I waited patiently for my turn, Dad having instructed Mike and Darren to set us off at two-minute intervals before whizzing off with Caro.
“Ready , Drew?” Darren asked.
“Oh yeah!” I enthused.
I thought the two minute gaps were a bit unsporting of Dad, I mean there's no way I'll take Geth for six minutes and over this distance four minutes out of Manda won't be easy. However two minutes to Sal should be relatively easy – he says.
“Thirty.” Mike supplied.
I settled myself on the bike, confirmed my shoes were engaged and started some long deep breaths.
A final check.
Release the brakes.
“Five, four, three, two, one, go.”
We've done this before right? At ‘go' I leave the start like a scalded cat, sprint out of the saddle up to race speed before settling down into a racing tuck. Caroline wanted me to try a slightly different, energy saving approach – a shorter sprint then finish the acceleration once I'm on the tri bars. Sounds good in theory and this is my one go to try it before the Swiss event.
I'd mentally picked the sit down point so at ‘go' I made my usual effort, in what seemed like two pedal revs I reached sit down and the serious work began. Instead of immediately hitting the higher gears I kept revving a lower gear to build up the speed only changing up as I started to over rev. I was already halfway through Tremezzo before I really turned my attention from speed to destination.
Without the familiar rumble of the rear disk wheel the bike was strangely quiet, I could hear the tyres ‘singing' counterpoint to my breathing. I got my first sighting of Sal as I came out of Mezzegra; she was still a considerable way ahead going into Lenno. I snicked up another gear, come to daddy little one, heh, heh, heh!
It was still early enough that the tourists weren't out in any numbers so apart from dodging around a left turning car I got a clear run through the town. Then it was through Ossuccio, down to the waterfront and into Sala Comacina where we had dinner last night. No time for sightseeing today though. I got a glimpse of Sal as the road kinked left, I'm definitely closing the gap – and quite quickly too.
Over the bump in Colonno then its pretty much flat and straight to the Argegno turn. From two minutes at the start I reckon the gap between us was down to about thirty seconds and dropping. Into the town and I was close enough to see Sal preparing to make the turn, it's almost a hairpin so she was giving herself plenty of room.
She zapped right then I needed to set myself up, run wide, drop a gear, dab the brakes then turn! Out of the saddle into the climb, hang on, where's Sal gone? Off the tri bars now, keep it steady around the next hairpin then back into the tuck for the lesser gradient towards turn three.
There she is, going into the next corner, I was now maybe 100 metres behind but whoosh, she accelerated through the corner and disappeared. I ran wide again as it's a right-hander and repeated my actions from the previous corner. Sal might be quicker through these turns but I've got the straights pinned so that I was maybe only fifty metres back at the next turn.
Sal zipped around on her road bike; I'm sure my steed is climbing easier than Monday but compared to the road bike it's shite. I must have lost about thirty metres on that turn but the road climbs more steadily for a while, well apart from the blip at Cavrono. I was pretty much on her wheel by that point, I lost a few metres but less ground than on the previous turns.
I finally took her on the twisty ascent to Dizzasco but by now I'd pretty much given up on the tri bars. It's not a huge distance to the top now, maybe five K but there's barely any let up. Out of the village and, no it can't be but yes it is, Mand was labouring up towards Castiglione less than a kilometre ahead.
Mand disappeared from view as she entered the next village but I was climbing easily with quite a high cadence. I'm sure these wheels are working better on the climb, it certainly doesn't feel so heavy coming up here as on Monday. Then I was in the village myself, there was little chance to see up the road but I felt sure I was gaining nicely.
Six more hairpin bends and a final effort through San Fedele to the finish. I was around the second of the first pair before I spotted Manda again, fighting her bike for every metre. Although the gap was closing quickly we were through the next set of bends before I connected.
“Not,” gasp, “far.” I suggested as I more crept than swept past my friend.
The final hairpins took us up into San Fedele Intelvi; I had a final go on the tri bars but quickly gave up as I could feel my speed dropping away. Not far, keep it going Drew; there's the car, yay! One final effort and bleh, done. Mand lost best part of a minute to me from being caught, enough that Sal was only about thirty seconds from catching her.
“Good effort everyone,” Dad smiled, “we're meeting the others down in Laino so follow the truck down and we'll sort bikes out there.”
If lo pro's are bad at climbing, they are terrible at technical descents so the two kilometres down to Laino and our rendezvous point were slow. There aren't any hairpins but enough tight and narrow turns to keep Mand and I on the brakes most of the way. When we arrived in the village square it was to find the rest of the squad relaxing in as much shade as they could find.
“‘S alright for some.” I suggested coasting to a halt.
“We've had a right ride to get here man.” Josh defended.
“Yeah,” Laura added, “we didn't get a jolly in the car.”
