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PCM.daily » PCM Stories & Story Games » PCM 15: Stories
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The Life and Times | Axel's Army
jandal7
S4/E9
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Pricks and Pricks

"Hayden was shaking. Shaking with anger."

'They - they..' he choked. I just kept fighting through the bush, harder and harder. I didn't know who "they" were but I was already ready to wrap my hands around "their" throat. I looked past Rose, and saw what was a good bike. Tyres with holes in them, spokes snapped, scratches from the fall abundant on the frame. The chain lay a few metres away.

Finally, I was bloodied and scratched, but with Rose. I held her by the shoulders. She had no strength to prop herself up. She managed to get the words out. "Boys - rocks - pushed me..." I was shocked. Who would - I looked at Hayden, who was still shaking. Rose was bloodier than me, and her ankle looked broken from not being able to unclip. It was a big fall and I was a little bit glad it wasn't worse. But it was bad.

"Help! Help! I yelled. It was in a place without onlookers. If I ever found the scum who would do this there'd be hell to pay. After what seemed like too long, a man came down and helped us get Rose out of the ditch and called the ambulance. I carried her bike back up to the road, as Hayden got in the ambulance with Rose.
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 09:33
 
jandal7
S4/E10
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Hunch

"Boys - rocks - pushed me..."

We were silent the entire trip. Hayden was still red with anger, and I probably was too. How could, why would, someone do that? From what I could tell, a group of boys, probably from my year group, probably my classmates at Collegiate had planned this - planned to pelt Rose with rocks, and push her into a ditch with thorns. Part of me hoped they knew they were doing that - if not and they pushed her somewhere else on the hill, who knows what could have happened?

I arrived at the hospital with Dad not long after Hayden and Rose in the ambulance .We waited for what felt like ages outside her room. We were allowed in and found some small mercy in the sight of her on happy gas. She came out bandaged with a cast on her lower leg and crutches which looked like they were barely relieving her pains - she winced as she moved her arms to swing the crutches. I was still shocked.

Naturally, I followed my instincts the next day and poked around town to try and find these dickheads. Of course, I had a hunch the size of the cuts I still sported about who it would be. I kind of hoped it was them, as I'd been relishing the thought of standing up to them. They were a mix of year 12 and 13 - physically I was a weed (perfect for cycling) but naturally I could kick - and stereotypically I was much smarter than them.

So I headed down to the river - I presumed they'd be smoking and measuring penises around there - and just my luck: Hayden had the same thoughts and was shouting at them. As much as I knew he was about to be hit I knew I had to assist him smartly. Wait. They were right on the wharf. Perfect.

With a big shove as they swung at Hayden and a deafening splash they were in the water. Hayden looked out of breath and fired up but he grinned at me as they waved their arms frenetically, trying to reach the shore again. I didn't think up to this part. No bikes and we can't outrun them. Can't we? Hoping their wet clothes bogged them down, we turned and pelted across the bridge. We couldn't get all the way home running when they'd just get a car. We needed to lose them, then make our way back as far as a friendly farm. They stumbled up onto the shore, and it was time to think on the run.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 07:10
 
welker3257
Why didn't they bring their bikes?
Gig 'em Aggies

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jandal7
A blend of stupidity, risk of losing a lot of money to these people and perhaps some bad memories?

God that cringy writing Pfft
30/12/14 - matt17br said "Sutty's birthday is more important than [Jesus' Birthday]"
24/2/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don’t drink famous people.”
8/12/13 - welker3257 said [when asked for a cyclist beginning with K] "Tom Boonen."

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [Doomed] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing
[CX] Listerijns & Kiwis

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3x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x3
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jandal7
S4/E11
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Chase

"No bikes and we can't outrun them. Can't we?"

I pelted, trying to stick to Hayden's heels. We crossed the Whanganui River, and I chanced a look back. Yep, they were coming. It's a wide river and we were in our rhythm as we headed into the trees. I wished I'd biked here. But in all honesty, chances were something would've happened to it anyway.

They were three of the biggest dickheads in town, but they all lived on the side of the river we just left - so hopefully no cars were involved. No time to check our phones, though no buses would be going back out to the country for the rest of the night. Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap. We just had to keep running. Hopefully they'd get bored. I wasn't liking our prospects of getting home for a good few hours though, and I doubt we could hold them off. For now, we had to stay away from them until they got bored.

And so we ran. Keeping it smart, trying to lose them. Whenever I looked back, they were always just in sight. They'd taken their shirts off, losing some damp clothes that'd bog them down and giving me an unwelcome reminder of their upper body strength. We ran until we had to jog, and perhaps unwisely didn't go straight to the edge of town. Maybe unwisely didn't just ask a friend to borrow a bike. Would have wasted time anyway. Until, under the streetlights, we were caught.

