'Champs ├ëlys├®es.'

Stories and all other works of naturist fiction

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'Champs ├ëlys├®es.'

Postby sirius631 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:57 am

'Champs ├ëlys├®es.'

David Lloyd, November 2012.

The phone was ringing on the patio table, but the swimmer didnÔÇÖt hear it; the sound of his stroke and the water conspiring to silence the world outside. The ringing was echoed by the main phone in the living room, so it didnÔÇÖt go unnoticed by the bustling, elderly French housekeeper who came to see why the phone wasnÔÇÖt answered. Seeing the nude form of the swimmer gliding up the pool, she picked up the phone, not wanting to let the call be missed.

« Allo ? »

┬½ ÔǪ ┬╗

« Ah, oui. Il est dans la piscine. Je vais l'appeler pour vous. »

Not being able to bend as well as in her younger days, she couldnÔÇÖt reach down into the pool to alert the swimmer, so she grabbed the yard brush that was leaning against the stone house wall and tapped him on the head with the bristles as he came to the shallow end. That got his attention.

┬½ Il s'agit d'un appel t├®l├®phonique pour vous. ┬╗

« Merci, Madame Renoir. Je vais le prendre ici. » The swimmer hauled himself out of the pool and grabbed a towel to dry off before the cool air chilled him.

Madame Renoir thought nothing wrong of the young manÔÇÖs nudity; so like her dear Henri in his younger days. She recalled the days that they spent together, living in the farmhouse that they now rented out, swimming in the natural pond down by the meadow, raising their family. She didnÔÇÖt go back into the house, but set about brushing a few stray leaves off the patio.

The man pressed the speakerphone button; he still needed both hands to use the towel. « Allo ? »

ÔÇ£Hello, this is Marc.ÔÇØ The voice on the other end spoke English with a thick French accent.

ÔÇ£Hi Marc, howÔÇÖs it goinÔÇÖ?ÔÇØ the man replied, in the true broad tones of northwest England.

ÔÇ£I wonÔÇÖt beat about the bush. We need you in Luxembourg in two days. I know we were holding you back until next year, but Andr├® has torn a hamstring in an accident and wonÔÇÖt be riding for the rest of the year. I need you to fill his role as lead domestique to J├®r├┤me. Bring yourself and your top bike to Luxembourg. WeÔÇÖll have your new time trial machine set up and waiting for you to give it a test ride before the prologue. David is your Directeur Sportif, so call him to make all arrangements. Got it?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes, Got it.ÔÇØ

But the young man wasnÔÇÖt sure he did have it, as his Team Principal disconnected the call from the other end. Evidently, this was very important for the team, but for the big boss to call him directly, rather than having the Directeur Sportif chosen for the race do it? That was a first. His head spun with the enormity of the implication. This was not just big; it was everything he had ever hoped for as a rider. He felt like screaming and shouting, but that would only scare his elderly landlady. He had to lean against the table for a moment before he could stand again, unassisted.

He would have to call his friends and family, to let them know his dream was about to come true, but for now there was only his trusted landlady and housekeeper. ┬½ Mme RenoirÔǪ, c'est le Tour, je vais faire le Tour de France. ┬╗

Madame Renoir bustled over. ┬½ Oh, magnifique ! F├®licitations ! ┬╗ There were a few words muffled as she hugged the young man and tearfully gave him a triple cheek kiss. ┬½ Je dois appeler Henri et lui l'annoncer. ┬╗ With that she released him and bustled off indoors.

He had to prepare. He always left his kit bag ready to pick up in the laundry room, but this was a three week tour so one kit bag would never be sufficient. He had to pack three sets of race clothing to cope with the delay of washing and drying, and four sets to replace those that would be ripped in crashes; he would pack ten sets to be on the safe side. There were four sets of compression recovery tops and longs and three sets of team issue casual wear, including trainers. He would take his usual two pairs of race shoes and break a third new pair out of their box. The suitcase was upstairs.

