Paul and I cycled on through the night and entered the wine country of Sonoma.
‘Watch out for the old dudes in maseratis’ Paul warned, ‘They are always checking their instagram feed of healthy matrons looking for a hookup with a wealthy vitner ready to kick the bucket and wander a bit on the roads. That’s why I rely on my trusty rear view mirror, and why all those older tall blondes were milling around at the last quicky mart waiting to get picked up.’
Arriving at one of the larger villages we entered a temporary encampment of pro cycle teams readying for a new stage of a multi-stage race. Paul motioned to me to follow him and we pulled up behind a bright red tent with a funny looking ‘K’ on it.
‘Wait for my signal and enter.’ Paul said as he did some fumbling under his cloak. A moment later he dropped the cloak from his shoulders and was transformed into a short muscle-bound woman with curly hair tied up a-la rosie the riveter, khaki shorts and a gingham blouse.
‘No! My name is Paulette Gallet! Travelling alone on a bike can be tiresome with all the unwanted advice and advances by male cyclists. Traveling as a man is much quieter – my traveling name is Paul de Vivie – now wait as I asked for the signal.’
I felt a bit exposed waiting outside the tent, but I pretended to look at an imaginary phone in my hand and to have imaginary conversations on a non-existent phone in my hand and the guards paid me no mind.
‘Psst! Now! Bring the musette.’ There was a tied up slavic looking cyclist under the cot and a carbon bike leaned up next to a card table.
‘Put on this team kit while I stuff the randodecahedrons into this carbon bike.’
I donned the red kit with a funny ‘K’ on it while I watched Paulette stuff the gnomes down the seat tube of the bike.
‘Once all these little guys are in there you will have to be careful to not go too fast. Most bikes that plane only have one or two gnomes or rarely, a whole randodecahedron get in there and those bikes become legendary. Routens used one gnome per bike, Herse used two, and Singer cheaped out by using two elves. Elves just don’t oscillate like a good pair of gnomes. The definitive history of the use of Elves and Gnomes in the golden age of cycling is outlined in this online ‘zine that I forget the name of. Their writing is hit or miss, but worth an occasional visit. I am still trying to get one of their patches to match my bumper sticker.’
I wheeled the plastic bike out of the tent, wearing the full kit complete with helmet and sunglasses, hiding my perfect randonneuring body by sucking in my gut.
‘There. With that silly costume on no one can tell the difference between you and Kristoff if you keep your gut sucked in. Remember the power of the gnomes.’
I lined up with the other riders in a light rain and assumed my commute face complete with squint and open mouth and the others left me to my mental preparations and tightened abs. To stay with the other riders, rather than pedal, I feathered the brakes to keep my gnome gorged steed under check. The first few cols I had to pedal just for form and I mostly had to concentrate on not running over the other riders avoiding potholes and linear cracks in the poor road surface, biding my time until the final circuits of the race in the large village we started in. Bikes that plane are fabulous.
I positioned myself perfectly for the final sprint, my domestiques did a fine job for me (thank you to my fellow team mates and fans for your support – you all are really great) but Sagan, the only rider in the peloton clean of heart and presently clean of detection of any doping, was right there with me and my gnomes. NOooo! I might have to work at this I thought as I wound it up. Sagan was right there with me until I pulled out my secret weapon.
Sagan was next to me and I yelled ‘auto späť!’ Sagan wavered and I pipped him at the line. ‘Auto späť!’ is slovak for ‘car back’. You can watch the video here.
Paulette greeted me at the finish, now disguised as a podium girl. With a smooch she congratulated me ‘With this stolen victory, you are that much closer to your goals.’
So continued my
dream quest of the unknown meeting.