A week or two in Majorca in March or April is not an unusual thing for me to do but it’s a treat for sure. It allows one to live like a pro might for a couple of weeks. Eat, sleep, ride, and repeat. You can empty your mind of everyday nonsense, the stresses and strains that come with modern life, and just focus on turning your legs round. With the knowledge that you don’t have to rush back to work, or to cut lawns, or wash clothes and the like, comes a cathartic and Zen like experience.
It’s my happy place, my Vanilla Sky moment. If I was going to be stuck on a never ending visual tape loop in my head I would want it to be of me tapping out the miles just like this on a bike, in the sunshine, with my mates. The 2 hours and 14 minutes it took to cover the 32.5 miles from Puerto Pollenca to Bunyola , the little town before the climb to Orient , flew by. Trance like, happy.
I could hear the little group of riders behind us chatting and joking. It gave me and Del the opportunity to enquire if all was well in the cheap seats and if the weather was okay back there, but truth be told we didn’t want anybody to come through to the front. We’d get bragging/joking rights that evening about how nobody else wanted to put their nose into the wind; we could express mock surprise that certain riders had been with us during the day because we’d not seen them during the ride. Roles would be reversed on other days and bragging rights would be swapped but today it was our turn and it felt right.
It all looked a bit different for me from the preceding November when doctors were putting tubes with lights on down my throat to try to find where all the blood and iron that should have been in my veins had gone. Over winter I’d been pretty much unable to ride because, without going into too much unnecessary detail, Severn Trent were processing my red blood cells when it should have been my lungs and muscles. A few miles at very modest pace was all I could manage before being exhausted.
The doctors found some holes where I’d been leaking, plugged them and started feeding me iron to cure the resulting anaemia. You can’t ride a bike fast without a healthy blood count; ask Lance if you don’t believe me. This kind of thing comes with the territory of being a liver transplant recipient of 20 years vintage. Frankly, transplant or no transplant, it can also come as fact of life of being a 45 year old man with a stressful job too. Duodenal ulcers aren’t very romantic as far as injuries and illnesses go are they?
That I am lucky enough to be here to even ride a bike 20 years after a liver transplant adds a little poignancy to every pedal stroke and this day, on my favourite ride, I felt particularly lucky – blessed even. First, behind me, in the cheap seats, were some of my Wrekinsport club mates – friends, people I like and trust, people I chose to spend precious time with on the bike. Secondly, my son Charlie, a decent rider and decent bloke who did another chunk of growing up in the company of trusted friends during his week in Majorca. Thirdly, my friend and GB Transplant Team mate Ottilie Quince – somebody I have seen go from behind a sportswoman with a bike to a fully fledged cyclist over the last few years – something she shares with many of her GB Tx team mates. I flatter myself by claiming, as her coach, I have played a modest role in her being the current British, European and World Tx cycling champion in both road race and time trial disciplines. OF course, she's the one that pushes the pedals, right?
I won’t attempt to describe the view of the Tramuntana Mountains and the valley you get whilst descending from Orient; I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. It’s awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful. I would strongly recommend you go see it on a bike so you can really feel it too.
To cement our bragging rights, Del and I sat on the front for the 35 miles back to Puerto Pollenca. I felt privileged to be able to do it and, more to the point, privileged to be able to do it in such company. What a fantastic day…