So what is Erik Zabel doing in our living room? Kat and Maria I can sort of understand but a real live Tour de France hero? Mum must have been reading my mind.
"Erik's riding with Maria tomorrow and with his sister on Sunday"
"You know Tina, Erik's her brother"
"You've confused the poor boy Jenny," Maria put in, "Tina uses her mothers maiden name"
"Oh right" I allowed, it still didn't make sense.
Jules arrived just then and after another round of greetings it was clear that Erik was not exactly hot on the English! Kat, Maria and Mum generally spoke German to him, I got the feeling that he wasn't that comfortable being here.
Dad got home not much after Jules and there was a third round of greetings and introductions. Erik definitely looked a bit wary, I wonder if anyone else noticed?
"So come on kids, get yourselves changed, everyone is meeting for dinner at Salvatore's. And Drew"
I don't know what she meant by that. Mind you when I looked in my wardrobe I got some inkling, like most thirteen-year-old boys my choice was a bit limited, jeans or cargo's teamed with a t-shirt. I'll have to do something about that I suppose but what about tonight?
There was a clatter on the stairs and Mum poked her head round the door.
"You not dressed yet? Come on Drew we need to leave in a few minutes"
"I've not got anything to wear Mum"
"You've got a wardrobe full, your worse than Juliette"
"But there's nothing erm, posh."
"Lets have a look" Mum opened my clothing store and started shuffling through the hangers. "Hmmm, the only decent clothes in here are Gaby's"
"Tell me about it" I sighed
"Well it looks like that's the answer then"
"Here, you can wear this" she thrust a hanger at me, "and I'll be back to do your makeup in a minute"
"No buts young lady. Five minutes." And she swept out of my room.
I am so not wanting this. I checked to see what I was supposed to be wearing. Shit, sorry about the language but heck! I'm sure the dress was one of Jules, why couldn't I wear jeans? Still it's only tonight, I'll be in Top Man first thing tomorrow. Ten minutes later I was washed, dressed and Mum had my hair up and face painted.
"Here we are" Mum announced
I wanted to crawl under a rock. Kat started giggling and Eric looked even more confused. Mum said something in German to him that resulted in a smile and Maria joined in the conversation. I really need to learn some German.
"Who's... oh it's you Gaby" Jules rolled her eyes as she joined us.
"Everyone ready?" Dad prompted
"I think so Dave, don't forget your bag Gaby"
"No Mum" I sighed, Kat was nearly in hysterics.
We drove in convoy up to Worksop; Mum rode with us in our car while Eric and the Pingers followed in the Merc.
"So why do I have two daughters tonight Drew?"
"It's not my fault" I started
"My fault Dave, I'm not having him show me up in those grungy jeans of his"
"But a dress?" Dad queried
"Have you looked in his wardrobe lately husband mine? The only decent clothes he has are dresses and skirts."
"I thought you were stopping that Drew?" Dad mentioned
"I was, I am."
"I think he likes it" Jules put in
"I do not!"
"Stop teasing your sister Juliette" Mum added sternly. That's a level two warning in case you missed it. Oh Muuum!
The restaurant was in chaos, Guido and Stefani were in seventh heaven and Guido's sister Antonia wasn't helping much either! Everyone was here, Eric's sister, Tina, Anja, George, Mike the mechanic, Susan, well everyone plus a couple of others I didn't recognise.
"Jenny! Maria! We thought you'd got lost" George winked at Dad, "Dave it is good to see you and the girls" Grrr.
We had pretty much taken over the restaurant and the tables were pushed together to make one long one. The other couple of patrons seemed a bit bemused by our party as half a dozen conversations in German, Italian, English and a combination of the three went on in good spirits. Dad was talking to George and Mike, Mum was joining in on about three discussions in both German and English and Jules and I to be honest, felt a bit left out of things.
"So you are in a dress again huh?" Kat observed
"Mums idea" I put the blame elsewhere
"That colour suits you"
"Thanks I think" I moped
"Oh cheer up"
"I wish I knew what everyone was talking about" I mentioned
"Yeah, me too" Jules added
Kat looked down the table, her mum gave a wave from the other end and we all waved back.
