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Drew started awake, a roll of thunder rumbled across eastern Sjælland, the accompanying lightning momentarily lighting up the room he was sharing with his parents. A quick check of his phone revealed it to be all of one fifteen, a full nine hours before the days racing gets underway. So of course from deep sleep, now getting back to the unconscious level was impossible, the occasional grunt from across the room indicated the senior Bonds had no such issues.
His mind just wouldn’t rest and started replaying the last several hours…
Dave swung the Mercedes into the Hotel Svalen’s car park where the women’s squad, Jenny included, were just heading inside after their ride. Dave tooted the horn to get his wife’s attention.
“So where’ve you two been?” Jen enquired as the others climbed from the car.
“We popped into Roskilde,” Dave offered.
“I’m riding tomorrow!” Drew interrupted excitedly.
Jen wasn’t yet in the loop, “Don’t be silly, kiddo, you can’t with that shoulder.”
“I am, tell her, Daddy.”
“Plan B fell through so Chris asked if this one could at least start in the morning.”
“And you agreed to this? A word please, Dave, you,” she pointed at me, “stay here, you might want to lose the braids pretty as they are.”
“Don’t you Mum me, young lady!”
Drew’s ‘rents walked a little way across the car park before Jen started haranguing her partner. Mum’s gonna muck things up, it’s alright for her, she’s even done this before. Braids, damn he’d forgotten Freda’s dressing up of his hair, good job none of the others had seen him.
The argument hadn’t lasted long, Dave Bond soon returning to collect the younger member of the family.
“She’s not gonna let me ride is she?”
“Well she’s not exactly a fan of the idea.”
“It’s not fair, I’m fine, just a few bruises.”
“She hasn’t said no, she knows what this means to you, kiddo.”
“I can ride?”
“You can ride, come on let’s get inside, looks like it’s going to rain.”
“Right everyone, quiet please,” Chris requested.
We were all gathered in a corner of the dining room, that is me, Mark, Geth, Darren, Jamie and Josh with Steve and Chris.
We quickly settled and the boss prepared himself to give the team talk.
“Okay people, nearly there, the big one, you’ve all come a long way since most of us met in Manchester. This isn’t the summit just another step on the journey I hope we’ll all be continuing in the future. Drew, the team doctor wants to check you out in the morning before giving you the go ahead to ride, sorry to drop this on you Gethin, but you are now part of our plan B if Drew has to drop out.”
“I can live with that,” Geth allowed.
“Drew, you okay with this?”
I don’t really have much choice do I? “Uh huh.”
“To business then, here’s the circuit….”
“You alright then, man?” Josh queried as we relocated with the others in the lounge.
“Bit sore but I’ve been worse.”
“Aye,” he noted with a pointed look.
“I’m fine, honest!”
“Wish I was,” Jamie allowed, “ma guts are chorning like tha Clyde.”
“Just think of it as another race, that’s what Mum said,” I offered, in truth my own insides replicating Jamie’s.
“Hope you ride, Drew, I seriously don’t want to let you guys down,” Geth admitted.
“I just hope we can cut it out there,” Daz voiced what the rest of us were thinking.
“We did alright in Switzerland,” Mark pointed out.
Of course he was right, stage wins for me and Mark, Josh’s mountains classification and we only just missed the team prize. But that was over five stages not a do or die single day effort with everyone out to make an impression. We’d been underestimated in the Swiss race; I doubt we will be tomorrow – at least by those who rode last week.
The thunder had a repeat of its earlier rumbling, the delay between lightning and sound effect suggesting the storm was moving away from our location. Finally my eyes closed and the idea of sleep was replaced by the actuality.
“That hurt?” the Doc enquired as he manipulated my arm.
“Bit,” I allowed.
“Hmm, let’s have a look at those bruises.”
The Quack seemed reasonably happy although both my arm and leg received compression dressings before I left the makeshift surgery.
“So?” Mark queried.
“Yup!” I grinned rejoining my teammates in the breakfast room.
“Thank heavens for that,” Geth put in, “guess I’ll be watching then.”
“Nice one,” Darren agreed, “no offence G.”
“None taken, I wasn’t looking forward to riding anyhow.”
“Everyone ready?” Steve asked before the conversation could go further.
“Aye man, could do without the waitin’ like.” Josh supplied.
“Well there’s a bit more of that, we’ll be leaving in about fifteen minutes, Mr Bond has taken the girls so we’ll be using the bus which should be here shortly. Once we’re all signed on we’ll get on the turbo’s to warm up, safer than out on the roads if nothing else. Questions?”
There being none he left us to wait for our transport.
