8th - 12th May 2002
A personal appreciation of a short tour of the Majorcan mountains.
K1, K2, Dave, JR, Mike
Gatwick South Terminator
Bikes cleaned and serviced, some new components apparent, delivered in pristine condition to oversize baggage. An hour later sitting on the plane, eagerly awaiting departure, the team are informed that all bikes are wrecked. Confirmed by JR. Thank you very much! We’ll be back!
All clouds have a silver lining, in this case the debut of Team Peugeot. Excellent lightweight aluminium frames, essential triple chain rings and rather clever seat post cantilevered racks allowing the transport of essential minimal baggage. Mike was required to leave behind his large pannier containing numerous T-shirts, house bricks and the kitchen sink, an enforced decision that was probably celebrated on the mountain climb out of Soller.
An Evening Ride
It’s not normal to start the day’s cycling at 6 pm but that’s what happened after some early training around roundabouts, up motorways and down dirt tracks in search of the airport. Dave excelled on the multi-hairpinned mountain climb; K1 and K2 the dual ‘lantern rouge’ watched Dave storm off at the start of the climb but, based on many previous events, confidently expected his back to appear round a bend later in the climb. It didn’t happen – he was running on anger and claimed a memorable mountain stage. The descent was made hairier by a specially grooved road surface and assorted gravel and rocks resulting from some recent unseasonable heavy rain. K1, Dave and JR seemed untroubled by skids and descended well all week, whereas the author was quite simply pathetic. Hopefully this was due to the small bike frame and unusual luggage position rather than a reduction in bottle as the half-century approaches.
A Night in Soller
Soller merited the journey; a pleasant hotel and an excellent evening meal. The rather stern Maitre d’ ‘Manuel’ was requested to take a photo but declined assertively with the Spanish version of ‘I’ve got a dog – I don’t bark!’ Senor Rover subsequently took said photo. A good selection of bars were visited, the UEFA Cup Final (but not ManU-Arsenal) was watched and table football and pool were played. A solid end to an unexpectedly miserable day.
It’s Easy on the Tele…
…15 km into a 20 km long climb, Armstrong drops the last of his domestiques, a quick glance over the shoulder at the small group, a longer stare into Ullrich’s eyes, stand up, a quick burst of acceleration and they’re gone. “Go on Ullrich! Chase him. Change gear and pedal faster. You’re giving up too easily. Get on his back wheel and attack later.” It’s easy on the tele, but it ain’t so easy on the road. The team knew what was coming and had analysed the longitudinal profile in detail. The 15 km, 900m climb out of Soller first thing post-breakfast. A stop was executed at the T-junction with 80% of the hill already conquered to adjust clothing ready for the final attack. A sprint from JR and K1 to catch Dave and prevent a second mountain stage win and months of rabbit. Dave was caught just in time….about one third of the way up the climb with 8 km to go – a minor miscalculation. This isn’t so easy. You change down gear but your cadence refuses to increase; you simply travel slower. The climb took approximately 90 minutes. Five wobbly men dismounted and enjoyed a long recovery. Imagine doing it another three or four times in a day. No more complaining about Ullrich’s lack of fight!
A Short Walk in the Mountains
A super day in the mountains marred only by the Cotswolds’ weather. Mike visited and was snapped in a monastery, a prelude to later religious manifestations. A great descent and a fast peloton, from which JR was dropped, a normally very rare event, but not for the only time this week. Is it the unusual parity of equipment? Due to the prospect of a too early arrival in Puerto Pollensa a detour was made to the seaside at Puerto Cabin? The return journey via the illusory Col Siller involved a considerable walk in the hills and allowed K2 to try out his special Chris Bonnington ‘K2’ climbing boots, the ones with the smooth bottoms and knob on.
A Room with a View
There was a brief burst of paranoia regarding Shepherd-booked accommodation. Would the ‘appartment’ have no windows, be damp and be rat and cockroach infested? Of course it wouldn’t – once found, it was brilliant. A large appartment at the top of the hotel with a grand patio for drinking, eating and sunbathing (not!).