First things first, though; heÔÇÖd have to put his race bike in its case, ready for the flight to Luxembourg. Entering the gym at the back of the garage, he took the red Time machine down off its storage hooks, set it down gently and ran his fingers over the top tube, contemplating its destiny. This wasnÔÇÖt the old friend that had seen him grow up and move up the domestic ranking; that was sitting, unused, but still clean and cherished back in his parentÔÇÖs garage. This bike was a comrade, his colleague; a professional which, at any moment, the team could discard and replace. Still, it had a destiny now, with him. His finger traced over the small Union Flag to the name of this bikeÔÇÖs rider: ÔÇÿScott LowryÔÇÖ.


ÔÇ£Thank God that morningÔÇÖs over!ÔÇØ Chloe slammed the door to the Parisian apartment closed.

ÔÇ£What is up?ÔÇØ asked Yvette, lounging nude on the sofa, flicking through television channels.

ÔÇ£This is not how I imagined it; leading culturally illiterate and linguistically challenged Britons around the sights of Paris.

Chloe removed her jacket, kicked off her court shoes, unzipped her thigh length skirt and unbuttoned her blouse. Gathering all her shed garments she took them to her bedroom and returned.

ÔÇ£Still it beats having to handle the advances of booze drenched and sex addicted British teenaged lads in Ibiza, where the only time I got to speak Spanish was when I was hauling their arses out of jail or get them medical treatment for their self-inflicted injuries. I still shudder at the thought of the times I was trying to relax on the nudist beach and English lads would turn up from the apartments, thinking it was a good idea to go there to have a good look.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You said you had a few converts.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, come on! You know what was on their minds for the evening.ÔÇØ

Just then, an anguished cry floated in through the open window, from the apartment across the landing, and two male voices could be heard cursing. A moment later there was a knock on the door.

ÔÇ£Yvette, itÔÇÖs Pierre, I need a favour.ÔÇØ A voice came through the door.

Knowing who it was, Chloe opened the door and in walked Pierre, a slim, bearded artist with tussled mid-brown hair, who just happened to be YvetteÔÇÖs boyfriend. Following him was Jean, his flatmate; a young journalist with short, dark hair, deep set eyes and narrow features. Pierre was at ease with Yvette and ChloeÔÇÖs nudity, but for Jean it was a constant effort to keep his eyes where he knew they should be.

ÔÇ£Our television has just gone kaput and thereÔÇÖs a decisive attack happening on the last day in the mountains. We must see how it turns out.ÔÇØ

Yvette turned the television back to channel 2 as Pierre stripped to join her on the sofa. Jean remained dressed but took an armchair. Being the good host, Chloe went to the fridge and fetched a bottle of beer for each of the young men. Yvette already had a mug of coffee in front of her. Chloe wouldnt stay long; she never followed cycle racing, not since no, she didnt want to relive that memory. Still, she stood for a moment and took in the commentary.

ÔÇ£This twenty-three year old is only in his second year with a UCI World Tour team, and this is his debut at the Tour de France. Team Arc-en-Ciel bought out his Pro Continental contract from NetApp-Endura, seeing him as a valuable workhorse. HeÔÇÖs been learning his trade, serving his team as a domestique up until this point, fetching and carrying water bottles, capes, food and such, and providing shelter. ItÔÇÖs a wonder that heÔÇÖs maintained such a high position in the overall standings, as his role was basically to sacrifice himself for his team leader during mountain stages. Of course, things changed drastically two days ago, when Arc-en-Ciel lost its team leader due to that terrible crash, resulting in a broken collarbone for J├®r├┤me Francis whilst he was wearing the yellow jersey. I donÔÇÖt know if any of the other team managers saw this coming, but Arc-en-Ciel has a realistic chance of salvaging the white jersey for best young rider from the ashes of this yearÔÇÖs campaign, on top of a more than likely stage victory...ÔÇØ

Chloe had things to prepare for the following day. Moving to the kitchen, she got out the iron and the ironing board and set the iron to warm up whilst she poured herself a cup of coffee from the cafetiere that Yvette had prepared. She fetched her blouse and skirt from her bedroom, and arranged the blouse on the ironing board. She passed a few moments, supping on her coffee, before the iron got up to temperature and she set about taking the creases out of her garments. Her shoes needed cleaning too, so once sheÔÇÖd unplugged the iron she took to brushing the dust off her court shoes and applying black polish. After that she spent some time in the sun, on their small roof terrace. Since Yvette was otherwise occupied with her boyfriend and his friend, Chloe had the space to herself, although she couldnÔÇÖt relax properly with the commentary drifting in from the T.V.