"Well Eric and his team riders are discussing the problems that the Bundesliga are having"
"What's that?" Jules enquired
"Who are they?" I asked
"That's Paolo Savoldelli next to my mum, Kai Hundertmarck is opposite and the other one is Torsten Hiekmann"
"They all ride, how is it? Together our riders tomorrow. Susan and Tina are talking about someone's wedding next month"
"Well I'm glad we're not missing anything then" I joked
"So how come you're here Kat?" Jules asked
"I am on, how do you say, work placement"
"With the team? Cool!"
"Not so cool" Kat sighed, "I help Mike with the Fahrrad and cloths"
"That's brill Kat, I wish I could do something like that."
"You wouldn't after cleaning all of the bicycles every day and the laundry, phew!"
"It's not all glamorous Drew" Jules advised
"Yeah well I still wouldn't mind"
"You do the work place in England?" Kat asked
"Yeah, I got to work at the animal shelter shovelling poo all day" Jules told her
"I do it next year when I get back from America" I put in
"You should ask your Mutter to do this, maybe you come to Germany?"
Just then there was a banging on the table and the conversations tailed off. George stood up and gave a short speech in German that ended with some light-hearted (I think) banter. I really do need to learn some German!
It was getting on a bit when we finally left Salvatore's, well after eleven.
"See you tomorrow Maria"
"Okay, tschuss, bye Kat"
I was expecting Kat to go with her mum but she stayed with me and Jules.
"Aren't you going with your mum Kat?"
"I forgot to tell you girls, Kat is staying with us, I thought you could entertain her Gaby" Mum advised us.
"All yours sis" Jules chuckled
Apparently Kat was already installed in the spare room before we got home from school. Back at the Bond barracks we were all too tired to do much more than go to bed and boy was I glad to get those sandals off!
I couldn't get to sleep though; there was too much going on. Half the Telekom team and I've met Eric Zabel, that's well cool! Just wait till I tell the others tomorrow. I'll have to introduce Kat to the guys, pity Ally and Rhod are in Wales. It's gonna be so cool at the race tomorrow, I bet there'll be a good turnout, it's not everyday you get someone like Eric riding the O2!
"You getting up Drew?"
Jules voice somehow registered and I jerked awake.
"What time is it?" I mumbled
"Come on or I'll send Mum up to dress you"
After last night that was a heavy threat! I was up and dressed in moments flat! So much for spending time with Mum, straight after breakfast she was off training with the rest of the team, she was riding up to Worksop to meet them.
"Well I'm meeting Charlie, see you two later" Jules disappeared leaving me and Kat to keep Dad company. As usual on race days, Dad was checking my bike out.
"From what I hear Kat, you've done enough of this lately. Go on you two, take Kat over to Carols for a bit Drew" Dad instructed.
"Okay, see you later Dad"
"Bye Mr Bond"
We set off for Schloss Peters and I eyed the clouds skipping across the sky with some concern.
"Who is this 'Carol' we are going to?"
"My aunt, Maddy's mum"
"The Maddy you told me in Germany?"
"That's the one"
We were soon knocking on Mad's door.
"Hi Drew" Mad greeted me
"Hi Mad, this is Kat, from Germany."
Kat on her part was stood there goldfishing looking first at Mad then me.
"You all right Kat?" I asked
"You, you are so the same!" she managed to get out
Mad started laughing
"Yeah having Drew about is like having a twin sister"
"Maad!" I tried to shush her
"Oh Drew, I know you are sometimes Mädchen" Kat grinned
Dur! Of course she does, what am I thinking.
"So what are you guys up to?" Mad asked
"Just showing Kat the sights"
"Huh, I'm a tourist attraction now!" my cousin exclaimed in mock horror.
Kat started laughing.
"You are so the same"
Mad joined us as we headed towards The Carr's.
"So how come you're in sunny Warsop Kat?"
"I have come with the Fahrrad team"
"It's so cool Mad, its Kat's work experience, she's doing it with Mums team"
"Hang on. Kat. Now I remember, your mum's a racer too?"
"You know this?"
"Drew has mentioned it once or twenty times!"
"Mad's just started racing Kat"
"All your family, Drew, you are all crazy for bikes!"
"Not all, Jules isn't exactly a fan is she Drew?"
