TG Universes & Series:
Whatever you think it’s going to be like, the reality is always different. In my head I was thinking it was going to be some sort of factory putting bikes together from boxes of parts, the reality is a warehouse stacked with boxes, each containing a complete bike. There were bikes of course, several were hung from the wall in various states of disassembly and a couple more were propped against the boxes.
I followed the sound of voices through the warehouse, doing my best not to spill the coffee on the way. Its not a huge building so it didn’t take me long to find everyone gathered in an open corner.
“Gab, you’ve gotta see these!” Mand excitedly greeted me.
I found a spot for the coffee, well for Genji san’s; Vincenzo took his from me directly.
“So,” Vincenzo started, ”the bicicletta are set up mechanically, I’m afraid the Japanese prefer Campagnolo from us, we do have the new Chorus 11 though. So we need to set up for the riders, Genji will help, After I have the clothing in my office, I will try to get you the right stuff eh?”
“Jules, can you give Vincenzo a hand with that?” Mum suggested.
“Whatever,” Goth Gurl sighed.
“Is a good thing.” Vincenzo beamed.
“Okay then ladies, sort yourselves out, Dave and Genji san will do the adjustments, quicker we’re done the more time we have for food before we head to Chiba.” George told us.
“What was all that?” Manda enquired.
“Long story short, quicker we’re done here sooner we get to eat.”
“These bikes are well pukka, you seen the gears?”
“Give me a chance.”
The bikes certainly were, as Mand put it, well pukka. We each have one of Bianchi’s Infinito Dama’s kitted out with the new 11-speed Chorus gear set – it was only in Radsport last month. The frame is carbon fibre and when I picked my machine up I happily forgave the dumkopf wo thought it should have pink flashes on the main tubes – its well light!
Dad soon had his notepad and tape measure out doing stage one of the fit for each bike, George getting in the way more than helping the process. We then had Genji san put each bike on a turbo trainer so the fine-tuning could be done. I was third through the process – after Mum fetched my cycling shoes from the bus where I’d left them.
When I returned to the reception area Anja and Tina were already sporting the week’s strip, a very traditional Bianchi green with a white band emblazoned with ‘Bianchi’. Under that our title sponsor Apollinaris were named as well as on each sleeve, the plain black bibs bearing similar Bianchi/Apollinaris branding.
“Here you go sis,” Jules grinned, “we guessed the size dwarf was for you.”
“Hurry up Gab,” Tina urged, “we need more coffee.”
I grabbed the clothing from my smirking sister and headed into the makeshift changing room, not that there would be much chance of sorting any malfunction of the riding kit. The fit was actually quite good considering the sizing was off the peg, the jersey was perhaps a little snug across the chest. Still it would do and being a little tight might help keep the girls under control.
“Whoa Gabs, where’d they spring from?” Mand exclaimed when I returned to the main room.
“The jersey’s a bit tight,” and then that light bulb moment, “and I’ve got an ordinary bra on.”
“No mistaking you for a lad with that rack!”
My services as barista were soon pressed into action, there was fresh coffee waiting when the rents and George joined us.
“We are a set up George?” Vincenzo queried.
“Yes, Genji is loading the van.”
“Good, yes, he will go to Chiba ahead to set up.”
“Maybe I should go with him.” Dad offered.
“A good idea Dave,” George agreed.
“Okay,” Dad nodded, “I’ll see you lot later.”
With that he headed back out into the warehouse.
“So we take photographs then we go eat yes?”
Geez photo’s too.
“What’s he say?”
“Photographs and then we go for food,” I supplied.
“I reckon he got the shirts deliberately small,” Mand mentioned plucking at her own top.
“You might be right,” I agreed.
We posed for the Italians lens, as a group and individually, he even had those with World champ gongs wear those for some extra pictures. When he was done we changed out of the riding kit and headed out to where Ken was still waiting with the bus. Vincenzo had a short discussion with our driver before addressing us.
“I lead the way in my auto, we go to the restaurant the other side of Tokyo Bay, maybe thirty minutes.”
“I join you Vincenzo,” George stated swinging down behind our host as he left the bus.
I checked my ticker, just turned twelve.
“What time’s the race?” Mand asked.
“Dunno, Mum, what time we racing?” I switched to German mid sentence, which is a bit weird, guess I’m so used to using it.
“Five o’clock, we’ve been tacked on after the men’s and boys events.”
“Typische!” Erika supplied from behind us.
“Ja, always the after thought.” Tina added.
By now we were heading back out of Kawasaki, we got a quick glimpse of Tokyo Bay before the road dived into a tunnel, a long tunnel. We emerged back into the daylight then turned off the main road onto a route alongside the bay. The restaurant was a couple of miles further on nestled between the road and the waters of a small cove.
Although pretty busy they were expecting us so amidst a lot of bowing we were escorted to a table on the balcony over the coves waters. Vincenzo spoke to one of the serving staff and our table soon bore a variety of soft drinks – well you can’t just drink coffee can you?
“What are we eating George?” Mum queried.
“They’re doing you guys omelet’s,” the Boss supplied.
Well I guess it’s fairly safe before a race – race, we’ve not even ridden around the block since we arrived!
The aforementioned omelets turned out to be huge things similar to the Spanish variety with chopped veggies in the mix and a generous bean and green salad side. I wouldn’t’ve minded some chips with it but there was enough to fill a sizeable hole. We got a dessert, some sort of gateaux that satisfied the sugar fairy for now at least. Nice as the place was we couldn’t dally so barely an hour after stopping we were heading on for Chiba City once more.
By the time we reached the rider parking area it was two thirty and everyone was keen to get a wheel, we’d taken turns at the back of the bus to get into our race gear. I felt a little strange, apprehensive even; today is after all the first time I officially present as a girl at a race. Oh I know I’ve put on a bit of a girly show once or twice but that was just tactics, today its an all female field.
