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The Life and Times | Axel's Army
Yes, you won! Grin
@DiCyc - Yes, a trio of lovely wins for JV there Smile Thanks for the support too!
@ALL - Here's one to tide us over before hopefully some pace back in a week. Really enjoying writing these characters now Grin Shorter unfortunately and what's here was easy enough to write but this is all that was planned (plus some individual bits) for this episode. Just two more until the finale!

Winter's Warmth

"A different kind of attention was being drawn to Hayden in particular."

As Autumn rolled into Winter and rides became less frequent, as per usual. It looked like another wet winter and so we'd be trying to get out as much as possible, though in reality it was going to mostly be indoor training. But it was a shock when we were approached with an offer from offshore.

The guy turned up when we were out for a gentle leisure ride and asked if we were the Vaillenos lads. As you know, we are indeed the Vaillenos lads. He then proceeded to ask us if we'd ever been to any races in Australia and the like. We'd only ever been as far for racing as the South Island a couple of times and it wasn't something we'd ever really thought about. He told us he was a talent scout and that we should start thinking about how we wanted to get into cycling if we did. He seemed like a regular scout, out to get dough and a name but still going to give a young lad an opportunity. He told us he would try and contact someone to get us a spot in the Youth Olympics or similar but our ages did not match up. Food for thought as we had never really experienced any offers or conversations such as that.

Over the winter it was one of the best we've had, with the girls walking and talking. I won $40 on Eva being the first one to say a word (again, is it weird how much my whole family bets on each other?), the word being "Dada". Cute. Anna came second with "bike" (I was accused immediately of corruption), and Elle was "toast". We managed to ride lots, play lots, and spend a lot of time with friends and family. Rose was already growing a special bond with the girls too as she began to spend more time over at our house for some reason.

So we approached the summer, a trio of 16-year-olds ready to race once more.
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 08:56
@ALL - Sorry for this one, not as good but all my ideas are for the coming months and years... Bit of the old Block rearing its ugly head, to put it simply. Hopefully the pace can fire up a bit again.
Summer's Scent

"And it was these few months that it was 100% clear in my mind this was what I wanted to spend to next years of my life trying to do."

This year I was one of the older participants in my age group and Hayden had moved up to the under 18s, where fewer people raced as other pursuits took charge. Only those who really enjoyed the sport went on up there, and so it was a much more serious league where impressing was key. But this summer, I wanted to triple crown the overall, the regionals again and nationals. Lofty targets, you could say for sure. But as we got back into things, it was 100% clear in my mind this was what I wanted to spend to next years of my life trying to do. I wanted to be a cyclist. And this was my path.

I don't want to make you think because I was driven it was more a job than a passion. It was still my passion and now it was just a passion that I wanted to continue doing full-time, as a career. Hayden too. Rose was sitting on the fence a bit, and I instinctively left her to her thoughts on that one. Alex was thinking about journalism. But there was never any doubt in my mind. I wanted it so much, I didn't think about the alternative to making it.

I went about having as much fun as I could but, without sounding arrogant, was just a bit better, at least in the first few races. A second in a sprint to start with before winning a two-up over some hills and winning one solo on a long descent were to start with, before Alex doubled up over a TT where I was second and a repayment race where I did what he's done so many times for me, pulled until everyone but my mate hurt so badly they couldn't attempt to follow. I came seventh and lost 10 seconds overall, taking away a quarter of my advantage was definitely worth it.

Over October and the beginning of November I also had my first "proper" girlfriend. Katie was someone I could have a laugh and chat for ages with, but two things told me it wouldn't last too long. Firstly, I knew I was young but there wasn't much behind it, other than enjoying each other's company. But I didn't mind right then. And secondly, Rose really didn't like her for whatever reason. And I knew my best friend would beat another friend if I had to get in the unfortunate position of choosing. I tried not to think about it.