ÔÇ£Not since the days of Charlie Gaul, the ÔÇÿAngel of the MountainsÔÇÖ, has someone taken flight in such a passionate manner. He attacked his two breakaway companions on the penultimate climb, and they made the mistake of just looking at each other, not knowing what a truly great climber Lowry is. Now he enters the final kilometre, aloneÔǪÔÇØ

What? thought Chloe, getting up from the lounger and heading back into the lounge.

ÔÇ£Chloe, I didnÔÇÖt recognise him!ÔÇØ said Yvette. ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs Scott.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£What? Do you two know him?ÔÇØ asked Jean.

ÔÇ£Yes,ÔÇØ replied Yvette, ÔÇ£he was ChloeÔÇÖs boyfriend up until they went to university.ÔÇØ

Chloe couldnÔÇÖt watch; she had to get out of there. ÔÇ£We need more milk,ÔÇØ she said, running to her room to grab a t-shirt, shorts, sandals and purse, and exiting the apartment. So swift was her exit that she had to pause to get dressed on the staircase, before she could make the mistake of stepping into the textile universe still nude.


The jostling; the noise! It felt like the whole world was crowding in on Scott. He couldnÔÇÖt make sense of the tumult that assaulted him after heÔÇÖd crossed the finishing line. His soigneur had caught him, just as he was about to topple off the bike in exhaustion, and wheeled him to the side when he could dismount. It seemed like the worldÔÇÖs press were shoving either a lens or a microphone into his face. He didnÔÇÖt want his soigneur to hold him up, he had to stand and walk by himself; his opponents had to see that he was still standing. One by one, his team mates arrived and threw themselves upon him with joyous embraces. An escort in a hi-viz arrived; a visit to the anti-doping control station was inevitable for a stage winner. A small drink of water later, and Scott was ready to perform.

A quick damp flannel with a touch of eau de cologne to the face, a change into a fresh team jersey and he was ready to face the world. This was FranceÔÇÖs race, so to do France honour Scott would do the first interview in French.

Scott Lowry this is your second year with Arc-en-Ciel, your first time in the Tour, your first stage win and even your first win as a Pro Tour rider. How does it feel?

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs sensational, almost beyond words. The team has had a string of misfortunes which led me to being picked for the squad at the last minute. As a domestique, I was one of a number of riders assigned to service and protect our leader; one could say we failed when we lost J├®r├┤me due to the crash. The teamÔÇÖs misfortune again became my good fortune as I was released from team duties in order to put in a claim for the white jersey. What, to many observers, would have looked like a highly speculative breakaway turned out to have the strength and energy needed to stay clear of the peloton, and I capitalised on being a relative unknown to pull off the decisive attack. ItÔÇÖs been hard; the sacrifices IÔÇÖve made just to be in the professional ranks, itÔÇÖs been so hard, on my family, my friends and I.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Scott. Your victory salute, what does it mean?ÔÇØ

Scott paused in thought and closed his eyes for a second, fighting back an emotion. He again lifted his eyes to the interviewer. ÔÇ£It was in memory of one sacrifice too many.ÔÇØ

With that, he was called away to the podium. Waiting at the rear of the stage were the other expectant award recipients, all dressed in their standard trade team colours. Everyone slapped Scott on the back for congratulations; he returned the gesture. The TourÔÇÖs anthem was played, and Scott was ushered onto the podium to receive the trophy, flowers and the Credit Lyonnais lion for the stage victor. Kiss the flower girl, kiss the girl with the cuddly toy, kiss the female dignitary who was presenting the trophy, firm handshake with the five-time overall winner, handshakes with the special guests to the right, thank you, handshakes with the special guests to the left, thank you, and retire from the platform. The Ôé¼8,000 prize money would go into the teamÔÇÖs prize fund, for distribution amongst all the team members equally.