I felt the impact of hitting the deck before I registered the flash of dull night colours and the black of the ground. I heard Hayden being tackled too. Jeez, no wonder these guys were good rugby players. They had a brute tackle, and I wouldn't like to defend against them either. They let go and left us to soak in the impact before dragging us up. Monologue, who do we think we are, etc., until:

"Do you really think she'll get with you if she sees you like this?" the leader said to Hayden as he spat on him. I stared blankly. Suddenly, Hayden and I swung and swung at kicked and kicked. We lashed out in rage. The red mist swirled around my every thought, I wanted to land one good kick, I didn't care where - but I had a rough idea. One punch across one of their smug, evil, faces, would satisfy me.

I was tearing up and I was just so, very, angry. It wasn't me, that's far and away the most worked up I've ever got. But I wasn't myself at all that day. They'd leave me here battered no matter what. I'd wake up wondering where the hell I was, next to Hayden unless they were feeling extra sadistic. And I did get in that one good kick in that one satisfying spot. And then everything went black (how's that for a cliche end?)
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 08:03
 
jandal7
S4/E12
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Ow

"And then it went black."

Well, it didn't quite go black. More I woke up in the darkness, disorientated as a penguin in a Saharan village. I tried to recall what happened, but how I ended the last post was all I could remember even now. After a while, I sat up. My eyes adjusted to the night and I looked down the road. I hadn't moved since when I went out. My everywhere was sore but I wanted to find Hayden and find a bus. My phone was gone, typical.

Hayden was lying on the other side of the road, and he looked like he'd taken a far worse beating. His face covered in dry blood, he staggered over to me and we wondered what the hell to do now. In the end, we had no choice but to go to a friend's, until we could catch a bus. His mum asked no questions but let us shower and gave us tea, and I can't thank her enough for that.

When we caught the bus back it occurred to me we'd have to explain this, but I wasn't in the state to try and come up with excuses or covers. I drifted in and out of sleep until we finally reached home, and we hopped out and began the long walk down the driveway. We knocked on the door. Mum answered anxiously but flung her arms around us when she saw who it was.

"I'm so glad you're back. What happened to you?" she asked. Dad was in the kitchen with the girls. He gave us one look and nodded to his room. I tried to think of a lie - or a way to skirt around our cuts. No chance. We sat on our parent's bed, and the interrogation began.

"What happened?" he began. "You've been beaten up, you haven't called, you've been away since three yesterday. We've been so worried. Just - just start from the start." he said sternly, but with great concern. Aw, crap crap crap. We couldn't tell him, we couldn't tell anyone. I looked at my feet. I guessed we had to be honest, Hayden usually was anyone. "Was this anything to do with Rosie?" he guessed, softer. We nodded. He sympathised but told us how stupid we were.

Mum checked out our numerous injuries and we weren't allowed to race for a week, and then see how it goes. She reckoned we'd both done at least 1 rib in addition to various cuts, swellings and bruises. With the standard 5 minute penalty for not competing in the next 2 races I slipped to 4th, Hayden 6th, with 8 races left, and 6 minutes down. It'd go down to the wire, that's for sure. And I had to recover faster than Hayden to hold my lead over him - at least that shouldn't be too hard, I thought as I looked over at him later that day.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 08:33
 
DiCyc
Why it isn't good to fight on a bike Pfft

Hope that they both can recover well!
 
Croatia14
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jandal7
@DiCyc - Yep, shitty timing from the boys Rolling EyesPfft Yeah they better get back soon!
@Croatia - Wow, thanks so much! Means a lot Grin
@ALL - Hope the three story threads make sense, one picks up after the episode "Romance" and the other two deal with Rose's reaction and some racing again Wink

S4/E13
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Recovery / Romance II

"Don't give me that crap Joey."

'So, Joseph, why did you get back at 8 in the morning after being beaten up?' Rose asked. I laughed, going for an embarassed but casual vibe.

'We actually just fell off into the construction bit - you know the one they just abandon and say they're going to "finish" someday?' I said I had rehearsed that bit. Who said taking Drama was a waste of time?

"And got knocked out for what, 12 hours?' she said, skeptically.

'No, someone took our phones so we stayed at Liam's place for a few hours until the bus ca-.' A half-truth.

'Oh don't gimme that crap, Joey.' Rose interjected. 'I know you two got beaten up pretty badly. Who did it? Why were you even there?' she demanded. I was silent. If she knew, she'd be angry, I knew it. She could fight her own battles, just she wouldn't want to fight this one. Her brown eyes locked with mine. 'It wasn't - you didn't? Not about what happened to me?' she realised. Damn it, I thought, I know I can't lie to her now. I tried to look away. She knew what my silence meant. To be fair, I think she knew from the beginning.

'Oh come on Jay, shit's sake... what the hell where you two thinking? You'd be the damn tough guys? Go beat up some first fifteen players? Some kind of knight in shining armour shit? I don't need you to go handle it for me you dick. They're absolute scum, thanks for confirming that.' It was a comprehensive put-down and I wasn't sure how to feel. She was right, of course, but I couldn't quite say that.

'God, you're stupid.' she added.


