I’m down in the drops and taking this quite serious now. Serious stuff, this, that’s what it is. Serious. A lot of heavy breathing and looking down at my legs, spinning away at a high cadence and looking pretty good as legs go. They look good. Pretty good down there, those legs. Some light contouring around the bottom end of the quadricep. That’s important. Not too much lateral movement. That’s essential. And hair. A lot of hair. Too much perhaps. Or no. No, it’s good. Subversive. Part of my statement. My ethos. That’s what I’m putting out there. This hair, you know, which speaks to the other riders. Silently. Hair talk. Quiet and whispering. The whisper of a thousand follicles. A collective message. From me to them. The other riders. Letting them know, you know. That I’m not shaving. I’m not there yet. I’m new.
I am new. New to the game. Even though this isn’t a game. It’s serious. Serious stuff, this. The consequence too far away for a game, beyond arms length. But we’re ok with that, aren’t we, and maybe that’s the thing. It’s the extension, the stretching, the reach. I take a sip of my drink, replete as it is with electrolytes and a carb:fructose ratio. It’s pink. And there’s a lot of pink in cycling round these parts. Pink socks. Pink stripes. Pink jerseys and caps and bikes. No, bikes, no. Pink is not a colour for bikes, apparently. It’s for apparel only, and the brighter the better. It’s ok to have pink flamingoes on your jersey, but not on your bike. Although there is something about flamingos and bikes, something we likes. Perhaps it’s their structure, the angles and arches, their innate sparseness, that makes them well suited to one another.
I’m looking around now, between breaths, and all I can see are flamingos, going round and round the Outer Circle of the Park, working hard and taking this serious, sometimes looking down at their legs and then up again at the other contenders. There’s a strong flamingo up ahead of me, on a Trek Madone with red handlebar tape. He’s working hard, this flamingo, digging deep, his beak almost down touching his handlebars and his spindly legs turning a lot of power. See the way he keeps his wings pressed tightly against his sides, making him more aerodynamic and helping him gain those precious watts. I’ve almost got his wheel now, it’s there, ahead of me, just out of reach. But I’m reaching it, a real stretch, giving everything I’ve got to get that wheel, but this is quite a flamingo we’ve got here, look at him go, he’s about to take off.
And then. Got it! I’ve got it. And now I have to keep it. But the flamingo senses someone in his slipstream, raising his long neck and glancing round at me. I’m never quite sure what that look is. Surprise? Welcome? Contempt? Probably a bit of each. And now he’s really putting the hammer down. He’s got an audience now so he’s upping his game and I’m going to struggle to hold this wheel. This wheel’s going to get away from me. It’s going. Slowly, painfully, stretching away from me inch by inch and then foot by foot and then meters and 10 meters and then the flamingo has broken my resolve, I’m going to let him go. You can go now. Go. Fly away now with your pink jersey and your flamboyant contempt and your Trek Madone with red handlebar tape. Go. Be free.
He drifts away and another group come past, a lot of shaven legs and a few pink socks. I could try to hang on at the back, but I’m ok. I’m happy to let them go. I’ll ride a while longer, keep my own pace, my own council. Me and the hair on my legs and the sight of the earth, giving everything it’s got and nothing at all, slowly losing the wheel of the sun.