Luck of the Goddess
There wasn't time to dither, the peloton might take a little longer than us to sort out the foodstuffs but our window of opportunity was no more than a couple of minutes.
“The second prime is in about thirty k, if you fancy a slice of that I'll not contest but we need a minute there.”
The prize fund for the intermediates is quite good, to encourage racing, even fourth would net me two hundred Euros, so I hoped the lure of geld would galvanize them, Josh I already knew would go with pretty much anything.
“I'm in.” the Bavarian stated.
Our other element was clearly less confident but a moment later spoke up, “ Yup, okay let's do it.”
I nodded to Josh and he set to with one of his famous long turns to get things going. The others might not be used to this level of riding but they soon got the idea and by the time we traversed Plön we had a nice rotation going at a steady thirty five.
As team leader, Roni was having to try to outthink Drew so that they could provide cover from the hostile peloton . The job was made a bit easier when a dropped musette caused a crash, taking out several useful looking riders.
‘Thirty seconds', Drew would attack with ten!
She checked out what remained of the bunch as she stowed her food.
‘ No one daft enough to attack here, maybe a dozen potential ‘issues', I'll prime Gret ready to counter if the boys come back.'
‘What is he up to?' Dave mused after reading Angela's quickly scribbled time check. They were just supposed to get to the finish today, consolidate their positions in the championship before the summer break. Trying to second guess Drew Bond was like eating with chop sticks, frustrating, time consuming and ultimately futile. In that he took after his mother, George had collared him Friday night after the team's trip down to Koblenz; Drew had really blown the girls tried and tested reply to Jen's escape out of the water. Precocious talent, George had called it.
The bunch seemed to have settled down, the escapees apparently forgotten as they headed westwards.
Up at the front things were a little more fraught.
“Glad the wind's behind us.” Josh noted as we crossed a very open and flat bit of road.
“We need to keep the pressure up.”
“The big lad looks fair to blow now like.” Josh observed.
“Aye.” I agreed.
This whole move is a gamble; I just hope Roni an' the girls read things my way.
The sprint wasn't actually in Kiel proper but down by the quay. The approach was along wide boulevards before we finally dropped towards the water. I'd promised these guys I'd not contest things, I could easily have taken them but a deal's a deal, the neutral service was between us and the chasers so their effort deserved reward.
I wasn't taking part but Josh decided to make them work for it, I watched as the three of them raced as hard as if it was the finale. Our Bavarian friend took the big prize and I'm sure Josh sat up early so our other helper got second spot. By the time we were turned around and heading back past the Bahnhof I'd rejoined my breakaway companions.
“Danke Bond.” Mr Paulaner offered.
“No, thank you, there's enough on the peloton to stop all but the most determined from getting up.”
“I'm well pooped, Markus , by the way.” The other lad offered a hand.
“Drew and the engine is Josh.” I allowed in return.
“Stefan.” The Bavarian completed the introductions.
“You two going for it?” Markus asked.
“It's still a way to go, but yeah.” I didn't see any harm in admitting at least that much of the plan.
“Well good luck, we wouldn't have stood a chance in a big bunch sprint.” Stefan mentioned.
I couldn't afford to spend too long chatting, “You okay Josh?”
“As I'll ever be, man.”
“Good luck guys, see you in Hamburg.”
“Glück!” Stefan returned.
I clicked up a gear and within a very few metres it was just me and Josh.
“You sure about this, Drew man?”
“Not really, but it's worth a throw.”
“Aye, I guess we can expect company sooner rather than later, like?”
“Those two will muddy things but I guess we get a couple of K on our own before the girls get here.”
Well that's what I hoped would happen, even I'm daunted by being out here with just Josh for another sixty kilometres.
“Thought so.” Tali mentioned as the front of the diminishing bunch reeled in two of the escapees.
‘How do we react to this?' Roni puzzled over their options. “Gret!”
A moment later Greta slid alongside, “ Wassup Boss?”
“You fancy having a go?”
“Chase the boys? Too right!”
“Me an' Tal'll power things up a bit.”
Although flat the road was far from straight as it took them south towards Neumunster. The constant turns prevented the wind becoming more than a niggle, Drew easily sheltering behind Josh who in turn took what little he could get from his team mate. They were a good jaunt out of Kiel when the neutral service pulled back.
“Coming up,” Josh mentioned, “wait?”
“'kay.” I agreed, this wasn't capitulation, just tactics.
We kept up a rotation, albeit at a reduced pace, even so we had another kilometre on the clock before a puffing Greta rolled past us. I checked out the other arrivals, all of our girls were up, as well as about a dozen others. Quite a handy group – and weighted in our favour.
