Gaby Book 12+1 Chapter *4* Bitter End

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*Chapter 4*

Bitter End

There might be others behind worthy of being in the action but the nine of us already had twenty seconds and assistance in pursuit will be lacking from six teams. Although the look I got from Martinez suggested he was less than pleased at my presence, he was committed to the move and joined in the fast rotation that we’d need to make good our escape. The view ahead was not a thing of joy, several flashes of lightning preceded long rolls of thunder – we’re riding right into the storm, we need a minute so we can get the car up.

The girls will be finished by now lucky sods; no it’s us who will be drowned amongst the flat Danish fields. The neutral service came up – thirty seconds in the can.

“Not looking good,” Cav mentioned with a nod at the darkening sky ahead.

“If we can get a minute we can call the car for race capes,” I suggested.


“I’ll talk to the Yanks and Desgrange; lift the pace a bit to the feed.”

“Your call boss.”

I did a double take when I looked across at the taller of the Mericans, no it couldn’t be.

“Aidan?” sugar this could be awkward, think Drew – fast!

Of course it was Aidan from the Grottoes Express, you remember, the American exchange thing, the Atlanta ride with Lance?

“Gaby, I thought it was you earlier but like this is the boys race so how could it be?”

“I’ll explain later,” when I’ve come up with an explanation, “look we’re gonna hit some crap soon.”

“No kidding, looks like a real doozie up there.”

“If we get a minute we can get the cars up, capes and stuff, you guys okay to up the tempo for a bit?” I pressed.

“Give it a shot.”


The others were all on board, it wasn’t a ploy to reduce numbers, it was to give us a chance of survival. Josh being perhaps the strongest in the group took a big turn at the front, driving the speed up by a couple of K. we were all committed, the distance to the end of the lap decreasing pedal stroke by pedal stroke.

We were in the outskirts of Roskilde when the first heavy spots of damp started falling, the last time check was fifty seconds, damn. Whilst the spectators were fairly sparse around the circuit, here in the town we got some enthusiastic support. I decided to chance my arm and dropped back to the following commissar’s car.

“Any chance of the cars?” I enquired through the window.

The officials consulted radios and each other as I rode tempo alongside the red Skoda.

“Rider ninety one.”

That’s me. I moved closer to the car.

“We’ll bring them up; you’ll have access after the feed.”

“Cheers!” I gave them a cheery wave and moved back up to my breakaway companions.

“We’ll have access to the cars after the feed,” I advised first in English, repeating in German for the other nations, Martinez seems to understand a bit of my adopted language, his nod confirmed that.

We came into the town by the fjord taking us past the museum before tackling the biggest climb on the circuit, not huge in the wider context but it could prove decisive next time with the finish line barely a kilometre over the top. The rain wasn’t sure what it was doing, those big splashy drops but barely enough to colour the road. It was tempo up the climb, Mark losing a length or two by the top but by the traverse of the finish area we were back together.

The feed was almost immediately after the line, Geth stood with our musettes amongst the line of helpers.

“I’ll get them,” Josh told us as he veered towards the bags.

It made sense; only one person with the bags would make delivery to three riders difficult.

“Go guys!” Geth shouted as we passed, the others, except the Aussie all taking bags.

Once we all had our bags I signalled with a bottle for service, the three of us would get our kit first.

“What’s up Drew?” Steve enquired when I dropped back to the BC car a minute or two later.

“Race capes?” I enquired, hoping that all the effort to get to this point would be rewarded, “it’s gonna lob it down.”

“Phew, glad that’s it; I gave Darren and Jamie theirs before we got the call forward, Mike?”

I felt a moment of guilt that once more Jamie and Daz had been consigned to peloton marshalling.

“Coming up,” our mobile mechanic confirmed.

“Everyone get their feed?” Steve enquired.

“Yup, think everyone’s up for making this stick.”

“How bout you? Shoulder okay?”

“Bit sore,” I admitted.

“Here you go lad,” Mike mentioned passing me the rain jackets.

“Send Josh back for bottles,” Steve instructed.

Of course all this happened in about thirty seconds, “kay, laters!”

I returned to the race and distributed rain wear, the dangerous bit is putting them on of course but we each managed it without problem and not a moment too soon, the heavens opened just as I sealed the Velcro. The next time check was a minute and forty, we still had fifty kilometres to go and the rain was descending in sheets. I was pretty certain that Martinez and the Swiss would try to dump me and Cav and soon.

By now we were all well drenched; race capes provide insulation more than protection. Memories of the three countries race a few months back flooded my head, I’m sure Michael was having similar thoughts. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse it did.

