TG Universes & Series:
“You sure you’re up to this?” Dave enquired of his daughter.
“I’m fine,” Gaby supplied.
“She does look a bit peaky,” Mand put in.
The Wunderkind poked her tongue at her friend.
“Here’re the girls,” Dave observed.
“Hi Dave,” Erika enthusiastically greeted, “girls.”
“Morning everyone,” Anita added.
“This is my Dad, Carsten,” Anita advised as she tugged on an older chap’s sleeve.
“Nice to meet you,” Dave proffered a hand.
“Another bike widow eh!” he chortled as they enthusiastically shook, “giving us a hand in the pits?”
“Yep, Gab’s only has one bike for now though.”
“Anita said, I’ve got a spare from when this one was younger, she can use that, it’s gonna be dirty out there today.”
Sounds like Carsten has been doing ‘Dad’s bike taxi’ for a while!
“You still look a bit rough,” Mand observed.
“Thank you for that vote of confidence.”
“If you are feeling off there’s no shame in packing,” Dad stated as he rubbed the greasy embrocation onto my legs.
“I’m serious kiddo, you had major surgery last week, I can’t believe you are well enough to even be here.”
I crossed my fingers, neither am I.
The Eupen Supercross is actually just over the Belgian border a few klicks south of Aachen and it’s a pretty serious event. Yeah, talk about deep end; the other competitors are, almost to a woman primarily cross riders. There might be a few road crossovers and the crossers likewise might do road in the summer but off tarmac racing is their thing.
With damp conditions I was glad we were racing before the men – we’d have the best of the conditions. The three of us managed a couple of warm up laps, Anita pointing out the best route and where running might be advisable. I might’ve had a couple of training sessions but really it’s been a couple of years since I competed off road, my tummy was doing somersaults.
We lined up, Anita and Erika getting us up near the front of the grid – well it never hurts and could save a lot of effort. I eyed the sky, we might get around without being rained on but I wouldn’t put money on it.
“Drei, zwei, eine, go!” the starter shouted before setting off a klaxon too.
The start finish area was at least on a sort of tarmac track, I lost a bit of ground clipping in to the unfamiliar off road pedals but I was soon enthusiastically chasing after the others. Then it was onto the mud and the start of the slugfest. Up ahead I could see Erika but of Anita there was no sign, there again I was trying to pick my line rather than watch my teammate.
For someone more used to the restrained spectators at road events and even less vocal supporters back in England all the shouting, bell ringing and board slapping were a surprise. Not unwelcome just unexpected. I was holding top twenty as we went into the first dismount – okay I got a bit tangled up but I wasn’t the only one and I think I actually gained a couple of places on the uphill scramble.
Unlike the circuits back in blighty – long loops around a park or even just playing fields, today at least is more like a series of loops and hairpin turns. Already I could see riders going the opposite direction just a few metres away beyond the crowds. The field was splintering quickly, none of the sheltering in the bunch stuff of road riding here.
There are properly only two run-ups on the circuit but a couple of times I had to dismount on rideable sections as I was baulked by other riders. Carsten had been insistent we change bikes every lap, I didn’t think my bike was in too bad shape but like he’s the expert. I slithered to a stop in the pit area, grabbing the replacement from Dad without pausing.
Back on two wheels I set off again, dodging others doing the same thing before returning to the circuit.
“She’ll do well,” Carsten mentioned as Dave hung bike three on the scaffolding ready to be blasted clean of mud.
“Not sure she has the stamina,” Dave supplied, moving clear of Carsten’s power washer.
They were only one lap in and already the field was spread over a third of the circuit.
“Nineteenth!” Mand shouted as Gab made best use of the couple of hundred metres of tarmac, running might not be her thing but outright speed…
With fewer riders around her Gab was able to ride more of the circuit that was already starting to rut on the corners. Meanwhile Anita was up with the leading pack of five, Erika a short distance in arrears, yo yo ing due to lack of technique rather than ability. An hour plus a lap – a similar format to a road crit, would probably make about fifteen laps in total and Gab was flagging a bit at less than two laps.
“Pace!” Dave shouted as his offspring grabbed the clean bike.
‘Pace he says’ Gab thought to herself, ‘you try it!’
Even so, she realised the wisdom there so she took the tarmac in a more restrained manner. The bad news was that the first few spots of liquid sunshine arrived about then, not heavy – at least yet, but it wouldn’t help the already muddy conditions. The more measured approach quickly started to pay off, her breathing already calming by the first run up.
The pattern was set for the next few laps, gaining a few places, by lap eight Mand was claiming twelfth spot for her. Around her there was now an almost constant stream of riders around the circuit, mud splattered, tired but apparently having ‘fun’. The rain of course was contributing to a change in the going from merely muddy to stretches of decidedly gloop!