And so as November rolled on I collected a few more wins and some more time on overall. I had the Boxing Day race pegged up as a goal again, as this time I thought I could do at least what Rose did last year.
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 08:57
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"We know you are 16, but..."

I put in some more wins over November and december whilst keeping a stronghold on the points and overall. Rose had the girl's overall by the scruff of the neck and Hayden, of course, was winning the under 18s as a 16-year-old. IBut outside of the series, one race loomed as large as ever: the local Boxing Day race, an undulating and sometimes downright hilly affair.

Rose, Hayden and I lined up with no plan except to see how we went. I knew it would be as tough as ever. As we started, I tried to get in the break. My oblivious blind belief was a bit of a tradition for me, and hadn't worked the last few years. Unsurprisingly, the recent trend continued and I bounced around the pedals waiting for something to happen. I get very bored and restless at this point in the race, still do unfortunately. But back then I was hopeless. I wouldn't pay attention to a thing anyone did until it was showtime. And so I almost missed it when one of the part-time cyclists and Mr Becker (who'd grown into quite the Strava King) attacked early. All three of us managed to follow and a few more from Hayden's age group came too. 8 of us were let go and managed to catch the break and drop it before a group full of the local Strava stars started to chase hard on a straight. We could see them coming and debated whether or not we should sit up and save energy or not. In the end many did, and so I was in a group of 11 as the hills kicked in.

I was the weakest of us 3 that day and I didn't want to show it. Privately I wanted to go for it rather than work for Hayden or Rose, but in the end I started taking longer shifts whereas they took shorter ones. Bennett followed an attack and I tried to pull them back in, aided by Mr Becker. It was later clear the two Bennett were with were hanging on the young talent as we actually started to make some ground, with 4 of us pulling hard against one. Hayden and Rose asked me if we should attack to go for 4th between us, and I did with them in tow, and we made more ground with 7km to go. I'd say there were 12 seconds between us. I dropped off soon after and they chased hard. I rolled home 9th (pretty good if I do say so myself).

After the race, another man I'd never met approached us. He had a cap which read "Cycling NZ" and an outstretched hand.

'I'm Greg Chambers from Cycling New Zealand, and before you say anything, we know you are all 16 but I'd be delighted if you three would work with us towards riding the Junior World Champs this coming year.'
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 08:58
@ALL - Another season over - I feel, it was my best yet though the pacing was a bit ugly, I think I'll test a 16 or 18 episode season - models used on TV if unconventionally. 22 seems too long. Any thoughts? This one I think could definitely have been 16 or 18, not to repeat same season over and over but more personal bits with the girls, Rose, etc. That's something that will happen more in S$ and beyond. Anyway, to the finale!
Romeo Rising

"I wanted to cap it off in style."

I was in complete shock. I mean, being the national champion was overwhelming enough but this was a new level. It may sound clichéd but I was just a kid from Wanganui, not some international rider, even at a junior level. We started talking to him about going to meet the junior coach later in the year. This time next year we would be 17, so two years younger than some competitors. It was an insane thought. I was Joseph Vaillenos. Not Andy Schleck.

But I had little time to do more internalising; the season continued on and I won more, Alex won another, Hayden dominated and Rose was doing very well. I was increasing my lead in both classifications and wanted to cap it off in style. I wanted to end the comp with 3 wins from 4, not including the TT where Alex would presumably smoke everyone like salmon. I was a lofty goal but one I felt I could achieve. I started with a finish up a brutal hill, pipping two others to the line after we had all exhausted ourselves breaking away. Then came the TT. Alex beat me but I managed a second place and closer to him than usual, which I was rather proud of.

The last race was a straight sprint where I came first in a photo finish, and that just left the last race, as usual the same route as the Open Manawatus. I decided to attack right before the uphill drag, where people would be expecting me to bust a gut sprinting up. I waited for the right moment and took the pack by shock as I jumped away. I was riding as hard as I could, out of the saddle sprinting. And I did it. I sat up and put my hands in the air. What a way to win the competition.

