Fetish, it’s fair to say, is quite a ‘loaded’ word.
It brings to mind images far too lurid to describe on this wholesome, family website. But, when it comes to my feelings about smooth Tarmac, I’m not sure what else to say.
I consulted the dictionary, which told me that a fetish is: “any object or non-genital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.”
First of all, this is the only time I’ve considered that parts of the body might be categorised as ‘genital’ or ‘non-genital.’ Secondly, even my feelings toward smooth Tarmac don’t quite stray as far as ‘erotic’.
Not often, anyway.
The dictionary offered a further description of fetish as: “any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion.”
Now we’re getting somewhere – if that doesn’t describe the way your average UK cyclist feels about smooth, pristine tarmac, then I don’t know what does.
On my recent trip to Mallorca I was able to indulge my Tarmac based fantasies to my heart’s content.
Every ride – from a thirty-mile leg loosener to a hundred mile epic – is a new entry in your top twenty rides of all time. This is partly because of the weather, the views, the forgiving gradients, and the impossible beauty of the towns and villages, and largely because the Tarmac is just so, unbelievably smooth.
After one particular section of silky hairpin bends, I’m pretty sure I tried to buy one of the road-workers dinner.
It really was a good holiday.
If you told me that a crack team of Spanish road-workers head out at dusk each night and re-lay the Island’s Tarmac in preparation for another day of cycling perfection, I’d believe you without batting an eyelid.
The roads are a deep black, surely just set, with a pungent chemical waft, and decorated with lines as white as a northern cyclist in early May. The bike tires swoosh and swish with each pedal stroke, sucking up the energy from each leg and converting it into pure forward momentum.
Not a kilojoule is wasted.
I find myself dwelling on the British media and their tales of a Spanish economy in meltdown, and I can’t quite tally that with my experience of what is surely the highest of high-grade Tarmac plastered across this sunny Spanish Island.
There was a section of Tarmac laid near my home in Lancashire in 2016, just a few hundred yards worth, on a road popular with cyclists. Within hours, word went out on social media of this grand event.
If someone had spotted Eddy Merckx himself sharing a needle with Lance and heading out for an evening of pheasant and Champagne with Jacques Anquetil, it would have only garnered slightly more attention.
This meagre stretch of what, in Mallorca, is ten-a-penny, was considered a major talking point in the cycling community.
And you wonder why I fetishize the stuff?
(Image: by CFiesta (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)