The race popped out of the trees like a cork onto the road that runs along the top of the Taunus scarp.
“Flippin' eck, who lit their fuse?” I puffed.
“Hope there's not too much of that today.” Roni agreed.
By the time we passed the Opel Zoo things had come together a bit so that we found ourselves in a thirty or so strong group. We rolled along to Königstein before our first real respite from climbing – a fast descent then a short up before a slightly longer descent to Eppstein. No one seemed too interested in making a move and we swung onto the town cobbles as one group.
Cobbles, who the heck decided to fill every flippin town and village in the country with the ruddy things? We jounced our way through the stadt mitte, Roni got herself on the smooth bit in the gutter and I slotted onto it behind her. By the time we hit tarmac again we had made our way almost to the front of the group. The weather was, whilst not blue skies and sunshine, at least dry and reasonably bright.
Surely someone would do something now, we're an hour in, the feed is only ten kilometres away, the big climb of the day follows only a few k's further on too. We have a plan of course; Dad never lets anything go to chance.
“You think?” I enquired pulling alongside my teammate.
She shrugged, “may as well.”
“I'll talk to the Bavarians.”
“Ok, I'll be watching.”
I slipped back again and nonchalantly positioned myself alongside the hulking figure of the Paulaner team leader.
“You guys planning anything?” I enquired soto voce.
“Not till the climb.”
“You mind if we do? Maybe do a bit of blocking?”
He looked down at me, well I guess he stands over two metres off the bike, you could almost see the cogs whirring.
“The Direktor said to give you girls a hand if you asked.” He allowed.
“Kewl, about a kilometre there's a village, as we go in.”
“I'll spread the word, we'll still go on the climb.”
“No probs, just want to be at the front at the feed.” I shrugged.
“Okay we'll keep them off you ladies wheels.”
“Thanks.” I gave him a wink.
He peeled off to tell his teammates and I let the bus pull me up opposite Roni.
She spotted me and I gave her the ok sign before we once again were separated as the lazy peleton rotated.
I spotted the village ahead, the road jounced towards it before rising slightly into the houses. Missing a turn at the front was easy, a quick swig of energy drink and a check of the gears and the boundary sign was in sight. A quick look around confirmed where everyone was, friend and foe.
The shouts went up as I cleared the front of the group, I already had plenty of momentum and I easily pulled away from the confusion at the front of the bunch. The second shout meant Roni had launched too, now we just had to hope the Bavarians kept to the bargain.
I hit the cobbles and headed for that smooth strip which allowed unhindered forward progress. Behind I could hear cursing and the sound of machines rattling over the uneven surface. The road climbed through the village, not steeply but just enough to notice, there was certainly no easy option. A few locals clapped and cheered as I seemingly slogged onwards then I could see tarmac ahead and I cheered up.
The transition to tarmac was like going deaf; suddenly the shaking was over as well as all the noise, I was aware that there was another rider close behind, hopefully Roni. The Bond rule is don't look back so I couldn't confirm my companions identity yet. I ploughed along at full tilt only easing slightly after we made the right turn towards the feed. My fellow breakaway came alongside, phew its Roni.
“Okay?” I puffed.
“The Bavarians blocked the gutters.”
Enough said, “not far to the feed then big effort over the climb, like last week.”
“If you say so.”
We fell into a smooth rotation and lifted our speed to forty – at least for the next kilometre. We seemed to reach the feed zone really quickly.
There was a bit more cheering from bystanders then I spotted Dad standing in the road with a mussette in each outstretched arm. We separated slightly so we could pass either side to do the transfer.
“Thirty, well done.” Dad advised as we took our food.
“Go on Drewbie!”
“Dig in Roni!”
The rest of our support team cheered us on as we did a quick bag swap (we got the wrong ones,) then hit the gas once again. The feed would slow the bunch down much more than us so attacking now would be a double whammy. We timetrialled towards the Feldberg which was now looming ahead of us, a two hundred metre plus climb.
Our temporary truce with the Paulaner riders would soon be over so we didn't dare let up for the next couple of k's and the right turn onto the main road.
“I'll do.” Ron panted.
“The climb starts proper after that turn ahead.”
“Oh joy.” She sighed as she transferred her rations from bag to jersey.
I rammed a handful of raisins in't gob as I did a similar exercise, emptying the cotton bag so it too could be stowed. We reached the left turn and I risked a glance back down the road, our lead wasn't huge, maybe 500 metres, hopefully the twisty climb would extend our advantage. The road surface was crap, which is never good when you are climbing, but we rode comfortably side-by-side, a few metres out of the saddle then back to a more relaxed position until the next steep section.
Another right turn put us onto the final ascent where Ron's elastic almost snapped; we crossed the line about five metres apart.
“Right on,” I enthused, “time to rock ‘n' roll!”
We both clicked up the gears and started the long and twisty descent. It's a good job the road was on a rolling closure as we were able to make full use of the tarmac on the never-ending run of bends. According to my computer we had about thirty kilometres to the finish and no more serious climbing, maybe we could do this.
