Battle on the Boards
“Good afternoon everyone, my name is Chris Toynbee, I'm the director of the junior development squad for BC. For the next few weeks I am God, whatever I say, you do, if I say jump you should only enquire how high. You are all here because you have talent, some of you have already tasted success at the highest level, others need a little helping hand.
From today you will be training together, eating together, sleeping in the same accommodation, competing as a team. Let me make this clear, in my eyes you are all equal, the slate is wiped clean, there is no room in this organisation for prima donnas. You need to earn my respect, do that and we will go far together, give me cause to doubt your commitment and there's a lot more talent waiting to replace you.
Next week our Olympians will be heading to Athens, our squad have every chance of bringing home a medal or two. You are the future, in Beijing in four years time, some of you may well be taking part, for others your chance may be in 2012. Whilst we are currently quite strong on the track you have all been selected for the road, we wil l have a World Champion, we will have riders capable of taking the top of the podium at the highest level. Those riders could be you.
I shan't be doing all of this alone, on a day to day basis you will be looked after by my assistants Steve Brown and Caroline Alexander, you will also be taking advantage of other members of our back room staff from masseurs to mechanics. Caroline and Steve will be talking to each of you later and giving you your timetables. It is your responsibility to be in the right place at the right time.”
God paused and looked over the ten nervous teens stood before him.
“Okay then, this afternoon we are going to have a social event with a difference, out there on the boards you will have a chance to get to know each other. For today you'll be in two teams, A and B, all those to the left of and including Mr Bond are in A, the rest are B. All those in B follow Steve over to your pit, A will stay here with Caroline. Good luck.”
Wow this is intense. Having been out of the UK scene effectively for two seasons I didn't know any of my fellow squad members, or at least I didn't recognise anyone. The squad comprises ten of us, I think I mentioned that, four girls and six lads, the two teams somehow managed to get half of each.
“Okay team, a couple of you know me but for the others I'm Caroline Alexander. In case you think I'm just some random coaching assistant, think again, I've been where you are hoping to go, I've got the gongs and scars to prove it, I know what it takes. Now that's out of the way, how many of you have ridden the track?”
I raised a tentative hand.
“Just Mr Bond?”
“It's a four hour drive to my nearest track.” A gangling youth with a Scots accent mentioned.
“In that case we'd better get you all cognisant before the hostilities commence, bikes first.”
It would bore you to tears if I took you through the first hour of track skills, both Steve and Caro joining us on the boards and as the ‘experienced' track rider I got to do some of the demonstrations for our group too. The confidence levels improved such that I think everyone stood a reasonable chance of staying on two wheels for the rest of the afternoon.
‘My' team, that is team A comprised myself of course, the Scot was Jamie, Manda and Claire were our girls from ‘Landan' and Doncaster respectively, Darren comes from Norwich and Gethyn is from Cornwall.
“Okay team, winning isn't everything but I'll be giving you hell if the B's win!” Caroline told us. “I want 110% from everyone, lets go and give them hell!”
I'm sure the others were getting a similar pep talk over on the back straight.
Whilst we were all in our own club and team strips, we had red armbands, the ‘enemy' blue but in such a small group we could already recognise our own riders. The first event was a devil so we all hit the boards and started lapping, I was more than a bit wary so whilst Darren and Jamie were mixing it down on the blue line I held point much higher up at the back.
The bell was rung signalling a sprint next lap. In case you don't know a Devil is an event where the last rider or riders across the line on designated laps get eliminated until there are like four left who then sprint for the last lap. I'd already spotted the likely outs, and moved up easily to avoid being a tale end Charlie. There were a couple on the B squad with some track skills too one of which was clearly a bit of a show off.
Two more elimination laps, six riders left, by some fluke they had lost their two girls but we only had me and Claire, the odds were stacked.
“Stick with me, we can even things up a bit.” I suggested as we caught our breath.
“I'll try.” She gasped.
The B boys started winding things up, Claire and me hanging on to their shirt tails higher up the boards.
I launched myself off the banking over the top of the others, easing back once I'd passed all bar one of the others. Claire took fifth place forcing out the Ginger on team B not that she would likely do much in the final sprint. The pace fell back as everyone took the chance to get their breath.
They didn't seem that concerned by my and Claire's presence in fact Mr Showoff seemed more interested in showing off to his new mates. We circled for another two laps before the bell sounded, the pace went up but not enough to be problematic. Into the last corner and I dropped off the bend, my momentum carrying me past the competition close enough to the line that show off was already about to punch the air in victory.
My teamie had followed me through, not quite taking second but third gave us good points. In turn I did my own victory celebration to the accompaniment of cheering and clapping from the small but vocal group of watchers.
“Nice one Drewbie!” Mad's voice floated down.
“Sister?” Claire asked as we wound down over the next lap.
“Cousin.” I supplied.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 19.06.12