That was something that even I thought was outside the box when Dad suggested it last night, it was certainly not a move that the rest of the race foresaw. The road curled around to the right and up, not hugely steep but no stroll either. Apparently we were following the ‘Deutches Limestraße', whatever that is, we passed some tower thing then the road swung sharply left and the climb took on more urgency.
Behind us the peleton's response was a bit slow in coming but the reaction did come pretty much shattering the group on the climb.
Meanwhile we had settled into a disciplined rotation, everyone taking their turn, all equal – well okay I was taking slightly longer turns and Josh being less of a climber was moving through a bit quicker. The road twisted up through the woods and we kept the screws turned up, there'd be a chance to get our breath back in a while.
The road levelled some then we turned off to the right, the road dipping across a small river before climbing once again onto something of a plateau.
“Everyone ok?” Tali asked.
“Okay here.” I allowed.
“Way aye.” Josh agreed.
Breathless confirmation came from Roni and a grunted ‘uh huh' from Gret.
“We keep it going through the prime then there's a longish descent.” Our leader advised.
Our tactic had so far been more successful than we had envisioned, certainly no one had come up to us even if our lead was still barely thirty seconds, well that's what the commissar told us, our service vehicle still held behind the chasers. The road jigged around a bit before dipping into Welzheim where we took a left into the village.
We rattled over a railway crossing then followed the lead car to the right whence it took off like a blue arsed what not. Of course the prime.
“Anyone want to take Drew on?” Tali enquired.
“Come on then shrimp.” Josh goaded having already started his move.
Even though we are technically racing it felt more like a training session, the sprint was not at full throttle, I just slipped past Josh on his blind side – well I've got my pride! The girls quickly came up and now it was back to business.
“Okay Josh, time to do your stuff.” Tali instructed.
I spelled him for the first section after the prime until the road started to dip steeper, the girls staying tucked behind as we raised the pace to around fifty K. where are the chasers? Surely some of them should have made the crossing? Josh swung off after a couple of kilometres and we restarted a rotation to keep the pace up.
“Lenks!” Roni warned.
Finally. There were only four of them, including Hans, and we flicked straight onto the tail wheel to have our first company for getting on towards twenty kilometres. All of the new arrivals were closer to Josh's build, I felt a bit intimidated I have to say.
“Nice move ladies ,” Hans smirked, “but I'm not falling for your crap again.”
I was ready to wipe the grin off his face there and then but Josh held me back, “time enough man.”
It was more mutual need than desire that had us all working together, the service was allowed forward, our lead was growing. There was something under twenty-five kilometres to the finish now as we picked our way through Schorndorf.
We had two options now as I saw it, sit back and leave it to the sprint or try to lose our companions but it wasn't my call today.
“You good for the sprint?” Tali enquired.
“Be better with fewer of them.”
“Okay, we'll try to blunt them a bit.”
She moved to talk to the others before signalling the move.
Gret took a flier from the back and whilst none of the opposition were keen to react they didn't have much choice if they were to stop her escaping. The rest of us just rode the bus much to the annoyance of Hans in particular. Their effort bore fruit and Gret was soon back with us. Tali took off before they could rest much.
Our route followed the Remstal, steadily loosing altitude that was keeping us in excess of forty-five kph, which meant that our attacks needed quite some effort to chase down – especially with the rest of us acting like a sea anchor behind. But would it be enough?
Our downward progress was halted by a long drag of a climb at Kernen/Remstal – we did as little as possible of course. Finally Hans broke – our tactics had finally forced a reaction and he tried for a long one with about five to go. He's a strong rider but not that strong and the rest of us whilst keeping pace let him dangle maybe fifty metres off the front until the road started the drop back towards the Neckar.
At the bottom of the drop we were all together again as we took the sweeping right hander, my team mates now gearing up to lead me, our designated sprinter, out. One to go and it was an uneven competition as first one then another of the girls took a hard turn to keep the pace up then I was on Josh's wheel with Hans and co doing their best to stay in contention.
The line came into view and Josh pulled off to the left letting me through for the final dash. Hans somehow managed to match my pace and we pulled clear of the others, the crowd now becoming quite vocal. There was plenty of road but my adversary was sticking to me like glue and pushing me towards the barriers, not touching but nevertheless forcing me sideways.
At a hundred to go and eyeballs out I was much nearer to the barriers than I could ever want to be, the choice was to ease off or take action and hope the judges were watching. Backing off was never on the cards so I leant to my right not quite contacting but hopefully reversing things to some degree. The bad news was that his greater bulk wasn't budging and it was taking all my skill to hold some sort of line.
