Saturday, October 11, 2014
Riding Around In Circles: Mallorca's velodromes
1869 is the year when, it might be said, cycling started in Mallorca. A banker named Ernesto Canut bought a bike in France, brought it over to the island and from that year on the sight of bikes on the roads of Palma became increasingly common. As far as sport was concerned, associations were being formed from the end of the 1880s. In 1892 the first race took place in Felanitx. The following year, the first Balearics cycling championship took place, but it is 1903 which stands out as a year of major importance in the history of Mallorcan cycling, for it was in that year that the El Tirador velodrome was opened. It had been the ambition of a cycling club called Veloç Sport Balear. The first stone had been laid at the end of 1898 and on 10 August, 1903, it was finally inaugurated during Palma's annual fiestas.
El Tirador is, or rather was, the most celebrated velodrome in Mallorca, but it wasn't the first. Veloç Sport Balear had considered sharing a velodrome operated by the appropriately named Cercle Ciclista. This was Son Espanyolet, and it had been inaugurated in 1893, though Felanitx, where that 1892 race had taken place, was the first of all. The year after El Tirador opened it staged the Spanish championship, and there was talk of trying to attract the world championship, but that failed to materialise. Out on the roads cycling was becoming ever more popular, and 1913 was to be another landmark year for cycling as a sport; the first Volta a Mallorca (Tour of Mallorca) was held.
El Tirador is considered to be Spain's oldest velodrome still in existence. One says in existence, but it actually closed in 1973. It's difficult to identify quite how many velodromes there ever were on Mallorca. In 1975 a new one opened in Algaida. Reporting this inauguration, "El Mundo Deportivo" noted the famous velodromes which had gone - Felanitx, Son Espanyolet and El Tirador - but it also referred to former tracks in Arta and Manacor. In addition to the new velodrome in Algaida, the report went on, were tracks in "Pollensa, Sineu, Vilafranca, Santa Maria, etc.".
Cycling and velodromes have of course moved on since then. Veloç Sport Balear, a club which is still going, harbours ambitions of reviving El Tirador. Or did. In 2007 along came the Palma Arena velodrome, the grandest of them all. As for Llucmajor's velodrome, it had only a relatively short life. In the 1930s the land was sold off.
Photo: El Tirador on the day it opened. From http://www.arabalears.cat/opinio/blogs/