That just left the traditional three races. Now we were older the boys and girls races at regionals had separated so I wouldn't race it with Rose as usual, we would start 30 mins before them. I really wanted, and should be the favourite for, the win there. I then wanted to beat everyone but Hayden (Hayden if at all possible) in the Open Manawatus and win the nationals. Those were three hefty goals but three goals I knew for a fact that I could do.

It started with the regionals on a very hilly course, where Rose was going to wait and counter and I was going to hope I won. We set off and a couple of times during the race I tested my legs a bit moving throughout the group to acclimatise myself to the hills. Let's just see what happens, I thought.

What happened was I got bored and attacked. Bad move reflecting back as I got tired and someone swung on past. I had 5kms to draw him back. It was beautiful racing, I was a predator and he was my prey, nothing mattered. I was shutting this guy down and I was in my own little world, taking metre after metre after metre on this guy. With 300m up the hill I was far enough behind that I got no benefit but close enough that I could catch him. I prepared to sprint. I launched with 100m to go and my legs burned and my tongue groped for all the air it could get.

Announcing a special two-part finale!

Edited by jandal7 on 19-04-2020 23:49
Romeo Rising II

"I prepared to sprint. I launched with 100m to go and my legs burned and my tongue groped for all the air it could get."

I didn't lunge for the line. I kept sprinting as the road kept rising and hoped to pip him sprinting, reaching deep within my bones, using every fibre of every muscle on my legs to propel me, using my arms to will my machine further up the tarmac, and using my tongue and open mouth to get as much air into my lungs as I could. I was behind with 20 metres to go but gaining. My legs felt like buckling my I had to keep pushing.

And finally, I crossed the line, but crossed it defeated. 2nd place was my fate for being a restless prick. Not that that was an excuse, my conqueror was simply better in that chase. But part of me thought, thirty more metres...

Behind us, Rose had soloed to the win in her race by a ridiculous amount of time, she was really on fire and doubled up on her overall wins. She greeted me with a smile and a hug as I congratulated her. She was a machine on those hills today and truly was the best rider in from New Plymouth to Napier, in the Lower North Island in our age group on the steeper stuff. She'd worked just as hard as I had to get to where we were and I was almost as happy for her as if I'd been carving up. The nice moment was ruined when Katie, who had been keen to come and watch me in a race, came over.

She dragged me away from our conversation and wanted to have a quite public argument about the fact I was best friends with Rose. As you can guess, things got a bit heated after that, with my initial exasperated thoughts about what to say next disappearing and being replaced with anger. I'm thankful to this day there was no red mist and I didn't say anything much to her. Maybe I was trying to have my cake and eat it that day, I don't know. But my best friend and my girlfriend disliking each other, I could work through. Either of them demanding the other one isn't a part of my life seemed unreasonable to me. At least Rose could understand my situation, I cared more about her, and she won out. Katie and I broke up the next day.

I spent a week off the bike before I started the two-month build-up to the National Schools Championships. I needed a physical break but also the breakup with Katie wasn't great for my mental state. I would get over it in time, of course, it wasn't much serious anyway.

From what I'd heard, the Cantab and the Aucklander had just gone from strength to strength in their competitions and it would be one hell of an ordeal to win Nationals (not that they weren't always formidable challengers). Although we were never far and away the strongest and often were beaten at various junior tours, we were emerging as the best in the country for our age.

The time off would let me spend more time with the girls as well. They were right in the thick of the terrible twos and I think Mum and Dad appreciated me taking them off their hands, even if it was two at a time, three with Hayden. I love kids and I'm sure I'll have some when I'm older, but if it all possible can I not deal with three at the same age? Uuurgh.

But the next weeks weren't all babysitting and getting pissed on by my giggling younger sisters. There was training to be done! Nationals were fast approaching and we had a TTT title to defend for the third time, as well as me personally having an individual one to fight tooth and nail to keep. As I lined up for the start of the TTT, with the same team we'd always had, I knew we could do it again. Alex doing the bulk, Rose and I helping him and the other two doing their darndest to make sure we were pitch perfect, we were unstoppable for the last three years and so we were that year. By a full minute, if I recall correctly.

