After a number of years of trying and failing miserably, I was able to get off work and go to France and actually see a stage of the world famous race, 'Le Tour de France'. I'd booked a Gite less than a kilometre from the stage 15 – time trial. With my Chunnel ticket booked and my recently serviced bike packed into the car, I was all set for two weeks in France.
The Gite was perfect. It had a view over a valley. There were only two other buildings in sight. The small garden even had a pool. The only downside was that it was about 150m higher in elevation than the TDF course that ran down the valley below. Still, I did the climb up from the course the day after I arrived and found it much like the climb up to Box Hill in the UK.
Once I was settled into the Gite and had made a visit to the local Hypermarket I was all set to transform myself into my real self. Back at home I was know as David Smith. One of thousands of anonymous people with the same name as me. I even knew of one other Davis Smith who’d been born on the same day as me.
The real me was Suzy Smith. I’d known from a nearly age that I should have been born female. I really tried to be a ‘man’ as my father put it but his idea of manly pursuits bored me to tears. The only thing I liked doing was riding my bike. There I could be alone and sometimes even ride as Suzy.
This holiday, I was determined to let Suzy have a good outing. None of the other cyclists who frequented my local bike shop and riding club, were going to be in this area. They were more interested in the mountain stages such as Mont Ventoux and getting getting their ugly mugs on TV as the Peloton passed by
I spent most of the first Sunday of my holiday transitioning into Suzy. I even ventured into the Pool wearing my bikini once I’d glued by false breasts in place. It was pure bliss to have my hair brushed out and a weight on my chest. By the time Tom Dumoulin won Stage 9 in the pouring rain, all evidence of David was packed away for the duration. Thankfully, the storms of the Pyrenees didn’t make it to my little bit of France and that night, I dressed up properly and dined outside on the terrace.
The next few days were good. In the morning, I went for a ride of at least 30km. On the 13th, I rode the whole of the Time-Trial course. Ok, so I took a lot longer than the fifty odd minutes that the pro’s would take but I got the feel of the course and it was quite brutal in parts. There were a good number of other cyclists on the road doing the same as me. A lot of them did a celebratory raise of the arms as they crossed the finish just like their idols would do on a normal stage.
I’d treated myself to a new outfit that was close to the colours of the IAM team but with a pair of tight pants underneath to hide my manhood. There was not way that I could ride with it tucked under. I did wonder if I could ever actually transition but my job as a teacher would be difficult to keep. Young Adults are wonderful but they can be really spiteful especially on social media. I knew that the only way I could transition would be to leave my job, transition and then try to get another job but I knew from the various TG sites on the internet and talking to other people like me that it could be hard to keep friends and families on your side when going through ‘the change’. I wasn’t yet prepared to subject myself to that so I was determined to make the best of these two weeks in France.
I watched the fiasco of the stage to Mt Ventoux with amazement. Those idiots with banners and flags had been getting ever more desperate for their few seconds of fame and something like the crash with Froome, Porte and Mollema was inevitable. As I watched it unfold I really doubted if it would change their behaviour in the long term. I went to bed that night full of expectation for the following day.
I’d chosen the Time Trial as the stage to watch because instead of the Peloton flashing by in a few seconds, you get to see every rider left in the tour over the course of more than six hours. I’d scouted the place I wanted to watch from earlier in the week so I set out from the Gite about half an hour before the road below was closed by the Gendarmerie. Thankfully, no one was really close to my preferred position so I parked the bike and settled down for the day. I’d even bought a collapsible chair with me so I’d be pretty comfortable for the day.
My spot was well shaded from the sun but the wind that had affected the previous stage was still evident. I listened to the radio so that I was aware of each rider setting off on their run. I had a list of start times on my Tablet so I was able to keep well abreast of events.
Watching the leaders go by, straining every sinew in their body was exciting and well worth the trouble of bagging my spot early.
That evening, the wind had dropped so I dined outside once again. As the sun set, I went inside the Gite to clear things away and get ready for bed. I’d had a good day.
I’d just finished the washing up when my laptop bleeped. It had received an email. I almost left it until the following morning but almost three quarters of a bottle of fine wine had worked its magic on me so I opened the email application to see who was sending me something.
When I read it, I got a shock.
I’m in the cottage across the valley. I saw you watching the race today. How could I miss your bike eh? After all, how many BMC Teammachines have there been painted in Watford Colours?
