A Word Young Bond
Dave's visit was gonna be short – definitely a flying visit. Although he'd join the expedition to Milton Keynes they would be dropping him off at Luton Airport afterwards. It was certainly getting more difficult to schedule visits home into Dave's busy Apollinaris schedule, this weekends visit looked to be the last for many weeks. It couldn't be helped, the team had a full schedule right up to the Tour Feminin in June, even this weekend was really a working trip, checking on Drew's progress (not really required of course) but also scouting out other potential Apollinaris Junior team members.
It was almost like old times early on Saturday morning with a car full of bikes, kit and Bond's heading down the M1.
“So,” Mum started, “you found us a house yet?”
“Not had a lot of chance luv, but there are a couple of possibilities.” Dave replied quietly.
In the back of the Saab Drew was quietly snoring away in one corner while Juliette was listening to her CD player, apparently oblivious to the rest of the world.
“Go on then.” Jen prompted after checking out her offspring.
“Well I've been talking to a few people and it seems like we will be struggling to get anything under 250,000 Euros in Bad Neunahr.”
“I knew it was pricey round there but that is quite a bit.” Jen noted.
“Yup, we'd have to sell up in Warsop just to stand a chance of buying, we could rent of course but there aren't many house available. We could probably get something down the valley quite reasonable though, near the Pinger's maybe.”
“I hear a but coming.”
“It's a good but tho.” Dave paused.
“Go on then.”
“Well George's cousin is a builder and he reckons we could organise the finance for a new build, apparently you can get grants, he has a couple of plots on the edge of Mayschoß just up the valley.”
“Okay, you've got me hooked so far.”
“We could get a bank loan to get things started and take out a mortgage against our place to raise the balance. We rent our place out; we could get up to a grand per calendar that would go to service the loan. It'd be a bit tight for a couple of months but Stefan, that's George's cousin, reckons the house would be ready for us to move in come July.”
“Sounds like you've been working hard on this.” Jen leant over and pecked her husband on the cheek.
“What do you think?”
“This house, how come it'll be so cheap? What's the catch?”
“Well the land is going cheap and the house is prefabricated, we've done some sums and 150,000 euros should get us a house.”
“What about schools and stuff?”
“Well they'd have to travel down to Ahrweiler for school, there's a regular train or its not that far to go by bike – a lot of the kids do that in the better weather. If they prefer, that English speaking school in Bonn is less than an hour on the train.”
“For someone without much time you've managed to find out quite a bit.”
“So what do you think?”
“I wish we could just move our place lock, stock and barrel! I'd like to hang on to the house, it's paid for and I'd like to keep it for the kids. The new house sounds good, do we get any say in what it's like?”
“Some, the company who make the house will customise to some extent, we worked the price out on one of their standard floor plans, it might need a tweak or two but it has a big basement, garage space, a good size kitchen, four bedrooms, two bathrooms – well it looks good to me.”
“I don't suppose you've got any pictures of this ‘Haus auf Träume'?”
“What? Oh right, dream house. Stefan is doing a proposal for us, I'll send it over for you and the kids to see when I get back.”
“I just hope we are doing the right thing.” Jen mentioned.
Dave squeezed her knee, “second thoughts?”
“Not for me, no it's the kids I'm worried about. Drew seems to view it as a big adventure but Jules, well it's going to be difficult.”
“What's gonna be difficult?” Drew's voice piped up from the back seat.
“You getting a result this afternoon kiddo.” Dave improvised.
“I guess so, is it far?”
“About ten miles to our turn off.”
“Great, I'm dying for a wee.”
Junction 14, Milton Keynes Parkway soon had them heading towards the Central District of England's newest and largest ‘New Town'. It was a new experience for Drew to travel through a city where the roads avoid pretty much everything. One thing the place does have is lots of roundabouts; Drew counted ten between the M1 and A5!
“If you look in the field on the right kids you can see the concrete cows.”
“Concrete cows?” Jules scoffed.
“Some wag thought they'd be a good idea as most people moving here in the seventies came from London where cows are quite rare.” Jen explained.
“Why not just have real cows?” Drew enquired.
“Less maintenance!” Dad put in.
“There you are, over there.” Mum pointed across the dual carriageway as they left Milton Keynes proper to make their way to Cosgrove Leisure Park where the race was taking place.
True enough there were half a dozen unmoving black and white cows in a field.
At the next roundabout they took the road signed for Yardley Gobion, strange name and very soon they were pulling up amid a car park full of bikes, cars and riders. Yes this is like the old days before Mum went to Germany.
Unlike the race at Easter this one was on a fairly short closed circuit around the old gravel pits and nature reserve. Not all the National squad were riding today, only the youngest five were on the start card, the older members had an exacting ride north of Hull tomorrow. That wasn't so bad, that meant a reformation of team Pink from Glossop with the addition of Josh. Caro was acting as team manager for the day and we had barely got parked before I was yanked off to join Stuart, David and Kristen for an impromptu team talk in her car.