"Well she doesn't ride much these days"
There's no getting away from it, Warsop is in a different league to where Kat lives and that's not a compliment. I tried to look at this place I call home from Kats point of view and it comes out lacking on nearly every score. In fact I was a bit embarrassed as we wandered around what amounts to our town centre. Mad and Kat however didn't seem to notice, they were getting along like a house on fire and seemed oblivious to their surroundings.
My phone broke my reverie with a tinny rendition of Queen's 'Bicycle Race'. That'll be Dad.
"Where are you? I rang Maddy's mum and she said you weren't there."
"In Warsop. Whatsup?"
"Well in case you've forgotten you and your mother are riding this afternoon and we are supposed to be setting off in forty five minutes"
"Shit! We're on our way" I stowed my phone
"What's wrong?" Mad asked
"Me and Kat need to get home pronto"
We set off at a brisk pace and after dropping Mad off I hurried Kat along, arriving home twenty minutes after Dad's call.
"What were you up to in town?"
"Showing Kat the sights of Warsop"
"Well you can sight see tomorrow afternoon, go and get yourself changed"
"I must change too," Kat added
Well I don't think Ranby Village Hall had ever seen anything like it! Bearing in mind that this afternoons events were not usually much of a spectator sport, the presence of the German pro's had changed things quite a bit. Dad was saying that they'd got special dispensation to put an invitation only event on for the visitors and a select group of home grown talent. As a result there were a lot of people come to watch.
At this end of the season and with no real prizes at stake the atmosphere was pretty relaxed, the pink Telekom car and the Appollinaris bus getting a constant stream of curious and just plain star struck local cyclismo. Only Mum and me and Eric and Tina were in the event proper, riding the two-up, the rest of 'our' group were in the invitation 10. The four of us finally got out for our warm up session and I was surprised that we started to do some bit and bit together. Eric's demeanour had changed, he seemed more relaxed and gave me a wink as we rotated. The adults chatted in German as we headed towards Retford and once again I vowed to learn some.
We turned and Eric and Tina set off on their own.
"You okay Drew?"
"I think so"
"Well come on then, let's go"
Mum led off and I tucked in behind, we changed every fifty revs and soon had a smooth rotation going. I was certainly warmed up by the time we arrived in the improvised holding area under the A1.
"You lead off Drew, I don't want to lose you at the start"
She grinned at my confidence, "well if you start feeling the pace tell me and I'll do double turns okay?"
We were waved over to the start, as I said, Ranby has never seen anything like it. The Police had coned off a start lane and there was a good crowd of camera toting fans watching the start. Not only that but there was not one but two TV crews set up too - awesome as Brit would say! All this and its only ten miles. Eric and Tina set off a couple of teams in front of us and the cameras went off like New Year fireworks.
Mum and I started our breathing exercises and we both descended into race mode. We moved up to the line and the pushers took us with a minute to go; we were starting at two-minute intervals. I settled down and glanced over my shoulder at Mum who grinned back.
I became aware that the watching crowd had hushed as the timekeeper called ten to go.
"Five, four, three, two, one, go!"
I pushed off and the gallery started shouting encouragement. I forgot to count my revs but Mum was more focused and as we started to descend I got my act together. The whole ride was a bit of a blur, Mum took longer turns on the climbs but I was pleased that I seemed to be holding my own for the most part. I was amazed at how many people were out watching, a few had even managed to string up banners on the Blythe flyover. After what seemed far too short a time we reached the finish area where a good crowd was gathered.
"Last effort" Mum told me and I joined her in a fifty metre sprint for the line then it was over and I could freewheel at last.
The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, Eric rode the invitation event as well and it felt really good to be part of all the excitement. There's one thing for certain, Barnardo's was going to benefit well from this and it wouldn't do cycling any harm either. One of the camera crews was working for Appollinaris, the other was the local BBC crew and they both seemed to get everywhere. Mum was cornered by both of them for interviews and the BBC even interviewed me!
The actual results were pretty much forgotten but I got a bit jiggy with the 21.25 I did with Mum, which placed us third. Eric and Tina were fastest with 20.03 and a local pair just took us by ten seconds for the runner up spot. Eric stole the thunder for a second time when he set a new course best of 18.22 and the rest of the German pros were under 20 minutes too along with a couple of the other invited riders.