'Joey... aw man bro... you love her too don't you Joseph? Rose.' he said softly. I stared for a second at my older brother, his words not translating into my brain properly.

'I don't know. Like a sister, of course, I mean she's my best friend. But.. I don't know.' I stammered. Did I? She was pretty - I didn't fancy her but I did know that. She was genuine, caring, funny, down-to-earth, protective, all the good things. I loved her as a friend and a sister, I guess. But, did I romantically love her? No. No I did not, and that was actually quite comforting.


I fought to recover from the injuries to my body and pride fast and was back after about 10 days after recovering well enough from the former, having missed two races. Over-eager maybe, but losing 3 minutes and riding my bike is better than 5 minutes and not - double win! It was a time trial and so my position wouldn't move much, so long as I calmed my natural tendency to bounce around. Hayden raced too - honestly, I think it was a reaction to me deciding to ride as much as wanting to ride again, he had got it worse than me that night.

Alex would win (which reminded me I still needed to follow through on my self-promise to help him win a road stage) but with 6 riders to go, Hayden left the start for his flat 17km loop. He looked good, not back to normal but his natural talent - not for the TT of course but for riding - shone through despite his injuries. And soon enough, it was my turn to go.

My old rival Joe Greggs was 6 minutes ahead in first, 30 seconds to second, 3 minutes to third, another 2 and a half to me, 7 seconds to fifth, and 3 to Hayden in sixth. I knew I could beat them all except maybe Hayden - on a good day. The question was, would I have one. I paced myself early and tried not to waver from my position of clutching my clip-on bars, however much it defied my inclination to be animated and generally un-aero. After a while I realised my ribs didn't hurt when I was in this position, and wound up the pace more and more until the finish. I crossed the line 2nd and stayed there, giving me 35 seconds on many of the overall rivals, though I was a good 40 off Alex's winning time. I was getting closer to him as I began to take cycling more seriously than he, but the injuries kept me away from his time. Still, it was a return I wouldn't have dared to dream of - but there was a long way to go over the next 7 races.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 09:07
 
jandal7
@ALL - Going for 5-7 short episodes to finish us off race-by race Smile

S4/E13
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Long Chase to the Title

"5 and a half minutes. 7 races. It's on."

The next race was pan-flat and so I wasn't quite sure to attack or not. However, I devised a plan with Alex to go clear, and though I didn't tell him, he'd take the win. At the start I tried to stay relaxed, but my mind was too focused on the race ahead. With 5km or so to go, we'd go for it.

And so I stayed calm near the front of the group, whilst everyone tried to pressure Hayden, the best sprinter, into doing some work. As we repeated the circuit Alex pinpointed to me where he wanted to go. 'Let's just take that corner like kamikazes and gap the group'. Sounded good to me.

And so I did, not slowing down and cutting inside the three people in front of me on the sharp bend. Immediately with Alex on my wheel, we got a gap as we came to the finish line the final time. We took turns pulling and the seconds open up, Alex flying though I felt I was doing less and less as I cooked myself bit by bit. With just a km to go, I told him to go for glory. It had been fruitless for me but he could still win. I slowed right down and rejoined the group to try and save time and give Hayden a bit of a leadout. Alex won (he was a bit shocked) and I revved it up for Hayden. He took the bunch sprint and I held the wheels to keep the same time.
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 12:11
 
jandal7
S4/E14
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Long Chase to the Title II

"Double trouble: two hilly days."

Two countryside hilly races in 4 days. Funtime for me and some motivation as the finish of the first is right outside our driveway, ergo on the road I ride every damned day, ergo funtime.

I started the race with an attack. Unusual tactic maybe but if they wanted to chase me, they'd have to work for it. I managed to get let go with two other brave souls who didn't mind or didn't care of the certainty of a long day resulting in nought. Hindsight is a gift and I can safely say I was far too erratic, checking over my shoulder and "dancing on the pedals". However, after 10km of "no, guys, I think he might not be joking", an amazing thing happened. My rivals jumped across. Not all. Just two, one after the other. The guy in third, and the chap in fifth. We decided with a quick elbow flick responded to with a nod and a surge forward that this was us.

It was a short A to B course that I knew like the back of my hand. I was born on these roads (20 minutes from being literally) and I'd die... well, on a house, on these roads. I didn't know how much time we had, but I knew I could at least take a win. I attacked up the hill, knowing I could descend as crazily as I wanted to the finish after the crest as I knew the road so well. I left everyone behind and went into dangerous kamikaze descent mode, trying for every second to catch up. In the end, I made it to the finish alone in first, but not without a close call or four. Anna, Emma and Elle cheering, winning from such a strange move, perfect. I'd take a minute to the main guys, and twenty seconds to my companions. My gap to third was around two and a half minutes, a minute and a chunk to second and another 30-odd to Greggs. I extended my lead over 5th to over a minute and 1'20 to Hayden.

