The chain slipped onto the smaller sprocket and I lost a bit of ground before I had it turning properly. The small but partisan crowd were yelling, I've no idea what; my mind was fixed on the tarmac ahead. The bigger gear was just enough to let me close the gap; I was on the wheel of the rear most of the group but there was still, at a guess, 150m to go.
We were on the wrong side of the road, the corner and camber drawing us there, which left the other side clear. It was a gamble but one I had to take, I twitched the bars and cut off to the right, they reacted faster than I expected, but I was committed now.
The rain was still pelting down which was the reason I missed the sunken drain hole cover. Well missed is the wrong term really as I actually crashed through it, almost being thrown off in the process. I lost my momentum somewhat which allowed the others to pull back alongside, bum. Now I was over geared too but it was too late to make another change.
I held my nerve; I was now losing ground but not as quickly as one of the others who blew big style in the last fifty. With one last desperate effort I chucked the bike forward then everything seemed to go into speed frame and next I knew Dad was holding my bike.
Dad pulled a jacket over me and I just about managed to unclip under my own steam.
"Good ride kiddo!"
"Let's get you off the bike."
"What...Ron?" I gasped out between ragged breaths.
"She scratched just after you passed us last time."
"Guuu-od." I wheezed.
I still had no idea of the result, first to third, it was a podium but which step?
"Feeling better?" I asked my team mate when I found her back at the school.
“Much, you look like shit though.”
“I like you too!”
“So where'd you come?”
I started peeling off my wet clobber after following Ron into the changing room.
“Dunno, first three though.”
“Don't you think you should um leave before anyone else comes in Ron?” I suggested after hearing the distant sounds of male voices.
“Changing room? Boys?”
“Why would boys come in here?”
Geez she can be dense sometimes.
“To like change?”
“In here? They've got their own.”
“And that's right here.”
“No its not, this is the girls dummy!”
Guess I'm the dense one!
“So what am I doing? How come my bag? Roni?” I growled.
“I brought our bags down, I didn't think Drew, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” She looked ready to turn the taps on.
“… Dad said it was a girl who won.”
“Get off with you!”
The owners of the voices came in just as I pulled Roni into a hug.
“Er sorry girls.”
“Um, time of the month.” I offered. Okay I know its lame but it was the first thing that came to mind.
“She alright?” the second girl enquired peeling her jersey over her head.
“I think so, eh Ron?”
“Yup.” She sniffed.
“Hey do you guys know who won? Frannie reckons it was a girl.”
“No idea.” I admitted – well it wasn't like an actual lie was it.
“Barbie by the way.” Our new found ‘friend' mentioned.
“Er Gaby and this is Roni.”
“Fran.” Came a voice from the toilet area.
“So you girls ride for Apollinaris then?” Barbie enquired moving around the room to where her kit was hanging.
“The junior team.” I agreed.
“That must be so cool; I bet you know all the pro's too?”
“I think Tina is really cool.” She opined.
“Nah Jenny Bond is like the ubermeisterin!” Fran chimed in.
By now Roni had regained her composure and despite her red rimmed eyes she was putting on a cheesy grin. On the other hand I was becoming more paralysed with fear as every second passed. Here I am, in the girls changing room, soaking wet and half naked and two complete strangers are trying to hold a conversation with me under the misapprehension that I'm a girl.
It went quiet so I risked a glance to see why, phew, they've gone into the showers.
“I've got to get out of here!” I hissed at Roni.
“You've got to get showered or you'll catch your death.” Roni stated in turn, “they're individual cubicles, you'll be okay.”
I wasn't convinced but she just about frog marched me into the room before I could dissemble.
“See you outside Gab's; I'll try to find out who won.”
Thanks for nothing Roni Grönberg!
By the time I emerged well pruned from the shower, Barbie and Fran were long gone and I was able to get dressed in peace.
It was coming down in torrents again when I emerged from the school changing rooms.
“There you are, where've you been?” Dad asked putting up the oversize Apollinaris umbrella he had been leaning on.
