Gaby Book 14 ~ The Girl ~ Chapter *9* Shindo

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*Chapter 9*


Lunch was a fairly straightforward chicken and rice affair, quick and easy to digest but most importantly supplying the calories for the afternoon’s ride; however, lunch was the least of the issues for the afternoon.

“What’s with all the blue lights?” I asked Dad when we returned to reception togged up for the ride.
“I’m not quite sure kiddo, George and Vincenzo are out there trying to sort things out.”

George chose that moment to bustle back inside.

“So?” Dad enquired.
“I’m not sure how they found out our plans but they insist on giving us an escort, they don’t want anything happening to the Weltmeisterin on their turf.”
“That’s not so bad,” Dad opined.
“They weren’t very keen on our route however so we’ll be on a slightly longer loop with quieter roads.”
“What’s happening, Gab?” Mand queried.
“We’re getting a police escort by the looks of things.”
It was quite a circus that departed the New Osaka a few minutes later, a couple of motorcycle police riding point, a black and white patrol car following with Team Bianchi following along behind. The bus and the van followed us and another patrol car brought up the rear, yep quite a convoy. To be fair without our escorts getting through downtown Osaka would’ve been a nightmare, we ran all the lights and junctions, the motorbikes holding the traffic for us before speeding ahead again, very Tour de France!

We soon found ourselves out by the airport and moving into more open countryside towards some place called Ikeda. You often get semi closed roads on the races but this is the first time it’s extended to training – I could get to like it. We weren’t doing any drills today, it was all about keeping the legs in good order and warmed up before this evening’s hopefully less eventful race.

Although riding piano our pace was a quite healthy 35kph, pretty much race pace which soon had us moving into Kyoto prefecture. Our escorts from Osaka pulled over to be replaced by a similar team from our destination city. We’d been riding an hour already and from what George had told us we had another hour to Kyoto.

The terrain was again very familiar, we could easily have been in Hessen with its choppy hills and wide valleys. It’s funny how you always compare new places with the more familiar, it’s hillier than home, the roads are wider and so on. We bypassed Kameoka before taking what I’d guess is the old road into Kyoto, if Osaka is Hull, Kyoto is York, famous for its traditional culture.
Disappointingly we skirted the centre to reach our destination, the botanical gardens in the leafy northern suburbs. Our smiling escort team posed for some photographs with us much to the amusement of Jules and several inscrutable garden visitors. Despite our longer than expected ride it was still only three thirty and whilst workmen were erecting barriers for the circuit, a sort of capital D affair, we were well in advance of any officialdom.
“So ladies, you have about an hour before sign on, get some coffee, go for a walk or whatever, just be back here for 16.45.” George instructed as we parked our steeds up.
“Coffee sounds good,” I mentioned.
“You’re not going in the coffee shop dressed like that?” the Dark One queried.
“Why not?”
“Seriously? Bib shorts?”
“It’s what I usually wear,” I pointed out.
“Jules is right,” Mand put in, “the café place might not be ready for sporting chic Bond style.”
“Okay clever, what do you suggest?”
“You’ve brought a skirt or something for after? Put that on, you’ll at least look less like aliens,” Jules suggested.
“Whatever,” I grumped.
The coffee shop was typical of what you find in parks and gardens pretty much anywhere, inflated prices, less than comfortable seating and more tables than is sensible in the space available. It was of course table service but with Jules smattering of Japanese and a bit of gesticulation we managed to order ‘Kō hī to kēki’, coffee and cake to you and me. I wasn’t in a good mood, I could’ve sworn I picked up shorts this morning but oh no, the stupid blonde was in a skirt again – just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I want to wear dresses and skirts all the time.
“Thought we might see some of the sights on the way here,” I noted while we waited for our order.
“Yeah it would’ve been nice after coming all this way,” Mand agreed.
“What about Friday?” Jules queried.
“What about it, we’ll be in Hiroshima,” I pointed out.
“Well we could get the train here, come for the day.”
“That’d be cool,” Mand mentioned.
“Nice idea.”
“We could at least find out if it’s doable, I can ask at the hotel when we get back,” Jules suggested.
“Brill!” Mand chirped.
“I won’t get my hopes up, now that’s a slice of cake,” I enthused as the waitress returned with a tray of comestibles.
The coffee was a bit so so to be honest but that cake, no idea what it’s called but there was sponge, cream, fruit, more cream, more fruit – well you get the idea. I was in ecstasy, so okay it wasn’t exactly ideal pre race tucker but it lifted my mood so that I was almost skipping on the walk back to Team Bianchi HQ. More riders had arrived and pre race preparations were at an advanced stage.

“So what are you bouncing about for?” Mum queried.
“We just had some of the best cake ever,” I gloated.
“You could’ve brought us some,” she mentioned.
“You wouldn’t’ve liked it, Mum,” Jules stated, “there was far too much cream.”
“Hmm, well you two had best get yourselves ready, you young lady,” she addressed Goth Gurl, ”can give me a hand with the promo stuff.”
There were a couple of new faces when we lined up an hour later, Hagiwara and the Japanese National squad were of course present, the two Canadians weren’t the only other western riders tonight, an American girl having joined the international visitors. Our MC tonight was a bit less hyper, our audience not exactly huge but the local TV station have turned up, that’ll please the sponsors. With everything that’s gone on since last night I’ve not given any real thought about tactics, the official line from George is to follow the plan used in Osaka.
Of course between Dad and Kenji my Infinito has been returned to its former glory, not a bit of duckweed to be seen! I’m sure some of the locals were sniggering at me though, I’m not paranoid it’s just that they’re all out to get me. We were waved away for the neutral lap, it was soon clear that the Japanese National squad were up to something.

