“So everyone, tuck in.” he encouraged, not the right thing to say with this lot.
Dinner was steak with new potatoes, carrots and asparagus, not bad fare and I guess fairly easy to prepare at shortish notice. The food was excellent and followed by baked Alaska which had even Josh groaning.
“So Dave, how did you end up doing this?” his grace engaged Dad in conversation and his wife was soon in some discussion with Sonja and Angela.
“You guys want to hang upstairs?” Sophia enquired.
“Er sure.” I agreed.
“Mama, we're going to my room.”
The Duchess just waved her consent and we excused ourselves.
We were halfway up the stairs before I realised Josh was missing.
“Still in the dining room I guess.” Roni suggested.
“You must fetch him Gaby, come on girls.” Sophia instructed.
“Josh!” I whispered, beckoning him to the door.
He took the hint and soon joined me.
“Why didn't you come with us?”
“I thought it was like a girls only thing like.”
“Don't be daft, come on.”
We made our way up to Sophia's room, using the giggling as a guide.
“There you are, come Josh sit.” Sophia suggested patting the bed next to her.
It was a fun couple of hours, some real down time to relax, listening to music, comparing schools, exchanging stories, stuff that by her enthusiasm our hostess didn't get a lot of chance to indulge in. All too soon though it was time for us to leave, it's a long and hard race in the morning and we need a decent nights sleep.
The Duke and Duchess, it was now Ludwig and Marianne, were apparently genuinely glad of our visit and seemed a lot less formidable than they had at the wedding.
“Good night, good luck for tomorrow ladies.” The Duke offered.
“Thanks for having us, I'll ring you when I get home about what we discussed.
“Talk soon Gabrielle.”
“Sure.” I agreed.
We were back at the bus before I spotted the dress still hanging inside.
I grabbed the frock and hurried back to where the Taxis were waiting to wave us off.
“Nearly forgot this.” I panted, “thanks again for the loan.”
“What are friends for,“ Sophia mentioned, “by the way, is Josh always so quiet?”
“I think he felt a bit outnumbered.”
“He's quite a hunk eh?”
“Er I guess.”
“More rugged than your Max.”
“Well I um better get going they're waiting for me.”
“Okay, tschuss.” She pulled me into a slightly awkward embrace, “take care Gabrielle Bond.”
“I will, g'night.”
It was actually only ten thirty when we got back to the Hotel Find so Dad ordered coffee and we settled in a corner of the lounge.
“Everyone okay to do the team talk tonight?” Dad asked.
“Way aye, extra time in bed in the morning!” Josh enthused.
There being no dissention he headed off to get his race folder.
Ten minutes later with coffee at hand he started.
“Okay, big race, one of the key events in the cup competition so pretty much anybody who thinks they are in with a shout will be here. Not only that but it's a fairly tough course, single loop out into the Schwabian hills. There are two primes, Waldstetten at just under fifty and another at Welzheim about twenty later. The feed is between the two at Lorch”
He took a swig of coffee before continuing, “Now whilst the win would be good, and defending Drew's position in the series is important, we are really going for team position this week. Thalia, you are leader this week, I'll talk with you in the morning about that, the rest of you, out on the road she is in charge okay? Drew?”
“So, this is the plan…”
It was something after eleven before we finally headed to our rooms; I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
It wasn't far from the hotel to the race HQ that was housed in the Stuttgart Kickers Daimler stadium complex by the Neckar River. As you might expect with a prominent Bundesliga team, think Man Utd. or Chelsea back in England, the facilities were impressive, no mobile showers or changing in cars here. In fact the five of us used the five k from the hotel as a bit of a warm up which allowed the adults in the bus to get set up before we arrived.
Indeed by the time we had made our way there the easy-up was ready with a couple of turbo's and the work stand ready for last minute tweaks. We were doing things in style today, Dieter was preparing bottles and the ladies were filling musettes. We might only be a junior team but we were doing things like the pros.
“Okay team, sign on then back here please.” Dad instructed as we parked our steeds in the floor stand.
“Pretty intense eh Drew?” Josh noted.”
“Yeah but just remember that out there, none of this counts for zip.”
We reached and joined the signing on queue, exchanging greetings with several riders we knew, Hans Braubecker, remember Bremen, was unresponsive – he might be trouble today.
“So,” the clerk started, “Team Apollinaris, Bond, Grönberg, Luchow, Schmidt und Waff.”
“Waugh.” Josh corrected.
We handed over our race permits, signed the sheet and received our race numbers – 1 to 5.
“You should really have this Tal.” I mentioned waving my number.