“You took your time.”
“We haven't all got your legs.” Roni grinned.
“Bloody good job!” Tali mentioned from behind me.
“Josh ok?” Ron enquired.
“Think so, he put in some big turns, the others were in a bit deep.”
We split up and joined the rotation which was going at a steady lick, each pedal turn taking us closer to the finish.
We slipped through Neumunster under skies increasingly dominated by cloud, the breeze having strengthened to ‘annoying' which encouraged a more rapid turn about in the bunch, no one wanting to be exposed too long. With five Apollinaris riders making up nearly a third of the group, there was a little reticence amongst the others to do too much. With best part of fifty k remaining we could hardly sit up, the chasers are still there after all.
“Drew!” Roni hissed.
“Yes mon Kapitane?”
“Input please, how'd you read things?”
“Three or four might contest a sprint, the rest – well a couple might try a long one, that kid in the blue is looking nervy, they're mostly watching us.”
“Yeah I picked that up, weather's closing in.”
“We could up the pace, close things down, could lose a couple.”
“Could be interesting.”
“Try a long one first, see how they react?”
“Your call boss.”
We were on quieter roads now, the route jinking about, lots of junctions and changes in rhythm, ideal for an attack. Roni had words with each of the others, something that didn't go unnoticed amongst the other riders. What can you do?
The plan was simple, Gret and Tali take a flier at the next junction, the rest of us block and we react to the um, reaction. Everyone manoeuvred into place, just in time as it happens, the front runners hitting the brakes for the right hander. The girls simultaneously launched their effort which caused a round of cussing amongst the bunch as they took twenty metres by the time the rest of us cleared the corner.
The reaction was more co-ordinated than you often see, several of the stronger riders doing the bulk of the work, stringing us out, all thoughts of a rotation gone. Josh was up there ‘not working' with me and Ron a couple of slots further back. It was doomed as we had expected, the quick reaction reeled the girls back in under a kilometre but information gained.
“What was that about?” Dieter asked.
“Testing the waters.” Dave noted.
“You think it's going to a gallop?”
“I don't think anyone in there is strong enough for a clean escape, Drew maybe but it'd be a bit iffy.”
“Yeah,” Dieter agreed, “oh shit, one of ours!”
“Your rear tyre's looking a bit flat man.” Josh opined after the group settled back down.
“Thought it was a bit squidgy back on that last corner.”
“I'll cover yer like.”
I stuck my arm up to signal for service and by the time we were stopped Dieter was there with the wheels.
“Gallop!” Dad shouted from the car.
“Okay.” Dad agreed.
The wheel was in, I quickly ran it into a lower gear and Dieter gave me a shove to get going. From stop to go maybe twenty seconds, the bunch seems to have missed what was going on so the deficit was quickly recovered. Roni and Gret dropped back to get the capes just as the first spots of H two O hit the asphalt.
With the arrival of the rain any idea of a solo getaway was diminished – yes you can pick your own line, yes you don't have wheel spray in your face but today, on the exposed roads of Holstein, being in a bunch has more going for it. We took turns caping up, no sense in laying ourselves open to attack; the other couple of riders with plastic macs did likewise.
Of course the finish isn't ‘in' Hamburg, can you imagine the chaos that would cause? No, we go as far as Norderstedt out near the airport and given I can see the control tower up ahead we can't have so far to go.
“As we discussed.” Ron told me.
Josh took point duty, the rest of our little squad in close attendance behind. The rain was being whipped by the wind and sitting at the back kept me out of the worst of it for now. Our tractor hit the front and raised the pace, enough to make it a bit uncomfortable but not so much as to string us out too much.
A banner announcing ‘5KM' flapped in the wind, each rider vying to get as much cover from the rest as possible. Josh's long turn ended, Tali and Gret each taking shorter but faster sessions on the front. Whilst no one was keen to help us, a couple of lads did take a turn up there before Josh returned to the fray as the two kilometre banner was passed.
The idea was to keep the pace high right up to the sprint and our big Geordie lad is our team's powerhouse. As we entered the outer suburbs of Norderstedt, with barely a kilometre to go, Josh swung off to be replaced immediately by Gret. The bunch was starting to get agitated, there were a few nervous moments on the greasy roads as people switched about then Tali took over.
Four hundred, I concentrated on Roni's wheel, whilst keeping an eye on the jockeying going on around us. Ron signalled me left, nearly there, I checked everything, an extra click on the shoes, confirm my gearing, ready. No sooner had Ron hit the front than the sprint started.
We were still a long way out but there was no choice here, I hit the changer and stood on the pedals – it's every man – and woman for themselves.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 19.10.2011