Gaby Book 12+1 Chapter *31* Herkules

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 get the complete book here! {Or here (US) -Erin}
 
 
*Chapter 31*

Herkules

 
 
“What’s going on?” Mand queried as we formed up.

“Introductions,” Tali advised.

“Introductions?”

“Yeah,” I offered, “before each race the top teams and riders are introduced to the spectators, you’ll get used to it.”

 
 

“And finally,” the MC droned, “Team Apollinaris – fresh from the Weltmeister series in Danmark, every member of their squad was in action including new signing Amanda de Vreen. They returned with medals and series leader Drew Bond is joined today by not only de Vreen but girls leader Roni Grönberg, Greta Luchow and Thalia Schmidt!”

I did the customary wave as the crowd of parents and helpers clapped and cheered, as is their wont.

“Smile and wave Mand,” I hissed.

“What’d he say?”

“Just that we’d been to the Worlds.”

Of course the main perk of being ‘famous’ is our front row start, the downside is my horrible series leader shirt. Today at least the result isn’t a big deal, neither Ron nor myself can be caught although in theory the minor placings could change hands. That doesn’t mean we won’t be chasing the win but it does mean we can afford to take more chances.

The Bürger meister of Kassel was next on the mic – well they all like to give what they think is an inspirational send off! This particular example included the usual good luck bits, nice to host the event, enjoy ourselves and so on in a surprisingly short speech. The MC took over again and the tension amongst the waiting teens was palpable.

“Three, two, one, GO!”

The worthy enthusiastically waved the start flag and had to be pulled to the side to avoid being flattened by best part of a hundred teens on bikes. Of course, the first kilo is under the red flag but whilst racing isn’t permitted, moving about the peloton is allowed and plenty of riders believed they had more right to the front than us. Not really that much of an issue, we don’t actually want to be at the front, so the five of us slipped back some but stayed within reach of the front.

We do two laps today; we don’t even go into Kassel until just before the finish and according to Dad the circuit is rolling, the only significant climb being at the end of each lap. The start however is downhill, the lead car hared off ahead, the first turn coming all too quickly. We cleared that obstacle and by the time we’d sorted ourselves out we were starting on the first ‘climb’ of the day.

It wasn’t long, it wasn’t steep but it was a drag. Almost every race you get some of the ‘lesser’ lights chancing their arm early on and today was to be no different, three lads using the uphill to launch an attack. These moves are very rarely successful, I’d be more concerned next time around, so whilst keeping tempo, we pretty much ignored the move.

The escapees had about seventy metres on us as we rolled over the top and started a wide, shallow turn with just enough descent to allow freewheeling in the bunch. None of what I would consider to be the ‘contenders’ seemed very interested, even when a couple more riders made a break for freedom as we started the next ‘climb’ through a deep cutting. So far the peloton hasn’t started to work but it’s also not working against itself either.

Over the brow and the rolling hills of the Rotes Land stretched away before us as we bypassed a village on a well-surfaced newish road. The five breakaways were still separated from us by under a hundred metres, the road stretching ahead straight and rolling.

“How you doing?” I asked Mand.

“Okay so far, it like this, the whole circuit?”

“Dunno, it’s new to me,” I turned to Gret on my other shoulder, “you been round?”

“Yeah, there’s only like the one climb on the lap, we couldn’t drive up the finish though, looks interesting.”

“I wish Josh was here,” I lamented.

“We managed without him before,” Gret pointed out.

I guess I’ve just got used to him at my shoulder.

“Yeah.”

 
 

We actually went through the next village, the turn as we departed almost caught us out, quite a few riders finding themselves under geared for the climb that followed. Another rider took off in pursuit of the lead, we’ll have to get things organised soon. The road rolled along past not one but three ruined castles, tracking a railway line before eventually climbing over it.

Another town loomed ahead and, well I never, another castle in front of us. Instead of going into this town we turned right at this latest schloss and by my computer, started the inward leg of the circuit.

“Ready for some work?” I enquired of my Valkyrie escort.

“Going for it?” Tali asked.

“No, just shake things up a bit eh?” I offered.

“When?”

“Next climb.”

“Kay,” she agreed.

I dropped back to Mand, “you get that?”

“Making a move?”

“Not super serious, just turning the screws up for a bit, peloton is a bit big.”

“’Kay, what do I do?”

“Keep an eye on Tali, try to go with her when she goes, when you get caught just sit up and try not to get shelled.”

“Easier said,” she noted.

 
 

The road was straight enough that the breakaways were constantly in view, so too was the climb up under the autobahn. With five of us stirring things up we’ll hopefully get some sort of reaction and at least lift the pace from the low thirties to closer to forty. Herr Sol chose that moment to make an appearance; suddenly the road was crossed by distinct bands of shadow, hmm, useful.

Tali rotated to the front of our enclave, our new recruit hard on her wheel. It was excruciating waiting for the jump off but eventually Tal considered it time and made her move. Manda barely hesitated before taking off in pursuit; it wasn’t a full-bore attack – this time.

Just ‘a couple of girls’ didn’t provoke a reaction, that didn’t come until Gret took her turn. A third Apollinaris rider made it look like something was up and there was a stirring in the bunch. I timed my effort to coincide with us passing under the motorway bridge; I flipped my glasses down my face before standing on the pedals.