“Some jolly,” Geth observed, “we've climbed the mountain twice already this morning.”
Before things could get too embroiled Chris interrupted.
“Okay folks, while the mechs are sorting out the bikes we might as well grab some food, this afternoon will be a toughie.”
“As if this morning wasn't,” Mark suggested.
“Aye, that first from the lake was a right humdinger.” Jamie agreed as we queued for our snap.
The food that Jemma distributed was another Hotel Como pack up supplemented with an energy bar and a can of cola.
“So what're we doing this afternoon?” I enquired.
“Steve mentioned something about a circuit around some mountain.” Darren offered.
“Not more climbing?” Mand complained.
“I reckon Drew's safest going up.” Claire mentioned.
“P'rhaps we should get him one of those step thru's for the downhill's.” Sal teased .
“For why?” I asked.
“So you can wear your skirt of course,” s he retorted.
“That's a bit mean.” Mand remonstrated.
“Bit below the belt like,” Josh agreed.
“Well I think he looked cute last night,” Laura put in.
“I am here you know.” I reminded them.
“It was only a joke,” Sal blushed.
“No a very good one hen.” Jamie observed.
“It wouldn't work anyhow,” I noted, “you can't get 'em with decent brakes.”
“How'd you know that?” Mark queried.
“My friends at school are always complaining about them.” I filled.
“They ride to school?” Claire enquired.
“Most kids do.” I supplied.
“Not at my school.” Mand mentioned.
“Nor mine.” Geth added.
“Right then people,” Chris got our attention, “we'll be making a move in a couple of minutes. We'll be doing two laps around this lump behind the town in a sort of race simulation. You'll be riding as two teams with Drew and Laura in charge; each team will have a designated sprinter and a designated climber.
Lap one is about getting your sprinter to an intermediate sprint point, lap two is about winning at the summit. You'll each score points at each point and the finish, the winning team will have the better overall score so captains, it's as much about marshalling your troops as winning at the two points. Winning team gets to ride the bus back to Lezzeno.
Just as a twist Mike and Darren will tell you who has which title on each team.”
Oh boy, I've got to get Claire to the sprint and Geth to the summit with the further assistance of Manda and Josh. It could be worse, Geth can climb okay and whilst she's not in Mark's league, Claire's sprinting isn't too shabby although she's not a strong climber. Laura's task is no easier of course with Sal as climber and Darren as sprinter – we'll see I guess.
The climb out of Laino is more relentless than steep, the road narrow and twisty as it heads up the slopes of Cma. Costone. I had everyone except Claire marking the others moves; my job was to keep Claire in contention by making sure she wasn't dropped. Laura had, as it happens, taken a more direct attacking approach, which kept my guys on their toes.
We all reached the sprint zone together in the end, Mark found himself boxed in by team Drew which gave me max points although he did break through to take second spot ahead of Josh. The start of the battle for KOM or is that QOM started before we got back to the climb; I sent Josh and Geth off on a long one. The bad news really was that the rest of my riders couldn't contain Laura's counter attack.
I didn't see who got the verdict as I found myself pacing Claire up the climb some distance behind the action. We never did get back to the action although we did collect the other girls, the lads were well gone. By the time we arrived at Laino, Mark was still celebrating his ‘win' although Josh apparently gave him a run for his money.
“Okay everyone,” Steve addressed us, “winners are Laura's team, so bikes to the van then on the bus.”
“We gotta ride back?” Claire queried, “I'm cream crackered.”
“I can't recall Chris saying that.” Steve observed with a grin.
Thinking about it all he said was that the winners got to ride the bus back.
“Go on then, bikes to the mechs – unless you want to ride back?”
No one needed telling a second time, the smug expressions on the victors faces were soon replaced when they realised they had been had.
We got back to the Hotel Como just turned five thirty, tired sweaty and hungry.
“Before you all disappear to shower, remember dinner is earlier tonight, Giovanni wants everyone at table for six thirty okay?” Caroline informed us.
“Sooner the better like, I'm starved.” Josh noted as we headed inside.
“So you need a skirt again tonight Drew?” Laura asked.
“Nah, think I'll live today, it's mostly all scabbed up now.” At any rate I am not doing the skirt thing again.
“What about you Mark?” Manda suggested.
“Think I'll take a rain check.” He replied with a chuckle.
“You guys are no fun!” Sal mentioned.
“Maybe you could wear one like.” Josh put forward.
“It's no fun if we do it.” Claire stated.
“'Tis for us.” Jamie grinned.
“Drew? Come see me when you've showered, I need to check your side.” Jemma called up the staircase.
Looks like I need to shake a leg.
“Er sure, it's a lot better today.”
“I still need to check it, don't want an infection do we.”
Obviously not, “Usual room I guess ? ”
“I've not moved.”
“Half hour then.” I sighed.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 12.07.13