When I got home from Mad's, gang night was at the Peters this week; Dad was sat in the kitchen nursing a cup of coffee and a pile of bills and stuff.
“Hi Drew, good day?”
“It was school, what's this lot?”
“I thought I'd best check on our finances as we won't have so much coming in.”
“Not good is it?” I suggested
“Well it's not so bad but we will have to tighten our belts a bit. I'm thinking of selling the camper, we don't use it that much and it drinks diesel”
That camper has some fond memories, holidays, racing trips – good times!
“I thought you were going to change the car?”
“If we sell the camper it'll help finance a better car, maybe a people carrier. Plus I'll save on the road tax and insurance”
“We're not gonna have to move are we?”
“I told you before son, there's no reason for anything like that, the house is nearly paid for and your mother doesn't want or need the capital, she's already said that. So don't worry Drew, we'll get through this.”
Dad smiled at me but it was clear that he was worried.
“Can we afford for us to go to America?”
“Don't worry about that, it's all sorted. I dropped your wheel off earlier, it should be ready for the weekend”
“Have I got a cross race on Sunday then?”
“Clumber” Dad confirmed, “come on cheer yourself up, no point in moping around eh?”
“Oh I forgot to tell you, we've got an invite to the Velo's dinner a week on Saturday, you fancy going?”
“I would like to go, can we afford it?”
“Now who's being daft, I wouldn't have asked would I now?”
“I suppose not.”
“That's settled then. And while I think on, make sure you clean your road bike before Saturday, you're not showing me up at Manchester!”
No Dad, I wont show you up.
The rest of the week was pretty mundane; Tuesday Miss C surprised us by announcing that we would make our cheering debut at next weeks North Nott's basketball championships over in Retford. We get off school on Wednesday which is not a bad thing, that I'll be spending it with the girls is also not bad, the only downside as far as I'm concerned is that it'll be as Gaby!
Rhod is starting to worry me though. He seems to be getting girlier all the time, I hadn't noticed really until a couple of weeks ago but now I think of it, it's been going on for a while now. I mean, what sane boy would volunteer, in fact no, go out of his way to become a cheerleader, a girl cheerleader? And he's just so much a girl when he's being Em, it's like he really likes it. I wonder if he's gay or something?
Anyway, as I was saying, the rest of the week was pretty dull. I was getting a bit nervous about Saturday mind, what are all these tests, will I pass, I'm not very good at tests after all.
“You okay Drew?” Dad asked as we turned off the Motorway to cross the Peak District.
“I told you to get an early night”
“He was on his phone at half eleven” Jules mentioned from the back seat.
“Hey you two give over! I've told you before about that Drew. I'll have to confiscate it if you can't be sensible”
“You can't, its mine”
“I can and I will”
I gave my sister a black look that got a tongue in reply. What was that? Nah she wouldn't!
Dad was dropping me off at the Velodrome then he was taking Jules to the Trafford Centre Christmas shopping. I was actually getting a bit nervous but I cheered up a bit when I remembered going with Mum earlier in the year, the tests would be the sort of stuff Mum did then, not maths and stuff! There she was again though, haunting my life even in her absence. Just when you think you are getting used to things something reminds you and you end up back at square one.
“Looks like snow up there” Dad mentioned
“Hmmm” I stared unseeing at the bleak moors, the skies were certainly grey and full of something.
The scratchy sounds of Jules CD player provided an annoying background to the journey and I got more and more tetchy the nearer we got to Manchester. We arrived at the Velodrome about fifteen minutes early, at quarter to nine but there were already plenty of cars in the car park.
Dad and I went inside to check in and I was soon sat in the canteen, the same one that I used with Mum, waiting for the programme director. Dad went to fetch my bike, then sat and waited with me. What am I getting into? We sat there for about ten minutes before we were joined by a portly bloke with a friendly grin on his face.
“Peter?” Dad asked
“Sorry, Peter Wade, Youth Development Officer”
“Dave Bond and this is Drew”
“Hi” I managed
“Peter please. Been hearing good things about you me lad, taking after your Mum eh?”
“Er can I have a quick word please Peter” Dad got up and the two of them moved off.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to work out what was being discussed, not that it helped any. They came back over and sat down.
“So what's today's programme Peter?” Dad asked
“Well we'll spend this morning doing some testing in the labs, full medical and all that. Then after lunch we'll do some on the bike assessment. All be done by five at the latest. You staying Dave?”
