On The Line
It was all a bit of a blur, the wet road, the competition giving it their all. Three riders were chucking their bikes around in front of me before I lit the blue touch paper; I spotted a gap and aimed for it. Sprinting is very cut and thrust, no easy ride if you want to win and the gap wasn't big.
My size allowed me slip under the elbows and keep going forward, the effect like a cork exploding out of a bottle. The line was close, the competition closer, no chance to relax. The red mist started to descend, grip the bars, keep pumping, hold it steady. I flashed through the finish and fully opened eyes I barely recall closing before ramming on the brakes to avoid a painful repeat of Stuttgart.
Dad was there and caught me as my chest heaved and I gulped in lung fulls of the moist Holstein air. All around me other riders were arriving, one didn't quite stop in time and sent an official flying – it's not just the riders who are at risk! The rest of the team were soon all around us, hugs, backslaps, grins, the whole gamut of emotions.
"And in third place for Team Apollinaris, Greta Luchow!"
Gret left the shelter of the team umbrella and climbed onto the podium to a round of cheering from our camp.
"Second place at half a wheel, Hans Brondby of Radsport Flensburg."
Another round of cheering from the northerner's supporters covered his ascent of the podium.
"Our winner today and series leader, Drew Bond!"
It wasn't just our lot that cheered this time; I got a good response from the bedraggled crowd as I climbed to the top of the blocks. It was a bit embarrassing to realise that even on the higher step Brondby stood over me and Gret wasn't so far behind. We'd done it though, another double podium and the others were up there too, even Josh who had piled on the pressure all day.
The awards ceremony was thankfully shorter than it might have been, the disgusting weather curtailing the speeches. It wasn't quite an Apollinaris whitewash, Stefan from Paulaner took the point's award, but we got the team and Josh got most aggressive rider – poor reward for all his effort.
“Okay , everyone, back to the hotel then dinner.” Dad announced.
“Is it okay if my parents join us?” Tali enquired.
“Of course, they know where we are?”
“I'll come with them.”
“Okay everyone let's shake a leg.”
Although there were changing facilities at the finish Dad had, as had become common practice, arranged a late checkout at our accommodation. As soon as the bikes were loaded our damp ensemble headed back to the river and the Holiday Inn.
“Nice ride, kids ? ” Dad called back as we passed the airport.
“Uh huh.” I grunted.
“You too, Roni ? ” Dad mentioned.
“I didn't podium , ” she sighed.
“You didn't have to, fifth is bloody good you know, you still go into the recess with a fifty point lead.” Dad enthused.
“Yeah but Gret…”
“Gret did great, you did great, the three of you girls have enough points that you could all not ride again this season and you'd maintain your placings in the competition.”
“But nothing , Roni, you've all ridden yourselves into the ground this season.”
Ron visibly puffed up.
“You're quiet, Drew.” Dad suggested.
“Not you too, you've won the series you know?”
“There's loads more events.”
“Only four are points scoring and only your top six placings count, no one else is within a remote touch.”
“Here we go, down in the restaurant in thirty.” Dad instructed as we piled out of the bus.
I pulled my wet kit off, urgh! Wet socks and wet shorts smell gross! I might have been first across the line and according to Dad I've won the series too but I still feel like crap. I let the hot water play over my back, slowly relaxing my muscles, so nice so…
“Drew? Drew? You okay?”
“Should I ring for Notarzt?” I heard Angela ask.
“Drew, can you hear me, lad?”
“Please Ang, I think he's in shock.”
Roni's mum left the wet room; Dave grabbed the towels and wrapped his offspring, holding Drew in a tight hug.
“Hold on, Drew, stay with us lad, please.” Dave looked at the spreading redness on the towels and shower floor in tears, “sorry Kiddo, I should have noticed there was something amiss on the bus.”
“On their way, Dave.” Angela advised, “we should get her out here, in the dry.”
“Yeah, er sure.”
Between them they manoeuvred the barely lucid form of the wunderkind out into the main room and onto one of the beds. The emergency medics arrived a moment later, they must have been close by, and soon all Dave could do was watch.
“What's happened?” Sonja enquired when Angela returned to the restaurant, “We saw the paramedics.”
“Drew's collapsed, we found her in the shower, she's lost a lot of blood.”
“What's happening like?” Josh asked when the two women continued to babble away in German.
“Its Drew, he's collapsed.” Tali filled him in in English.
“The daft bugger!”
All thoughts of eating were gone as their focus moved to Drew's well being. Angela spotted the arrival of an ambulance outside and left the others to get some news.
“We'll get the train.” Angela told Dave a couple of hours later, “ You sure you'll be okay on your own?”
“The Schmidt's have offered a bed for as long as needed, the doctors seem confident we can get him transferred home in the next couple of days.”
“Well you know our thoughts are with you both.”
“Thanks, Ang, sorry about…”
“Dave, don't be so daft, you looked out for Roni last year, you look out for all of them so don't for one second think you are letting anyone down, all that matters is that Drew gets well okay?”
“Henry's going to drop me and the girl at the Bahnhof so I'd best not keep the poor chap waiting, keep me posted eh and ring Jenny.”
“I will, have a safe trip, you've got enough money?”
“We've been through this Dave.” She pulled him into a hug and held him tight, “ Now go in there and look after that child, eh.”
Angela Grönberg wiped more than a single tear from her eye as she hurried away from the female medical ward.
“Where am I, what happened?”
“Hospital in Hamburg, what do you remember?”
“I wasn't feeling great, I know I got in the shower.”
“That's where Angela and I found you, you must have blacked out and slipped.”
He didn't want to mention the blood just yet.
“Kay, s'why ‘m I here?”
“The Doc thought you were a bit anaemic, you've had a transfusion of some fully loaded red stuff.”
“That like doping?”
“I think the authorities might overlook it this time. You have been taking your supplements?”
“Course, so when do we go home, Roni'll be itching to go.”
“They left,” Dave checked his watch, “about three hours ago, it's nearly nine now.”
“You should get some sleep.”
“I left a message with George, your sister will let your friends know.”
It was like a switch, one moment he was talking and smiling, the next he was gone.
“Jen,” George called out to his star rider, “a moment please.”
Jenny left the other girls arguing over some inconsequential thing or other and joined her boss in the hotel's reception area.
“I've just had Dave on the phone.”
“What's he ringing you for? He's got my number.”
“The lummox, what'd he want – Drew? What about Drew?”
“You'd best sit, Jen.”
“Why? What's happened? George?”
“They found him collapsed in the shower after the race.”
“Shower? Race? What do you mean collapsed?”
“They were all meeting to eat, when Drew didn't arrive they went looking for him. He was still haemorrhaging when they found him, the medics rushed him straight to hospital.”
“Oh my god, my baby!”
“What's up?” Maria enquired.
“They've taken my baby!” Jen wailed.
“There's been an accident,” George advised, “Drew.”
Maria was already holding her friend, “ It'll be alright Jen, calm down girl, George, a large brandy if you will.”
Roni stared out of the window at the featureless countryside, it might be the high-speed ICE train but she couldn't enjoy it. She hadn't been allowed to see Drew, her Mum was running on adrenaline and everything was just – why Drew, why today?
“You okay luv?” Angela enquired of her daughter, “I spoke to Dad, he's gonna meet us at Dusseldorf.”
“Dave'll ring us.”
To tell them what though? The poor kid had been stable when they'd left, stable but very poorly, was it just extreme anaemia and if so, what was all the blood about? Hang in there, Drew!
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 20.10.2011
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