And so I lined up for the road race with a familiar feeling on a familiar kind of course. Very hilly (Auckland train, choo choo) but this time it was by our standards almost mountainous around the lower Southern Alps - not that we had many major passes in New Zealand. The Cantabrian rider had likely rode this course before, and for the first time it wasn't a circuit and so started out relatively flat, where Alex kept me safe (legend <3) and I made myself focus over a course full of places to lose the race.

I did pretty well at staying awake and watching any sign that trouble was near. The hills began and some were shelled off, poor people. By the time the bad boys started taking their toll there was only about twenty left. It was the usual suspects, Alex had to let go so I was clinging onto the Auckland train and the Cantab was also alone. With 20km to go there were eight. I felt a bit of pain by now, if I'm honest. I just kept doing as little effort as possible whilst keeping up and when the final descent and climb came, and there were five (the three of us from last year, a rider from a different Auckland school and one of the Aucklander's teammates)to put in a dig as I wasn't as confident as I was at the startline.

Unfortunately that only lasted to the foot of the final climb, and when I was recaptured it was just the four, minus the last remaining domestique. I was hurting bad after a few kms and just held on for dear life. My legs hurt way worse than they had for a long time this far out from the finish, but I knew this was my best shot at doing something. They traded turns and often encouraged me, well, demanded that I help. What was the point, not like anyone would catch us. With 2kms to go the Cantabrian attacked, and it looked like he had more in the tank than either of us. I stayed behind the Aucklander for a while longer then attacked. Unfortunately it just wasn't my day and he overtook me with a few hundred meters left.

I limped over the line, gutted with my result where Hayden and Rose won. It wasn't the first time this had happened to me at the nationals either. I put my bike away for a while after that one, but I came back to it in time. It was needed to give myself a break, of course, but I also just wanted to get away from it. Was I just tired after working too hard? Or was it something else? I was fairly sure it was the former. I sure hoped so. But I had more pressing issues to prepare for: numero uno, the World Championships - Copenhagen 2011.

And after two seasons, there you have the Meteoric Rise of Romeo and the Falcon.

Edited by jandal7 on 19-04-2020 23:58
The Path Less Travelled

"There aren't many more years left to write."

As I click post I realise there isn't many more years to write. Over the next few episodes I'll turn 17. Writing this now, I'm 19, in the month of July 2015. By the time this is a blog and not a story, I guess I'll be 20, if I'm lucky. There's so much more to cover, Avanti, the Nationals, three lots of World Championships. and that's just the racing.

I've enjoyed writing it so far, I guess. I think I've improved quite a lot from when I started this a year ago. It's a little project I've had going for a year now, since around the third World Champs and the Avanti contract. I'm almost up to the point I started writing. Creepy.

I was encouraged to do this by some friends and family but most of all I wanted to show the world what you have to do to succeed in cycling, and just write about my life on the road in a blog. But to get to the blog, there's a lot more I need to tell you all about how I got here...
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 09:04
@ALL - Not my best episode but I'm doing some re-reading and starting to notice some big flaws in my writing, namely in the racing. Hopefully my style continues to improve as my enjoyment of writing these characters increases every episode!
Looking to the Horizons

"It sunk in. This was the worlds I was training for."

In May we were brought in to the Cycling NZ headquarters for a meeting before the Worlds on travel and the likes. It was unreal. While Rose met her teammates we were introduced to James Oram. He was a year older than us and would be our team leader, trying to do something in the junior road race, and our rider for the TT where he had high hopes. He seemed a good guy and welcomed us. Whilst Hayden had turned 18 recently I was 16 and felt way out of my depth.

