That’s what I was thinking forty minutes into Telo. There were four other riders in the break: Julien Bourdevaire, who had sat on the front for 30 minutes and ridden most of the field out of the race. Peter the Hungry, who was either sitting in for dear life or planning a vicious attack. Chatty Cathy, whose game plan is always Hammer and See What Sticks, and Aaron.
That name kept bouncing around in my head, because with him in the split, there was no method to me winning. He was gonna win.
The small fry had already tossed themselves into the wood chipper, most notably Ivan the Terrible, reduced for the day to Ivan the Droppable. He’d correctly id’d Julien as the wheel to sit, and at the 30-minute mark when Julien drifted to the back had rolled up beside me and nudged me off of Jules’s wheel in the first turn.
“You should have just asked,” I thought, but no worries. I’m not committed enough to fight for a wheel, and it gives 20-something beginners a sense of satisfaction to push the old and infirm out of the way. I’m a giver.
Plus, I was laughing to myself. “Let’s see how well you like Jules’s wheel in about two minutes.” Because after decimating the field, Julien was taking a breather before doing what I predicted was going to be something really painful.
It had been an eventful Telo so far. About fifteen minutes into the race, the chain whip in the middle of the turn that we kept running over finally flipped up and into Emmy’s front wheel, exploding it with a massive bang. It’s easy to blame motorists for throwing trash onto the street, but it was hard to come up with an explanation of how a motorist in an office park would have dropped a chain whip.
Couldn’t have been a cyclist.
Two riders had gone up the road, and when we hit the tailwind, sure enough, Julien launched. Ivan the Droppable, who was perfectly positioned to follow the perfectly telegraphed move, opened up a huge gap as Jules sprinted away. I was on Ivan’s wheel, laughing as he desperately tried to close the widening gap. When he blew, I came around, then hit my own mini-wall.
Aaron came around me, bridged to Julien, and they were poised to join Peter the Hungry and Chatty Cathy. I grunted, put in an ugly effort, and latched on. Ivan was back in Gardena somewhere.
Our five-man group rotated easily away from the shards and pieces of the chasers, but still I kept thinking … “Aaron.”
Because as things stood, I was going to get fifth, and since I was showcasing my new Bahati kit, that wasn’t going to be enough. As is always the case at Telo, if Aaron is with the leaders at the finish, he’s going to win. Coming around him is about as success-proof a plan as coming around Charon Smith.
So I attacked with seven laps to go.
Unfortunately, several lapped riders fell in with the chasers, who also slowed, allowing Ivan & Co. to claw back on. This gave me a bit more distance, but it also meant that it was a matter of time before they started chasing in earnest, and nine riders against one old, slow, fading grandpa was a foreordained outcome.
Still, with five to go I had a gap. With four to go, a gap. With three, with two, and finally with one to go, I had a gap. The impossible looked like it was going to happen, except that each time I glanced back I could see Ivan, Wes, Brandon, and Chatty Cathy throwing everything they had into the chase.
Did they not understand that they were with Aaron? What did they think was going to happen in the sprint if they reeled me back? Why, instead of trying to bridge, were the motorheads working together to catch me in order to set up Aaron for the win?
All of these questions were duly explained afterwards by Baby Seal. Caught and shelled with half a lap to go, I was despondent. “Look, Wanky, there are three types of riders in the chase. The first are the ones who are just happy to be there. They may be lapped, or they may have lucked into it, but they don’t care about anything other than being where they are. The happyheads are irrelevant and ignored.
“The second ones are the swivelheads. They simply hammer and follow every move, without thinking about why, about the composition of the group, or about the finish. They are the ones that Aaron is playing like a banjo, using them up as they pointlessly squander their watts in the waning moments of the symphony. They include ‘teammates’ who chase, lapped riders who rested for ten minutes and now have a few more efforts to throw down, as well as arch-enemies whose idea of a win is seeing you lose. Bottom line, they are Aaron’s bitches, they just don’t know it, and probably never will.
“The third ones are the winners. Julien is back there laughing. He likes you and isn’t going to chase. But Aaron? He’s there to win. And he did.”
“What about me? Which type am I?”
“You,” he said, “are the hopeless flailer who sets everything up for Aaron. Either you stay in the break and help power him to the finish, or you launch, inducing your ‘teammates’ and the other swivelheads to chase you down, thereby giving Aaron a bunch of corpses to gently step over in the last 400 yards.”
“But why don’t the other riders calculate that as long as Aaron is there, they lose? Why don’t they attack him until one of them gets away?”
Baby Seal shrugged. “Calculate? It’s Telo.”
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