“In the changing room.”
“I went in there, I didn't see you.”
“The um girls.” I mentioned.
“Um ah er well um they're waiting to do the presentation.”
“They've not said and can you do something with your hair please? It looks like you've had a fight with a whirlwind and lost.”
We trudged up the hill to the botanical gardens where everyone was trying to get inside a big modern greenhouse. I managed to squeeze inside and was immediately grabbed by Fran and Barbie.
“Isn't it exciting?” Fran bubbled.
“They're not letting on who's won until they get here.” Barbie added.
“It's like one of those talent shows.” Fran burbled.
“Um, either of you got a hair band I can borrow?” well it was worth a throw.
“Sure, here turn round; I'll put it in for you.” Barbie offered.
Who am I to argue? She delved into her bag and moved behind me, I felt a bit of tugging then something poked me in the back of the head.
“Sorry, just a minute…there we go!”
“Thanks, Dad was tearing me off a strip for looking like a tramp.”
The PA brought any conversation to a halt.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a slightly damp Wuppertal.” The MC started.
There were a few chuckles and comments at his choice of words.
“Before we announce the winners just a few words about the race itself. This is only the fifth running of the Langeberg Junior Grand Prix and by far the most eventful. I'd just like to thank everyone for taking part and congratulate everyone for producing some exciting racing worthy of any senior event, I know we have some competitors here today on the junior elite programme who lived up to the hype and helped turn a potentially slow and dull race into something else altogether.”
There was a brief smattering of applause.
“We had three riders, local lads indeed, who escaped the bunch on the first lap and at one point had a lead of nearly two minutes, I think it's fair to say we all thought we were looking at the podium riders. But the chasing group never gave up and a late error allowed them to return to contention, driven it has to be said by one truly outstanding competitor.”
I started to turn a fetching shade of pink.
“At five hundred metres to go it still looked like our original trio would take all the honours, but as they say, never count chickens until they hatch! I know that I was as amazed as anyone when not three but four riders emerged around the last bend, one could have been forgiven in thinking we were on Alpe D'Huez or the Champs Eliseé, the fervour with which these four youngsters contested a very mature sprint.
As you all know it was close and our judges deliberated long and hard, checked and rechecked the photo finish picture, even sought out independent opinion on the matter.
But they have come to a decision, one I'm sure you will all agree with. So without further ado let's tell you our decision. In joint second place, we couldn't separate them at all, Jurgen Hess and Willy Obermeyer, both riding for Sporting Club Wuppertal!”
I've won, I've won!
I was bouncing about.
“Geez Gaby, anyone woulda thought you'd won.” Fran mentioned.
The two lads made their way to the front and after the usual handshake business stood off to one side.
“And so we come to our winner, the margin was small just like she is; believe it or not the official verdict is half a tyre!”
That got a lot of reaction.
“And yes I did say she, our first female winner, come on up please, Drew Bond!”
Talk about embarrassing, the build up was excruciating and then he tells everyone I'm a girl!
“Who's that then?” Barbie enquired.
“Where is she?” the MC asked.
“Come on Drew!” Roni's voice encouraged from across the hall.
“I um guess that's me.” I admitted to Barb and Fran.
“Well go on up then!”
I found myself propelled forward by the two girls.
“Winner coming through!”
With a last shove I found myself next to the MC.
“And here she is, winner of the 2005 Langeberg Junior Grand Prix, riding for the Apollinaris Junior team, Drew Bond!”
He presented me with the trophy and creepily kissed my cheek, ye-uk! The losers weren't sure whether to shake or follow the MC's example so I got one of each before we became the subject of an extended photo taking session. Apart from the mistaken gender thing I can see where Mum gets off on this stuff, it is pretty cool.
“Well done kiddo.” Dad gave me a squeeze.
“Thanks. You know what they say.”
“It's not over ‘till the fat lady sings!”
“I'd never call you fat.” He ducked out of the way of my slap.
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 14.09.09 © 2009