The 2020 Andy Cook Cycling Spring Bike Camp was surreal, to say the least. We headed off to the sunny island of Mallorca on March 6th armed with our disposable gloves, hand sanitiser and ‘good hygiene’ notices for the water stops. Palma Airport, the roads that take you out of the city northwards, and the gorgeous Club Pollentia Hotel showed barely any signs of the rapid changes that would take place before the next eight days were over. Waiting at the airport for our first clients on the Saturday morning, we noticed one couple wearing a mask. But they stood out on the busy concourse as holiday makers arrived, families greeted loved ones, and cyclists from Germany, the UK and elsewhere arrived for the start of the Bike Camp season.
Over the next few days, as we welcomed clients old and new, made friends and formed riding groups, rode to Petra for orange slices, cake and Fanta Limóns in the famous square, reached the peaks of iconic climbs such as Sa Batalla to Lluc, Sa Calobra, Soller, Puig Major and Cap de Formentor, enjoyed many a post-ride drink in the sunny hotel bar and were looked after beautifully by the hotel staff, the Coronavirus crisis seemed a world away. More clients joined us over the course of the first week, some with tales about quiet airports and empty London restaurants, but others with news that they hadn’t noticed any changes back at home.
We were blessed with gorgeous weather. Although rain was forecast early in the week and low clouds and chilly wind discouraged many riders from attempting Sa Calobra, nothing came of it and we enjoyed several sunny days of cycling in shorts! Approximately 45 riders were split into four suitably balanced groups, led and looked after by our brilliant team of ride leaders – Jacqui, Tony, Mark, Simon, Ian, Paul and Andy, joined halfway through the week by Tom. I was in the support van as normal, setting up water and energy stops on the outskirts of villages and at the top of mountains – always just when the riders needed a break and a bottle refill!
As week one came to an end, we were looking forward to a lot more clients joining us on Saturday 14th. Everything was still running as normal on the island, and we welcomed our clients on that second Saturday to sunshine and the promise of warm cycling.
It was during the afternoon, after nearly everyone had arrived for the start of the second week of the camp, that the Spanish Government announced a strict lock-down policy on the island. By now, all of us know what that means. But it was implemented with such speed in Mallorca that by the time of the evening’s welcome briefing, we knew that from Monday morning, 8am, new measures would be in place which prohibited any leisure activities including cycling. As the forecast was expected to be bad on Monday, we held onto the bit of positive news that at least we would have one last day of cycling in the sunshine on Sunday. The good spirit and positivity shown by all our clients during that evening was so wonderful to see. We were so grateful to be surrounded by such lovely people! We felt so sad for everyone, but especially those riders who had only arrived that afternoon.
We were even sadder, but even more grateful and impressed, the following morning, when the news reached us that police were already stopping all cyclists on the roads. The rules which we had been told would be in place from Monday morning, were already being enforced. We had no choice but to cancel our planned rides for the day. The breakfast table and the reception bar became the Andy Cook Cycling Crisis Centre, as we took to our laptops and tried to help as many people as we could find flights home. By this point, EasyJet (the most popular airline for flights to Mallorca) had officially cancelled all their flights and announced they would be publishing details of emergency flights back to the UK on Monday. By lunchtime on Sunday, most people had either managed to book new flights home, or were waiting to hear from their airline about rescue flights.
There then wasn’t much else to do but enjoy the sunshine and the facilities at the hotel – many of which don’t get used all that often by people on bike camps, as generally our days are spent in the saddle. We kept the waiters busy all afternoon as most of the staff and clients sat in the sunshine, chatted and played games – there were even a few dips in the pool! At 5pm, our camp massage therapist Georgie took a yoga class in the last of the sunshine, and around 20 people joined in for an evening stretch. We all ate together, as we did each night, and then made our way to the briefing room for the famous Camp Quiz, hosted by camp stalwarts Bob and Molly. We had invited a fellow group of cyclists from Cornwall, which made for a fun evening with lots of teams competing for the prizes! Despite the circumstances, it was a very enjoyable day and evening, and we hope all who were there were able to relax a little and have a laugh in the midst of all the worry.
Overall, we were so grateful to all our wonderful clients for being so patient, uncomplaining and staying so calm throughout this fairly uncertain time. We are pleased to say that the final clients left the hotel on Thursday 19th and everyone was safely home by the weekend. Andy and Jacqui managed to get a final ferry off the island on Thursday lunchtime, drove through the night through Spain and France and were back in Wiltshire by Friday midday!
There are lots of people to thank for the smooth running of this very unusual edition of the Mallorca Spring Camp:
HIGH5 Sports Nutrition, who provided the camp with ample products to keep everyone energised, hydrated and recovering well throughout the week.
Port Blue Club Pollentia Hotel – who looked after us with all their usual friendliness, going the extra mile for all Andy Cook Cycling clients. It was a really tough time for the hotel staff – having only just opened for the season a week or so before we arrived, they were suddenly faced with the closure of the hotel and the uncertainty of no work for the foreseeable future. So we want to send them a huge thank you and all our wishes that they stay safe and well and we will see them all soon!
Our ride leaders – for leading groups with such skill and experience, for dealing with any problems that come their way, and for always being calm, friendly and positive.
Bob & Molly for being excellent as quiz-masters, plus, this year, extra supporters out on the road and at the top of Puig Major!
Kirsty – for being the first friendly face that all clients see when they arrive at the airport. New riders who haven’t been to an ACC camp before know they are in safe hands and can relax as soon as they see Kirsty (she usually spots them first with her knack of finding cyclists new to the island!) and experienced ACC Camp Clients know the holiday has begun when Kirsty is there to meet them.
And finally, our clients – old and new – for their all-round positivity in the face of such a challenging set of circumstances.
We are now looking forward to getting back to the island and hopefully finishing what we started in March on our Autumn Camp, followed by our postponed Women on Wheels trip! We are already busy on these October camps, and we are looking forward to welcoming back lots of faces from the curtailed Spring Camp. However, we know that lots more could change and happen in the next few months, and although we’re keeping everything crossed that we will be back to normal in October, we also know that the most important thing right now is to stay safe. So we will keep you all posted with any updates on the rest of our 2020 camps, and in the meantime, we hope all our clients and friends stay safe and well.