to the music every few hours to lean over and pee in my water bottle. So much for my euro party scandal dreams.
This was such a wonderful first experience in a place I’d been so curious about over the years. With this much challenging off-road terrain, I could easily envision Team Amazon Prime Gravel PRO team training here in 2021… although they likely won’t have a chance to enjoy their times as much as the Sandal Boiyz (that’s Kyle and me if you haven’t guessed yet).