They werenÔÇÖt yet finished with Scott, for no sooner than he had stepped off the platform, he was being called back for the combativity prize, awarded to the most attacking rider of the day. Cue music, step up, wave to the crowd, kiss the pennant girl, kiss the cuddly toy girl, shake hands with the five times winner, shake hands to the right, thank you, shake hands to the left, thank you and exit. The Ôé¼2,000 prize money would go into the pot.

Scott was up for the third time in a row, as recipient of the white jersey for best under twenty-five rider. Scott wasnÔÇÖt bored of this, just so tired that it washed over him. Music, wave, kiss, kiss, jersey (now that was new), handshake, handshakes, thank you, handshakes, thank you and off. Ôé¼300 seemed like chicken feed, but if he held the jersey into Paris then it would be Ôé¼25,000.

His team sponsors, being French, never pressed him to give interviews for the English media, but he did anyway, knowing that he had a fan base to cultivate. There might be potential British sponsors watching. Who knew? He knew that every time it came to the end of a riderÔÇÖs contract there was a game between rider and sponsor. His sponsors had shoved an average contract in front of him before the start of the tour, but he had held his nerve. If he had failed to perform then the contract would have been withdrawn and replaced by one of lesser value, even though heÔÇÖd performed his support role admirably throughout the year, but now heÔÇÖd expect a contract in line with his new superstar status. In his English interviews, he was the consummate team player. In reality, the short career of a professional cyclist meant that he had to think of himself first and foremost.

Interviews over, it was time to complete his delayed warm-down routine, with fifteen minutes on the turbo trainer, set up in a compound by the team bus, followed by a protein recovery drink, a shower as the bus headed for the next hotel, and a change into his compression recovery clothing. There was a distinct pecking order to operations; some team members would have to wait until they got to the hotel before they got their showers. Scott, as de facto team leader, would get his massage before the evening meal, ahead of anyone else. Now though, as the bus made its way towards the next town for tomorrows start, Scott set his seat to full recline, inserted his headphones, played his relax mode music and tuned the world out, hoping for sleep. As his mind drifted, he found himself swimming nude in his pool. The waters then became those of the Domaine du Soleil Gironde, and he wasnt alone. Around him were his friends; Stuart, Jess, Stefan Chloe, his young, lost love.


When Chloe returned to the apartment she had apparently forgotten the milk. Yvette was on her own now, Pierre and Jean having departed for a sports bar, to soak in the atmosphere, other peoplesÔÇÖ views and a few more beers.

Yvette looked up. ÔÇ£You should have been here to see.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You know I couldnÔÇÖt. You know it hurts too much.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You never gave him a chance to explain.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£What? Where did you get that idea from?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You think that just because you fell out with Scott that the rest of us were going to stop writing? Well, let me tell you, fillette, he trusted you to at least give him a fair hearing, but you wouldnÔÇÖt listen. For all the time that you were together, donÔÇÖt you think that you at least owed it to him to let him try to explain? Here,ÔÇØ Yvette grabbed a box that was sat on the floor and shoved it at Chloe, ÔÇ£I printed out all my e-mails from everyone, and kept them with my early letters. You read what Scott wrote.ÔÇØ

Chloe didnÔÇÖt take the box, but turned and ran into her room. She wasnÔÇÖt wrong, she couldnÔÇÖt be. She knew what she had seen; Scott kissing that other girl. She knew that his cycling meant more to him than naturism, and that girl was part of his cycling life. Chloe knew she had been beaten. All the torment from that time returned and clawed at her again. She threw herself onto the bed, still dressed, and buried her head under the pillow. Why did he, after all these years, have to reappear now? He was in the Tour, too, the one thing that would be impossible to avoid for the whole of the following week, until it rolled into Paris. Just how could she get away from him?


