May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
The competitors must have set out a good couple of hours ago; they say the first ones, the fast ones, will be due back any time now. It’d not rained in weeks before last night, so there’ll not be mud to grind through, but that rain will have made for greasiness so there’ll be skittering and careering instead.
For the moment there’s a few locals scattered about, kids racing towards the recently-arrived icecream van as their grandparents attempt to corral them, and the odd spectator dotted here and there.
The spectators, such as they are, are uncertain – here, one is tucked down by the wall, out of the wind with her book, and over there, that woman is poised with her camera, convinced that her boyfriend will be first round the corner and into the home straight.
All these women waiting for their menfolk like a clumsy pastiche of the wait for the return of the all-conquering war heroes – but the first over the line is some slip of a lad with no welcoming committee, awkward as he poses for a victory snap and eager to get at the bacon sandwiches up at the clubhouse.
The women make idle conversation and crane their necks every time a cyclist comes round the corner; each meets the competitor’s eye and is unable to disguise her indifference when it is again not her partner.
The sun forcing its way up above the Pennine village illuminates faces redolent of Easter Island statues – until, one by one, the spectators peel away towards the men now crossing the line in photo-finish twos and threes.