Ned is upset. His trusty steel steed has been scrutinised, lifted and commented on, with sucking of teeth and shaking of heads. “It’s a bit heavy, isn’t it?” is the general consensus.
We are in Majorca for the two-day Duva International sportive and surrounded by expensive, top of the range machinery. Cervelos and Pinarellos abound. Sportivists take their equipment very seriously, as we have just discovered.
Ned also takes his equipment seriously – he thought long and hard, weighing up all the options, before choosing his new frame. It’s just that his priorities lay elsewhere. Shaving a pound or two off the weight of a bike by shelling out several thousand pounds seems an unnecessary extravagance when you can shave a few pounds from your own frame by buying less biscuits and beer.
As economic models go, Ned’s approach is sound, although verging on the Thatcherite. Let others stimulate the economy while he keeps a tight rein on the purse strings.
Circulating the bunch on the opening day’s mountainous 140km stage uncovered some interesting variants on the lightweight theme. One chap sported what appeared to be a rear view mirror from a 1960s Mini mounted on his downtube. This, he assured me, was not due to excessive facial growth necessitating a mid-ride shave, but to keep abreast of what was happening astern. No bad thing, I suppose.
Another young man was commonly referred to in the bunch as Lance. He took accessorising to new levels, with a gleaming Trek Madone matched with head-to-toe Radioshack-issue clothing and accoutrements, including the obligatory yellow wristband. “It’s in the detail,” he said. He wasn’t kidding.
Appearing the following day in full GB kit, he was promptly re-christened Chris Newton, but the lack of matching bike was something of a disappointment after the preceding effort. Must try harder…
The next equipment-related observation regards the proliferation of GPS gizmos mounted to practically every bike but mine. Ned christened this phenomenon ‘Garmin-isation’, a movement I have hitherto been dead set against.
Even the computer has been banished from my bars. Getting lost is part and parcel of discovering the island. How many miles have been covered, what the average speed was, where I have been, how many calories have been consumed, what I am having for tea: none of this information is of interest. Besides, Ned tells me all this the moment we stop riding, whether I want to hear it or not…
Majorcan sportives take a bit of getting used to. Half a dozen guardia civil trafico on gleaming BMW’s and a pair of following ambulances make for a smooth passage and a reassuring presence on the rolling road closure course, but speed is dictated by the slowest member of the peloton, making for a slightly frustrating ride for the posse of fit fellas champing at the bit behind the lead car.
But the whole set-up is rather civilised once you relax and accept that passing the motorcycle cops is a strict no-no. And, every so often, there will be a timed section where you can really let rip.
Not all here are so equipment obsessed. Let loose on the 5km opening climb of the Orient, I settled into a good rhythm once the fast boys had shot off the front, perfectly content to save the legs for later in the day. It was a good little taster for things to come and I was perfectly pleased with my progress, until a huge man wearing size 14 Jesus sandals on wide platform pedals hammered past out of the saddle.
Never has a bubble been so effectively burst. Apparently, size 14 cycling shoes would have taken up most of the room in his hand luggage, so he went for the multi-purpose Jesus sandals. My incredibly expensive carbon-soled, lightweight Giros in gleaming white suddenly seemed superfluous. Chapeau to the big fella.
The 14km climb of Puig Major saw the lead car pull away and it was every man or woman for themself. A tasty-looking half-a-dozen or so riders pressed on so I hung in there as long as possible before getting shelled out halfway up the mountain.
No riders in sight astern (damn, why haven’t I got one of those shaving mirrors?) so it was just a matter of hanging on for about seven kilometres to be 7th finisher at the top.
The trouble was, having no computer (or Garmin, for that matter), made seven kilometres hard to gauge. The thought of getting it wrong and blowing before the top – when it was impossible to say where the top was – forced me to keep it steady.
Three riders sped past unannounced in close order, absolutely flat out, and there was the finish line. I had been well and truly jumped.
How did they know we were about to round a corner and cross the line, I inquired? They checked their Garmins, obviously… So mirrors certainly have their uses.
‘Garmin-isation’ should probably be embraced, despite my reservations. I may draw the line at Jesus sandals, however.
Huge thanks to Wheels in Wheels for hosting.
Champagne, crossbows and more crazy stories in Part Two of Rouleur's trip down Belgian memory la