Gaby Book 17 ~ Seasons ~ Chapter *21* Periodic Table

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*Chapter 21*
Periodic Table


I wasn’t the only one bleary eyed at the kitchen table, let’s face it, no one should be awake at this hour of the day, especially on a Sunday. Tea didn’t help a great deal and although Angela had done us all scrambled egg and frikadel, normally stuff I relish for frühstuck, it was a struggle to finish my plate. Urgh, I need sleep.

We loaded up and by quarter to seven were on our way, I managed to nab a window spot and by the time we got to the valley road had made a nest. I thought we’d be going straight down to the autobahn but instead we headed up into the Eifel, I guess Dad knows where he’s going. There was limited conversation, the radio making more noise than the passengers, the hum of the engine lulling me towards sleep.

A change of engine tone stirred me from my slumber.
A cracked an eye, “Where are we?”
“Just past Trier,” Dad replied, “toilet stop.”

Other bodies started to stir as we headed into the rest area, Dad pulling up almost outside of the toilet block. I was pretty much on auto pilot, I hadn’t needed the loo before but of course mere mention of the availability triggered the wee reflex. It’s not a service area so the toilet facilities are less salubrious and fewer and somehow I found myself last in line – it’s the little things about being a boy that I miss most.

The sun was out but there was a bit of a chill on the back of a stiff breeze, a breeze that might affect the race if it’s still about later. Ron relinquished the single cubicle and I thankfully slipped inside, it was so much easier for Drew. Of course everyone else was back in the car by the time I emerged; I barely had my seatbelt on before Dad had us on our way.

“How much further, Mr B?” Mand enquired as we rejoined the One.
“About forty five minutes,” Dad offered, “a few K off junction one three eight.”
“Anyone want Streusel?” Angela offered.
Oo, food, “Please.”
Angela passed a plastic food box back, “Try not to get crumbs everywhere,” Dad requested.

It’s Streusel, its all crumbs!

The road wasn’t exactly busy and we made good time, Dad might not be a lead foot like Mum but a clear road with no speed limit, well who wouldn’t be tempted to go a bit heavy on the pedal? The hills through which the motorway winds aren’t that different to back home although not quite as pointy, lots of trees of course – typical central Germany really. Off the motorway it was just a couple of minutes to the HQ, not in Tholey but next door in Theley – talk about confusing.

It’s not some fancy league race today any more than last Sunday, so whilst it’s an open road event there are none of the bells and whistles. HQ is at the sports ground so there will at least be showers afterwards but none of the screechy PA systems and only a bit of local advertising material at the start finish area. Angela gave Dad a hand with the bikes whilst the riders of Team Apollinaris headed for signing and the changing rooms.

“You alright’, Gab?” Ron enquired as we started changing.
“Just a bit tired.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you were on,” Mand opined.
Thanks, Dr de Vreen.
“Now you mention it, Mand,” Ron added, “she does look a bit pale.”
“Probably the early start, I don’t feel that great myself,” Mand offered.

She looks pretty chipper to me.

“We’ll see you up at the start,” Dad told us.
“’kay,” I agreed as I clipped in to follow the others out of the car park.

We weren’t going directly to the start; Dad had found a short circuit for us to use to get there, a chance for a bit of a warm up so instead of following the other riders directly out and up the climb we set off back the way we arrived.

“We got a plan today?” Mand asked as we followed the lane away from Theley.
“Not really,” I shrugged, “see how it goes I guess.”
“I thought your dad always had a plan.”
“He probably has,” I allowed.
“There’s nothing riding on this,” Ron put in, “we use these for race training really.”
“It’d be a major race back home,” de Vreen observed.
“I reckon we check out the circuit and riders for the first lap then decide on a strategy.”
“Sounds okay,” Ron agreed.

It’s a good job it’s not an important event, I really am feeling off.

“So you’ve got five laps, apparently the big climb’s at the end of the lap, about two K with a short ten per cent ramp towards the top,” Dad advised as we divested ourselves of trackies and tights.

Dunno where he gets his information but it’s usually spot on.

“No service today, Angela’s going to stay here with a pair of wheels, she’ll do the feed too, I’ll be the other side of the course, we’ll be in contact so try to get to one of us if you have a problem. You’ve all got your canisters?”

We don’t normally carry more than a bit of food but Dad had given each of us one of those sealant things today, I wondered why. The starter called out for us to form up for the start, time to get down to it I guess.

“Good ride, girls,” Angela told us, yeah that still rankles.

Today’s field is quite small by German standards, looks to be about fifty riders, no other girls but otherwise a mixed bag, no one I immediately recognise but there again we don’t get to the Saarland very often so hardly a surprise. It might not be a big event but after the usual commisaires safety talk it was the Burgermeisterin who waved the flag and set us on our way. The local Polizei held the traffic for us to join the main road for a short neutral zone before hostilities could begin after the descent to the HQ.