We found Team Bianchi, Dad and Genji san sat under a quick up awning next to the van, drinking what looked to me like tins of beer.
“Made it then,” Dad greeted.
“You missed a great lunch,” Mum teased.
By the look Dad returned the van crew hadn’t done too badly themselves.
“Lets get the girls checked in so they can get warmed up,” George suggested.
“Come,” Vincenzo instructed heading off up the car park.
To the locals we must look as alien as blue sheep, half a dozen gaijin women, mostly of the blonde variety in bike kit doing our best to look nonchalant as we followed the dapper Vincenzo and well built George past. When we got to race control it wasn’t really any different to any other race I’ve ever ridden, the only weird bit was having Vincenzo translating everything back and forth. Being the sort of star attraction in our event meant we got to wear numbers one to six, they use western numbers but that’s as far as it goes!
What did surprise me was that the small thirty-three rider field apparently included a couple of other gaijin, by the names one was French but the other could be from any English language country. Once we were done with officialdom we headed back to the mobile stable to finish getting ready and join the other riders utilizing the warm up circuit – a loop around a pedestrianised square.
“You okay Mand?”
“Bit nervous,” she offered.
“Yeah me too.”
“But you’re used to the attention and stuff, I’m a nobody making up the numbers.”
“Get real girlfriend, you’ve been to the Worlds and the Swiss race was hardly a fish and chipper.”
“I’m hardly in your class am I?”
“You’re just an ugly duckling.”
“Cheers, I like you too!”
“Duh! Ugly duckling like in the story, turns into a swan? You just don’t know it yet.”
“Come on you two, pick it up a bit!” Anja suggested.
“Yeah, yeah, come on Mand, let’s show this lot how it’s done!”
I didn’t give her a chance to demur; I snicked a sprocket and gave chase to Fraulein Pascali leaving her no choice but to follow.
More riders joined us on the circuit; a couple actually look quite handy although there was still no sign of the other westerners. The bike rides really nicely, no squidgyness although it’s a bit noisy over the rough paving, not sure about the saddle though – it’s a ladies and well, I’m not am I. We continued circling for about thirty minutes before we were invited onto the circuit.The six of us rode around together and as other riders joined the circuit we developed into a tadpole, about a dozen of the Japanese hanging off the back of the green jersey group. The circuit is not quite square and a bit shy of a kilometre round with a chicane on the side opposite the start / finish. It’s not quite flat, it kind of climbs up to turn three – the drop pushes the pace up slightly as you return to the line.
“Right ladies,” George gathered us together before we headed to the line, “I know you are all competitive but it wouldn’t be good form to wee over the locals too much, the sponsors want a spectacle not a whitewash eh?”
“Understood George,” Mum confirmed.
“Can I still have a crack at the finish?” I enquired.
“I think they deserve to see that eh,” he chuckled.
“You’ll need to get past your mama first,” Erika put in.
It was an invitation event of course and the sponsors were keen to get as much out of the series as possible so we had the full pre race introduction stuff. We managed to wave to the assembled crowd at the right time when we were introduced, it seems that they’ve lined up all of the local female riders as they all got cheered. The other gaijin turned out to be Canadian, the pretty brunette seemed to be sporting a national champions jersey – maybe this won’t be such a cakewalk.
With enviable precision we started as my computer clicked to 17.00, a loud horn signalling our departure. Fifty minutes plus a lap, bring it on!
After a couple of laps things were quite settled as we cruised around the Chiba streets at thirty five to forty kph. The Japanese riders were watching us like hawks, Canadians likewise apparently waiting for Team Bianchi to make a move. An hour of this and I’ll be asleep.
“We going to liven things up?” Tina enquired as we rode piano up towards the chicane.
“Fancy a go Amanda?” Mum suggested.
“Me?” she squeaked.
“Don’t see why not.”
“Out of the chicane,” I suggested.
“Tina go with eh?” Mum prompted.
We were already at the front, no one wanted to pass us, so Mand and Tina had a clear road for their escape, the rest of us eased slightly through the artificial bends. They had fifty meters before there was any reaction; the bigger Canadian girl went through tagged by four of the host nation. Most of the others seemed unsure as to what to do, give chase or continue to follow the rest of the green jerseys around.
At home a move like this would last a lap if it was lucky but two laps later our duo were still out there, the Canadian having sat up after half a lap removing any impetus from the chase. Looks like we’re in the driving seat here.
“Drew, go fetch kiddo,” Mum instructed.
She called me Drew!
I didn’t need a second urging, I moved to the front and after a short dig had me clear I time trialled away – well it is my speciality. Mand and Tina were about a straight ahead, I could see that they were rotating but with the Bond turbo engaged the distance reduced fairly rapidly. My departure seemed to be the required catalyst, a glance behind through the chicane revealed the makings of a pursuit.
“Bout time,” Tina puffed when I joined her and Manda.
“Might have more company soon,” I noted, “you okay M?”
“Not too bad,” she got out between breaths.
Having reached the duo I now joined their rotation, it was tempting to turn up the screws but not yet. Another half lap passed before we were caught by half a dozen of the locals at which point we sat up and let the new arrivals see the front. We might have engineered it but competing with us now looked possible, my computer suggested we had another thirty minutes to go.
The others let the remaining members of the bunch drive the pursuit; about ten or twelve had already been shelled out. As the minutes and laps ticked by the gap between the ‘break’ and the ‘peloton’ reduced, the connection finally made as my timepiece registered fifty minutes! Next time through will be the bell, Mum won’t give an inch and there are those Canadian girls, hmm… I changed up a gear, time to go.
Maddy Bell 24.09.15
© Maddy Bell 2016
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