Fresh from his massage, Scott returned to his hotel room to find that his roommate had been shifted out so that he had the room to himself; a privilege for the team leader. He hadnÔÇÖt minded sharing with Alex, a solid thirty-seven year old Dutch guy, at the tail-end of his career. Alex had been impressed with ScottÔÇÖs command of his language when Scott had first joined the team, so had taken him under his wing and shown him the ropes of team duties. Alex and his wife were also relaxed enough to take part in social nudity at ScottÔÇÖs farmhouse, when his and AlexÔÇÖs race and training schedules meant that they could train and hang out together. AlexÔÇÖs talent lay in the time trial; a discipline that so far had eluded Scott. It wasnÔÇÖt that Scott was physically incapable of riding fast when unpaced, it was just that he hadnÔÇÖt yet learned to read a technical course and measure out his effort accordingly, meaning that he would lose about a minute and a half to the winner of a time trial stage. Scott would ask for Alex to return, on the pretence that he needed tutoring in time trial technique. Scott also found that his laundry had been returned; usually heÔÇÖd have to go fetch it himself. There was nothing more to do than to go for dinner, which would undoubtedly be copious amounts of pasta and meat.


The following morning, Yvette had left for work without saying another word to Chloe. Chloe thought that this was for the best, as she probably would have screamed at Yvette for revealing that she had continued writing to Scott after he had betrayed her. That felt like a new betrayal in itself. Chloe had fallen asleep as she was; still dressed in shorts and t-shirt. The denim shorts had chafed her overnight, but at least she would now be discarding them in favour of her work clothes. Chloe found that she had neglected to polish off her shoes, distracted by the need to exit hastily yesterday evening. Taking the brush that she had set aside, she finished the job before pulling on her knickers, blouse, skirt and jacket, and stepping into the shoes. In a few minutes Andr├® would be waiting outside to take her to the coach depot, for another morning of guiding the gormless around the tourist trail. Chloe knew that sheÔÇÖd have to breakfast at the small caf├® next to the depot, as she had skipped dinner last night.


A rest day is not a rest day for a professional racing cyclist; thereÔÇÖs always the need to put in at least two hours of riding to keep the muscles from seizing up. For anyone in with a shout of claiming the yellow jersey, the media scrum could last all day if it wasnÔÇÖt for the team of backroom staff keeping the paparazzi at bay. Still in the after-glow of the previous dayÔÇÖs performance, Scott found himself in demand. His popularity with the waiting media soared when it was discovered that he could speak four languages fluently. However, it was the same questions, over and over. Had he recovered from yesterday? What was Arc-en-Ciel offering in his new contract? What would his position in the team be when Jerome returned from injury? Had he had an offer from Team Sky? What was his opinion on the comments made by another teamÔÇÖs Directeur Sportif about the likelihood of his performance being ÔÇÿenhancedÔÇÖ. Scott fielded all questions diplomatically without committing to anything drastic, except for when he got to the last one when he said that he hadnÔÇÖt heard the other DirecteurÔÇÖs comments, that his own Directeur would probably be looking into them and that if the other teamÔÇÖs Directeur wanted to know about the misuse of drugs then he could possibly ask his own team members about it. The news conference ended in uproar.

Scott returned to his room and tuned out with his music. He recognised the trick the other Directeur Sportif was trying to play. The comments he actually made would turn out to be non-committal, but would have been enough to get twisted in reporting such that it came out like an accusation. It was an attempt to unsettle him since the lad that Scott had displaced from the White Jersey was on the other DirecteurÔÇÖs team. In a way, Scott actually felt flattered by the attempt.

There was a knock on the door and, without pause David, ScottÔÇÖs D.S., entered. David was an ex-Tour rider who, despite not being a prolific stage winner, had won the respect of his fellow Frenchman and the peloton for his steadfast anti-doping stance. David spoke no English. Scott knew that this talk should have been a dressing-down after his comments, but David was all smiles.

