The Bike and Other Stories
Cycling adventures around London, New York City, and Berlin.
Geoffrey Armes
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The Girls Win Again
Geoffrey Armes - 2020-06-14 23:21:54+02:00

It had been a week. The usual teaching plus more plus illness had seen to that.

First the penultimate hearing of this music and dance or music analysis and dance or music appreciation for dancers or whatever this course is I have purportedly been teaching, of which the most successful moments have consisted of walking and listening to city sounds and moving in silence when in the studio - also great conversation on work, why work, why we started to work, where we want our work to go.

Then class playing, and a slow accretion of energy and instruments over at the Marameo studio accrued over three days, as I travelled the music gathered and waited in place.

For the group motion workshop last night, when a core of music, rose and embraced the room, energy coruscating between leaders (women) participants (mostly men) and music makers (women and men) including one of my daughters in full embrace of the process in graceful action.

Music is always there, waiting for an invitation, waiting for the antennae to be raised again, the receiver left open, the egress enabled.

But the organisational stress in every sphere had been overwhelming along with my cold or flu or whatever that had risen as the week progressed, as the weather thickened, each day grey and heavy, the sky opening buckets and dropping water on the burgeoning drains of Berlin, tides backed up, ponding everywhere, deep puddles that became lakes..

Still the rain fell, and still the pressure lay sunken, a soggy sullen presence malingering in every corner. Berlin squelched on, as did I, lucky many times - the last train home before the station was closed by rising water, the student cancelling as exhaustion drove me to bed.

At the close of Saturday evening then, tired but fulfilled, my girl by my side next to a pile of musical instruments I overpaid a taxi home and fell gratefully into my chair, as she took herself into bed and quickly slipped to sleep.


Sunday then, became an opportunity to seize, as sunshine broke for a few minutes and clouds lumbered by without precipitation. I had no idea how much energy I had, on the tails of the week's extra expenditure truncated by sickness but it was time to go. Tentative at first, wiping away spats of rain drops and noting the wind I arrived at the Krone, which was busy enough with riders to encourage. I got out the saddle on that first little rise and cautiously started to work. Nobody went by me, but I'd resolved not to chase anyway.

A little further up, when I'd settled into a comfortable rhythm a woman did go by, hard, training obviously, tucked in a Time Trial position, a study in aerodynamic focus, lithe light and skinny, like my girl who danced last night and indeed, rides a bike very quickly. Even if I hadn't resolved not to chase I would never have dared disturb that concentration by suddenly clunking gears and snorting behind her.

Next though, came a small group, and as they passed I decided that I'd be saving energy for later and still moving faster if I joined, whilst still feeling my way into the ride. I didn't work, just sat in, and of our two leaders, one seemed a lot smoother than the other. Another woman I noted. She led us a quick chase and pretty soon we were coming up on the first girl, but they left her out front, and the pace stayed high, but as long as I concentrated on keeping the gap tight I was fine. I found myself behind the front two, wondering where the others had gone. Before we reached Havelchaussee I made my decision: I was turning, whether they went that way or straight ahead. But they went my way and the pace stayed steady, down into the valley where, being heavier I could have passed easily but kept my ride conservative as earlier when I'd let a gap show it had been quite hard sprinting back on, and well, I had been ill all week. Best to keep something. But then there was the van, sat in front of us at a stolid 30k only less because he was stuck behind a slow cyclist and for some reason wouldn't pass. The girls got together on the front and started discussing, they were training, wanted the pace before the hill. We guys, I think down to three, at that point seemed to be content to wait, conserve some energy...

The girls had had enough and sprinted around on a semi-blind bend with enough room to accommodate and set off towards Willi (the hill) and of course a few minutes later as the pace of the cyclist in front of the van faltered on the lower slope the driver suddenly found the space to get by without hassle and the hill lay open for us as well. I figured at that point to drop contact and let the others go by but realised halfway up that I was gaining again, and with a sprint put them behind me on the peak.

But it wasn't until minutes later that I saw the girls as they sat up and waited for one of the men from the original group, who must have been training with them.

Perhaps they hated me by then, but I still wouldn't take the front, and the same thing happened on Postfenn as on Willi– I waved them ahead and still came back on everyone except the girls who'd skimmed up, light as on wings and happy. At this point I turned as I had another hill to do, and then Willi once again and a long slog through the thickening weather stopping only to stretch out a gammy lag once before getting home just as the clouds threw down again.