We all nodded.
“Okay, Josh rang me a few minutes ago, they've been caught in traffic on the motorway so they'll be cutting things a bit fine.”
“Bummer.” Drew mentioned.
“Yes indeed, well lets run over today's plan.”
The next half an hour was spent discussing tactics, well as much as you can for an under 16's race. David and Kristen knew some of the other riders, me and Stu were too far from home to be able to contribute on that score.
“Okay team, get yourselves ready, the course will be open to warm up on in half an hour, I want you to practice what we've just been discussing okay? When young Master Waugh gets here I'll get him out to you as soon as. Right go!”
Three car doors sprung open and started to disgorge the junior Junior National Squad.
“A word young Bond?” Caro requested.
“Sure.” Drew sat back in and pulled the door too.
“You sure everything's okay, I don't want a repeat of the other week.”
“I've been taking my pills Caro, Mums made sure of that.”
“She said, and no side plots involving brassieres and make up either.” She stated.
Like that was going to happen again!
“Right, get going, I'm sure your Dad has your bike ready.”
Josh actually arrived while we were changing so when they opened the circuit for warming up we were all there together resplendent in our smart squad strip. Caro took a couple of ‘team' photos and then it was just the five of us on the circuit. Josh was soon up to speed and after one lap checking out the circuit we spent another five going through our moves before returning to the start area.
“Mum, can you do anything with my hair, it keeps blowing in my face on the back straight.”
“Like what? You should've got Sylv to cut it.”
“Muu-uum” I whined.
“Okay, take your helmet off then, Jules? You got any rubbers?”
When I lined up for the start my usually loose ponytail had been replaced by a much tidier single braid hanging down my back. Josh just rolled his eyes and Kristen gave a little giggle as I pulled into the line.
“Ready guys?” Stu enquired as acting team captain.
We each mumbled our agreement.
“Lets do it then!”
I couldn't help but think of Rhod, Em, whoever, Stu's Welsh accent, although not strong, reminded me of what Rhod told us yesterday about maybe going to live in Wales.
“Drew!” Kristen hissed.
“Do your zip up, you're giving everyone a free show!”
Sheet! I'd pretty much forgotten about that, the zip was quickly raised and my albeit small chest was sealed from sight. Geez if Kristen saw, who else did.
“Can we have the girls to the front row please,” an official requested, “yes you two as well.” He added looking directly at Kris and me.
“Come on, let them through lads.” He instructed.
I think the idea was that the girls weren't shelled out the back immediately the flag dropped, good intention but somehow that meant the current under 16 champion was starting at the front – well both of them. In fact, our squad strip was edged with the red, white and blue but the fact we both had the same kit only made it more difficult. Caro is going to be well mad! Kristen just smirked. So okay, with my hair in a braid and despite my sports bra doing its best to squish my boobies I might look a bit girlish but it's not like I tried is it?
The flag dropped and we started on the first of fifty-five laps of the half-mile circuit. No one seemed to be in a particular hurry to make a race of it so Kris and I held a watching brief as our fellow frontline starters were gradually replaced by their male co competitors. By the start of lap three, Stu and the guys had moved up to join us near the front of the bunch, my computer was showing a little over thirty five kph, not exactly ripping the road up!
It was another lap or so later that the ‘attack' was made, I use the term loosely as it was un co-ordinated and doomed before it started but it started two laps of frenetic energy at the front of the bunch. I'm afraid our ‘tactic' was to just sit on these moves, which was a bit boring. Now you might think that the rest of the racers were second-string riders to our little elite group, far be that from the truth. There were, according to Caro, three divisional champions in the field besides me and maybe another half dozen fairly experienced riders. At the start of lap fifteen the bell was rung to signify the first sprint of the afternoon at the end of the lap.
Cue Drew Bond! At least the pace had lifted; it's much easier to sprint from forty than from twenty. My teamies did their best to form a protective phalanx behind me, but some dodgy braking by Stu on the last corner broke the formation allowing three riders to sneak through. Bum! The prime* line was beckoning and I barrelled away down the right hand gutter, the interlopers attempting to follow. Their mistake as David and Josh both took the left side, at the line it was a one, two, three for the squad, we eased back, no point in making too much effort at this point.
“That girls quick.”
“Bet she's used to having all the boys chase her!”
‘I'm not a girl!' I mentioned through clenched teeth.
The race came back together by the time the lap was finished although we were already starting to pick off a few back markers – inevitable on such a short circuit I guess. However the pace had picked up and a further two laps later an ‘elite' group was starting to dominate affairs, with another bunch of hopefuls hanging on like a comets tail. The youngsters were lapping at a healthy forty-five kmh and the short laps started to merge into one continuous round of corner, sprint, corner as the distance counted down.