I dug into my last reserves and with a final push thrust my bike forward across the line. Things happened in a blur then, he was still pressuring me and off balance with the last push I careered towards the barriers. I hit the brakes, but from like fifty plus there was no way I was going to stop without hitting something. The back wheel locked putting me further off balance then the front hit a grate and bang I was airborne.
“Urgh.” I seemed to have too many limbs and there was a lot of shouting.
Obviously I didn't see, but Josh stopped in a somewhat more controlled manner and leapt through the crowd.
The owners of the extra limbs were groaning and cursing, rescuers moved in to help people out of the carnage caused by me and my bike. I did a mental check of my extremities – all working thankfully.
“Drew, you alright like?”
“Think so, gis a hand.”
Josh helped me to my feet, ouch! My ankle must have taken a bang, not broken but certainly bruised. The medics arrived and for twenty minutes the finish area was like a battle zone as the injured were treated, my landing had been cushioned by several spectators who got the short end of the stick, a broken arm, concussion, bruises but thankfully nothing worse considering the velocity me and the bike hit them.
“You okay kiddo?” Dad had only just managed to get through to the first aid tent.
“I'll live, bruised my ankle a bit, shan't be running for a few days.”
I explained as calmly as I could how I'd been forced into the barriers then lost control trying to avoid a high-speed barrier crash.
“Ah the foreigner, beaten by your girlfriend again.”
“What the hell were you playing at like?” Josh menaced.
“Just going for it.” Hans taunted.
“You was pushing her into the barriers like, you coulda killed her!”
“Poor sop, all is fair in war.” He laughed.
Hans never saw the ham coming; Josh's uppercut lifted him clear of the ground and deposited him on the tarmac.
“You ever try anything like that again and I'll wrap that bike of yours around your neck.”
The look in the Geordies eyes was more than enough to convince Hans that it was no idle threat.
“I've spoken to the judges and lodged a formal complaint.” Dad advised.
He was just about spitting feathers
“So what happens now? “Roni enquired, we were back at the bus where Dieter was already checking my steed out for damage.
“They were already looking into it, I'm pretty sure he'll be disqualified, there are too many witnesses. How's the bike Deet?”
“Not too bad Dave, tyres are both gone, wheels need some attention but that looks about it.”
It was nearly an hour after the race finish that we gathered for the presentation, the PA screeched and the MC started.
“Sorry for the delay, as I'm sure most of you know there was an incident at the finish involving one of our top riders and several spectators. The good news is that there were no serious injuries although one person was taken to hospital.
The judges have been deliberating and have come to a decision so without further ado let's present the prizes.”
We pretty much knew the result but we had to go through the whole prize list, Josh took the sprinters prize for taking the first prime and getting second to me at Welzheim, Roni was given first girl and of course we took the team prize.
“The day has of course been dominated by the Apollinaris team, I'm sure they never expected to rule the race so completely, this was no easy stroll but it was their day. So in third place, Veronike Grönberg, Team Apollinaris.”
Ron proudly climbed onto the podium to great cheering.
“Second Joshua Waugh, Team Apollinaris.”
A big grin split his face as he took the second step and waved to the crowd.
“And in first place, Drew Bond, Team Apollinaris.”
There was a big cheer as I was helped up onto the top spot, yes, this is what it's all about.
With the presentations over we returned to the bus, where Dad and Dieter had already packed everything in advance of the long drive north. We were already changed and showered so as soon as Dad arrived we were pretty much ready for the off.
“I'd like to get some travelling done before we eat if that's okay with everyone.”
“I've got some energy bars.” Sonja offered.
“Okay then, let's go.”
And so we started the long drive back home. Given that it was now turned three we'd likely get to Dernau around eight, Angela and Roni would travel on tonight by train, the others were going to get some rest at ours before driving north and east overnight.
I settled down, having secured a seat away from the door so I could nurse my ankle, I slipped off my trainers and let the hum of conversation lull me to a restless sleep.
“Drew? Drew? You coming?”
“Food.” Roni mentioned.
“Oh right,” I swung round in the seat and went to stand up, “ow!”
“You okay kiddo?” Dad poked his head in through the side door.
“That looks well swollen.” Roni noted.
“I'll be okay, let me get my trainers on.”
Well it was just my ankle that was swollen of course, I could get the shoe on but it was just too tight to stay on.
“Sugar, looks like I'm staying here.”
“Tell you what,” Roni started, “try these.” She slipped off her ballet flats and passed them over.
“Hmm, doable.” I admitted.
“Gis your trainers then.”
Footwear swap complete I hopped off the bus and we headed into the restaurant of Bruchsal services.
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 02.06.11 © 2011