Gab was adapting to the riding well, so okay she’d greeted terra squidgy a couple of times but in general was riding where others were already taking to foot as the going deteriorated.
“Twenty minutes,” Dave told his daughter next time through, both he and Carsten almost as muddy as the riders.
“Urgh!” was as much as Gab could manage in reply.
The timing display suggested the leaders were nearly two minutes ahead, maybe half a lap, in theory she wouldn’t get lapped at least.
“Come on, Gab, dig in!” Mand enthused moments later from under her umbrella.
All right for some. Twenty minutes Dad said, maybe time to up the pace a bit.
The incessant rain intensified to torrential – not for long but it added puddles to the churned surface of the course and completed the saturation of the remaining riders.
“Is it always like this?” Dave asked.
“Sometimes worse, some better,” Carsten offered.
“I thought it was intense on the road but this is non stop.”
“But fun eh?”
“Maybe my idea of fun is different,” Dave admitted, “incoming!”
Anita dropped one bike and was jumping on the replacement all in one practised movement; three girls were fighting for the lead, bare metres separating them. Erika, having started quite strongly was starting to flag some – not affecting her position but the distance to the leaders, now almost a minute ahead.
Gab had picked off another couple of riders before the bell signalled the start of the final lap. The rain was close to stopping but it had made its impact on both circuit and riders, decimating the field to leave a couple of dozen hardy women to fight things out.
“Last lap!” Amanda shouted needlessly.
Gee thanks Mand.
The spectators were noticeably fewer now, they were probably heading to see the finish, those that remained were witness to perhaps the smallest rider out in the mud motoring through the gloop with glee. She was gradually hauling back the rider ahead, was there enough lap left? No bike change this time so it would be full gas to the finish now just a couple of minutes away.
Anita looked under her arm, yes! The others were twenty metres adrift; it was hers for the taking. Races have been lost by complacency at this point but the newest Apollinaris signing was better than that. She had time to sit up and straighten her surprisingly clean jersey before raising her arms in a victory salute.
Two, three, six, seven more riders crossed the line, a gap of perhaps thirty seconds passed before two more riders hove into view.
Gab was almost in touching distance now; the rider ahead was clearly running on empty, the strip under the mud was Apollinaris so it was either Erika or Anita. The Wunderkind dug deeper and as they hit the tarmac was just a bike length behind.
“Come on, Gab!” Mand screamed.
The cheering alerted the older woman resulting in a close run thing for ninth and tenth places.
“Flippin’ ‘eck!” Gab allowed as Dave wrapped a blanket around her moments later.
“Well done kiddo!”
They at least had the use of the village hall for changing although first stop was a blast from Carsten’s power washer – if you are already soaked you might as well wash the mud off with more wet. Dried, caffeinated and warmly wrapped Gab joined the others for the presentation – only the podium get their prizes presented, the Germans gave Anita’s win a rousing cheer. Tenth place earnt the same as ninth when it came to it, a hundred euros so Gab having lost the sprint was no worse off except in series points.
“Hang onto the bike Dave, she’ll need it next time,” Carsten advised.
“Thanks,” Dave replied, “we appreciate it.”
“Ach, it was just propping up the shed, it’s good to see it get some use again, she has potential eh? I said.”
“You did,” Dave agreed.
“Enjoy that?” Dave asked as they started a trans Eifel route back home.
“Bit of a mud bath.”
“Yeah I don’t fancy that,” Mand put in.
“You got the rough end today,” Dave mentioned.
“Well in that case, bring it on!” Gab crowed.
“How are you er…?” Bond senior enquired.
You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out what he was referring to.
“Fine,” Gab replied perhaps a little quickly.
Yeah, up to a point, she ached down there and slightly worryingly there had been a few spots of blood on the towel she’d worn in her shorts – not a lot but it shouldn’t be there. Not that she was gonna tell her Dad of course. If he found out he’d cancel next week’s race for her and that’s not going to happen, ut uh!
They were nearly at Bad Münstereifel before Mand’s stomach suggested they’d missed something – lunch!
“Is Mum cooking?”
“I doubt it, she was going out with Maria I think, “ Dave told them.
“What are we doing for lunch then?”
“Altenahr?” he suggested.
“Sounds good, Mand’s not been.”
“That okay with you, Manda?” Dave enquired.
“Sure,” she agreed.
“We’ve been going there for years,” I enthused.
“Don’t exaggerate, Gab.”
“Well we have, we went that first time we came over.”
Dave glanced over at his youngest child, ‘yeah, that trip was probably the first time Gaby was more evident than Drew, pretty much everyone here thought he was she.’
“You’re right, I’d forgotten about that,” Dave fibbed.
Maddy Bell 05.01.16
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