Oh, that dress you were wearing tonight was very nice. Was it silk? It looked like it is from over here.
If you fancy a companion on your ride tomorrow, then I’ll be waiting for you close to where you watched the stage today at 07:30. I know a nice place for Lunch. My shout.
PS, I’ll be the blonde on the Cannondale.
You could have knocked me over with a feather. How? What? Why? And a thousand other questions went through my mind.
I saw the clock pass 02:00 before I fell asleep. I just had too much on my mind. In the end I guess I accepted that sooner or later, I’d meet someone who knew me in my forays as Suzi. I never dreamed that it would be in this part of France.
It was just before 07:00 when I decided that I would go. My Granddad always used to say that it was better to face up to things rather than run away. They had gotten me into lots of trouble at school but old habits and all that so I got ready and went down the hill to meet the mysterious ‘L’. If things turned bad or just too embarrassing, then I could just backup and run home with my tail between my legs.
As I turned onto the road where the TdF have been along the previous day, I spied a single person with a bike standing by the side of the road. She was blonde and I could see the ‘Cannondale’ lettering on the frame.
I swallowed hard as I pulled up alongside her. She was gobsmackingly stunningly beautiful especially in her one piece riding outfit so I had to be careful not to let my drooping mouth hit the floor. In that skin-tight outfit, she would drive many men to distraction in a trice.
“H…hello,” I spluttered.
The broad smile on her face told me that she was pleased to see me.
“Hello. I’m Louise.”
“H… Hi. I’m Suzi.”
Without waiting for me to start up a conversation she got on her bike. She turned her head and said,
“Ready for a ride?”
I think I must have nodded my head because she set off down the road.
She set such a pace that it took me almost half a ‘k’ to get on her wheel. As I did so, she eased up and let out a little laugh. I knew then that she was testing me.
The testing carried on for a good hour and a half. We did two climbs up into the beautiful department of the Ardeche. Finally, we went downhill into a Village where she stopped. I arrived almost 30 seconds later. She literally threw her bike round the hairpins like a real ‘pro’. I was left well behind. I felt relieved to find her waiting for me by the village café.
“Did you enjoy that?” she asked.
“Yes. It was good but the downhill was a bit iffy as times.”
Louise just laughed and muttered, 'wuss' under her breath.
“Do they do Bacon Sarnies?”
“I doubt it but they do a half decent ‘Café au Lait’.”
I sat outside the Café while Louise went inside to get the Coffee’s. I’d already worked harder that morning that I’d done for years. I tried to remember the last time I’d cycled that hard. It was a long time ago. Probably when I was a teenager and went out riding with the local cycle club.
Louise soon came back with the large cups of steaming liquid.
“You aren’t bad, you know,” she said after taking her first sip of coffee.
“Not bad at what?”
“Being a woman.”
“Oh that,” I replied with a sinking heart.
“I expect you have lots of questions?”
“I do but I’ll let you explain first. I’m still recovering from that last climb.”
“I saw your bike the other day when you were out for a ride. I knew it from the work you had done at the shop.”
“You brought it in a few months ago to get the cleats changed.”
She saw the blank expression on my face.
“I run ‘Steelers Wheels’. People call me Lou in the shop. I’m Louise Steele.”
Suddenly it all started to fit together.
“So, you decided to spy on me?”
Louise shook her head.
“Not really. As I said, I saw you out for a ride the other day. Because of your paint job I knew that the owner was a man yet I saw someone who looked like a woman riding it. I followed you for a bit and realised that you were staying just across the valley from me. I saw you dining alone so I thought it might be nice for both of us to have some company.”
“But Louise, you could have your pick of pretty well any man out there.”
Her face went sad.
“I’m recovering from a failed relationship. The bastard broke it off two weeks before we were due to get married. That’s why I’m here alone. We were supposed to come here for our Honeymoon. He buggered off so I came here alone after all, it had been paid for.”
I didn’t respond right away. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say.
Louise broke the ice by asking,
“How did your frame get to be painted in Watford colours?”
“I got knocked off the bike by a man opening his car door. There was a big scratch along the crossbar so he offered to repaint it for me. I was riding away from Vicarage Road after the Arsenal game. He painted it in Watford home strip as a way of saying sorry. Simple really but does make the bike a little less tempting to steal. Now your Cannondale for example? That would disappear in a flash from a lot of places. That good enough for you?”
Louise smiled back at me so I carried on.