“Mand,” I whispered, “shadow Hagiwara, they’re gonna try something from the gun.”
“How’d you know?”
“Call it race intuition.”
“What am I supposed to do then?”
“You’re her new Siamese twin, go where she goes, we’ll come to rescue you as soon as.”
“Well don’t wait too long.”
“I’ve got confidence in you, see you later.”
“Hagiwara’s gonna go from the flag,” I told Mum a minute later after manoeuvring across to her.
“That’s my guess,” Mum agreed.
“Mand’s ready to follow her tight,” I advised.
“Hmm okay, An?” she addressed Fraulein Pascali riding on her other shoulder.
“Closest to the line you can.”
“On it.”
By now we were approaching the tight turn back onto the gently curving finish straight although the line was almost at the opposite end.
“Okay, kiddo let’s go play,” Mum told me with a feral grin.
You’d need to be blind to miss the Nippon tactic, block the front of the peloton then squash any counter move. It can be very effective of course but it relies on more grunt work than many teams are willing to put in. I glanced over to where Anja had positioned herself, the American girl sat at her hip, hmm, interesting.

Out on the right hand curb Hagiwara and her shadow both waited nervously, I hope Mand can do the deed, it’ll boost her confidence and I’m sure, unsettle the Asian girl. No more time, the flag dropped and hostilities commenced. We’d barely got going when the anchors went on for the first almost hairpin left turn, there were words of consternation aplenty.

“Sore o mite!”
“Kurutta on na!”

I found myself well towards the back of the pack by the time we’d cleared the corner so I couldn’t see what was going on up front. I spent most of the long left hand loop moving forward so that I was in a better position for the second hairpin. The Nippon squad were as predicted dominating the front of the bunch but they seemed a little unsure what they were doing.

Once through the corner I looked about to identify the rest of Team Bianchi, Mum and Erika were sat behind the cork, Tina was a little adrift of them, a couple of riders ahead of me but the opposite side of the bunch. Both Anja and Mand were missing, along with Hagiwara and the American, wonder how the Japs will play it now?
Frustratingly the rest of the Asians seemed content to potter around behind the National squad so it was no surprise when Dad shouted ‘thirty’ as we passed through the finish area – at this rate we’ll be lapped by half distance. On one hand we had numerical advantage in the break which is good but at the same time I for one want to make a race of it. The turn was a little less fraught this time although I was glad of the extra power the Campy brakes have over the local manufacturer’s product.

Finally I got a view up the course, the break was clearly going quicker than us holding a line close into the left kerb. We on the other hand were spread across the roadway, more like a winter club ride in speed. Mum caught my attention and telegraphed instructions, okay girl, hold steady for a bit longer, I eased closer to the front, alongside the smaller of the Canadians.
“These is shit, eh.”
“Er yeah,” I agreed.
“Monique,” she offered.
“You ’n your mother I know of course.”
“You the Canadian champion?”
“It is why Joel and I are here, we had the invite to come from the Nippon federation.”
I debated a moment, oh what the heck.
“Might liven up at the next turn,” I suggested.
We were approaching the turn still spread across the roadway like a boxer’s nose, I glanced over at the others, Mum nodded, time for action. The Japanese cork was more like a sieve through the corner, a sieve that Team Bianchi punched through in a four pronged movement as we cleared the corner. Having broken through we wasted no time in forming a rotation which accumulated an extra couple of bodies, Monique gave a wink as we passed in line.

The gap quickly opened between us and the former bunch, I don’t think they had a plan beyond blocking us and once that failed they were effectively headless. Of course our deficit on the leaders was still quite large, we wouldn’t close it quickly but we’d put a show on. Mum didn’t seem concerned about our Canadian guests who were enthusiastically joining in our rotation.

It took us nearly three laps to close the gap, the others not easing their effort until we were almost in contact. Mand was looking a little ragged but to be fair Hagiwara wasn’t looking so good either, showing her dismay at our arrival.
“I said we’d come to the rescue.”
“’Bout time, slacker!” Mand panted.
“Thought you’d like fifteen minutes.”
“The TV cameras?” I suggested.
“I’d forgotten about that.”
“You girls ready for the real show?” Mum enquired dropping back to us.
“Real show?” Mand enquired.
“We’re gonna lap the buggers, give our friend up there something to think about.”

Mum was pissed by the disrespect shown by the Japanese, from experience you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Mum!
“We taking her with us?”
“We’ll not be waiting for her.”
“What about Mand?”
“I am here!”
“We might not take prisoners but we don’t leave our own, sit in if you need to Manda, Apollinaris are having this one.”
Mum signalled Erika and we were on.
The North Americans were willing partners in our enterprise, Hagiwara a less happy participant but for now at least she was taking her turn on the front. We made steady progress in our tail chasing progress, the bunch unable to hold us. Lap after lap we were gaining time, with fifteen minutes of racing left I spotted the main bunch ahead of us, of course we’d already picked up about a dozen who’d fallen out of the back.
Mand had missed a few turns but then she wasn’t alone in that, only Mum, the American and Erika had run every rotation. We’d been that busy that I hadn’t given much thought to the finish but someone else had. We hadn’t quite connected when Monique broke rank and took off on her own – at least she’s been pulling her weight getting here.

Tina drew the chase card and quickly made the connection.
“You okay, Mand?”
“I’ll live.”
“You up for another effort?” I enquired.
“Geez, Gab, don’t you ever give up?”
“Nope, fat lady and all that.”
“Go on then, what’s this plan?”
“Just be ready to go when I say.”

We were now behind the lapped peloton, Monique’s escape bid having come to nought and at a guess two laps remaining before the finale.

Maddy Bell 20.10.15

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