It was all over before my mind could compute what had just happened; yes I've been beaten in sprints before but not in such a devastating fashion, not even against seniors. In my stupor I nearly lost second spot too but the line came too soon for any of the remaining riders to come back around me.
“Well done Drew!” Caro beamed throwing my trackie over my shoulders.
“D'ya get it?” Josh gasped rolling to a halt beside my heaving form.
“Second.” Steve supplied joining us.
Josh raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“Well yers did ride yesterday man.”
True enough but not the reason I crossed the line in second place.
I managed to get out of my bike shoes before the presentation which once again demonstrated how far behind we are in the UK, no podium, just a bloke with a mic.
“And in second,” Squeal! “place riding for British Cycling, Drew Bond!”
There was a bit of boisterous cheering from my teammates and polite clapping elsewhere as I went to join the lanky Londoner, Froome or some such who took third place. My prize, a small trophy and a cheque for twenty-five quid, clearly we do this for enjoyment rather than personal gain.
“Our winner today, defending his title successfully, Mark Cavendish, Manx Road Club!”
The cheering was more universal this time, I joined in the applause – he might have beaten me but there's no point harbouring a grudge.
“Excellent ride everyone.” Steve grinned when we gathered at the bus after showering, “Much better, you looked like a team out there.”
“Didn't win tho,'” I pouted.
“But you were in at the kill, remember, a lot of those out there, including the winner have got a year or more on you Drew.”
“You came in second, and everyone played their part. Josh, excellent ride, I'll have a chat with you and your uncle in a few minutes. We'll have a full debrief back at the Hall.”
“So how come that Cavendish lad isn't on the squad?” Claire enquired.
“I have to make a bit of an admission, we've not been 100% up front with you all; it's not a prerequisite to be on the squad for selection.”
Caroline arrived before he could go on with Mr Mark Cavendish in tow.
“Ladies and gents, may I introduce Mark Cavendish.”
“Er high guys.”
Off the bike and away from the presentation he seemed to be a bit shy.
“Nice ride man,” Josh offered.
“Yeah that sprint was er, fast,” I added.
“I had a good lead out.” He grinned.
“Cards on the table everyone, Mark will be going to Denmark, we've got four other slots on the boys road team and two time trial positions, we'll be talking with Chris tonight to make those selections.”
“That doesn't mean those not selected are necessarily off the squad,” Caro explained, “as you know we get places dependant on our riders success or otherwise during the season, both Drew and Mark have contributed greatly to get us 5 starts but we are still some way off getting maximum representation. We have ambitions for British Cycling, big ambitions; many of you will feature at some point in helping us achieve those goals. We will support you, all we ask from you is commitment and to do your best.”
“That's the pep talk over,” Steve went on, “if anyone wants to have a look around the planes you can, I'll bring the bus back around five. Everyone else, bus leaves in ten.”
As the 'meeting' broke up Mark sought me out.
"Good to finally meet you,"
"And you too I guess."
"There's been a lot of talk which I have to admit I thought was a load of hyped up tosh."
"You know, like rumours?"
"About me? Where from?"
"It was all abuzz when I was in Belgium how this junior team in Germany was like chewing up all the races and spitting the remains on the road behind, what were they calling you? Oh yeah , the Apollinaris Valkyries."
"Yup, I'm sure that was it, after seeing you out there today I can see it wasn't all exaggeration; that was quite a sprint."
"Yeah but you came past like I was stood still."
"It's what I do and like I had a pretty reasonable lead out."
"I never saw anyone helping you."
"What's so funny?"
"Caroline said you often miss the obvious."
"You provided my train, I'm a sprinter right, I don't do all that chasing stuff, if it wasn't for you guys I doubt I'd have been there at the end."
"I dunno what you said to the girls but like I've never seen girls do so much or get so near the finish before disappearing."
"Lead by example?"
"Maybe but I reckon there's more to it than that."
"Drew? You coming or staying?" Steve called over.
"Er staying, I just need my camera."