3 and a half minutes is a lot of time. I mean, the break I was in somehow wrecked everyone but it's still 5 minutes to make up a gap of 3'30. That's what, almost 50 seconds a day? Whatever, if it was possible I would do my utmost to make it probable, and when it was probable, well, you've got to go for the full monty. So when I attacked with 8km left, it seemed to me like I should have gone earlier. I put Greggs in difficulty, good, and towed Hayden and 3rd and 5th again, fine. We took pulls but I couldn't just focus on Greggs. I put in a dig again with a few kilometres of undulations to go and this time, just Hayden followed. I wasn't surprised when he countered and won by a good 15 seconds. I'd take another twenty on third and fifth, and 40 on Greggs and second. Here's the GC going into the final four rounds:

1GreggsJoeLeader
2AlexanderAdam+ 43
3HastingsJack+ 2'19
4VaillenosJoseph+ 4'17
5FafukaiMaui+ 5'31
6VaillenosHayden+ 5'40

Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 09:10
 
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jandal7
@ALL - Hope the GC is useful - mental maths for it gives me a headache Pfft

S4/E14
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Long Chase to the Title III

"I had to really bury myself to get this one."

Here it would really be decided. One race finished on the hill where I attacked Hayden and we really became rivals, and the other, the one where he demolished the field and I could but hold his wheel until he sprinted away from me, the Boxing Day hill. These two stages were classics of the series, and I think the organisers were happy enough doing them twice.

I'd retaken the red points jersey after my consistent stage performances and long-range attacks which netted me intermediate points. it was a minor goal for me compared to the green and white GC leader's, and of course, I had the newly-introduced blue jersey of best U-18 rider in the bag so long as I didn't implode.

But those aside, race day. The hill is long and gradual by our standards, but shorter than the Boxing Day hill. The profile looked like \____/, starting at the top, going down, looping around the climb it to the summit, where we finish. I used my descending confidence from two races ago to drop a few guys on the descent, and Alex, the amazing guy that he is, formed a selection on the flat for me. Adam Alexander, 2nd overall, was dropped and it didn't look like he'd be rejoining us.

It surprised nobody when I attacked at the foot of the climb, as I did the first time we did this race, and when Fafukai couldn't follow Hayden was quick to help me turn up the heat. Hastings waited, but Greggs sensed an opportunity to perhaps but the GC beyond doubt by driving the group further away from Alexander. I then went, Greggs dropping, but agitatingly, Hastings, the guy I really needed shelling, followed, and predictably, so did Hayden. Hastings knew he could sit on, Hayden sensed my irritation and worked with me, with a kilometre of tough racing to go he went, I waited for a second to see what Hastings would do. He looked at my face and decided to sit on my wheel. Hayden checked back and slowed a fraction, apparently deciding to help me out here, so I shot off to join him. I ground at the pedals, doing everything I could to drop him. I felt like screaming out in frustration but I knew it was what I would do in his position. Hayden and I took turns and I made a dig with a few hundred metres to go. Hayden got on my wheel, then sat up in a great split-second decision. Hastings had to go around and when he went around Hayden's left, I accelerated on the right side of the road, denying him any opportunity to draft off me like he had for the whole race. He couldn't catch me but he did outdo Hayden for second place, limiting the gap to six seconds.

1GreggsJoeLeader
2HastingsJak+ 58
3AlexanderAdam+ 2'48
4VaillenosJoseph+ 2'50
5VaillenosHayden+ 4'19
6FafukaiMaui7'19

The Boxing Day course, as you know, is hilly all day, fun fun fun, gaps gaps gaps, new new new, wheelsucker wheelsucker wheelsucker. Yep Alexander decided the best way to deny me my rightful two seconds or more was to hope I couldn't distance him, so he kept within what felt like 10cm of my wheel at all times. Hastings got aggressive, sensing Greggs' fatigue and so for once, it wasn't Alex or I making the split. It boiled down to the top 6 GC guys plus Alex (so the top 7) with still 15km to go. Hastings continued his newfound aggression and it seemed only he and I had the motivation or tactical reasons to work. I had a hunch Hayden wanted to get a top 4 at least and was saving himself, but Fafukai had no reason to work after a shocker yesterday despite his recent form and Alexander was visibly struggling anyway.

After a few kilometres of this Fafukai struck out for the race win I expect, I followed my gut and therefore his wheel, Alexander wanted to follow me but couldn't, Hastings smelled an opportunity, and Hayden continued his brotherly compassion by sitting on Greggs' wheel. I wasn't sure how to feel on the presence of Hastings, he'd be useful but also an annoyance as I couldn't make up any of the two minutes I needed on him. Greggs actually managed to bridge across and whilst Hastings looked back to gauge the Green and White jersey's posture and energy levels, I went off, Fafukai in tow as well as my brother. Hayden told me not to worry and he and Fafukai took turns at the front as he told me not to. The top two GC guys tried but Hayden is still the strongest rider in the entire race, plus Fafukai I guess knew if he could assist us and hold on he'd get the win. With 6km to go and the big hill kicking in, I was told we had 20 seconds.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 09:15
 
jandal7
S4/E15
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Long Chase to the Title IV

"With 6km to go and the big hill kicking in, I was told we had 20 seconds."

