Saturday, October 11, 2014

Riding Around In Circles: Mallorca's velodromes

One hundred years ago, on 18 October, 1914, a velodrome was opened in Llucmajor; not just opened, it was also blessed. It was a track from another forgotten part of the island's history. Like bullrings which long ago disappeared, so there were also cycling circuits and they reflected a wider history, that of cycling itself.

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


Son Fe Mick said...

Morning Andrew
Again really interesting (and surprising).
But....what about dinghy racing?
Back in the UK every coastal resort and every inland puddle has a sailing club which organises racing at weekends and the odd evening.
Mallorca which has some of the best sailing conditions in the world has very few and non for adults!
I know there are a few Flying 15's at Pollenca and occasional racing is organised for kids in Alcudia and else where.
The conditions are so good here that several Olympic teams used the bay of Palma for winter training.
Having four races on a Sunday in the old Laser was great fun and keeps you very fit and the beer afterwards, a just reward.
Mallorca is really missing a trick. I would love to start a Club but to date it has just been talk.
Best regards

andrew said...

You have a point, Mick. By the way, did you know that next weekend in Alcudia is the juniors' regatta for Laser and Optimist?