ÔÇ£Scott, you know that was bad, donÔÇÖt you? Evidently you know the game. What you said was perfect, not actually saying that his riders would have the answers to drugs questions. Tomorrow you can expect a few angry comments from their riders, but theyÔÇÖre in no position to say anything against you. Anyway, youÔÇÖll have the entire squad at your disposal from now until Paris. If Milanolat give you any more hassle, IÔÇÖll have Luc accidently reverse our service truck into their team car in the parking lot, okay?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£That sounds like fun. I bet Luc will get a kick out of enacting revenge for the team.ÔÇØ

Anyway I was asked, also, to press you on signing your new contract. Have you made a decision yet?

Scott sighed. You know I love the team; my team mates, the management, the soigneurs everybody. And you know how I have the greatest respect for you, for your dedication to one team throughout your career and what you stood for. There are a few things that are bothering me, though; things that I need to think through. The first thing on my list though is making our beloved Principal sweat a bit longer. That contract that he sent me before the Tour was laughable. I know Im only twenty-three and that I shouldnt even be here, but Im impatient, David. I have also to consider my positioning in a team and my future. So, no, I cant give you an answer right now.

David patted Scott on the shoulder and left him to his thoughts. Scott needed to be able to think. On the whole, professional racing cyclists were a superstitious breed, each with their own lucky talisman or routine. Scott was no exception. He reached into the end pocket of his kit bag and retrieved his own particular talisman; a small disk of plaster with an arrowed heart drawn on it. Scott clasped it to his own heart and closed his eyes, waiting for clarity.


In a Parisian bar, away from the fashionable boulevards, Henri, a middle-aged accounts clerk, was awaiting his friends for their usual evening drink and chat. This was how they always unwound from the stress of the day. Henri sipped his wine slowly, whilst simultaneously reading Le Parisien and watching the highlights of yesterdayÔÇÖs Tour stage, on the telly behind the bar. His friend, Laurent, a similarly rotund and aging bank clerk, stumbled in, shaking the rain off his umbrella. Laurent raised a finger to the barman, to indicate the desire for his customary beverage and took his place at the bar, next to Henri, placing his copy of LÔÇÖ├ëquipe on the counter.

ÔÇ£Hey, youÔÇÖll never guess what happened to me, just now,ÔÇØ said Laurent, addressing Henri and the barman, Ronan, at the same time. ÔÇ£I was on my way here, on the M├®tro as usual, when I spot this pretty girl reading my paper over my shoulder. I began to turn the page, but she stops me and takes the paper from my hands. Now, IÔÇÖm not one to say no to a pretty girl-ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Tell us when a pretty girl last asked!ÔÇØ chimed in Henri. Both Henri and Ronan burst out laughing.

ÔÇ£I may have lost the looks, but the charm is still there and thatÔÇÖs what they go for.ÔÇØ

Henri and Ronan both let rip with another peal of laughter.

ÔÇ£As I was saying, she takes the paper out of my hands and is fixed on this photo of Scott Lowry winning yesterdayÔÇÖs stage. She then begins to speed read through the article, aloud, as if there was nobody else there. Then she gets to one quotation and repeats it - ÔÇÿOne sacrifice too manyÔÇÖ she says. By this time, sheÔÇÖs in floods of tears. When we get to what was evidently her station, she bundles the paper back into my arms, gives me a big kiss, thanks me and runs off.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I can believe the ÔÇÿruns offÔÇÖ part.ÔÇØ Ronan laughed, Henri joining him.