“You're series leader, I'm just team leader.” She pointed out.
“I have to wear that stupid jersey again don't I?”
“Oh yeah, can't have you hiding in the bunch can we.”
We did use the facilities before we returned to the bus where our support team of parents were waiting.
Thirty minutes later and we were waiting for the pre race introduction thing, it's a bit embarrassing but I guess it makes some people's day.
“Good morning everyone and welcome to Stuttgart for the Daimler Benz Jüngere Schwabisch Grand Prix. Today we have all the top teams and riders in the Deutsche Jüngere Pokal Series who I know are all itching to get started. So without further ado lets introduce our riders. First our series leader, Drew Bond and the Apollinaris junior team.”
We moved out on the stage to where the MC waited.
“So here in the leader jersey is Drew, doesn't look much eh but this is a real pocket rocket taking after mother, Apollinaris professional Jenny Bond. The rest of the team, Joshua Waugh, Veronike Grönberg, Greta Luchow, Thalia Schmidt.” He indicated each of us in turn, “these guys really are the ones on form, in the Bremen Grand Prix two weeks ago they placed five of the first six and have been almost a fixture on podiums this season.”
We took our leave as the MC moved on to the next victims.
“Talk about make us targets.” Roni complained.
“Yeah.” I agreed.
“Look at it this way guys, it puts the others on the back foot, make them work for a result.” Tali stated.
“Aye, when you put it like that like.” Josh agreed.
We collected our bikes, lovingly polished and prepared by Dad and Dieter, and took our place at the front of the start grid. The rest of the field filled in behind us, best part of two hundred of Germany's finest junior riders – with a couple of English thrown in! The introductions took over fifteen minutes even with a lot of simple name checks.
And we were off, the start was outside the huge Daimler Benz Museum, we must have made quite a sight as we streamed past the futuristic building. Although rarely in sight of the water we headed up the Neckartal, through Esslingen and into the countryside. The first twenty kilometres took not much over thirty minutes and as we continued into the morning sun the road remained stubbornly glued to the valley bottom sharing the Filtal with river, railway and expressway.
The huge field, as seems to be the current pattern, seemed disinclined to do more than roll along. I was itching for some action but Dad had been emphatic in his instructions and I could see the logic but still. So the five of us kept station near the head but avoiding actually contributing to the pace. Göppingen hove into view after an hour of fairly easy riding and mentally I geared myself up.
Into the town centre then there was the turn, it's a climb of about eight kilometres to the prime and we need to break this field up. As those in front eased for the corner we used our momentum to slip forward so that all five of us were in the top twenty by the time we exited the corner which is when the real attack started.
Roni streaked off up the outside which caused a reaction from those in front just as expected whilst the rest of us managed a quite effective blocking manoeuvre on the narrow climb. Then it was Gret's turn, another big turn, replacing a tiring Ron, the other front-runners however couldn't afford to not react.
Of course one or two of the more capable riders broke through our cordon but when Josh took his turn the writing was already on the wall, the job already half done. A combination of bunching on the narrow road, the climb and a continually changing pace was already taking its toll on legs that were now accustomed to less gradient and an even pace.
Tali feigned on the right which opened a box for me to take the left, by now Gret and Roni were providing the block and we were out of the town. The road straightened and levelled somewhat but it was too late for a big part of the bunch. The easier gradient had some of our companions easing off but that's the way to be an also ran, we kept the pressure up and a quick headcount had us some forty strong with maybe twenty more dangling in the couple of hundred metres between us and the seriously depleted main peleton.
I could see why Dad had me and Ron ride at Kaiserslautern last week; the climbs here are not dissimilar. The road started to rise again but now our lead group was expecting our attack, so of course we didn't – can't be predictable! We were approaching the top and the prime before there was any movement, not by us but by a lad I recognised from that event in the Schwarzwald last year.
This time it was Josh on sentry duty, much as it pained me not to react it wasn't time yet. I didn't see who took the sprint but now our companions were looking less at me and instead apprising the rest of the group. We re-caught the escapees on the descent into Schwabisch Gmund and the grin on Josh's face told us who got the result at the top.
“Okay?” Tali asked.
“Yeah.” It's not what I was feeling.
Around the town then along the Remstal towards Lorch and the feed station. We tried to get some organisation going, the main bunch was still within reasonable reach, but it was hard work. It was only when Hans and a mate did actually bridge the gap that things started to get a bit more co-ordinated.
At the feed we grabbed our musettes and quickly transferred the goodies, action was at hand. We turned off the valley road then with a quick confirmation glance we all went together.
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 31.05.11 © 2011