They told us to keep training, but that it was all about the experience. Nobody outside of New Zealand cycling knew our names, nobody expected us to do anything, least of all Cycling NZ. But for me it still felt a huge ask to travel to Denmark and race against riders who undoubtedly be going pro. Would I? it was a pan flat course discounting an uphill drag right at the end which looks ultra-scary on the profiles.

So that winter we trained hard, not just for the worlds but that we knew if we were to make it we would need to keep pushing ourselves. The girls turned three and continued to cause chaos as they're ALL IDENTICAL. It took me two years to distinguish Anna and Gabby when they wake you up at 3am and only because of a cut on the cheek. Nowadays it's pretty easy for me but still. But anyway, life was good, family was amazing. Love life? Nothing else happened after my break-up with Katie, and I wasn't all that bothered for the moment.

By August I finally felt confident in going to the Worlds. No, that's a lie. I was completely freaking terrified and convinced I was about to embarrass myself on live TV in I don't know how many nations. Lucky I wouldn't be humiliating myself at the front where they could see me and care. I would have my birthday there as it finished on the 25th and we would stay for a while longer. We flew out on the 14th, and the first event of the champs was the 19th, with James riding TT on the 20th and our road race on the 24th. I was so nervous I felt like throwing up and there was a month left. Rose was riding road race on the day before. Hayden, Rose and I were training together more and more often, even than usual. We wanted as much road riding and as little turbo training in ratio as possible, and we were blessed with a not too windy and cold winter. I was crossing off the days mentally. When spring started in September, there was exactly a fortnight until I flew out to the biggest moment of my life so far.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 00:05
@ALL - Bit of a break with a holiday and a motivation drop as I lost my rhythm. Will go back to normal pace (which is to say random) soon. I'm not giving up on the boys this easily!

"♫ Out on the verge of the rest of our lives ♫"

It was very much a family holiday to Scandinavia as we planned on staying for a week or two tiki touring after the Worlds. I was incredibly excited and nervous and that only intensified as the weeks passed. It felt like bliss as I hopped on the flight and knew there was no turning back.

I can't sleep on planes. It's the mix of the atmosphere, the straight up seats, and babies. I love kids, but babies. Luckily the girls were passed nappies and passed crying for the most part, it was more when I couldn't solve their problems with Toy Story 3 on the movie player that they got on my nerves. Nope, it was 26 hours of no sleep excluding a nap at the Dubai airport stop where Hayden played "what can I balance on my little brother before he wakes up." I think he was jealous I got any sleep in that day and a bit travel time.

We had 8 days to prepare for the road race by the time we'd settled in and it was now confirmed to me: I was here. I was in the same city as the Hushovds and the Cavendishes and the Evanses and the Gilberts and all the rest, and I was preparing for the same thing, if not the same race. Rose managed a great 18th in her TT and James podiumed his one. He was really stoked with that heading into the road race. Hayden and I had finally managed to ride a bit of the course and I felt as ready as I could be. Which still wasn't much.

As we lined up a strange feeling washed over me. Before I lined up my stomach was squirming and my head felt light. But now I was back on my early training rides, not caring about any pressure, out to have fun and push myself. It was likely to be the only time I'd get the chance to do something like this, and I was going to make the most of it.

Call me crazy. Call me suicidal and an idiot. Perhaps I was. But when the TV time break went, I followed. I don't know how, but I handled it OK for the first 6 or so laps, around 85km. I knew I had to let go at a certain point if I was to help Hayden and James at all and if I were to finish. I tried my best to help out in the peloton for as long as I could, and eventually slipped off and found my way to the finish with a small gruppetto. An inglorious finish but I loved every minute and it's still a memorable day for me.

In the pack, Hayden and James were on their own against a wide world of top juniors. They had nothing to lose and on the second to last lap James tried to join an escape, which was reeled back in soon enough. He dropped back and so Hayden had to follow the wheels for all I possibly could to get any kind of result.

