This is a follow-up to my previous road journal - Mallorca #travelswithmyfather. My good friend @illustration_tim pointed-out that it was only written from my perspective, and that we should hear my dads version of the story.
Today I’m cycling ‘back home’ to visit my dad. 140km from Kingston to Pewsey. It’s a month since we returned from Mallorca, so time for a catch-up.
My grandfather was stationed near Pewsey during his time in the R.A.F. Every Friday, he’d cycle to meet my grandmother at Kingston Bridge, then ride back to his station on Sunday.
He must have been keen ;) and perhaps why he was good at time trailing.
This journey is like a pilgrimage to me, following the wheel of my grandfather. It’s a strange coincidence that our roads are connected.
Dad and I always meet at the ‘Tutti Pole’, a small, quaint cafe at Hungerford Bridge. This was a regular cafe-stop for dad back in his racing days, so it’s nice to keep the tradition alive.
I start prying his version of the Mallorca story before cycling the remaining 25km to Pewsey.
So here it is.
Mallorca #travelswithmyson - Steven Winter
Good news, the appointments to my Leukaemia consultant were growing further apart. The bad news? The strain it had caused my marriage, I needed to get away.
As well as having Leukaemia, there was a tumour in my lungs, seeing the x-ray was the scariest moment of my life. Thankfully, chemotherapy cured both.
However, I developed extensive blood clots in my lungs. I escaped death by less than twenty minutes.
It was a 15-meter walk to the toilet, I needed oxygen and a Zimmer frame to get there. Against all odds (and doctors advice), I cycled very slowly to a cafe 5km down the road. It took me several days to recover.
Gradually, I cycled a bit further. The wife stopped coming with me as she was struggling to keep up! A good sign of progress. The consultant was surprised I could walk without wheezing, let alone ride a bike.
The cycling was going well, I had lost weight and had some holiday to use up.
Gareth had told me about ‘cycling paradise’ - Majorca. In a foolish moment, I phoned him up and suggested he took me there.
Then I went down with a cold, the weather changed, and many, many mince pies were eaten over Christmas...
Day 1: Cap de Formentor Lighthouse
Gareth promised a ‘flat, easy spin’ to the lighthouse. The first hill approached and I tried to keep the speed high... mistake, the road just kept going up. Gareth’s version of flat isn’t quite the same as mine.
By the time I reached the lighthouse, I was cooked. I used a bit more caution (and the smallest gear on the block) for the return. Coming up the Cap Formentor, I was outsprinted by a female tourist on a hybrid.
Not wanting to ‘lose face’ I carried on digging and turned up the Albercutx Watchtower. Gareth was worried about how deep I’d gone.
Day 2: Coll de Femenia
The second day was to be another one of Gareth’s ‘flat, easy rides’ with just one small hill, because I’d gone a little too hard yesterday, and needed to recover.
Again, the road just kept going up.
30 minutes later… “Sorry, that was a bit bigger than I remembered.” Thanks, Gareth.
That ‘small hill’ was the Coll de Femenia.
Day 3: Sa Calobra
Gareth wanted to set a time up Sa Calobra. After a restless night (and to save my legs), we drove over to the first mountain and parked up.
It was still 15km and a good deal of climbing to Sa Calobra. I needed to recover, so couldn’t do the full climb. Gareth went on ahead.
I descended the first 3km, turned around and climbed back up. I enjoyed a cup of tea as I watched Gareth fly past.
He reappeared, moaning that his “piece of shit Tamagotchi (Garmin)” hadn’t captured the first segment of the climb, it only recorded three quarters, but the segments were all personal bests.
Day 4: Recovery
The fourth day was always going to be my rest day. Gareth went out early for a short spin and nearly did a ‘Geraint ‘Gent Wevelgem’ Thomas’ getting blown around by the cross winds on the seafront, luckily I taught him how to handle a bike ;)
Day 5: Sa Calobra - the comeback
Rest day over, time to tackle Sa Calobra. The descent was never-ending. There are so many hairpins, that your finger starts aching from pulling the brakes.
All the way down Gareth’s words were running through my head “Careful on the bends, these roads are limestone and can get very slippery.” Being on anti-blood congealment, I have to be wary of hitting the deck, it takes a lot longer to stop bleeding.
I was in the smallest one I could find, even at my speed, I caught and overtook a few people, which felt good.
Gareth had done his climb and dropped down to meet me, and we rode the last 3km to the top.
682m in 65 minutes - the highest climb I have ever tackled.
I took over twice as long as Gareth, but then again I’m twice as old.
And my consultant said I’d struggle to walk? During the climb, I was picturing the look on his face when I marched into his practice. If only he could see me now.
Day 6: Cap de Formentor
We bumped into lots of people throughout the trip, Gareth seems to know everyone. I think all the British roadies had come to Mallorca to escape the weather caused by ‘Storm Gareth’, I’ve had to put up with him for 30 years ;).
We headed out for a warm but windy ride to the lighthouse, I told Gareth I’d meet him there, he soon found some friends to disappear up the road with.
The gods answered my prayers - tailwinds on the climbs, headwinds on the descents (even I was in the big ring). Every cyclist’s dream, except Gareth, he seems to like climbing into headwinds?
This trip reminded me of a conversation I had with your grandfather (Gareth).
We went for a ride around the Elan Valley, I can remember telling your grandfather that it was great riding with you, except that you ripped me apart on the hills.
I didn’t get any sympathy, he just burst out laughing, and said:
“Serves you right, now you know what it felt like when I used to go out with you. You’ve got your comeuppance, at last.”
Gareth - That sounds like something grandad would say, seeing as his final words to me were:
“You look just as good as your dad on a bike, nearly as good as your grandad!”
Gareth & Steven.