If I said – name a genius Spanish artist of the 20th century? I would bet my last peseta (remember them) you would say – Dahli, Picasso or Miro, right? But what if I were to tell you that (IMHO) there was a better artist? One whom’s art is spellbinding, a little bit dangerous, interactive, immersive, evocative, heart racing and eye popping!! You would propably say..wha yi bin shhmokin my friend??
Well let me introduce Antonio Parietti y Coll. THE ROAD MAESTRO. Born the son of an Italian Father and Mallorcan mother in 1899 in Palma Mallaorca. A student of ‘Ingeniero de Caminos’ in Madrid (Civil engineering), before returning to Mallorca to create his masterpiece’s. I think you see where im going with this! He is the road art maestro behind the famed and revered routes to Sa Calobra and Cap De Formentor. The latter I recently experienced it’s spellbinding beauty in one glorious summer sunrise ride.
Built in 1863 the Cap Formentor lighthouse as a twinkling beacon of warning to thirsty sailors. Fast forward 160 years and it is now a sparkling salvation and destination for thirsty cyclists and tourists. In 1930 tasked to improve touristic access on the Island Antonio mapped out a 35k route from Pollenca to formentor in addition to the much revered Sa Calobra
ON a recent family holiday in Mallorca the opportunity arose for a little morning ride. Staying in the nord of the island I was left with the decision of Sa Colobra V Cap De Formentor. I vouched for the latter. Five days deep into all inclusive binge = no way Jose for Sa calobra. Plus the romantic notion of riding car advert friendly roads made it a no brainier…The cap won and I’m so glad it did!
I start in CAN PICAFORT at 6:30 AM on my recently hired Cube Agree 62 DI2 (sweet as a nut) in a vain hope to evade the scadding sol! No happening as it’s 27oC and not yet 7 bells. Riding north to Alcudia and then onto Pollenca, I giddily embrace this golden hour of the morning as I chase the day along with a handfull of other cyclists and the ubiquitous bare chested runners with their heat rate monitor bra’s….shame on yi goan slap on a pair of bib tights? Yir embarrassing yirself!!??
I spin through the boulevard of Pollenca like the demented joker, eyes blazen and a grin as wide as the clyde as my senses spike with the rising sun. I’m taken by surprise as almost immediately on leaving Pollenca you encounter Col de sa Creueta, the gateway climb to the Cap (and the summit finish in the early season Challenge Mallorca).
The climb hit me sooner than expected yet it is nice and steady with swithcbacks that offer up recurring and delicious panoramas of Pollenca bay below. The climb finishes at the car park at the Mirador des Colomer where you’ll find a memorial to oor man Antonio. There is a handy wee coffee shack, unfortunately it is shut…que manuel, obviosuly never got the ‘cyclist’s will be oot early’ memo!!! However take a breather as it’s worthy of a stop to give yirself a wee pat on the back for the climb just conquered and to take in the monument to Antonio and the stunning bay below.
On re-saddling I quickly hit the descent. Beams of light from the rising sun shutter through the trees creating a blinding strobe effect. A full on rave descent es no bueno. Im totally fucking blinded and thrust a pathetic reactionary hand out to shield the light. Two options – fettle the brakes or descend using a Jedi like force? I opt for the former and then swerve to avoid two dark yoda like figures. I’m now questioning if yesterdays all inclusive Aperol Spritz’s were infact Absynth Spritz’s. I shoot a look back to confirm the mysterious creatures and see two skanky and skinny Mallorcan goats nonchalantly sauntering across the road. Gallus as fuck considering the temporal blindness of the Scottish dude that almost turned them into props for a Danny Macaskill video!! They must be some sort of weegi cross breed in them…”Am a goat a weegi goat, oot ma wayyy”
Plunging through the trees, visibility improving the lower I drop. I let loose and quickly approach, draft and burn past a tentatively driven car turistic. Two wheels are always better than four on terrain like this. Chow down on the 28mm’s my lil friend!! After a few kilometres of false flat the lush verdant forest recedes and you hit a crossroads. Once the bohemians took a right to Formentor hotel. A hideway for royalty, musicians and artits galore. Sadly now dalipadated or might have stopped for a wee pilgrimage, yet re-opening in 2023!