“No I've got his sister in the car, we're off to the Trafford Centre”
“Good luck! It'll be packed this close to Christmas.”
“Don't remind me. Are you going to be okay Drew?”
“Course he will,” Peter added, “oh I nearly forgot, is he on any medication?”
“Oh yeah, here you go.” Dad gave Peter a slip of paper. I guess it had the details of my prescription on it. “Well I'll see you later then” Dad concluded
I was feeling quite nervous now. Dad gave me a quick hug then left leaving me alone with Peter.
“Do you want to go and get changed Drew, I think we're using B3 today. Then if you follow the signs to the Lab I'll introduce you to the team okay?
Ten minutes later I nervously knocked on the open door to the Lab.
“There you are, come on in lad,” Peter instructed
Once inside I gazed at the various bits of kit, some sort of fancy turbo thing, treadmills, a sort of weight bench and a whole bunch of computers.
“Drew, this is Ant, he'll be running the tests with Andrea here” he introduced what I thought of as my torturers. “I'll leave you guys to it, I'll pop back and see how you're getting on a bit later okay?”
“Fine” I allowed
“About eleven” Ant mentioned
“Have fun” Peter grinned
I won't bore you with all the stuff that Ant and Andrea put me through but they prodded and poked, measured and compared just about everything. They seemed pretty happy with the results and I sort of enjoyed doing some of it especially that Vo ² max thing.
Peter returned at eleven and took me to the treatment room where a man who introduced himself as Dr McFarlane then gave me a general going over including eye and hearing tests before finishing with the removal of what seemed like pints of blood.
“So, what do you reckon so far?” Peter asked as we returned to the canteen.
“Some of the stuff with Ant was quite hard,” I allowed, having finally started to relax.
“Well this afternoon should be more fun”
We got some food and Peter was struggling not to mention Mum but I appreciated the effort.
“Drew! I was hoping to see you,” a familiar voice sounded across the crowded room.
Of course every head snapped up to see who Caroline was addressing. Talk about embarrassing.
“I didn't know you were here today Caroline,” he mentioned as she joined us at the table.
“Just picking some stuff up but I might stick around to see how my God son gets on. So the AA have finished with you eh?”
”AA?” I queried
“Ant and Andrea”
“Oh right, yeah”
“What did you think?”
“All that stuff is amazing, I've never used a heart rate thing before, Andrea said I should think about getting one”
“Did you do the max test?” Caroline asked
“If that's where you ride as hard as you can until you collapse, yep”
“So what did they say your max was then?”
“I'm impressed, what about your rest level?”
“32, Andrea said that was pretty good”
“I wish I had that range,” Caro mentioned
“Me too” Peter chuckled
“So what's on this afternoon?” Caroline enquired
“Actually Caroline, you can give us a hand if you like. We'll put this young man through his paces outside then we'll give him a bit of track time”
“Okay, meet you outside in what, twenty minutes?”
“Cheers Caroline, Doug was going to help but he's got tied up with the sprinters.”
“See you in a bit Drew”
Well as Peter had mentioned, I spent a couple of hours being taken through my paces outside. Up and down, sprint, climb! It was really more like an actual training session and I was pretty knackered when we returned to the building.
“Get yourself a drink Drew, we can't get on the track just yet, you've been on before?”
“Er yes, when I came with Mum earlier this year.”
“You've not done any racing though?”
Peter looked thoughtful.
“Okay take a break, I've got a questionnaire for you to fill out, you can do that while you're waiting. You okay to hang around Caroline?”
“Sure, I'll just make a couple of calls”
So I did get a written test after all. Well okay it wasn't really a test but it did involve writing.
Name Andrew Bond
Date of Birth 25.02.89
And so on. Where do I go to school? Hobbies? You know the sort of thing. I had to think hard about answering one question though. Other sporting activities , do I put down the cheerleading? I hmm'd and ahh'd over that but decided to sort of disguise it by calling it dance gymnastics – well it is sort of.
Peter came back to take me up to the track and I was surprised to find a training session going on, I was mesmerised as I watched the riders chatting and generally making light of riding the steep boards.
“You ready Drew? We'll slot you in with this bunch of misfits and see how you get on”
“Come on we haven't got all day” he grinned as I nervously mounted the bike that awaited me.
