May 8, 2017 § 25 Comments
Whatever you’re doing, stop now and get a ticket to Mallorca.
Yesterday was the most amazing day I’ve ever had on a bicycle.
We decided to do a climbing day, beginning with the climb out of Selva, Coll de sa Batalla. It’s about 10k. Some Swiss dude with some kind of champion’s jersey ripped past. I chased him down and he started attacking me on each switchback.
After about ten he started to fade a little so I took the shoe and put it on his other foot, which he didn’t like. Pretty soon he decided it had changed from Drop Old Fart Day to Rest Day.
I have said it before but the amazing thing about Mallorca is that on the climbs you can pass people all day long. It is delusion enhancing beyond any imagination. Guys kept hopping on my wheel and then not. It makes you go way harder, too.
At the top Jonathan, Jimmy, and Doug rolled over together and we pedaled to the jumping off point for Sa Calobra, the legendary 10k climb with 27 switchbacks that dead ends in the Mediterranean. First, though, you have to climb a bitter 2.5k wall before you hit the crazy descent.
At the bottom of the Sa Calobra descent, hands aching and rims smoking, Jonathan and I had a couple of coffees until everyone rejoined us. As we started up Sa Calobra a guy blazed by in a Quick-Step kit. I chased as hard as I could and got his wheel.
He heard me and pedaled faster. In seconds I was pinned, gasping. I checked out the matching everything and team bike and realized I’d hooked a fish way too big for my line. It was as hard as anything I’ve ever done. We were passing people like mopeds and I was attached by the feeblest of meat strings.
Just before the meat string snapped we hit a massive traffic snarl and stopped. I was choke-gasping. He turned and smiled. “You suffering?”
“Like a fucking dog,” I said, eyes crossed as I waited for my heart rate to drop back into the low 300’s. “What’s your fucking name, man? You’re not even breathing.”
He laughed and pointed to his top tube. “Stybar,” he said. We restarted and before long I was pinned again, stuck to the wheel of the 2017 2nd place finisher at Paris-Roubaix.
At 4k the fireworks blew out of my head. “Thanks, man,” I said.
He grinned, not yet breathing. “Have a great day.” And vanished. I could barely turn the pedals, going from super speed to twisted mash of a mess in a second.
With one km to go our Norwaylandish directeur sportif and directeur of beer consumption, Tore, chased me down as I pedaled giant squares, then sat on my wobbly wheel, then kicked me in the face as he sprunted over the top for the glorious victory.
My elation at riding behind Stybar turned to instant despair at having been crushed by Tore, followed by extreme bonk. And after Sa Calobra we still had a half hour’s climb to the tunnel that marked the 20k descent into Soller and lunch.
Jimmy flew by, followed by Doug, Jonathan, and Leiv. I barely hung on as Doug pounded up climb. Jimmy had finally decided to ride his bike and was gone. Over the top the descenders took over. Leiv dropped like a stone and pretty soon was passing tour buses. I hung back, terrified and unwilling to die on the 100kph straights that slammed into perfectly banked turns.
At Puerto Soller I bonked deep. Propped up in my chair I waited for lunch, unable to conceive how I was going to get over the massive Coll de Soller followed by the equally awful climb out of Bunyola.
I looked at the other patrons, normal happy people enjoying lunch together while we, salt stained, exhausted, miserable, and broken, were still miles and mountains from home. “Let’s take the fucking train back,” Hector sobbed. Everyone agreed but was too ashamed to say anything, especially since giant plates of olives, olive tapenade, bread, mayonnaise, pasta, and paella began arriving.
The grease and salt took hold and suddenly instead of envying the normal happy people I began despising them for smiling, spending time with loved ones, and enjoying life. In short, I became a cyclist again and could focus only on revenge.
We left the town and started up the long straight grade out of Soller. Tore and Jonathan chased and caught me at the base of the endless switchbacks on the Coll de Soller.
Tore, swollen with confidence after Sa Calobra, began attacking in the turns. “Now, motherfucker,” I said while doing my cuticles and checking Facebook, “you will find out what it’s like to have a worthless wheelsucker stuck to you like a tapeworm as you are forced to do all the work.”
Like a cheap tire with a slow leak Tore slowly deflated, much like the Norwegian economy during an oil slump, until, a few turns from the top, he was reduced to trying to make fake conversation about the nice roads.
I stonily ignored him, awaiting the end. When it happened, he rolled over like a bleeding, gasping whale in Moby Dick as Queequeg drove the sharpened point through his side, piercing his heart in a spray of unhappy gore. It was this moment more than any other that made me realize how fun cycling was, and what an amazing way it was to make lifelong friendships.
I got to Bunyola, had a coke, and laid down on the bus bench to enjoy the scenery and my racking legs cramps.
Bruce fell again on the back side of the Coll de Soller, and when we regrouped everyone mutinied at the threat of doing the big climb out of Bunyola. Instead we took the screaming downhill + rollers, with Hector, Brian, and Tore taking turns to see who could pedal hardest.
With only 10k to go we turned off onto a rutted, cracked, walled, incredibly narrow lane and the madness began anew. Had there been a car coming the other direction we would have died instantly, but since we were in our 50s with jobs and dependents and life insurance, and therefore every reason to die, we just went faster.
Hector kept it at an insane 32, and the speed was intensified by being propelled, blur-like, through this rocky, tree-lined chute. After riding all day at the back, Leiv finally found the front and we went faster and faster until the dreaded shriek of “Car!” was heard.
Everyone but Jimmy shit a blue streak as bikes skidded, careened, and jolted, narrowly squeaking through with an inch to spare as the driver looked on, horrified. Chastened and thankful at having survived, and now seeing the error of our ways, Hector attacked again, opening a gap and forcing the handful of remainers to chase.
I closed the gap, accelerated through the blind turn, jumped a small moat, and blazed around a stone outcropping in time to meet another car head-on. All I could do was roar “Car!” shoot for the tiny gap and hope Hector was killed instead of me.
Two turns later I had open pavement, Hector and Russell stormed by, and the Norwegians suffered yet another bruising defeat at the hands of Team Make America Even Greater. I fell off my bike and was engulfed in body cramps and ass rash worse than a Catholic schoolboy after his first meeting with the head priest.
The combined dehydration headaches, leg seizures, near-death experiences, throttling by Stybar, beating by Tore, and eviscerating bonk as I lay writhing in the grass, were so worth it.