The gap was slowly rising but Hayden was tiring and so he made one last pull, gave me a nod and dropped off. I looked at Fafukai and told him if he pulled and was with me at the end, it was his. Immediately he seemed rejuvenated in his turns and as I took them too, we kept up the gap. Greggs and Hastings weren't gaining anything as it was two tiring guys chasing a fresher guy and one tiring. I didn't care about anything other than extending the time difference. With 1km to go, I checked back, I'd estimated around 40 seconds. Fafukai attacked, obviously not trusting me to give him the win. I followed and resumed taking pulls, and indicated I'd like to get as much time as possible. He locked in my wheel, I didn't care by this point, but I wasn't slowing down for him. He could come around me. I stayed focused as he fought to pip me for the line. As soon as I crossed the line I was done. I somehow found a rail and fell on it, my hands outstretched. I breathed heavily, my mouth hanging wide open.

After a while. I turned around and leant back on the railing. Greggs and Hastings crossed the line, 40 seconds down. Damn it. Hayden rolled in, then after a while, Alexander. I was completely done, and all for not enough time.

Next up was a flat criterium. The penultimate race and I'd have to have my wits about me. Really I'd be scrambling for seconds before the hilly crit, the Manawatu Opens course, in just under a fortnight. Alex forced a selection again, the bloody legend, and just kind of kept driving and tiring everyone. Top 6 were there but Fafukai was tiring. Another guy from my grade, Rutherford (the one who beat me all those years ago in the photo finish in Manawatus) who was a useful sprinter was there.

Hayden recognised his unlikeliness to change GC position and worked with Alex to pressure the others. I launched an attack with 9km or so to go and Alexander looked like he was going to follow but I attacked again as I knew he was still near Hayden. So he was stuck in the middle and likely swept up, maybe a mistake on my part. The hesitation from the group gave me a gap but not much. I got my TT on and with Alex and Hayden disrupting the chase and Rutherford, Greggs and Fafukai having reasons to sit on, it was 2 on 1 and I fancied my chances if I was going well. I rode well enough to stay away but unfortunately not well enough to get a gap of over 15 seconds. Hindsight gave me a very nice win to savour, but at the time it was just 15 more seconds. Rutherford took second, and I had 14 days to think of a plan more daring than the last 7.

1GreggsJoeLeader
2HastingsJak+ 57
3VaillenosJoseph+ 2'06
4VaillenosHayden+ 4'32
5AlexanderAdam+ 4'49
6FafukaiMaui+ 6'38

Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 12:13
 
jandal7
@ALL - Full credit to me if this fails horribly

S4/E16
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Long Chase to the Title V

"♫ It's the eye of the tiger/It's the thrill of the fight/Rising up to the challenge of our rival ♫"

♫ Joseph bikes coolly down the street
His position's very aero
Ain't no sound but the sound of speed
His legs are ready to go ♫

I waited in the pack on the first lap - this was to be a long hard day in the saddle and so I gave myself a lap of warming up before I attacked.

♫ Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser ♫

As I prepared to go on the hill, I waited until Greggs and Hastings made the most trivial of mistakes - getting boxed in. I was about to take a huge risk - but what choice could I possibly have?

♫ Face to face, out in the heat
Hanging tough, staying hungry
They stack the odds still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive ♫

I went as they were boxed in behind some other guys - perfect. They'd expend more energy than needed to catch up and face some time in the wind. Only Hastings, Hayden and Greggs could come - the true top 4 no matter the outcome here.

♫ Today is gonna be the day
That they're gonna throw it back to you
By now you should've somehow
Realised what you gotta do ♫

I flicked my elbow, signalling to all 3 of them that it was a long day ahead and we'd need all the gap we could get. I was fully committed - and I wasn't sure if they were - why should they be? Half-heartedly perhaps, they came through and pulled.

♫ And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger ♫

We got a gap and slowly - gradually but noticeably - Hastings became more committed to the move. We had still 35km to go - but a sizeable gap and reason to chase - all except Greggs wanted us to have time to play with to fight it out. Greggs, however, began to hang on the wheels even more. Damn it.

♫ Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball
Don't stop me now ♫

I attacked Greggs, of course. I couldn't damn help it. Hastings followed - as did Hayden. But crucially, Greggs didn't. Hastings immediately co-operated in a bid to gain time - for the first time, he betrayed his feelings to us and showed me what he really wanted.

♫ Did you think I'd crumble
Did you think I'd lay down and die
Oh no, not I
I will survive ♫

We kept up the chase, and with 20km to go it was apparent Hastings was in the provisional lead. This left twenty kilometres to take over a minute on him. Such fun.