“Just do a couple of laps under the red line then when you're happy swing up and join the bunch”
Easy for him to say! I was a little uneasy as I started around the bottom of the track, but I picked up in confidence, aware that the riders circling above me were keeping an eye on me in case I suddenly moved up the track.
“Okay Drew, keep it smooth and take it up above the blue” Peter directed
I checked behind and moved up, I don't remember it being this steep before! I caught another rider joining the track out of the corner of my eye, they were far more confident than me going straight up to the blue. The bunch swept me up a lap later and I slotted myself in at the back. The latecomer made contact and I was surprised to find it was Caroline.
“You okay Drew”
“Yeah I think so, I'm not sure about this though”
“Well I'm hardly a trackie myself so let's have a go eh?”
We were circling quite quickly now and then a whistle sounded and the front rider took off. I got what we were up to so when it got to my turn and the whistle sounded I took off like a scalded cat! Well we spent over an hour doing what Caroline called a general workout. I wimped out on the final sprint and contented myself with the knowledge that I'd held my own throughout the session. As Caroline told me as we warmed down, if I could hold this lot of B squad riders, I was doing okay.
There was a bit of clapping from the few spectators in the stand, I spotted Dad and Jules and gave them a wave.
“Good session young man, go and get yourself showered, I see your Dad's back so come and find us in the canteen. Thanks for your help Caroline”
“It's alright, I needed a workout” she chuckled
Twenty minutes later I found Peter and the others having a cuppa.
“Here he is” Peter mentioned
“Good day son?”
“Yeah, it's been good”
“So what happens now?” Dad asked
I wasn't listening that closely as I slumped in the chair.
“Well once we've got the reports from everyone the board will meet and from what I've seen today you'll join the programme young man”
“Tired” Dad commented
“Long day” I agreed
“Not staying for the meet?” Peter asked
“Best not, it's a couple of hours back and this ones racing tomorrow”
“Well it's been nice meeting you all, I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again soon”
Peter stood up, Dad joined him and they shook hands, I shook with him as well.
“Have a safe journey home”
“Thanks” Dad replied
Peter left and Dad returned to his seat to finish his tea.
“You two wait here and I'll put the bike in the car.”
He disappeared and I looked at Jules.
“Good day shopping?”
“Okay I s'pose” she allowed
There it was again. I must have been staring because she went on.
“Dad'll go barmy,” I told her
“Your tongue, you've got it pierced haven't you?” I accused
“Damn. How'd you know?”
“I saw it earlier when you poked your tongue at me, you'll have to be careful if you don't want him to find out”
“Bum! You won't tell him will you?”
“What's it worth?”
“Oh come on Drew, please?”
“I won't tell. Lets see then?”
She poked her tongue out to reveal a swirly white ball sat there.
“When did you get that done, it must have hurt like hell”
“When you went to that thing with Mad the other week. It only really hurt for a couple of days”
“I think it looks cool”
“Hello you two, haven't seen you for a while Juliette. What are you whispering about?”
“Hi Caroline, er nothing” Jules seemed genuinely pleased to see Caro and got up to give her a hug.
“Where's your Dad?”
“Loading the car” I supplied
“No he's not” Dad's voice came from behind me. “Hi Caroline, didn't expect to see you today”
“You know me Dave, can't leave well enough alone! Thought I'd keep tabs on my favourite young man”
Jules pulled a face.
“I was just going to say Dave, if you want to talk, you know where I am”
“Well I've got to go, sponsors meeting for the women's squad!”
“Good luck” Dad offered
“Okay have a safe journey. Good to see you again Juliette, bye Drew!”
She left us in the quiet of the currently deserted canteen.
“Come on you two, let's get home” Dad ushered us out.
I have to admit that I was bushed and I was asleep before we were out of Manchester.
“That's all we need!” Dads voice woke me
“What?” Jules asked from the back
“Snow?” I looked out of the window. A few specks of white blew around outside.
“You won't be saying that if we get stuck over the tops”
“We won't will we?” Jules asked
“I don't think so but it is coming down harder”
We continued up into the hills, I think Dad was regretting picking the Snake rather than the Woodhead but despite the snow starting to settle we didn't have any problems. As we dropped towards the Ladybower, a grit truck headed up the hill, that usually means a bad forecast! Although it decreased in volume, there was still a sort of fine snow when we finally got home and it was getting pretty cold.
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