An hour later the five of us riding were giving it some on the static trainers at BC central awaiting our turn to race. The girls were on the line waiting to start, the senior women started a few minutes ago and the biggy, the senior men started half an hour ago. It’s a packed schedule but I guess it’s all been worked out.
The idea wasn’t to wear ourselves out but to get properly warmed up so it was low resistance, high revs stuff. The drone of the rollers drowned out any attempts at conversation so we each sat in our own little bubble. Similar preparations were going on around us, riders from around the globe all gathered to battle it out for the honour of wearing the rainbow hoops for the next year.
“TIME!” Steve shouted.
Finally. One by one we slowed our effort and dismounted, Mike & Darren the mechanics taking charge of our steeds as we made our final pre race preparations. The weather is at least currently dry, dark clouds are still scuttering across the heavens but at least the thunder and lightning has passed.
“Right,” Chris started, “we’ll go through to the start in a minute, good luck, enjoy the race and remember it’s a single rider gets the title but it’s a group effort that claims it.”
“Okay chaps, time,” Steve prompted.
It was organised chaos in the start area, officials checked us into the rider only zone where we were then shuffled into some order I couldn’t make sense of. No presentation here, everyone is equal at the start, at least that speeds things up. I looked about to see if I could see anyone I recognised, the national jerseys of a dozen nations I could identify mingled with as many I couldn’t, USA, Belgium, the blue of Italy, black New Zealand, Polish – yeah, the real McCoy.
“This is it eh, Drew?” Mark observed.
“Guess so,” I agreed.
“Hope tha weather holds like, them cloods are looking well dodgy,” Josh opined.
“It’s only a bit of wet,” Darren suggested.
“Aye, it’s no like we’re not used ta it,” Jamie added.
Well I for one would prefer it to stay dry.
We were several rows from the front but even I could see the guy with the klaxon preparing to set us on our way.
“Time guys, good luck,” I offered.
“All for one,” Mark stated.
“And one for all,” the rest of us agreed with a round of hand slaps.
It took a few moments before we had space to click in and a good half kilometre of neutralized riding before the huge bunch was sorted into some sort of order. It might be neutral but there’s no reason not to try and get a better position for when the green flag is dropped. Somewhere behind there was a touch of wheels and the cursing and clatter of riders departing their steeds, hopefully I can stay clear of trouble, I’ve already got enough bandages on me!
The flag had barely dropped before some chancer took a flyer off the front, he’s either very confident or stupid, we’ve got nearly 120km to go, something like three hours racing ahead of us. Several riders took off in pursuit but the bulk of the peloton left them to it, no one with serious hopes wants to put effort in this soon. For over ten kilometres rider after rider went up the road, the result was the same each time, a minute or two of effort, a counter attack, return to the pack and repeat.
Of course such a move can work so monitoring the moves was essential, all five of us staying top thirty, our BC jerseys mingling with the primarily European nations near the front. We do two sixty kilometre laps to the north of Roskilde, the girls only do one, hope Mand and co are okay, they must be heading in towards the finish already. For the second time this trip I’ve missed riding the course but I reckon today will end in a gallop between the survivors so I’ve missed nothing.
The comp indicated just over thirty k gone, forty-five minutes riding time before the first serious move was made. The distinctive Spanish jerseys started massing towards the front of the peloton, I recognized Martinez there, a further check identified the Swiss Pellini lad and even my Belgian ‘mate’ up here. From pootling along at around thirty-five the Iberians were soon dragging us along at over forty k’s.
More riders took a turn at the front and the once almost two hundred strong field started to shed riders at first in ones or twos then a small gap became bigger and another thirty riders saw their victory dreams riding away from them. Josh took a turn at the front but soon swung off, no point in wasting energy with so many willing legs.
“I’m sure I felt some wet just now,” Daz mentioned.
“How’s the shoulder?”
“‘S fine, hip’s a bit sore though.”
The course turned southwards bringing into view what I hadn’t seen behind us on the outward leg, a sky not just grey but black pretty much from horizon to horizon. Sugar. We were now riding into a rising headwind, the pace dropped a little and once again the Spanish jerseys were massing at the front.
We didn’t have long to wait for their move, a classic jump off the front with a corresponding blocking move. Martinez took Desgrange and Pellini with him, or rather they jumped on his wheel, escaping the Spanish blocking move. Clearly the New World riders didn’t read the European book of tactics, two US riders and an Australian simply rode past the Spaniards.
Cav nodded his understanding as Josh zipped through to get on the Australian’s wheel.
Maddy Bell © 09.08.2014
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