On the final uphill drag he was still there and joined in the elbow fight for the wheel of the French sprinter, Demare, who looked very good. He ended up trading elbows with Rick Zabel, son of the legend Erik. The best sprinters managed to gap Hayden and the riders around him, but he pushed hard and managed to get eleventh! A brilliant result beyond our expectations and an amazing feeling in our first race on anything resembling a world stage!
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 06:01
Ah, it's still alive. Will re-read the story because it was long time ago since I read here the last time, but I liked the first seasons much, so I'm happy that it's still there.
@Luxemburger - Yep, still plugging along! Great to hear you liked the first seasons, and nice idea to read through it again!
24/02/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don't drink famous people."
22/07/21 - quadsas said "I admire you [jandal] so much as a manager, squad builder and a person"
15/08/22 - SotD said "Your [jandal's] humour is overrated"

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [PCT] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing

4x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x4
Verge II

"I was 110% screwed."

I crossed the line in what must have been a mess. The break was a good idea I maintained, but staying in the peloton as long as I did after took some effort. I was exhilarated to be in the break but so, so tired. I can't remember anything but looking for Hayden. Surely he'd finished in the pack. I steered my bike looking for James, Mum, Dad, Rose, Hayden, anyone. Eventually, I caught Rose's eye and by the time I'd got to her, I had barely time to unclip one foot before I collapsed off my bike. I'd undertaken a huge physical and mental effort, beyond whatever was before. This was a different level entirely.

Rose steadied me and told me how Hayden finished. Then I spotted him. Doing a bloody interview! It was just for a couple of NZ outlets, but I thought it was pretty cool. When he was done we didn't need words. A hug said everything. But really, after that I just wanted to go back to the motel and sleep. Hayden agreed.

Waking up refreshed.... would have been nice. But we had to get up to watch the Elite Men's Race! A very cool experience as the Manx Missile ended up taking victory. The next day I turned 17 and for the next week, we took a wee bit of a tiki-tour around parts of Denmark and Germany, which was a cool experience. But soon enough I was a regular school kid facing down the barrel of my Year 12 exams, and many another surprise. For later, perhaps.

Something clicked that day in the break. This confirmed to me that I was to take cycling as far as I could and so I promised, even though I'm in the U-19 grade, with Hayden again, I was to make this my best season yet, and so I pushed myself further and further and further with my training. But I'm not sure I even guessed how far it would take me...
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 05:56
@ALL - A bit of drama for our heroes! Hope to balace it out with our racing too, of course Pfft

"I stared at Hayden, not quite comprehending what he was saying."

One night at the start of the holidays after we'd 1-2'd a bunch sprint, me and Hayden decided to have a bro night, chill out, talk about our picks for next season (I must admit, I never believed in Wiggo) and just life in general. Obviously we weren't intending on that, but it's where it went.

"You ever fallen in love J? Or even think you had? You know that feeling, when you just click?" he asked. I hadn't. I didn't think I had as I'd never really gotten the feeling with anyone that this was who to spend my life with. I just didn't have a girl in my life who I romantically loved. Didn't I? If I was honest, I had a crush on my friend Tessa, sure, but that wasn't what he meant. I looked back at Hayden as was shocked to see tears glistening in his usually cheerful eyes. I thought further, what was the matter? He shook his head, face tinged with emotional pain.

"Joey... aw man bro... you love her too don't you? Rose." he said softly. I stared for a second at my older brother, his words not translating into my brain properly. I looked down, but mentally I looked within myself. Rose was my best friend. We could talk for hours about anything, do anything together. We'd grown up together. Loving her like that. Almost felt.. wrong. No, I didn't think so. I was sure.

Hayden loved her... I wasn't expecting that but nor was I surprised. I didn't see hints but it wasn't shocking. I wasn't sure how to feel about this whole thing at all. And yet, the corner of my eyes began to wet too, be it for my own reasons or just because tears were in the air in that room.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 06:38
Legs of Gold

"I was on fire."

