The lizard scuttled along the path, pausing briefly only to cock its head to one side and glare at me through a blinking eye. Seemingly unimpressed, it darted into a tight crevice in the white stone wall, a welcome relief from the searing Ibizan sun. And safe from the stranger sheltering on the veranda, tapping away at his laptop.
It’s 3pm and 28 degrees – hot and dry, just as it has been every day for weeks. Yet the lawn is emerald green like the lush grass at home. Underfoot it has a strange, spongy texture; the sprinklers give it the normal colour of life, but its existence here is quite alien. That said, the landscape is green. It was the Greeks who gave the Balearics the name The Pituses, meaning ‘covered with pines’. Pine trees thrive on Ibiza, a quirk of an island with so much heat, and so little rain.
As I drink fresh coffee, I gaze through the pine trees and down into a valley. A hill rolls up the other side, also covered in pines, a sea of green speckled with the white villas of Sant Josep. It’s hilly here, almost mountainous in parts, and the walk from the little town to our villa involves a ten-minute uphill hike. We stayed at this villa last year, and I can use that hike to measure my changes in fitness.
It’s so much better this year. I can not only walk home at a brisk pace, I actually ran up the hill last night. Yes, ran. And that was after a couple of beers and a pizza. It’s about a 15%-20% incline in parts, but it’s no match for the newer me. Last year I loathed that walk.
Cycling has done this.
While not skinny–not by a long chalk–I am certainly no longer too overweight. I’m nearly two stone lighter, and cuddly would be a fairer description. I’ll take that; I’ve certainly enjoyed the means of getting cuddly. Cycling is no hardship, it’s a positive experience both physically and mentally. Perhaps it’s even addictive, because I certainly miss it while I’m here. Could I have brought my bike on holiday? One day I shall. The number of lycra-clad cyclists on the roads criss-crossing the island is high, and while it may be stifling hot, the tarmac is smooth and the views are to die for. Pretty fincas and villas are adorned with blooming plants – glorious shades of pink, lilac and red. They line low white walls, and they climb the high ones. And just like the pines, they appear unfazed by the heat.
My cycling pleasure has intensified in recent months after I bought a new bike. It’s a Cannondale Synapse 105, full-carbon frame, and I love it. Much lighter than my old Trek aluminium bike, it gets me from A to B faster, and in more comfort. And that allows for longer rides which are more enjoyable, especially if part of a mass-participation sportive.
I’m no longer the Fat Lad at the Back. I’m the Cuddly Bloke in the Middle.
The bike cost me around £1,500 from Pedal Power in Martlesham. The guys there couldn’t have been more helpful and professional. They answered all my questions patiently, and were clearly helping me for what I am: a cycling enthusiast, not a walking wallet. I also paid for a professional bike fit with them, something I did not do with the Trek. It’s made an enormous difference. Slight changes to seat height, bar angles and height, pedal positions etc have given me the ideal posture on the road. I know it has worked, because all the right muscles were hurting for a few weeks, proving they had not been used correctly before.
My first ‘test’ on the new bike was the Boxford Tornado. We discovered why it was called a tornado, because on the day the wind howled. More Boxford Hurricane. But I did the 50 miles in relative comfort, despite the last 28 being into the teeth of the gale. This was followed a few weeks later by the Suffolk Sunrise, a pretty jaunt from Framlingham. This was my first-ever sportive last year, and I spent the last ten of the 62 miles close to tears, in agony and hopelessly out of my depth. This year I shaved close to an hour off my time, and felt fresh enough at the finish to have done more. I believe I might make my first 100 miler by the end of this year.
First, however, I need time to relax. Ibiza is the place to do that; no work, no worries.
Except my coffee has gone cold, and I may need to walk down that hill to buy some more.