“That bike of mine is a real bitsa unlike your very nice bike. I wish I could afford one like it. Mine weighs a tonne compared to yours.”
She didn’t answer but nodded her head in agreement.
We got back to our starting point just before lunch. As we stood by the side of our mounts, there was a sort of pregnant silence. In the end, Louise broke it.
“Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?”
I smiled back at her.
"If I can bring the wine?”
“That’s a deal then. Say six thirty?”
“Fine. I’ll be there then.”
As I turned to leave her, she took hold of my arm.
“Look Suzi, I’m sorry for surprising you like I did. I really didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that.”
I managed a smile.
“I very nearly didn’t come but to be honest it is nice to ride with someone for a change.”
I almost added ‘and didn’t make an issue out of me pretending to be a woman’, but I didn’t.
I decised to make a bit of an effort with my appearance that night. I’d only bought two outfits suitable for evening wear so I wore the same long dress that I’d worn the previous night. I teamed it up with a wrap and as I admired myself in the mirror, I thought I didn’t look half bad, for a man in a dress that is. I let out a big sigh and wished....
Early that evening, I drove over to her place and changed into some heels before I got out of the car. I’d really tried to wear heels and drive but after almost hitting a wall, I decided that flat sandals were the order of the day from then on.
I was about to knock on the door to her cottage when the door opened.
“You came!” she said in a surprised voice.
“I said I would so here I am. This is for you,” I replied handing her a bottle of wine.
She looked at the label and smiled.
“This is good. No, more than good. Perfect for the braised steak we are having tonight.”
I had to admit that Louise was a good cook. Far better than me and my rather pitiful efforts. She was also very good company.
Towards the end of the evening and the two of us were probably half drunk but nevertheless, I asked her why her fiancé had broken it off with her.
“After all, Louise, you can cook, run your own business and are if you don’t mind me saying, very good looking.”
“It is easy really. The barsteward decided that he wanted to get it off with my matron of honour. The problem was that he broke it off with me before asking her out. She gave him a flea in the ear and sent him on his way. The funny thing is that she bats for the other side. Anyway, it later turned out he’d been having an affair with his assistant all along. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m rather glad we didn’t get hitched. Besides, he was useless on a bike.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Don’t worry Suzy, I’m not on the rebound.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Now about tomorrow. How about we do the Gorges de l’Ardeche? Take two cars. One to this end and one at the other?”
“but.. that’s a long ride.”
“Yeah but I drove down there the other day. It is beautiful.”
“As long as you are sure?”
“Yes,” she said defiantly.
The following day was long and hard but it was worth it. The scenery was magnificent and as ‘Le Tour’ had moved onto Switzerland, there were very few other cyclists out on the roads.
Over the following days, we sort of settled into a routine where we’d go riding in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon while watching ‘Le Tour’ on the TV and followed by a nice meal in the evening,
All too soon it was time for us to return to normal life.
“We both have a long drive tomorrow so I’d like to get an early night,” I said not long after we’d finished dinner. Then I added,
“I have to get rid of these as well. That will take some time if I’m not to lose some skin in the process.”
Louise didn’t react immediately. Then she said,
“Ever thought of getting real ones?”
“You mean going full time and everything?”
“It would be hard to keep my job if I did.”
Louise looked rather disappointed at my answer but didn’t press the issue.
The following day, I didn’t see Louise. Well, I say ‘didn’t see her’ but I saw her car a few times in one of the service areas or in one of the many ‘aire’ rest stops as we headed north up the Rhone Valley and then via the ‘A26’ to Calais.
We did meet up again at the ‘Chunnel’ Terminal where we watched the end of the final and at times, very wet alpine stage of the TdF where a smiling and relieved Chris Froome was awarded the ‘Maillot Jaune’ yet again. Only the stage into Paris to go.
A few minutes later, the boarding of our shuttle was announced. We walked to our cars in silence.
“I guess I’ll see you at the shop?” said Louise.
I smiled back at her.
“I’ll need some new tyres soon, so yes you will be seeing me again soon. I’m riding in the ‘Ride London’ on the 31st.”
“Thought anymore about what I said last night?”
“What? About transitioning?”
“I’d love to but…”
“You don’t want to do it alone?”
Then to my surprise and before I could respond, she leaned over and kissed me.
Then she whispered,
“You don’t have to be alone you know.”
Suddenly my whole world had been ‘Deraileur’d’ and I realised that I didn’t mind one little bit.
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