Chloe had been fixed to the spot by the newspaper stand, rereading the article that she had just read in the paper of the gentleman next to her on the M├®tro. She had tried to ignore the paper, with its front page, full spread photo of Scott, set against the sky and mountain peaks, with the bold headline, ┬½ LÔÇÖAnge du ciel ┬╗. However, when the gentleman turned the page, there was another photo of Scott, crossing the finish line. This wasnÔÇÖt the usual double handed salute of victory. His left arm was bent at the elbow so that his wrist met his lips. But it wasnÔÇÖt his wrist that he kissed; it was a bracelet, a Road I.D. bracelet, the one she had given him all those Christmases ago. The caption grabbed her and held her captive: ÔÇ£In memory of one sacrifice too manyÔÇØ. She would have remained rooted where she was if it wasnÔÇÖt for the newspaper vendor demanding payment for the paper. Chloe reached into her jacket pocket and fetched out what was more than enough cash. She didnÔÇÖt count it nor wait for the change, but folded the paper and hurried the short distance to her apartment.

Good, Yvette was still out. Chloe could read the paper again, undisturbed. The text didnÔÇÖt explain the quote, merely stating that was how Scott had described it. Did this mean what Chloe thought it meant? Did he still love her after all this time? She couldnÔÇÖt ask him. Then she spotted the shoe box that Yvette had shoved at her the previous night. Even though Yvette had explicitly wanted Chloe to read the e-mails, this still felt like an invasion. Chloe didnÔÇÖt want to get caught, although she couldnÔÇÖt figure out why, so she took the box into her room and carefully spread the bundles of messages out on her duvet.

The first tied bundle was of letters in envelopes. Yvette had meticulously written the date on each envelope, the first one being dated even before Chloe knew Scott. That wouldnÔÇÖt answer her question, so she flicked through the bundles of the later e-mails until she came to those dated as being around the time of the breakup. Selecting one dated July, she unfolded it and read.

Dear Famke, Yvette and Stefan,

IÔÇÖm sorry that I wonÔÇÖt be able to make it to Bordeaux this year. IÔÇÖve been trying to get selected for the British cycling team, but it looks like all the places are going to be filled by those who are in the national academy. I thought that if I raced through the peak of the season, IÔÇÖd be able to raise my profile enough to get noticed, but it seems that if you are not in the academy then you donÔÇÖt have a chance. This really annoys me because IÔÇÖve finished ahead of every member of the academy at various times. They also didnÔÇÖt have four ÔÇÿAÔÇÖ levels to study for, like I did. IÔÇÖm still hoping to gain my elite licence and to land a contract with one of the British teams that race on the continent sometimes.

IÔÇÖm sad to say that Chloe and I have split up. All that training and racing had already meant that we werenÔÇÖt seeing enough of each other. Plus, when I wasnÔÇÖt training or racing then Chloe had been spending more time on horse riding lessons. The breaking point came when Chloe saw a girl from my cycling club kiss me in celebration of my win in a circuit race. I hadnÔÇÖt expected it and she caught me off guard. I immediately told her that I had a girlfriend, and she was quite apologetic. Unfortunately, Chloe had already spotted us, and wouldnÔÇÖt speak to me when I tried to tell her what really happened. ItÔÇÖs been just over a month now, and she still wonÔÇÖt take my calls.

The racing is getting harder for me. I canÔÇÖt concentrate on my training program, I canÔÇÖt sleep well enough to recover and IÔÇÖve lost my appetite. If I knew this would happen then I would have packed in racing months ago. Chloe is much more important to me than that.

Jess had stopped talking to me too, but thankfully Stuart talked her round. She did try to speak to Chloe about me, to try to get her to see reason, but Chloe wonÔÇÖt even speak to her about me. Needless to say, IÔÇÖm heartbroken.

I attach a photo of Dawn, who is growing so fast and looks just like Anne did at her age. Dawn loves me reading to her as we lie nude in the hammock in the back garden.

There must be something else I should write about, but I canÔÇÖt think what else to say right now.

Send my love to your families for me.

Love Scott.

Chloe could feel her heart throbbing painfully. Scott would have given it all up for her and she wouldnÔÇÖt even listen to him. Of course she hadnÔÇÖt wanted him to give up; it had been his dream from the beginning, even before they had fallen in love. She now understood that it was true that heÔÇÖd loved her all along, and that she was the one that had betrayed him by not giving him the benefit of the doubt.