“Sugar.” I fought for control and managed to force the bike out of the corner still upright, I can tell you a sixty-kph puncture is scary, in the front tyre on a bend, well I'll definitely need to wash my shorts!
“Keep going.” I yelled to Roni who was braking fifty metres ahead.
She waved and set off anew.
The neutral service was with me by the time I was off the bike but by the time the replacement was in place, maybe thirty seconds, about three riders flashed through. Bum!
I pushed off again and started the chase.
It took a fair distance to get back up to full speed but with the advantage of choosing my own line I had gained on the pursuivants enough to bring them into sight by the time we reached the bottom. A glance under my arm revealed the neutral service wasn't far behind so at least we still had over thirty seconds on any other chasers.
It's not a role I find myself in often but now it's my turn to provide team support. I buried myself over the next kilometre to join the chasers, two lads in Main Spessart strip and one of the Paulaner lot. Good, that means Roni is still loose ahead of us.
I sat at the back for a couple of rotations catching my breath before taking a turn. Once at the front I could see the lights of the lead car but not Roni, where the heck is she?
“Nice riding girl.”
“Huh?” my musing was interrupted by the blue clad rider, “sorry?”
“I said nice riding, that was a tough climb.”
“Yeah.” I agreed.
“Cover for each other?”
We did sort of have an agreement, “I guess.”
“The lead car likes keeping a distance.” He noted, “I'm Eric by the way.”
“Drew, yeah I guess.” They don't know about Roni.
The four of us kept up a steady thirty five or so on the long drag around the top of the circuit, hardly making any inroads into the gap between the flashing lights and ourselves. We swung right past signs for some Roman fort thing, Saalburg, I'll have to remember that for Dad, the road here is wide and rolling and we soon passed the Bad Homburg sign.
I was a little worried now, I hadn't seen Roni since my puncture, I was only guessing that she was up with the lead car. I kept schtum though, no point in alerting the others even to the possibility of someone in front, we seemed pretty secure, the neutral service was still with us so barring a major incident some of us would podium.
One of the Spessart lads finally spotted Roni as we passed the five to go board.
“Shitza, there's someone behind the leiterwagen.”
“You sure?” his mate queried.
“See there, in the edge.”
I strained to look myself, yep definitely a rider who by default must be Roni. I grinned to myself, we still have a chance.
There was a snicking of gears and the ‘locals' took off with Eric and myself in close pursuit. Things settled down quickly, no one really had much pace to commit to a chase, even me. We were clearly gaining on Roni; I reckon we'll be with her within a couple of K at this rate. Lets put these guys off. I took the lead after dropping a gear and revved away most impressively, however our speed dropped a couple of clicks.
Roni was clearly in sight now, her lead had been halved and she was rolling a bit in the saddle. Not good, not good at all. This part of north Frankfurt is under development with Milton Keynes style boulevards and in the distance the finish area came into view.
The big Bavarian stood on the pedals which left me little option but to mark him and try to block the other pair. Ron had by now picked up on the danger and was out of the saddle herself, whipping neatly around the first of several roundabouts that a few seconds later we had to ease off for. Gads, this is gonna be tight - if I try too hard myself we could loose out, not hard enough and we might end up out of things too.
In the end it was the construction work hereabouts that decided the result. Roni, despite riding as hard as she could was being reeled in quite quickly, at this rate we'd pass her about five hundred out. I saw her bike do a bit of a squiggle on the next roundabout, have to watch that. Eric was still leading the charge, the rest of us strung out behind him, can I out sprint him, I'm pretty pulled out already.
Eric's bike bucked and slewed in front of me as he hit the patch of windblown sand, clearly the cause of Roni's squiggle. Bum I'm gonna go down. Squealing brakes, burning rubber.
How all four of us stayed upright I'll never know. One of the Spessart lads dropped his bike and ended up running up the island, Eric pulled both feet out and myself and Spessart two found ourselves almost stopped amongst the wreckage. It was enough delay for Roni to regain a couple of hundred metres, too much for our shaken pursuit to overtake in the remaining distance.
The two of us still mobile set off again, this time with less vigour. Eric joined us after a couple of hundred metres; the other Spessart guy was okay but clearly out of the running. Ahead Roni took the last island and the lead car turned off, we'd be looking for second place unless Ron fell off.
I concentrated on the job in hand; we were all a bit nervy as we took the last roundabout. Eric led off with two hundred to go, Spessart took his wheel with me slotting in last. It was slightly downhill so we picked up speed quickly but even so I could see Eric wasn't gonna make the line at this pace. Fifty metres out he blew and we swept past, I made my own move up the outside, thirty metres, come on Drew, twenty, I was shoulder-to-shoulder, go go go. I blew myself with less than ten to go, Spessart punched the air and I crossed the line almost slumped across my bars.to be continued....
Maddy Bell 08.06.09 © 2009