"Nice meeting you Drew Bond, I'll see you next week." Cavendish told me with a wink.
Wink? What the!
"Sure, next week,” I agreed.
We watched the BC bus head back to Lilleshall, that is me, Mand and Jess who'd sweet-talked her way into a lift with Caro and the guys earlier. We weren't the only ones taking a butchers at the aircraft, a few of the guys have stayed but they've already headed in. I didn't see where Josh and his uncle went; I'll text him later.
"Pretty impressive Gab." Jess observed as we walked up the hill to the entrance building.
"I got trounced." I moaned, I still couldn't believe how Cavendish dumped me like that.
"I didn't think girls would be able to compete with the lads like that but like why didn't you get the girl's prize instead of whatsername?"
"Claire," I offered.
"One rider one prize," Mand put in.
"Yeah, that's it." I agreed.
"Well doesn't seem fair to me, you were miles in front of her."
"Coffee and buns first?" Ms. DeVreen suggested.
"Oh yeah, I'm starving," I agreed.
"Guess you've earnt it," Jess allowed.
A bun, well slice of chocolate gateau, and a cuppa later we set off to explore this part of the Royal Air Force's collection of aerial memorabilia. Of course unlike cars, paintings or matchbooks you need a lot of space for even a mediocre collection of airy planes and this lot was far from mediocre!
The first hall was, I'm sure very interesting but its display of prototypes and test planes didn't stir anything in me or the girls, we quickly moved onto the hall next door – warplanes! I'd kind of expected to see all British stuff – it is the RAF museum after all, but there was all sorts of stuff from America, Japan, Germany and even Argentina from when they invaded the Falklands, definitely more like it.
Now before you go thinking that I'm some sort of anorak I'm not but this is like real history stuff. Photographs and Airfix kits don't really give any sense of size, of what they really look like. Everyone knows what a Spitfire looks like but what about a Mitsubishi Dinah, the one here is the only one left anywhere – there's not even any in Japan.
“I never realised they were so small,” Mand observed looking over the Hurricane.
“The jets are much bigger,” Jess supplied.
“Stuff to do with the engines I guess.”
“What do you mean Gab?”
“Well these old planes, the engine's just in that bit at the front, the pilot sits behind it yeah?”
“I guess,” Manda allowed.
“The new ones, the pilot sits on top, the engine takes up like all the body.”
“Fuselage,” Jess mentioned, “it's called the fuselage.”
“Well whatever, jet engines are much bigger than the old propeller ones.” I finished my ‘lecture'.
“Guess that explains it.” Mand conceded .
Sated with warplanes we headed to the newly opened, read not quite finished, Cold War hall. This stuff is on a completely different scale, huge delta winged bombers, Russian MiG's – even a Dakota from the Berlin airlift . Herr Ansbacher was on about that in history, the Brits and Americans flew thousands of tons of supplies into Berlin after the Russkies blockaded the capital.
It's not all planes of course, there's a collection of missiles and a few trucks and tanks and stuff as well. It's a bit of a weird building really, on two levels with more stuff hanging from the high ceiling.
“Hey look, there's a lift to the top,” Jess pointed .
“Come on then.” I might get some good pics from up there.
We made the ascent and stepped out onto what felt like quite a rickety platform.
“Whoa, long way down.” Mand stated after looking over the side.
“Hmm, still can't get a decent pic of that one in the middle,” I moaned.
You can't get anywhere up there so after doing my David Bailey bit with planes and friends we returned to terra firma, a quick spin through the gift shop then we crossed to the last building, a bigger hall than any of the others, full of all sorts of stuff.
Hanger 1, no idea why it's called that, was certainly crammed with all sorts of stuff to clamber on, sit in and marvel at – the Dragonfly helicopter was just amazing, I don't know how it ever flew.
“Gab, you coming?” Jess called up to the observation platform.
“We'll miss the bus, it's five past already.” Mand told me.
Sugar , I recognise that voice.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 25.04.13