A hand and a laugh in the air. Five boys on bikes. Nothing much in common except a whisper thin belief in themselves and the bonds that brought them together.
So together they rode, each secretly playing out the roles of the faces they glimpsed frozen in the inky pages of The Comic; the faces they pinned on bedroom walls beside Madness and Morrissey. Hinault, Maertens, Van Impe, Moser, Zoetemelk, Saronni. Names filled with European magic. In moments too they thought of Kelly, Roche and Millar: the Celtic soul brothers ploughing their solitary ways through the peloton towards legend. The strong devoted, no less.
Five boys on bikes on a summer habble. Sprinting for road signs, no holds barred. Imaginary primes at the top of each gentle rise, no quarter given. Double points on any real hill. The illusion of a polka-dot maillot on someone’s shoulders, or a maglia verde if they were talking Italian. For whilst no-one enjoyed language lessons in school, out on the road it was different. Peloton, casquette, musette, maglia, maillot, bidon. Bella, bella.
Naturally it was important to dress the part. Chris wore the Splendor of Criquielion, Robert in Saronni’s Del Tongo. Andy sported the Gis of Moser whilst Nick went for Anderson’s Panasonic. Marc meanwhile favoured the Mondrian themed La Vie Claire of Hinault. A modernist classic, as he would tell anyone close enough to listen. Yet although each wore a different jersey, they thought of themselves as a team, a gang, a grupetto. The Velo. They were simply The Velo.
So The Velo rode the coast as they often did, but for once dropped down through the tree lined avenues to the castle on the cliffs. Roosevelt and Churchill met there in the second war, so it was said, and Robert insisted there were ghosts in the old mill. Bunny-hopping speed bumps, they passed cars on the left and right. An old gentleman soaked in the sun’s warmth on a felled tree trunk and Chris cried “Bonjour Monsieur!” as they passed. Andy, at the back of the bunch, saw a walking stick raised in a bemused returned salute. A gaggle of teen girls stood waiting for parents, bored in the car-park. “Ca va?!” called Marc. Banal glares bounced back at them and Marc looked to his friends. “Les mademoiselles - elles sont tres, tres froid.” he shouted, and Robert responded with his best Gallic shrug.
They soft pedalled around to the castle entrance, but its imposing facade held no interest. Three riders took quick drinks whilst the other two held track stands between the cream stone pillars of the elegant gateway. The sun continued to slide through the sky towards Arran in the west as the vapour trails of trans-atlantic airplanes drew chalk lines on the blue.
A call went up.
A sprint back up the road and more miles in their legs. Further from home then eventually switching back: a return to the girls of summer and the illusion of love. Five boys on bikes with nothing much in common except a whisper thin belief in themselves and memories that momentarily brought them together.