♫ Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive ♫

I had to attack, synchronised with Hayden's clever neutering of any direct response. He couldn't hinder for long without being a real prick and so stuck to the wheel of Hastings as I began 20km of pain. But I knew Hastings would be too.

♫ I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me ♫

Painfully slowly, the gap opened. And opened. But it wasn't quick enough. I needed 69 seconds to win this thing. I'd say with 15km to go, I'd made up 20.

♫ Are you ready? Hey are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? ♫

I began to realise the pain shouldn't be so much, and started to pace myself a bit. My mouth drying from being open for so long, then another shot of water, then back into my most aero position as I approached the hilly run-in. I never dared look back.

♫ I'm burnin' through the sky yeah
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light ♫

I crossed the line knowing I'd done absolutely everything within, even outside my power to make up as much time as possible. When I saluted, I felt real joy in my win. I'd given it well past 100%, why be bothered now. I could be proud and hopeful. The clock kept ticking, ticking, ticking. But Hastings stopped it at 37 seconds. I went over and congratulated him. He deserved that win after an equally crafty comeback in the final races. Now onto provincials, regionals, nationals, brief resting, and build up to Worlds. speaking of which, Hayden and I were due a meeting with Cycling NZ in a few weeks - with another rider.

1HastingsJakLeader
2VaillenosJoseph+ 32
3GreggsJoe+ 41
4HaydenVaillenos+ 3'32
5AlexanderAdam+ 7'00
6FafukaiMaui+ 8'34

Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 12:13
 
jandal7
S4/E17
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Rebranding

"The Lower North Island Champs had merged into the North Island Champs."

Life, obviously, goes on. Sure, I lost ten minutes. But I had been a prat and thought I could take on those idiots. But then again, the anger I felt - I guessed that I wouldn't do it again with retrospect, but given how vividly I remembered how I felt in the moment I can't say so. Speaking of which, I hadn't spoken to Rose much for a while. And hell, maybe I deserved it. But as she was slowly biking again, I had to go help her be fit for NI champs. And yeah, apologise. Maybe.

'Look, Rose - um... I know that I, erm, shouldn't have gone after those - those guys and uh - did you want to train for the champs? I heard your ankle is better...' I said. Hey, since I still felt justified in what I did and sometimes I'm a right egg about not being able to just grit my teeth and say stuff, it was hard to do. Luckily bygones became bygones and Rose was fighting fit for Nationals.

Hayden was taking his gap year - using it to join an Italian junior team for a year, at the recommendation of Cycling NZ. He'd take part in some national races with some funding from Cycling NZ - part of a development program for him - and me, if I wanted. The plan for him was to do Uni studies online around - hopefully - a contract. it was actually happening. It was actually fricking happening. I wouldn't see him until Worlds in the Netherlands. He was meant to have a shot at it - that was the plan. It finished like Amstel Gold Race - yes, that Amstel Gold Race. I won't deny - I was stoked for him but this would be a very tough year for me without him.

This one finished on a straight up mountain in the shape of Ruapehu (17km @ 6%), advantage us Wanganui kids who'd done it before. Rose would have a good time and dominate I was sure, this was her thing. Mostly as this being the whole North Island Champs, Auckland's SkyTrain.lite were set to screw us all over on the lower slopes, just lucky the run in is flat. It felt like Nationals except for no Cantab - what can I say, they just aren't all that. The Aucklander (Richie Young, his name is. Gotta stop acting like I didn't know it).

I protected her from the wind on the lower slopes, and with 10km to go it really was Nationals. The Aucklander, two of his mates, me, a rider from Wellington and another rider from a different Auckland school. Rose had already locked in victory in the girl's side of things behind us, I was sure.

I kept sheltered and on Richie's wheel, and with 2km he finally found it without him to entertain the spectators when it was down to just us, one of his mates and the Wellingtonian (Scott Ambrose, now of Team Novo Nordisk). I stayed with him as Ambrose and Richie's teammate faded away, and stayed with him into the final 500m. Long climbs were clearly a strength of his (knowing him now, they definitely are), and although neither of us was close to "fresh" after 17km of slowly ramping up road, he was too good for me and rode away to the victory quite comfortably in the end. I finished a fair time later considering how long I stayed with him, dismounted and sat down, tired to the absolute bone. Whew. Rose did indeed win her race, and came into the finishing area looking as shattered as I felt. This tiredness continued for a good day or two after that. Long mountains weren't quite my greatest strength at the time, that was for sure.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 10:32
 
jandal7
S4/E18
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Old Favorite

"If there was a way to beat Hayden I wasn't sure on it."

I love the course of the Manawatu Champs. My one problem is that it's basically god's gift to Hayden, with the fairly hilly course all day followed by an uphill sprint. I had to figure out a way to beat him, and it wouldn't be having a better kick than him, that's for sure.