Temporarily blinded by the sudden shade my co-riders allowed me to get clear before several curses heralded the pursuit. Gret meanwhile had reached our premier duo and they were almost halfway across the gap to the leaders. Breaking out into the sunlight once more I repositioned my eyewear as I in turn ‘chased’ the others.

The smarter riders were soon up to me, which allowed me to ease off slightly as they in turn took over the pace setting. It was another draggy climb, by the nominal summit the newly activated bunch was almost on the girls and the leaders were under fifty metres further ahead. Behind us the race was now stretched over a good chunk of road, any reduction in effort though could see a coming together – especially as the road now appears to have a distinctive downward tendency ahead of us.

Our ruse worked, when Roni did a classic blind sider as the others were sucked back in it provided the impetus to keep the speed going. A quick look around confirmed that a selection had been made, we were under thirty strong, if we keep the pace up those behind will be unlikely to regain contact. Tali herded Mand in at the back, just girls eh?

 
 

We turned onto a wider road signposted for Kassel, Ron in turn was swept up but the new vigour had a rotation started, much easier to keep pace if the effort’s shared. The road bumped along for several kilometres, we finally caught and almost immediately spat out the breakaway, they’d been away for close on fifty kilometres. At the next village we turned off and found ourselves on another arrow straight road.

The tarmac dipped under another railway bridge before starting a more determined climb that continued after joining another main-ish road. It never got to Italy steep but it was easily the hardest grade we’ve seen so far. The groups pace dropped several k but it remained steady up through the set of hairpins.
With the grade easing off towards the summit a board announcing the feed flashed past. A quick check confirmed that all four girls were still on board even if Mand in particular was looking a bit ragged. At the beginning of the summer she would’ve been out the back as soon as the pace went up.

I spotted Angela with three musettes, Sonja a little further on with the other two. Feed stations are always ripe for accidents, even when it’s the pros so when it’s a bunch of teens, well caution is the watchword! Somehow everyone having a feed collected them without issue, it’s a sort of unwritten rule that you don’t attack at this point, even the non-feeders respected that convention.

Most people had transferred their victuals by the summit, which was just as well, the down wasn’t steep but it was fast. Our group strung out as a lad I last saw at Stuttgart put pedal to metal, taking us into lap two. Looking at the other riders in the string I don’t think a long break with me in it would survive, no today is for a different tactic.

 
 

The false flat before the draggy climb had things coming together again although it was less rotation than a few stronger riders half wheeling at the front. Whilst it’s nice to keep the pace up this sort of thing can be very destructive, indeed we’d managed to tail off a couple of riders already. Thankfully by the time we reached the cutting common sense prevailed and instead of a tadpole our group returned to a more ordered rotation riding piano.

I took the opportunity to feed my face; a chunk of Angela’s honey flapjack certainly hit the mark.

“Is it always this manic?” Mand asked as we passed.

“Sometimes it’s worse,” I grinned.

I know she’s ridden the Worlds and the Swiss jobbie but these German domestics can be brutal.

 
 

We turned north once more with the speed touching forty-five by the time we hit the flat. Our companions, with more to lose than us, all seemed content to hold things together and whilst the result, for me for the competition at least is irrelevant, they are unwittingly giving me a better tilt at the result. We rolled along smoothly and after last time around we were ready for the turn off after Wolfhagen.

I thought we might see some action on the climb, we did but not exactly what I was expecting. Instead of an attack off the front it was Gret blowing big style out of the back.

“Should we wait?” Mand asked.

“She’s a big girl,” Tali opined, “let’s concentrate on us eh?”

“Yes, boss girl,” Roni offered.

No time for castle spotting this time around, although we were each contributing, the pace was relentless. Gret wasn’t the only rider to go backwards, a couple of the weaker lads were bungee-ing at the back, I’m pretty sure we’ll lose them on the climb.

“Everyone okay?” I enquired.

“For now,” Mand offered.

“Don’t think I can keep this pace too much longer,” Tali admitted.

“Ron?”

“I’d be happier if it dropped a notch.”

Hmm, looks like any move I make will be on my lonesome, it’ll be nice if there are fewer bodies contesting the finale but I need to be there. The decision was however taken for me, we hadn’t reached the autobahn yet when not one but two of my foes made a break for freedom. With the girls on the rivet, its gonna be up to me now.

A third lad gave chase, the kid from Stuttgart, I dropped a sprocket and made my own move. The original escapees had about twenty metres on us but that dropped to barely a bike length very quickly after the motorway bridge. It’s bad luck to look behind, I resisted the urge but my companion couldn’t, his reaction, a slight easing off told me enough, we were free.

Two plus two became four, four determined riders for now at least prepared to work together. We quickly had a rotation going, those behind would undoubtedly try chasing us down. I’ve ridden against these guys before, against and beaten, I knew it and they knew it but what could they do about it.

My computer reckons it’s just about twenty kilometres to the finish, I considered going for a long one but I doubted I could break the elastic. No I think I know what I need to do and I have to be closer to the finale before making my move.

Maddy Bell © 2.12.2014



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