The Democratic Search for the Greatest Restaurant in the World
How do you choose fairly the eating house to satisfy all seven team members? The preferred democratic method is as follows. You set off in a group and each team member can veto each restaurant in turn. No reasons need be offered but comments heard included ‘too cold’, ‘too warm’, ‘close to the sea’, ‘touristy’, ‘outlook too picturesque’, ‘wrong food’, ‘not expensive enough’. Of course, eventually one rejects restaurants simply because some bastard likes it and he vetoed your choice. The group rapidly splinters into scouts, spotters, advance guards and general dawdlers and the restaurant is only finally agreed when apathy and foot-weariness sets in. This democratic method generally has limited success resulting in eating opposite a rubbish skip and disgorging tourist coaches or scoffing tapas with iron brew in a wind tunnel. Like monkeys writing bibles, do it enough times and you’re certain to succeed; a gem was unearthed in the back streets of Palma. Given a team of ten there would be some tired feet and hungry men.
Now then, what was the capital of China before Peking? That’s correct (answer later) senor, but there’ll be none of that in this appartment. The headboards are set specially to switch the bedroom light on and off in response to any unnatural bed sway. Mike’s problems were even worse – his Ikea chipboard four-poster came complete with a number of religious icons to keep vigil over his snoring. There were some worries expressed over the effect on Mike’s mental health of sleeping with Madonna (and child). What we wanted was an iconoclastic anti-exorcist. No worries – Mike seemed OK in the morning except the rather strange introduction of religious debate to the pre-breakfast gear ratio chat. Is mike a fundamentalist agnostic or an evangelical atheist? Who cares – I’ll have an al fresco full English in view of the sea.
A Trip to the Lighthouse
Friday was the lightweight day with a grand tour to the Cabo de Formentor. The team even took a detour to climb the peak admired from the patio. Ignoring the peculiar garage full of rubbish located on the summit, the views were excellent, fully justifying the expended effort. On the descent JR obtained the sole puncture of the trip. Poor maintenance? Incautious riding?! The lighthouse proved to be a honeypot for our friends with the football team everyone loves, including a wayward chapter of ageing Hells Angels. If it’s this crowded on a wet day in May what’s it like in August? One to avoid. A rapid return allowing Mike to demonstrate his forte of winding up a big gear for a fast sprint off the front of a speedy peloton. The Med’s always warm, so they say, and a swim was therefore compulsory. This must have been the one day when it was cold, well actually completely freezing. However, the sun did appear briefly allowing the swimmers to recover. The author is a modest man, so it is with some difficulty and embarrassment that he mentions a rather classic attack to win a mountain stage on the return journey. You’ve got to justify the 100 notes spent on now-defunct ITV Digital and the numerous hours spent avidly watching cycling on Eurosport. You take them by surprise attacking around the last hairpin – that’s what he learned.
Megatroph – Friday Night on the Pop
Well, Friday is traditional beer night and why change habits just ‘cos you’re in Majorca. At 5 pm start with a beer on the patio, out for an iron (or was it aluminium?) brew beer and tapas, back to the patio for three bottles of wine and bags of assorted nuts and crap, out to a seriously dodgy ‘Only Fools and Horses’-themed pub for darts and a pint of Boddingtons, followed by a meal with four bottles of wine and some schnapps and round it all off with a few traditional Majorcan pints of Guinness in Mulligan’s, finishing at 12.45. Most team members seemed invigorated by this extended oral re-hydration session. JR, however, was suffering badly and produced the latest ‘cheese sandwich’ type excuse – mixing drinks! John can gargle two bottles of wine no problem and similarly down with impunity eight pints of Old Speckled Fart. However, mix a glass of wine with a half of Kaliber and it’s a full day’s hangover – rowlocks, we say!
Funf Bierres Silver Plates Amigo Per Favore
We’ve got the experienced teacher, five apathetic students and one over-enthusiastic swotty teacher’s pet. I never knew Dave as a language fiend, but he developed an insatiable desire to acquire the Spanish lingo, using every opportunity to practise his new-found skills. “Five beers please, friend”, “thank you, friend”, “that’s no problem, friend”, “adios amigo” – like some kind of dodgy Mexican in the cowboy films. Do the Spanish really call everyone amigo, even the old guys? Good to see the thirst for knowledge and the willingness to try the local lingo, but, we say, back to the traditional method of shouting in English, Dave!