Neither of us would be given in inch all day, and neither would Messrs Greggs, Hastings or Fafukai after our battles in the last two months. But everyone knew after the last 10 years: Today was Hayden's day to lose. The race started tranquil but Greggs took it up a notch, hoping to put pressure on Hayden. The move forced a selection, but a large one. Only about 15 riders were dropped. People would try as they might but it wouldn't halt the fact that we had 10km to go, and one hill before the final one. All was silent as we looked around, waiting for someone to attack so we could counter. Fafukai the opportunist did so and immediately those who could follow (me, Hayden and Hastings) did and those who couldn't, didn't. However this meant it was a rather large group chasing four of us, and I wasn't going to drive a move with Hayden in it. Eventually I had to change my mind and at the foot of the climb we had a slender lead of a few seconds.

There was no choice but to co-operate to stay away, and Hastings didn't get the memo that a) we needed all the strength we could get and b) attacking with Hayden in your slipstream on this finish is suicide. I followed in Hayden's wheel and with 250m to go, Fafukai was in the bunch and they were gaining on us. there was to time to horse around and Hastings tried boxing me in, which didn't work and left Hayden the inside line. I couldn't follow but held tight for 2nd, just a second ahead of the bunch, as Hayden cruised home with enough time to sit up with still a long way to go.

i.imgur.com/Ia3lD39.jpg

Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 12:14
 
jandal7
S4/E19
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Earn the Fern

♫ Ain't nothin' gonna to break my stride/Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh-no ♫

I wanted this one above all. After taking the bottom step of the podium last year this year I bloody wanted to bring home another national title. I also knew this race would be important for all of us: if we wanted any chance of being the second or third men with Hayden for Worlds ahead of someone from 1994, this would go a long way to it. It was a tough hilly course so Richie likely had the edge, but I didn't mind my chances and the Cantabrian was no slouch over any terrain.

We wanted to keep our 100% record of winning the (mixed gender) TTT and a hillier parcours meant Rose and I would be a little more use to Alex. We rode together as we had done for, what? At least 5 years now. The same 5 of us as it always has been, what luck. We took it out with plenty of time to spare. Another great victory with the team.

It was a hilly-ish route for the road race too, which didn't exactly suit the Aucklander (who I'm now properly bored of calling that, last time), who's more of a climber, or the Cantab (who has messaged me to stop calling him that, he was born Ollie Clarke), who's more of a powerhouse. As for me, I still had no clue, which was beginning to get on my nerves a bit. My tactic was to try take it to a sprint, which was, as usual, easier said than done.

The race started with Rutherford attacking for us, which was good as it meant we could leave it to the Auckland train to turn it up. It was a fairly dull affair in the pack with the highlight being... nothing. Break caught with 10km to go and everyone looked at Ollie, Richie and I. Ollie was isolated and Richie had still three teammates. I had Alex and the freshly caught Rutherford, and so the Auckland school (Kings) kept going, shedding some dead weight until it was just Ollie, Richie, one of his teammates, Alex and I. Alex took a flier after we had a brief exchange at the back and so Richie's final teammate had to work to reel him back in. The gap was never above 5-10 seconds but it gave me an armchair ride to the final and Alex a chance to go for glory and maybe break the stranglehold us three poursuivants had taken on this race for the last years.

Riding past the 3km sign for the last time Richie looked at me and gave an elbow flick, the pain showing on his face. I raised my eyebrows and remained on his wheel. No way are you going get me to take away my friend's shot at the title. I had no idea how Alex was doing but I knew I had to be prepared for a tense sprint if he got reeled in. Harder and harder my rivals worked and with a kilometre to go it couldn't have been more than a few seconds, but neither of them seemed to want to make the big turn to make the catch. However Alex was slowing up - he was... he was sitting up!

"Get on me." he grunted, apparently not able to win. Mixed emotions were running through my head - but I stayed focused. There were 400m to go and Richie was boxed in and Alex was giving me a leadout. Richie had to tap his brakes and go from way out, but he couldn't even pass Alex. Ollie, however, was on Richie's wheel and suddenly I was the one boxed in. Damn.

Alex to the rescue though, swinging wide to open the gap. I hesitated, waiting for one of them to dive in and take it. 200m to go. I wanted to wait just a bit more and nearly lost my shot. If I could take the lead around this bend and accelerate out I'd be home free. Richie has the same thoughts and went for the gap, 50m after I hoped somebody would. Pure instinct saw me squeeze between him and the barriers and I got a wobble but stayed upright. A touch of shoulders and my speed meant I came out of the corner first. I fired up the sprint and my position meant I was just too strong. Bliss.

i.imgur.com/RPEu4Lv.jpg

Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 10:24
 
jandal7
S4/E20
i1204.photobucket.com/albums/bb406/j7_sports/tlat_zpsyni19oip.jpg
Looking Ahead

"I'd allow myself a small rest before getting in top shape to see what I could do to help Hayden at World's."

I walked into the room nervously, following Hayden as was my natural instinct. I saw that Richie Young and another Hayden, Hayden McCormick, was already there. I guessed I would be the third man ahead of Richie but I couldn't be sure. Greg Chambers beamed at us, shook our hands and exchanged pleasantries. After some brief small talk, he seemed to remember his job and got into it.

