A Split in the Bunch
A Split in the Bunch
Starting the day by losing contact with the bunch is a bad omen. They said I was too green. I thought they were stuck up. I wasn’t the only one hanging back, others were too. Not too different from me either. Then, one by one, just when they were coming good, they’d disappear. I suppose that was good news for me. I dreamt of getting closer to the action, resplendent in yellow, comfortable in my own skin. Surviving training was the key thing.
Despite my ambition, I never look forward to the Sunday morning spins. Never knowing how long they’ll be, if it will rain, or even if I’ll make it home. Getting out the door is the worst. Squeezed into the lycra; then the suck-n-tuck to tighten the shoes. Uncomfortable from the get-go.
Rushing out the door, always 10 minutes left to get to the meeting place 12 minutes away. Cars flying by, terrifyingly close if you’re me. Then the relief when down the full-length of Main Street another cyclist pulls in. That’s when the back straightens, the arms relax and the head turns in the hope of seeing a good reflection in a shop window. The vanity of a club cyclist never wanes.
At the meeting point, there is a sense of ease, confidence even. I check to see what other pockets hold, this is always significant for me. I still didn’t know how long I’ll last, even where we’ll go. It always gives me the heebie-jeebies if someone says they’ve had a smoothie. Eventually after the banter, the new bikes and parts admired, the club captain gives the word, and we go.
From my view I can always tell who is struggling. I’ve looked back at enough faces now to know who is in trouble before they know it themselves. Panting, puffing, coughing. I’ve seen it all. Other signs too; some riders drop their heels, another straightens his neck, one guy stuffs his mouth.
My fate always depends on whether we get to the coffee shop in time. I breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of coffee and cakes. I don’t really care if they are consumed standing in the forecourt or on the hoof. It’s sitting down in the café I hate. All that shuffling and sliding on seats. I can’t stand the words ‘shove in there’.
If luck is in, I get to hear some of the old lads speak about my heroes of the past. Those who’d gone before me, the glory for the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. I most love to hear about the sponsored teams, like Raleigh, they had gear I could relate to.
Out on the road I get lucky when some riders announce they are turning for home early. This is good news for me, especially as things quicken up. It’s then I feel the heat coming through the gear. On a warm day I’ll brown, on a wet one, well don’t we all despise sogginess? I don’t like to see the other riders peel off early, it feels ominous.
I’m on the route home now, the twelve minute one ridden earlier today. It’s now like twenty and I’m feeling bruised. Once the door opens the clammy gloves must be rolled off, helmet unclicked, sodden cloth cap left on the dresser, coins and keys with it. Then the all-important Strava is stopped and that’s when I’m freed. A humble, but very well-traveled, banana. Did you recognise me?