That season I enjoyed such great form I was in the green and white jersey for leader in front of Hayden after 4 races, though too be fair our worst result was his first race where he was 4th. We were simply on fire and at times it was hard to keep myself level-headed. It just felt so easy - Joe Greggs fading in third, a minute behind already. I'd won 3 times and came 3rd once, Hayden a win, two 2nds and a 4th.

But I knew I couldn't let my guard down, as deep down I knew I had to get as close to Hayden as possible come the end of the series. I felt this was the time I had to prove myself to be not just Hayden's pretty good kid brother, but an equally talented bike rider. But was I?

My secret aim was to be brought to the forefront as, for another race, we were just faster than the bunch. I attacked at the foot of the final incline in Palmy and Hayden was in my wheel. The gap opened faster than a fish and chip wrapper and I looked at him. Usually, we share the pace then sprint. Bros before other riders, am I right? But after a while, I put in a pretty big attack, suspecting Hayden was beatable. I looked back at him and although my brother reckons he can put up a poker face like Nairo Quintana I knew he was done. I turned to face the crest of the hill and rode to victory.


As I crossed the line with a fist in the air it struck me this was the first time I'd seriously wanted to put my brother in pain in a competitive race, where I actively treated him as purely just another opponent. Sure, this was a common thing for us - we were brothers after all - but not too often in these races. We'd always been a team. Perhaps it wasn't the best to be teaming up all the time? We had raced separately but never had such a duel as we did today. It can't be good for me as I was usually the slave, and also, I suspected, for him, as we began to slowly outdo our local rivals, and I became his biggest challenger. I became his biggest rival. Food for thought as I turned towards the summer season.
Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 06:56
Contrary to these pictures, Hayden is nothing like Cadel Evans.

"My pain threshold was broken and broken again."

When Hayden crossed the line he looked at me and shook his head.
'Mean attack little bro.' he grinned, 'Put me in some strife.' I was secretly pleased to hear it. I'd attacked and stayed clear, extending my lead and my pride. Up a hill too, where it felt impossible to beat Hayden.

So it went, an edge of competitiveness over the next few weeks. He was all to happy to oblige, we never talked about the change but I was absolutely loving it. A second there, catching a break here. We dug in at each other and by the time December was rolling around I was up by 15 seconds. I'd be losing if it wasn't for that day in Palmerston. The last race before the Christmas break was up was up the same hill the Boxing Day race finishes on. Hayden had never lost a series race there. I know because he doesn't shut up about it. Could I change that?

The race went pretty averagely, with everyone not even looking at Hayden. They knew he'd attack and win. They looked at their rivals, the ones who they thought they could battle for second. The main man? Yours truly.


When Hayden attacked I went with him. I had to get in his wheel and stay there. And he knew that's how I'd play it. If I was going to sit there, he was gong to put me under the most pain he could. And oh boy, he did. I rode with my head down, teeth bared and legs the bad kind of "on fire". I knew this wasn't the best tactic, I should let go and ride at my own pace to stay within the magic 15 seconds to bring my lead into Christmas for maximum bragging rights at the dinner table.

But of course, of course I hung in there, sweat dripping onto my hands, to the wheels and squidged into the tarmac. I couldn't bounce out of the saddle. I could churn and churn until I couldn't match his pace. I knew he was within himself, but giving it his all without going into the red as I was. His breathing was almost as pronounced as mine, and although his legs had a fluid motion he was swinging his handlebars deliriously, focusing all on his legs. 500m. Could I stay with him? I kept turning the legs, lactic acid burning, every muscle aching. Shut up legs!

I started to fade when he began to sprint for every second. I kept going until the line, but it was no use. He could sit up whenever he liked and take 5 seconds, and maybe he forgot he was racing for seconds, because he did just that, punching the air prematurely, but I barely made half a second because of it. Absolutely nothing I could do but ride behind him. How's that for getting dominated?


Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 06:59
I just read the whole thing, and this is awesome. Hope you update it consistently Wink
Gig 'em Aggies

Fast N' Loud Cycling Project - ICL
loving to see you clearly enjoying this! at first this story wasn´t my thing, but at this point you have a follower in me :)
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@welker - Wow, awesome to hear! Really overwhelmed, cheers Grin! Yeah consistency can be an issue but it's not going anywhere Grin
@Croatia - Yeah it's really fun to explore this story! I know its not for everyone without much racing yet and the story focused episodes but good to know you are enjoying it now Grin

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[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [PCT] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing

4x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x4
Pulling No Punches

"It was Boxing Day and I was ready to fight."

Christmas. Family. As usual, BBQ on the deck overlooking the farm, the girls managing to turn a couple of bites of pavlova into a nuclear explosion on their face, and a generally awesome time.

Boxing Day. Cricket in the morning. I made a century before Hayden caught me out. Bodes well for the race.

After much struggle trying to go easy on the delicious Christmas leftover duck for lunch, I was warming up with Rose. We talked, generally about things other than the race if we could try to. It may seem stupid how nervous I get about this race, but it is quite a big day for us! Eventually it was time to go. And this year one of us had to win.


The usual breathtaking plethora of sunny green hills greeted us as we rode past. I helped keep an eye on the break though really it was just getting the lads to pick up the pace because a glance from the top of a hill aside, I had no idea where the break is, was, or may be. But I'd never seen one win.

And so, as it usually does, the attack that would stick went. Well, it was more of a selection than anything, but we were there and from here we hoped to seize the race. And we tried with a couple of pushes and prods, but we found some riders that it was having no effect on. So, we played a different card. I took one for the team, snuck free of the group from a fair way out from the finish and began the long slog to wherever I was to be caught.

I tried to extend the gap enough so I was out of sight, out of mind, or just as good out of sight and very much on the mind, so Hayden and Rose could coast to the final climb. The slightly twisting roads aided my cause and the coast in the distance set the romantic scene in my mind. I was a daring attacker in a picturesque Italian classic, with the sun and wind at my back. In my mind, I was whatever my brain needed and wanted to make this work.

A few minutes passed, a few more, and I wasn't caught. Never looking back, never giving in. As I reached the foot of the final climb I was completely gunning for the win, the further I got without being caught the better for the other two but this was my chance. I kept going, out of the saddle, until on a straighter bit I dared a cheeky glance under the shoulder. Nobody there. I kept going, closer and closer to the top of the hill of pain for me just a fortnight ago at the hands of my elder brother. And only round the final corner, checking to see if it was really happening, could I see the familiar bouncing style of my brother, with a companion, a couple of hundred metres behind. Time to soak it in.


Edited by jandal7 on 20-04-2020 07:06
@ALL - shorter episode, but in no rush with a longer season. I'm liking the slower story with no rushing to episode 13 - test is going well Smile

"I couldn't believe it."

Wow. I stuck my hand in the air and took it in. It'd been my ambition for 10 years to be that local guy who won the race up Old Graeme's Hill. And now... it seemed so easy but I knew I'd played it well and rode the best I could. I crossed the line, soaking in every second as the sun twinkled at me from behind the picture perfect hills. What a feeling.

I looked back and saw that Hayden wasn't in the group. Neither was Rose. As I dismounted I hoped I'd see them riding up the hill to a top 5. No such luck. 5 minutes and I was wondering where they were. I'd seen Hayden at least as I rode round the last corner. Soon it had been 8 minutes. I got back on after much hand shaking and went down to try and find them

Once I was partway down the hill I saw them. Rose in a ditch, Hayden trying to make his way through the, perhaps at another time poetic, rose bush. I knew he'd been getting spiked - crap. Rose. I leapt down to where my brother fought the pricks and branches to get to Rose, who wasn't moving. My arms were torn but I had to get to her, to see what had happened. I looked at Hayden, and he was shaking. Shaking with rage.
Edited by jandal7 on 17-04-2020 09:30
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