“Alone?” Mand repeated as we finished up Thursday's lunch.
“I couldn't do that.” Claire observed.
“What about the rest of your team?” Gethin asked.
“Ron lives closest, bout an hour away up the motorway.”
“Isn't there a local club or something you could ride with?” Jamie quizzed.
I stuffed a last fork full of carrot and mash into my mouth before replying.
“There's a few sportive riders I sometimes see out but like the set up is completely different to here.”
“You must ride with others some time.” Claire stated.
“Well I do get to ride with the team when they're home.” I boasted.
“Team?” Geth queried.
“Aponaris dumbo, Drew's mum rides for them.” Mand supplied.
“Apollinaris,” I corrected, “they sponsor my team too.”
Our discussion was halted by big boss man Chris Toynbee rapping on a table to get our attention.
“Can I have your attention ladies and gentlemen?”
We quietened down; this was going to be important.
“I'm sure you are all keen to get out into the race programme to show everyone how good you all are. We are keen to see too but that doesn't mean we are going to throw you all into the first fish and chipper that comes along, this whole programme is designed with a much longer view in mind, World and Olympic titles, maybe National tours.
Much like the professional squads many of you will, we hope, find yourselves riding for in the years to come, not every rider will ride every event. We will be making selections based on your strengths and weaknesses, the terrain and so on. You will all get a chance to prove your worth.
Our first big event will be the Junior Ras du Cymru in three weeks time, no one of you,” he looked directly at me, “has a shoe in, everyone will have earned their place. That doesn't necessarily mean a win in the selection events gets you a slot, it's a team race, yes we want to win the overall but that will need a good team to accomplish. Questions?”
“Does that mean us girls have a chance?” Laura enquired.
“Good question, thank you for bringing that up Laura,” Chris replied, “yes, the Ras team will consist of the six riders Caroline, Steve and myself consider deserve the slots regardless of gender. There will potentially be other mixed squads and possibly a couple of female only teams. So I repeat, everyone has a chance to be on the team.
In a few minutes Steve will post the roster for this weekend, please read the instructions that are with the lists, failure to do so may mean you losing your place. Good luck ladies and gentlemen.”
With Herr Toynbee's departure the dining room became a hive of debate and rumour. Whilst vaguely aware that Mum didn't ride everything that the team rode, our junior squad isn't big enough to get into those realms so the idea of needing selection to ride the big events is as new to me as everyone else.
“I bet Drew gets picked.” Claire stated.
“Maybe.” I shrugged.
“Youse have more experience than the rest of us in the big races.” Jamie put in.
“Nothing like the Ras, I've never done a stage race.” I supplied.
“I did a two-day at Easter.” Gethin told us.
Steve stuck the squad selections on the easel they use for our lectures and beat a hasty retreat. We of course descended on it like a hoard of locusts, keen to find out our fates for the coming weekend.
There were two lists, two races, one Saturday, one Sunday at Birmingham and in Dorset respectively, being one of the smaller bodies meant I had to endure everyone else's excitement before I got a look at the sheets to find out where I'd be this weekend. I scanned down Birmingham, nope, Dorset, nope, hang on I must have missed my name, I looked again, five names on each list but no Bond on either.
“Everything okay Drew?” Caro enquired having found me sat on the car park wall.
“I guess.” I sniffed.
“You'll get a ride next week.”
“Why not this week, I haven't done anything wrong have I?”
“Of course not kiddo, if anything you've done too much right.”
“So why didn't I get picked?”
“Its not just you, Amanda isn't racing either.”
“Look Drew, Steve, me, Chris, we know what you have in your palmares, your experience, your capabilities. These other kids don't have that, raw talent in buckets but a domestic calendar of airfield races and hour-long crits is not going to win us big races on the nasty world stage. We need to see how everyone performs on what is for them the next level, your presence, whilst possibly giving you another win would distract from that process.”
“So you're saying I'm too good to race with the others?”
“Not at all, I'm saying that your experience riding in one of the toughest junior series gives you more experience, you know the moves to make, the moves we need to teach the rest of the squad, that's what this first week has been about, getting everyone used to working together and for each other. Do you understand what I'm saying kiddo?”
I might not like it but I could sort of understand the logic.
“I s'pose, what about Mand?”
“Well it'd look a bit off to everyone else if you were the only one not racing.”
“So she's the sacrificial goat?”
“Well I wouldn't say that, lets just say that we think her talents might be more use next week.”
“Hmmpf.” I think my thoughts were closer to the mark. “So what do us two do while everyone else is off racing?”
“What would you normally do if you aren't racing?” she enquired.
“Just stuff I guess, hang out with the guys, go shopping, maybe get in a good ride.”
“Same sort of stuff most people do eh?”
“Except for the training.” I suggested.
“Maybe, maybe not. Anyway that's what we suggest you do this weekend.”
“As if! I don't know anyone around here for starters.”
“What if I said that I'm taking a drive down to Northwich tomorrow night?”
“Where Gran Peters lives? Why?”
“Your Dad said that you could be a bit literal.”
“I've got nothing to do there other than make a delivery.”
“Yes delivery, your Gran is expecting you for the weekend.”
“Yes!” I pumped my fist in the air, “what about Mand?”
“She's invited too if its okay with you?”
“As long as she doesn't snore, Jules snores like a bulldozer, you can hear her all over Gran's house when we go.”
“I'll warn her, I'll take that as a yes.”
We slipped away before Friday night's dinner, our bikes on the roof, we both sort of felt a bit left out although to be fair to the others we hadn't had our non selection pushed in our faces.
“Thanks for letting me come Drew.” Mand mentioned as we headed into deepest Cheshire.
“What else were you going to do?”
“No idea.” She admitted.
“You'll like Gran, she's a mean cook.”
“I'm liking already.”
“You sure you won't stay for dinner Caroline?” Gran asked again, “you know you're welcome.”
“Thanks Josie but I need to get back so I'll take a rain check, I'll pick this pair up Sunday afternoon.”
“Give me a bell when you know what time luv, you can have tea then at least.”
“I will, you two okay?”
“Sure Caro.” I enthused.
“What Drew said.” Mand confirmed.
“Remember what I said, I've checked your computers so I'll know if you've slacked off.”
“Drew!” Mand admonished.
“Its alright Amanda, me and Drew go back a long way, see you Sunday.”
“So like how come you know Caroline so well?” Mand asked as we hauled our bags upstairs a few minutes later.
“Well she used to race with Mum.”
“Don't go spreading this right.”
“If you say so.”
“Okay I promise. So spill.”
“Well she's my godmother.”
“Is that all?”
“No one else is supposed to know.” I mentioned.
“My lips are sealed. So, we sharing or what?”
“No this is Juliette's room, Drew's sister, you get this Drew's room is in the attic.” I hadn't heard her coming up behind us but was glad that Gran rescued me.
“Neat!” Mand squealed.
“You can unpack later, dinner's almost ready so chop chop.” Gran suggested.
Gran had done shepherds pie, I'm not sure what her secret ingredient is but it gives the meat a bit of a tangy taste, mmmm.
“Thanks Mrs Peters, I've been despairing of ever seeing real food at that hostel.” Mand announced.
“I'm glad you enjoyed it, its nice to see a young lady with a good appetite.”
“My mum says I must have hollow legs.”
“Dre-ew!” she replied.
“I'm going to get a shower if that's okay.” Mand stated.
“That's fine luv, there's towels on your dresser.”
Gran waited until we could hear the shower start up before saying much else.
“Does Amanda know Drew?”
“Don't muck me about young lady, you know very well what I mean.”
We were both startled by Amanda's voice at the kitchen door.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 21.06.12