The three of us had started together but as the green flag started racing in earnest we had split, not intentionally but as the speed went up we had to get into the line to avoid getting tailed. These local level events quite often follow the same pattern, the riders all know each other, the roads and a handful of better riders dictate everything. Today didn’t look any different, for now it was a case of making the first cut and keeping out of trouble.

It was hardly a surprise when a glance back at the first turn revealed some sizeable gaps in the string behind, Ron was just ahead, Mand several wheels behind. As we dropped, not steeply, the speed stayed quite high with very little movement, I’m guessing just a couple of riders were forcing the pace. We sped into a village, the few locals about taking scant notice of the race passing through.

Dad was parked just beyond the exit chicane, good to know where he’ll be. Squealing brakes warned of a dodgy corner that turned into a pair of ninety degree turns, useful later perhaps. The pace didn’t return to the forty K we’d been doing but settled to a more comfortable thirty five ish allowing those still in contact to condense into a more solid peloton – at least for a bit. Through the next village and we reached turn two, by my reckoning we’re about 2/3rds of the way through the lap, we must start climbing soon.

“Bond, I thought it was you.”
The speaker was Michael Desgrange, the Belgian lad, last time we met was at that cross race.
“Oh hi, didn’t recognise you in that strip.”
“Changed teams, yours has changed too.”
“New sponsors,” I allowed in turn, “didn’t expect to see you down here?”
“It’s not far from home. It was either this or go up to Leuven.”

Our conversation was cut short by the first of a series of ‘attacks’, the second cut was about to be instigated. We climbed at high tempo for a short way then the pace eased over the summit as we reached another village. At the next village the road started climbing a bit more seriously, this must be the ‘big’ climb of the circuit back up to Tholey.

We climbed steadily if not quickly now, a glance around revealed a decimated peloton, my teamies were here but the fodder were gone, spread no doubt over a couple of k’s of the circuit. Michael was of course riding comfortably just ahead but whilst I was holding station there was little more in the legs. Ahead the road tilted further up, a slight right hand kink hiding the summit from view, thankfully no one tried any heroics and whilst even Mand passed me I was still in contact when the road levelled off.

“Up, up, up!”
“Hang in, girl.”
“Go Apollinaris!” Angela cheered.

I managed a grimace as I passed, today isn’t going to be fun.

“You alright, Gab?” Mand enquired as we freewheeled into lap two.
“Not brilliant,” I admitted.
“You do look a bit peaky.”
“Cheers, I’ll be okay, keep an eye on Michael.”
“The Belgian, in the yellow and blue behind Ron.”
“’Kay,” she agreed.

There wasn’t any organisation even now. The main bunch was down to maybe twenty riders, okay exactly twenty, sitting last wheel you can count these things accurately. I wasn’t feeling good at all, I could hold on at the constant pace but if it crept up I was close to snapping the elastic – damn, need to move up a bit.

Easier said than done, it didn’t happen until those double bends, I managed to out brake a couple of riders to put me closer to mid bunch. I saw Ron talking to Michael before looking around; spotting me she dipped her head, signal for some impending action. As we started climbing after turn two someone turned up the screws and in sight of the summit I lost my wheel and several cursing youths variously sprinted and crawled past, sugar.

I grabbed some deep breaths over the top and gave it everything to regain the bunch, a feat I managed just before we started the big climb. That broken elastic was prophetic though, when the lad I was sat behind lost contact I had nothing left to go round him. It’s fair to say I was struggling to even stay with him and on the 10% ramp my legs buckled completely.

Somehow I got to the top and started chasing for all my worth. I seemed to be holding them, maybe gaining a little but as it flattened towards the village where Dad’s stationed the gap opened despite my efforts. Gaby Bond doesn’t give up, I kept at it but pedal stroke by pedal stroke the peloton continued to pull away.

“What’s up, kiddo?” Dad enquired as I reached him.
“Feeling a bit off.”
“Nah I’ll keep going.”

Dave watched his daughter ride up the road; she wasn’t looking very good at all. He pulled his phone out and dialled Angela’s number.

“Hi Dave.”
“Hi Ang, Gaby’s off the back, tell Ron and Mand to ride their own race.”
“I thought she’d get back on, she came through just off the back.”
“It was over a minute here, stop her if she looks bad will you, you know what she’s like, feed this time.”
“Yep, all ready, and I’ll keep an eye for Gabs.”

I wasn’t going slow – just not race pace. I made it up the first short climb then time trialled down towards the main climb. I must’ve made some headway; I could see the bunch ahead on the climb as I joined it. But of course it wasn’t real, they had slowed on the hill as did I, I really was struggling by the top.

“You okay?” Angela asked as I took my musette.
“You can stop,” she called after me.
I waved back, no way am I stopping.

It wasn’t happening though; even going downhill I was struggling to hold thirty kph. I knew it wasn’t bonk, I’ve been eating and drinking, I learnt that lesson long ago, no this is something else. When I had to stop at turn one to throw up the decision was made for me.

Several back markers passed me as I pretty much just went through the motions on the way down to where Dad was waiting. I rolled to a halt next to the Mercedes and promptly threw up, my race well and truly over.

Maddy Bell © 13.10.16

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