Pressing on, rocks replace tree and I’m mesmerised by the tantalising Cala Figuera cove below. But stop you must not, ahead lays a 300m black hole into which you must go. (yoda get oot ma heed) The tunnel has an ancient cave like entrance. You could say its…rustic…or ma abysinth spirtz mind is saying that hungry trolls and ravaged skanky goats have gnawed the entrance tae the cave.. sorry the tunnel.
I dont know what you call it, or if it’s just some weird fascination, but i just loooove travelling through tunnels. Like being on a fairground ride for me. Dont know why but been like that since i was a nipper. Give me some good tunes and a drive through a tunnel and i’m channelling the 27 club. The tunnel fun soon comes to an end as spin up towards the light. Still there’s consolation on leaving the tunnel that I’ll be returning through it, yet next time i’ll be hareening doonhill. Ya beauty yi!!
The camino starts to wind, drop, rise, sweep and flow. The adrenaline needle spiking into the red with the growing anticipation of discovering the lighthouse. Coming the opposite way on the road. I pass dribs and drabs of returning cyclists- all with sated glorious glows emanating from their smiling faces.
I pass a break in the rocks, my peepers are drawn magnetically left and there it is… a little white beacon of warning perched on a crop of rocks with a winding camino pearl necklacing it – The CAP DE FORMENTOR…. Antonio you are a fucking genius! Just as quickly as it is flashed, it is stolen away from me by some rocks.
I scrape, kick and push the pedals in a whirling fury. I drop down a sweeping fast left-hander with the barrier and the med(the sea not a sweater thats between small and large!) on my right. The lighthouse is now in full view ahead. Ive never hidden my love of descending fast but this time the breaks are lovingly squeezed as I savour the roll down with the lighthouse dead ahaead. Alright, alright, alright….I drop down before climbing back up through a couple of punchy swithcbacks and reach the lighthouse. Sweating , hungry, thirsty and very happy I roll my bike to a stop as a cheshire cat smile splashes across ma salty face.
Its before 8 bells and albeit low cycling season (high scorchio season), I’m sharing the viewing platform with another two cyclists and a couple pulling all sort of weird sexy moves(clothes on) for each others camera’s and likley IG feeds. I paw the dry jam roll profered from yesterdays breakfast buffet and look at them quizically before averting my gaze and holy shut the front door moly. The view is straight up incredible. Lighthouse behind me, the road travelled ahead and the between small and large sea right in front of me.
There is a cafe and an energising espresso would be absolutely awesome right now, but yet again the ‘cyclists out early’ memo has been missed…the man from del monte obviously he say …no! I have to settle for a sweat glazed bidon of warm salty water. As I regain my breath both figuratively and literally. I savour a string of ant like cyclists aproaching down the descent and into the swithcbacks. Each meeting the lighthouse with the same awestruck glee as myself moments before. Bring me some cold beers and I could sit here shooting the shit and vista all… day… long….like some kind of upside down type 2 Lionel Ritchie party! I hang for a bit longer and eventually steal myself away to make the return leg, which is equally as stunning in reverse. The tunnel! Man that tunnnel was gid….I hit it like Renton in the end sequence of Trainpsotting ! Bueno
In summary Cap De Formentor, Antonio.. you make Dahli, Miro, and Picasso look like they are painting by numbers! What vison, what engineering, what longevity!! For me no box is unchecked. If you get the opportunity to ride it- Hit it. It’s a masterpiece and a masterpiece you dont have to pay millions to enjoy…(just 40 euro for DI2 or 35 for ultegra)
Antonio Parietti y Coll……Legend!