I was taking an online creative writing class and this was my submission for the prompt:
David sat crying in the middle of the road.
The Next Journey
Sweat poured down David’s back as he shifted gears trying to maintain his lead in the Tour of California. The day had dawned stifling hot and hadn’t subsided even with the rise in altitude as the peloton ascended Gibraltar Road. It was Stage Six; David only needed to get up through this mountainous stage in one piece. If he could complete this safely, tomorrow’s ride along the Pacific Coast Highway should be a cake walk in comparison. His team was surrounding him like he was a precious little caterpillar nestled in a cocoon of safety, but he knew it could all change in an instant.
David’s mind drifted to the moment two months ago when he’d gone to the team doctor, complaining of being light headed and shaky before he’d even gone out for his training ride that morning. The very next day his world crashed down around him, leaving him with only one logical conclusion. Retirement. He hadn’t officially announced it to the press, requesting the team to keep it close to their vests until after the race. David didn’t want this to become a distraction, but he couldn’t help smile at being an added inspiration factor for his team.
This race was going to be his denouement, and David was hoping to literally ride off into the sunset with one last yellow jersey to hang on to. The doctor had told him it was the early symptoms of Parkinson’s, and while medication could slow the progression of the disease, it was still going to rob him of his body control prior to killing him outright, all the motivation he needed for one last ride.
His wife, Jenn didn’t understand his compelling drive to win ‘just one more’ when there were so many other things to be doing, like spending time with his two kids, Jake, and Ella. His racing had taken a toll on his family but after the diagnosis, Jenn had vowed to stick by him and fight this disease to the bitter end. He’d been a racer all his adult life and while his body might be breaking down, it’s hard to tell your mind to just stop doing something that it’s been so keenly focused on for so long. It was like asking him to stop breathing. How does one go about doing that? They’d compromised; he’d retire after this race and focus on his health, his family– her. It was the least he could do after all the sacrifices they’d made for their marriage to make this dream of his real. It was his turn to give some things up, especially before he would be taking all over again.
Through race radio, he could hear there was a small breakaway attempt being thwarted at the front of the peloton. David knew he needed to move up front to chase down anyone who attempted to catch his current, race leading time. “Johan, let’s move up and set the pace. I’m not going down today,” David demanded through his earpiece. It took just one moment for the team to begin maneuvering up to the front, jostling other teams to make way for the current leader.
David stayed close to the back wheel of Antonio, his climbing domestique as he wove them through the crowd. While Antonio was new to the Velo team he brought an enthusiasm and drive that was unparalleled to any other young rider on the circuit. David wondered who the team would recruit to become their next GC rider in the coming months. Not that it should concern him any, but still, this little squad of riders had become his family, his home away from home since he turned pro at twenty-four and he cared how things would turn out for these young riders.
“Let’s hold steady here,” Johan ordered, telling the team to hold pace now that they were in the front and leading the pack. “David, stay alert, I think Alberto is going to attack around the next bend. Stick to his wheel, you only have twelve seconds to spare and the toughest climb is still eight K to go.”
David let out an unsteady breath. “Gotcha,” he replied and refocused on sticking to the front. Just as Johan had predicted, Alberto began to charge ahead at the turn. David responded, pounding on his pedals and latched on to Alberto’s wheel. The breakaway didn’t stick, and the peloton caught up thanks to Team Velo increasing the pace, leaving no room for question as to who was leading the charge.
Muscles screaming, on the brink of exhaustion, David could see the crest of the hill and knew he’d get a short breather before having to attack the last climb of the stage. Staying focused on Alberto, he rode under the King of the Hill banner to begin his descent. Wind whizzing by, he was flying around the switchbacks, trying to maintain as much speed as possible while staying in control of his bike. He could see Alberto just to his left, and focused on not letting his rival get any further ahead.
The pair sped down the mountain, curve for curve, neck and neck. David’s muscles were beginning to chill from the cool wind, but he knew the next climb was only a half a kilometer away and he’d be unable to keep the sweat out of his eyes soon enough. The last turn in the descent was upon him, but his tire must have hit a small rock because the next thing he knew, his bike was no longer beneath him and he was tumbling across the pavement, feeling like he was entirely made up of road rash.
“Agh!” he whelped, pain surging through his entire body. He thought his collarbone was likely broken, not to mention the odd angle his wrist was sitting at. The race car zoomed up behind him as he sat in the middle of the road and cried. He wept, watching all the other racers speed by him, knowing he’d never wear yellow again and that while this fight was over, he had a whole other one that was just beginning.