It had been raining hard, in the space of a pedal stroke it was coming down in stair rods! If trying to see through rain and spray wasn’t bad enough now you could hardly see your handlebars, the headlamps of the race entourage not helping as they threw weird shadows into the generally horrendous mix. I concentrated on following the wheel in front, Josh’s as it happens, not that it made things any easier.

“Sod this!” a voice in front mentioned, I was vaguely aware of a rider pulling out of our bunch but who and why, well it’s every man for himself.

As suddenly as it came, the rain eased off back to just heavy, a chance to take stock. Three, six, seven, eight, who’s missing – Australia, a quick look around didn’t find him, maybe he punctured or something.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” Cav opined.

“Who did? You okay?”

“Apart from wet and blind? You?”

“As good as,” I supplied, my shoulder is starting to ache but I don’t have to broadcast that. “Oz has gone,”

“Yeah, you reckon we can stay away?”

“Dunno, if the bunch caught that cloudburst it would’ve slowed more than we did.”

“Fingers crossed.”

The road currently resembled a river more than a land vehicle route, the remaining eight of us maintaining a good work ethic but playing dodge the lake. The downpour seemed to have dampened Martinez’ attack plans, which was good for Team GB, the longer we stick together the better our prospects are. First one arm was raised, Pellini, then another, Aidan’s team mate, looks to be punctures.

The usual thing in this situation would be to ease off, give the puncture victims a chance to get back in the action however our Spanish ‘friend’ decided to take advantage and made a break for freedom.

Sugar! “Josh?”

“The git!”

Our big Tynesider took off in pursuit, Aidan started after him with the rest of us following on. The American’s effort was short lived, he slipped back to our trio and slotted into the back as first Michael then myself put in long turns to keep us in contention. Josh meanwhile was on the Spaniard but instead of doing the anchor bit he rode straight through.

I grinned to myself as Martinez was now put on his back foot. Clearly with two riders in the chasing group the others could be forgiven for leaving the work to me and Mark. However with Josh up the road it turned things about, why should we chase? The return of the Swiss swayed the odds a bit, if the other American got back to us things would change again.

The rain was still siling down, my computer gave up miles back and we’d not had a time check for ages. Then I saw it, Martinez’ arm going up, yes, revenge! I wasn’t the only one; Pellini had too and clearly wanted payback. The five of us were soon strung out as the Swiss turned up the speed, the gap up to Josh now rapidly decreasing.

Pellini powered past Josh, who managed to tag in behind Michael, the Swiss finally pulling over after realising he was still dragging the train.

“Sheesh Gab’s, you guys always ride like this?” Aidan queried as we bunched back up.

“Not always,” I allowed, “sometimes it’s more intense.”

Martinez had sealed his own fate, when we got the time check he was at forty five, a chase group a further one thirty back and the main bunch a full five minutes behind us. Six riders, three Brits, the odds look to be in our favour but we still have a bit over thirty kilometres to go. The rain thankfully was easing off; it had done its damage now we were down to luck and poker.

Kilometre followed kilometre, dreams of the perfect result now turning into potential reality. We needed each other to get to the finish but Mario was looking increasingly twitchy, I felt sure he’d make an effort to shake at least Cav out of contention.

“Swiss is gonna go,” I stage whispered across to Mark who nodded in understanding.

“Pre?” Josh suggested.

It would most likely lose our lead out in the finale but we would at least be there. On the other hand the others would have to chase which’ll hopefully take out some of their sting. We’d discussed this scenario last night never expecting to be up here like this, Cav and myself won’t contribute to the chase of course, only if Josh is caught will we come into play.

“Your call.” I replied with a wink.

Our locomotive didn’t so much as pause for a drink before putting in a massive effort. Aidan was first to react but both Mario and Michael weren’t quite quick enough to get a wheel, Cav and myself doing enough to stay in contact at the rear of the string but no more. The American failed to connect and dropped back, three should be able to chase down one rider even with an anchor in place.

The roads were still wet but thankfully the rain had ceased, a glimmer of sunshine hinted towards better weather following through.

“We’ll take a break from the senior event for a few minutes to watch the juniors come in, Paul?”

“Yes Hugh, we join the junior race with a little over ten kilometres to go and an unprecedented position for Team GB, three riders in the six man break with a two minute lead over the chasers who include the fancied Spanish rider Martinez, the American Bauer and Frenchman Bouton.”

The image on the screen changed from the leader caption to a shot of five filthy but determined youngsters warily marking each other before panning around to pick up a lone rider perhaps fifty metres ahead.

Maddy Bell © 12.08.2014

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