Mad, Bernie and Aunt Carol managed to find us some time later and I had to do the introductions to the bemusement of the Germans. I'm glad that Kat was with us, she managed to smooth the way for the girls to do some autograph hunting, I thought Bernie was starting to drool a bit when she met Kai.
"Well I think that woke people up a bit," Mum stated as we started the short drive back to Warsop.
"You can say that again luv!" Dad agreed
"It is not like this always?" Kat asked
"No way Kat! We're usually lucky to get a handful of spectators"
"So this is good ja?"
"Ja, I mean you bet"
"I think it was pretty shrewd of George to put up those spot prizes, really enthused everyone" Dad noted
Although we had Kat staying, tonight was going to be a family night, dinner at home and some quality time with Mum. As Jules had skipped the race she got landed with starting dinner and for once she wasn't moaning. We got home to the smell of Bolognese sauce and a steamy kitchen.
"You kids changing?" Dad enquired
"I need to shower," I pointed out
"Well don't be all night Drew, this'll be ready in ten minutes" Jules stated
Mum beat me to the upstairs shower so I grabbed some clothes and returned downstairs to use the bike shower. I did the deed in double quick time and was drying myself when Dad called me to dinner.
"Come on Drew, it's on the table"
"Won't be a minute"
I grabbed my t-shirt and pulled it on, hmm, must have grown, it's a bit tight. I picked up my jeans only they weren't! Shit, shit, shit! How did I manage that, I'm sure I picked up my jeans, not this, this skirt. And I hope they're not, bugger they are, flipping knickers!
"Drew? We're waiting!" Dad hollered from the dinette
"Coming" I sighed
Okay so I've got two choices. Wear the damned skirt and panties and brazen it out or make a run for the stairs, risk exposing myself and Dad's ire and get some trousers. The skirt won on a technicality, I didn't want to risk giving everyone a full frontal at the dinner table after all, I pulled it on and slipping into my shower shoes went to join the others.
"There you are, perhaps we can eat now" Dad stated
"Leave her alone Dave, she's here now" Mum smirked
"Well you can do something with that hair young lady" Dad instructed, much to both Kat and Jules amusement.
"Yes Dad" I sighed accepting the pink scrunchy Mum had on her wrist. By the time I had my locks in a passable ponytail Dad had a plate of spaghetti in front of me and I realised that I was pretty hungry.
"So you like the rock?" Kat asked
"Sorry rock is the German. Skirt, you like the skirt?"
"It's okay, I thought I'd picked up my jeans though"
"Nice top sis" Jules mentioned
I had to look didn't I? Grrr, it was no wonder it was a bit tight, it was Jules 'Hello Kitty' top! I've been had good and proper haven't I?
"I did pick up my jeans didn't I?"
"We couldn't resist" Jules giggled
"Well 'we' would have preferred it if you had" I sulked
"Oh come on Drew, it's only a bit of fun" Mum put in
Now was not the time to throw a wobbler so I smiled sweetly and finished my spag bol. Dessert was one of Aunt Carol's apple pies after which I got to make the coffee. I was a bit torn over spending time with Mum or with Kat but Kat herself solved that when she spotted my scrapbook.
"Can I look Drew?"
"'Course, there's not much in it though"
"He's too modest Kat" Dad told her, "You should see the one he's doing for his mum too"
"It's on my desk if you want to look Kat"
I'd pretty much forgotten what I was wearing and I cuddled up on one side of Mum, Jules on the other. Hmmm, I like this I was almost purring as Mum stroked my hair and chatted with Dad.
Mum insisted I get an early night with the 25 in the morning so I went up about ten. Bum! Kat was asleep on my bed clutching my scrapbook, gently snoring. I heard Mum and Dad getting a bit friendly next door and Jules was in the bath, what the hell do I do? I carefully rescued the scrapbook and eased the duvet over my friend. Whatever she was dreaming about produced a cute smile on her face, no way could I wake her. I know, I'll use the spare room.
Sugar! No jarma's! Do I risk going back? "Ping!" the room descended into darkness as the light bulb chose that moment to expire. I groped around in the dark and on the way to the door my hand fell on something that felt like a pile of clothes. Of course, the washing, I should have a pair of pj's here somewhere. After a bit of groping, by which time my eyes had adjusted to the dark I located what I was looking for. I quickly changed clothes and got into bed and I was out like a lamp!
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