This is another marvelous story from Scooter. If it wasn't true, you might not believe it.
Before beginning this story I should first acknowledge and thank those who caused the long-since buried memories to resurface. During last Thursday's Shop ride, Dismount Dave brought up a story that happened to me nearly twenty years ago. It actually happened twenty years ago last month. Though some or most of the details have been obscured by time, the foundation of the tale remains intact. It is my belief that Tailgunner, or whatever your preferred name for him may be, is responsible for Dismount's sudden recollection of a story told so long ago. If you are a dedicated Two Wheel blog reader, surely you will piece together this chain of events that all began with Stephen Roche's victory in the 1987 World Championship Road Race.
After arriving in Montataire, I had a week or so to prepare for my first race, which was a criterium put on by the club that I was riding for. The house I was to live in for the next half year was owned and inhabited by the club president and his half crazy, or maybe just French, wife Lucy, although Lulu was what she preferred to be called but only by those whose company she really enjoyed.
The day before the race, Robert (Lulu's husband) left on business for the next day's race. As soon as Robert drove away, Lulu wasted no time in inviting me into the living room to watch a cycling video. She had seen her husband hounding me for the last week about how to train, how to race, how I knew nothing about any of it, and most importantly, how he knew and had done it all. Upon entering the living room I noticed another woman, who until Dismount's retelling last Thursday, I would have left out of the story. Still, I cannot for the life of me remember who she was, or where she came from. I think she may have been a neighbor who I never saw again, but in any case she must have been in her seventies, but she had the look of someone more like her nineties. Both she and Lulu were chain smoking, and I was willing to bet that neither had ever been a bike racer, which is too bad since they were about to give me a two hour clinic on how to win a bike race.
The full version of the video that Tailgunner posted about a few weeks back was already playing. There was only about an hour left in the race where Roche would claim his World title, and I was allowed watch the video in peace. Well, in relative peace since I was inhaling a constant cloud of smoke that plagues me to this day with chronic bronchitis. The peace lasted until Roche crossed the line, but only until then. The next hour was spent with replay after replay, finger pointing, and raised voices as these two women "explained" to me everything I should know about bike racing. But couldn’t they understand that I didn’t speak French, and just give it a rest? This was humiliating, but nothing like race day would be.
I had been told to attack when ever it rained, but not by Lulu or her friend. The French hate the rain. On race day it rained and it was a criterium. The course had corners, slippery paint stripes, and railroad tracks. It was going to be wet, dangerous, and miserable, and I was pleased.
With 200 meters to go on his last lap, Christophe Letudier attacked fiercely and I clamped on his wheel and would not budge until overtaking him after the line. I watched him celebrate with his arms raised and possibly only his tippy toes remaining on the pedals. His face had an expression of euphoria, that is, until he heard the bell sound to signify one lap to go. Yes, he had celebrated one lap too early.
I quickly let eight to ten riders overtake me, but no more than that. With four to five hundred meters to go I jumped with all I had. I hopped the railroad tracks, risked it all through two more corners and sprinted across the line, never daring to raise hands in victory after what happened to Letudier. On the cool down lap I had two great concerns, stay fifty meters ahead of everyone until crossing the line again just in case, and how was I going to face Lulu when she claimed the win for herself since she had taught me how to do all that the day before.
Facing her was the single most pride swallowing, humbling, and humiliating event I had experienced up to that point in my eighteen years of life. But then again the choice was easy, I had to endure, I relied on her for food, and I was famished.