So sorry about missing last week (as I’m sure all four of you noticed, and mourned appropriately), but I had a friend crashing with me for her impending graduation, on top of still working the summer placement. The placement is (genuinely sadly) over, though, and I can return to living a life of total liesure/totally not getting things done, despite having all the time in the world.
Inspired by current sporting events, and in partial apology, I give you Velo!
I suppose many would think me lucky. I spend many of my days essentially staring at my lover’s bottom, encased in skin-tight Lycra.
They would be right.
It is a stunning thing, my Damian’s arse. Slender, pure muscle, tight. Like mine, but a little rounder and higher, and I tease him about the extra padding, about how he bounces a little more on taking the hills. He teases me about my slenderness, the skinny body that had pretty much fated me to be a sprinter, breaking away from the peloton to lead my lover, my Damian, our team’s star rider, to the tete de la course.
He is our champion, and I am his domestique, charged with keeping him hydrated, easing his way, setting him up to win the time trials that are his specialty. He’s not a Grand Champion – not yet – but we are on our third Tour de France together, and every year he finishes a little higher.
We met in the team – we’re small, you’d not have heard of us – three years ago. I was assigned to aid him, as the newest to the team, and the one with much prior experience. I fetched him water, sacrificed a wheel to him int he Loire valley in stage four, and shattered my collarbone in stage fourteen. Damian called me that night while I lay in hospital, and each one after. He didn’t say much about the Tour when I asked, which was kind of him. And then he visited me after he had raced down the Champs-Elysees, he came to my home in Brittany and never quite left again. The two of us were lovers as soon as our battered bodies could take it, and we were as inseparable as we could manage.
That was the first year. The second year, he was an idiot.
I have never resented playing the role of domestique. He is the better cyclist, and I could dislike him for it with as much sense as him disliking me because I have blue eyes, instead of his brown. Damian is the best of us, and I am proud of him and proud of myself because he needs me to make those time trials, to set the pace so we can break away at just the right moment. There is little glory in my role, but much honor.
But, as I said, he was an idiot. It was the night before the first rest day of that Tour when he decided to pick at me again, trying to prove that I hated my role, or perhaps trying to prove to himself that I didn’t, and by extension, could not hate him.
We were in a rather tiny room in what felt like an even smaller village in the east of France, getting ready for some much-deserved sleep, and possibly a little more. Not much more, but something beyond the chaste kiss and brief cuddle that marked race days.
“Surely you must get jealous? Sometimes?” He was sat up in bed, those long legs tucked under his chin like a little boy. It was very nearly sweet.
“Do you get jealous of the Schlecks, or Armstrong, or Voeckler?” I asked in return, vainly hoping that he’d let it all drop. I was wearing just a towel, and redressing a nasty scrape on my shin, received in a fall two days before.
“Come here and let me do that. And yes, of course. Don’t you want to be the star?”
I stretched out beside him, enjoying the casualness of the touches between us. I knew his body completely, knew everything about it. I knew better than he knew mine, but not by much.
“Not really,” I told him while he taped bandages over raw scabs. “I want to be who I am. A good sprinter, smart, a good support man. Dedicated to my leader and my team.” I shrugged; I’d thought this through long ago, when my shortcomings became apparent. “By myself, I’m not so much. But I can be part of such a great team.” I smiled, and reached out to touch a cheek just going rough from not shaving. “Be part of a great partnership, the champion’s domestique.”
Damian finally smiled, and reached for me, and it was a very good night.
He gets silly sometimes, but much less often now. I think he’s starting to understand.
And now we are in our third tour, our best so far. We’re at the head of the peloton, getting lucky during a descent, and I will admit that my heart beat a little quicker when I saw the maillot jaune flash by me – flash behind me, but I’ve no time to think now. Albert is with Damian and is keeping him near the front, the two of them close behind the Garmin team which is setting our pace. 30 km to the finish, and at Albert’s signal I drop back to fetch food and water from our team’s car.
Thierry, our manager, grins at me. “L’Etoile looks good. Flat to the finish now, but there’s a sharp right just after the 3km mark,” he reminds me, and I nod. ‘Damian’ has become ‘L’Etoile’ and today feels right. It is a very beautiful afternoon in the valley when i work my way back to my leader, and I give my lover food and water with a smile. “L’Etoile.”
Damian nods, and I slip in front of him, working us past the Garmin team as the kilometers flash by.
At 20km, I make my move, dipping over like I was playing in a forest with my friends, and attacking. Damian is on my back wheel and we break away, the air electric as I send us racing ahead, breaking free of the pack of a thousand colors of jersey and helmets skimming over the road.
The reaction is immediate, with a few others quickly joining us, the men we’ll be fighting to the end of the stage. I chose right, of course – the road narrows here, and they have to stay behind me as the crowds grow thicker, the cheering louder, boosting us through the country road.
A flash of white, and Thomas is ahead of me. I let him go for a little; he earned that jersey, and I’ve earned a little break in his slipstream. Damian is at my back, and I fancy I can feel the heat pouring off of him.
I wait and watch, and when I we are ten kilometers away – well, I wait until the Welsh flag is behind us, and then I forget the red dragon, Geraint Thomas and his earned jersey, the trees to either side of us, everything but the road ahead.
Another fast move and I’m ahead, fighting for it now as the road widens.
The pain hits then, but we have so far to go, so I put my head down and fight, gaining, losing gaining until we hit the 5km marker, and my duty is done. I want to lay down in the road and scream. Instead I drop back into the breakaway group as Damian rockets ahead, a superhuman explosion of the last of his energy.
The breakaway follows him. Sanchez falls off the back, and I am comfortably in the middle. I can just see Damian ahead, body slim and straight now as he outruns us all. He dips hard on the right turn, and someone – I can’t remember his name – nearly catches his up, but the rest Damian has had, his time behind me as I set the pace and took the wind – all these things mean that he is the first, comfortably the first, to break across the finish line. He kisses the Virgin medal we both wear, and I am just aware that I’m the fourth to cross the line. This is quite good, really, but best is Damian’s smile, and best is him reaching for me, clasping my hand tightly, the winner of the stage.