The bell sounded again and Stu gave me a significant look as we rotated – this is it! The extra pace we had been riding at meant that some of the bunch were already on the rivet so when Josh powered to the front on the back straight we almost immediately stretched the elastic to breaking point. As we rounded the corner into the prime straight we were set for our move Josh leading out from Stu, Dave, Kristen then I was sat a further three places back watching the hopefuls. As we approached the line first Josh then Stu and Dave peeled off leaving Kristen open road to the line, which she made great use of. A combination of speed and my ground anchor tactic kept the competition in check.
Now it was my turn, you'd expect the pace to drop a bit after the sprint but I sprinted off the front and around Kris, quickly assuming a racing tuck. Behind me the others swung into action too spreading across the roadway to make an effective roadblock, our programme for world domination was working! We had a plan and so far nothing was interfering but of course life is never that simple. I pulled out a lead of maybe two hundred metres over the next lap or so at which point Kristen was due to make a similar launch.
Kris made her move on cue but lacking Drew's blistering pace her movement forward was much slower and despite the lads blocking one of the other hopefuls latched onto her. Caro had discussed just such a possibility and had left Stu to call the shots, chase and leave me dangling or use it to our advantage in assisting Kris up to me. Despite wanting to chase the interloper down he held his cool and the three lads concentrated on controlling the rest of the bunch.
Meanwhile I'd turned down the gas and was effectively holding station in front of the bunch, still picking off back markers as the laps ticked by. I sat up to wipe my face, sweat was running off me and my jersey was starting to feel decidedly sticky.
“Two at ten!” Caro called out next time round, which elicited a nod from a warm Bond.
Kris heaved alongside and then an equally out of breath followed through.
“Fine.” She puffed as the three of us rolled past the line again.
“Girl power!” some wag shouted from the trackside, Kris managed a giggle through her panting.
The lap counter was on ten to go next time round and I hoped the guys were making their move; it doesn't do to upset Caro's plans after all. The three of us were riding piano, if it comes to a sprint I'm sure I've got the edge but hey, who can tell.
Half a lap behind things were not going to plan A! After getting Kris away the lads were supposed to slow things up before making a three up attempt to join us in front but even a well oiled machine can have problems when you've got a lot of individuals doing their best to drop the spanner. Every time they made a move their opponents swamped the attempt, determined not to miss out on any move, the danger of course being that they could inadvertently drag them up to our leading trio.
Oblivious to what was going on behind we three continued to circle, our only clue to the drama behind being Caro's frantic arm waving. It was clear with seven to go that the game plan wasn't gonna happen, two against one – at least the odds were in our favour.
“Go sis go!”
“Come on girls, you can do it!”
Geez, I repeat, I am not a girl!
At the last prime I made just enough effort to cross the line first, Kris was starting to tire from the relatively high pace, unlike last time this circuit had nowhere to rest or hide being almost flat. We hadn't completed another lap before her elastic finally snapped; I hope she can hang on till the finish.
It was my call now. In the last few laps I'd been appraising my companion, he seemed to be riding within himself but was that a front? Dare I leave it to a sprint or do I try to kill him off before the finish. I made my decision and with three to go made my move, a right hand gutter attack, I didn't dare glance back as I kept the pressure on for half a lap. All to no avail, damn! He was stronger than I'd hoped and I found him glued to my wheel when I did risk a backwards glance, okay plan B it is then.
I let the pace slacken and he rode up alongside half wheeling me with a grin on his face, sugar. This guy knew the tricks, well at least some and he was big enough to counter my moves so it'll be down to the sprint for the line. I resisted the temptation to start winding the speed up too early, that'd take the edge off the sprint and I could tell that he wasn't going to lie down easily.
The bell sounded, one to go, I checked everything was as it should be, I hope he breaks first. I did my best to appear calm and then finally with half a lap left he cracked, at least I can do something myself now. He was clearly committed going from this far out and I had the advantage, yes! Into the straight and I let him dangle until we were past the two hundred marker, then turbo power – engage. By the time I was level the red fog was starting to descend, we were shoulder to shoulder, he'd found that extra bit and was pushing me all the way. Come on Drew, just a bit more.
There was a dull roar of the shouting crowd, I was too far in to properly hear anything, all my concentration was on the fast approaching line. I just eased in front, ten metres to go, you can do it kiddo.
BANG! I suddenly found myself not going the direction I intended as I was sideswiped, oh sugar! My reactions seemed to be in freefall as my bike fishtailed and I struggled for control but with one final desperate wrench on the bars it was over – oh shit!
There were lights flashing past overhead but I couldn't focus properly for some reason. And none of the sounds made sense either although they seemed pretty loud.
“We're losing her! ICU! Quick.”
“Nooo!” a woman's voice called.
* Pronounced preem – sprint competition for spot prizes during the main race.
Maddy Bell 31.12.06 © 2006
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