"Well, as you all know we hope for Hayden here to give the World Championships a shot after his result last year. We plan for Hayden McCormick and Joseph to be his teammates in Holland, but you are our reserve, Richie, and should be on standby. Whoever ends up there will have some training in the week before the race to get the course right, but for now we just want you three," Chambers said briskly, indicating Richie, Hayden McCormick and I, "to be in top shape for this race to help Hayden to achieve a good result. The Haydens are spending the European season riding some junior races over there. You other two will be leading the team at the Mersey Valley Tour and Canberra Junior Tour in Australia, and also all four of you are attending the Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada, with Hayden leading, as part of the development programme." he finished. Woah. Hayden didn't look surprised, but he did seem slightly embarrassed to be the designated leader.

I left the HQ in Cambridge buzzing. Doing some races in Australia and Canada would be awesome! It would be a huge stepping stone on the path I'd picked, to be a pro. Now the small rest for my poor legs before hopping back on the bike and enjoying my last year of school, but also dealing with my first year without Hayden. I knew I'd be fine, but more than I'd like to admit I was going to miss him. I loved my sisters, but it would be a year or two until I could educate them on the finer points of why Contador's ride to Fuente Dé was so amazing.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 10:33
 
jandal7
@ALL - Here's the hard part - reality vs fiction begins to blur and real vs fictional riders too. Will try not to introduce any fake riders who won't be important, and this level of racing isn't my strong suit, so it'll be brief as I'm basing it on what I've heard of this year's route.

S4/E21
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Mersey

"Oh manomanomanoman."

Oh wow. Richie and I were leading the lads in an overseas stage race, where we had no idea what to do, how to do it and where we'd finish. It looked to be useful, fun and terrifying. We had four others with us - Clarke, one of Hayden's competitors and two 19 year olds - but we were leading. I wasn't sure if it was a good choice.

Stage one was a time trial - not my forte. We had one of the 19-year-olds - Willis, a track cyclist by all means - hoping to do well. Willis was fourth, I was a surprising twelfth. We all finished anonymously on the hilly stage 2, but the other 19-year-old was in the breakaway.

The third and final stage was deceivingly difficult but mostly flat. I managed to catch a break at last - literally! My first overseas race BOTD - certainly a photo for the album. We got caught with not long to go and I tried to set pace for as long as I could (only 30 seconds but at least I managed something!) to help set up Willis, who'd win the stage with a fast sprint.

For me it was a great experience but a bit disappointing in terms of that I was meant to be leading, but getting in a break made for a nice memory at least as I looked ahead to Canberra where we'd be racing U17s rather than U19s - which was a good bit of news as Richie and I didn't go so hot here.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 10:39
 
jandal7
@ALL - Talk about sneaking up on me - had no plans for a finale but here it is! Updates slowing down unfortunately.

S4/E22
i.imgur.com/8iKuzOs.jpg
Canberra I

"And away we goooooooo..."

Canberra started again with an individual time trial. Richie, Ollie and I were aiming high for this one, indeed we'd been training hard and wanted a stage win. somewhere There were two hilly stages after the ITT and a flat criterium. Over two days. This should be fun but very difficult!

I wanted to get off on the right foot in the morning time trial and went hard, actually taking the lead on the only checkpoint. I was maybe a bit over-enthusiastic but still managed to come home fourth, just 6 seconds down. I was quietly really happy and surprised by the result. I really wasn't too bad at these prologue things - maybe I was too quick to dismiss my future as literally Fabian Cancellara?

Stage 2 in the afternoon was tough but finished downhill, so our plan of attack was to force a selection, or for Richie to head up the road. Clarke held 7th on GC and I was, of course, still 4th. Richie put in a move at the bottom of the last climb and immediately the group upped the tempo and reeled him in. Clarke dropped and only I was left in a 7 man group as we began the tricky 5km descent. I immediately started to take the corners dangerously, daring the others to follow me. Evidently I was the only one caring about GC as the others watched each other for the stage win. I considered joining in but figured bumping myself up a spot or two was better.

Inside the final 500m I was still leading out as the group had thinned to 7. With a check back I knew it'd be a matter of picking up enough speed they couldn't find a big enough gear if I wanted the win. I took every corner within inches of the kerb, if someone wanted to pass they could go the long way. Eventually I had to get out of the saddle but the chump behind me had been glued to my back wheel the entire way and took the win, though I held on for 2nd on the stage, and bumped myself up to 2nd on GC as well. What a day out!

And as I went to bed that night, dreaming of what I wanted to do tomorrow, in an international race, no less, I knew that this was my path - an epiphany I was having over and over, but it was real - I absolutely loved cycling. So I would take this path. The path many took and failed. The path many took and found glory, success, passion. A life. The Path Less Travelled.

Yeah, that's a poetic reference. How's that for "not willing to expand his literary horizons", Ms. Thompson?
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 10:45
 
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