A Swim in Sewage?
I don’t know what Mike was doing in that bed (answer: capital of China – Nanking!), but a downpour of biblical proportions was witnessed throughout Friday night. No problems for the early-morning swimming team, Dave and John, who ignored the sewage flowing down the street turning the local sea a pathogenic brown. Mike and your author declined the opportunity of imbibing the local viruses and bacteria and stayed in bed. Much to the relief of the watching spectators Dave and John correctly identified the sewage problem and sensibly diverted to the hotel swimming pool for their heroic pre-breakfast dip. No better way to clear the hangover from the previous night’s excesses, eh John?
….Over to Michael Fish in the Weather Studio
“A woman’s just rung in to say that she’s heard that a spell of wet, windy and cold weather is about to afflict Majorca – let me assure her that there’s nothing to worry about”. Now, there were many reasons for declining another trip to the Cotswolds in favour of an exotic foreign trip - an opportunity to visit Gatwick, fabulous mountain scenery, long climbs like what they do on le Tour, cheap food and booze, opportunities to converse in a foreign language, swims in a warm sea etc.. but, I guess, the main reason for visiting foreign climes was the expectation of a serious dose of early spring sunshine and generally uplifting warm weather. In spite of the fact that the team was obviously fortunate to avoid some really horrendous rainstorms, there was great disappointment in the Cotswolds weather – drizzle, wind and rather average temperatures. Close your eyes briefly, open them, look around, you’re on the Road to Stow-on-the-Wold (starring Bob Hope)!
I’m sitting in a railway station
Got a ticket for my destination, mmmmm,
I’m on a tour of one night stands,
My suitcase and guitar in hand,
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one man band
Homweward Bound, I wanna be….
….bollocks, no I don’t
Sing when you’re cycling – get in the zone.
The route home involved an early detour to picturesque Pollensa for some sight-seeing and good, strong wake-me-up coffee (vetoed). The mountain profile looked like classic John terrain. Time to re-assert his position as team leader, reclaim the polka-dot, put the domestiques in their place, the triumph of leanness making the fat b’stards ‘pay for their pies’. After months of prodigious left-handed darts and champion one-armed swimming, this was the time to demonstrate his return to full fitness. Cometh the hour…cometh K2 with a classy, unexpected attack to take the mountain-top restaurant stage. During lunch it was apparent that John’s ‘mixing’ hangover, despite the wake-up dip, had not abated; he wisely avoided the beer in favour of a few subtle zeds. The team was informed that the post-lunch route involved some further serious uphill and hence they dressed accordingly. The immediate 10 km descent in driving drizzle therefore proved rather chilly. Sheila’s descending technique of screaming at each hairpin bend was disconcerting for other riders within earshot. One final rapid peloton and we’re home – just in time, fully justifying the coffee veto.
A Night in Palma
Do people pay to come on holiday here? The North of the island was superb but the area around Palma seems to have been partially reclaimed from a swamp and appears not dissimilar to Thames Estuary Essex. The area at the back of the hotels was particularly nasty. Anyway, the bus was nice and a really good restaurant was located in the backstreets of Palma – an advance guard comprising Sheila was sent into the restaurant to secure the reservation before six sweaty men with luggage followed. Now the author never did see the attraction of the Palma airport terminal in preference to a late night stroll round the more scenic areas of the city and a couple of traditional Guinnesses. Dave and K1 enjoyed the tour and still had plenty of time to get bored and sleep in the terminal.
Gatwick South Terminator II
It’s never great getting back from holiday, but it is particularly unpleasant in the early hours when you have to inspect dead bikes and fill in assorted forms before emerging into the Gatwick drizzle. However, it was generally an excellent trip and provided a ready topic of conversation (can you believe ‘insurance’!) for many subsequent weeks. It’s gotta be done again, methinks – we’ll be back!