In a world where so many share the minutiae of their lives online, it’s odd to find so little about Xisco Lliteras. He’s the founder of the Mallorca312 which attracts 8,000 cyclists to the island every April to participate in a one-day endurance race of 312km. “I’m a discrete person,” he says, blushing at our interest in his personal life.
He was born in Artà, which is where we’re enjoying a coffee in the sunshine together, near his office at the Bike House. There was never any doubt in his mind that he wanted to work in sports. “I’d have loved to have been a professional tennis player,” he admits. His job as a tennis coach paid for his Sports Management degree in the Canary Islands and then Barcelona.
One of his early and most significant jobs was as a coordinator at Mallorca’s impressive MegaSport Centre. He recalls tracking down the best personal trainers. He mentions athlete Jon Ander Arambalza who would later become the captain of the 312’s famous Green Polka Dot Jersey Team. The team was created to boost morale during the race. One year, they pushed a woman for 200km!
Xisco understands that to move mountains, or rather 8,000 people up and down 5,050 metres worth of mountains, you need a great team. His core team are family to him. Many were part of that first discussion back in an Artà bar in 2008. It began with the question: “What if we rode around the whole island in one day?” With friends like ex-professional road and track rider Miquel Alzamara at the table, the conversation had plenty of mileage. It was the business-minded Xisco who didn’t let the idea slip away with the last dregs of beer.
By this point, Xisco had gained a wealth of experience working as a sports coordinator for the Government of the Balearic Islands. He had connected with sports federations, overseen events of international importance such as The Battle of the Surfaces featuring Nadal and Federer, and been present at the negotiations for global TV and press coverage.
“What I loved most was organising events with a difference,” he says.
The first Mallorca312 took place with 199 participants in June 2010. Except for thirteen Irishmen who arrived on a private jet, all the cyclists were either from Mallorca or the mainland. Xisco had hoped for at least five hundred people and was a little disappointed. If only he’d been able to peer into the future. But perhaps he would have been overwhelmed to know there would one day be 8,000 international participants; 32% from Spain, 30% from the United Kingdom and 14% from Germany. Then again, the fact that he manages to sleep soundly the night before the event is proof he functions well under pressure.
It was a blow to the cycling community to hear the epic race was to be cancelled this year due to Covid-19 related restrictions. Back in his office where boxes of this year’s maillots are piled up in every corner, Xisco tells us that the majority had accepted alternatives to a refund which might have crushed the race for good.
It only occurs to us near the end of our chat to ask him if has ever completed the 312 himself. “Me?” he says, his eyes widening, “no, it’s madness!” And yet, as we pour over the pages of their ten year anniversary book and read about the magical landscape, the camaraderie, the leaps of faith, the private victories in moments of crisis… well, even the non-cyclists among us can understand why so many keep returning for more.
Photos by Sara Savage · Cycling photos provided by Mallorca 312