She took the next e-mail print-out and noticed that it was dated just over a year after the previous one. A quick check of the bundle didnÔÇÖt reveal a misplaced message, so she opened the one she had and read that.

Dear Famke, Yvette and Stefan,

IÔÇÖm so sorry itÔÇÖs taken me so long to write again. I had been meaning to write, but nothing seemed that important.

I had also been meaning to go to the doctorÔÇÖs for ages, but I managed it a month back and was diagnosed with glandular fever. IÔÇÖd been sore, tired and listless for months, but I thought I was just another symptom of the depression that IÔÇÖve been battling. The doctor prescribed me an exercise regime to follow.

Two weeks ago, Mum had me tidy my stuff up in my bedroom at home. As I was doing so, I came across the lump of plaster where Chloe had drawn a heart and arrow on my cast after the collision with the van. I donÔÇÖt know why, but at that moment I decided that I was going to take the bike out. I hadnÔÇÖt touched it for a whole year and I had to clean the dust off it and check that the tyres were still alright. I also found the identity bracelet that Chloe had given me for our first Christmas, so I put that on before I went out. That first ride told me that I was the most unfit that I had ever been, but it also reminded me why I loved riding. I have cycled every second day since then and I have already found that my depression is relieved to some extent.

ItÔÇÖs been over a year since I heard from Chloe. Jess told me that sheÔÇÖs doing well on her modern language degree course and is thinking of going to work as a holiday rep. in Spain. ItÔÇÖs time for me to get real, and accept that sheÔÇÖs out of my life. Hell, even writing those words hurts. I know IÔÇÖll never find someone with whom I can share every thought like I could with Chloe.

I know I didnÔÇÖt say, but I got a place on a Sports Science degree course. With the depression and the glandular fever, IÔÇÖve been barely hanging on by my finger tips. After my diagnosis, I had a word with my tutors and they have agreed to let me continue with the second year of the course and repeat the units that I failed, in parallel. IÔÇÖm starting to feel optimistic that I can pull it off.

Send my love to everyone, as always.

Love Scott.

Chloe read all the following e-mails, which detailed how Scott had become involved with a female Sports Psychologist, who was on a parallel course to his. She had taken him on as a subject for her thesis and helped him rebuild his motivation. Although they had had a relationship, it didnÔÇÖt last beyond graduation.

Scott wrote: ÔÇÿÔǪSarah and I have split and I feel like a total fraud. She could sense that there was something up, and I had to admit that Chloe was still the one that held my heart. At least we are parting as friends. IÔÇÖll always be grateful to her for making it possible for me to dream again.ÔÇÖ

Scott had started racing again in his second year at university, and had risen rapidly through the amateur ranks, from third category, right up until he gained the hallowed elite category licence. On leaving university with a double first in his Sports Science degree, he had been snapped up by team that raced both in Britain and on the continent. Any further news from Scott would be on YvetteÔÇÖs laptop. Chloe placed the printouts back in the box and returned it to the lounge.


The first day of racing after the rest day had been one of opportunist attacks. The team of the overall yellow jersey leader had responded only to attacks that threatened their manÔÇÖs position, so the win had been taken by a low ranked rider who gained a good number of minutes. ScottÔÇÖs main rival for the white jersey had put in a challenge, but the yellow jersey had seen fit to quash it, as it would have encroached on his standing. As a matter of principle, Scott had David put his team at the disposal of the yellow jersey. Scott had recognised that his greatest ability lay in the ascent of the high mountains, of which none remained, and that the yellow jersey would be too strong in the penultimate dayÔÇÖs time trial to be unseated. Their goals thus became the same; to defend the status quo. With this unspoken accord in place, Scott was almost assured of the white jersey come the Champs ├ëlys├®es.

His single visit to the podium for presentation of the dayÔÇÖs white jersey was an easy addition to his routine, and so was the quick round of the British press. After the warm-down, shower, transfer, massage and dinner, Scott gave some time to send a tweet. His Twitter following had evidently jumped in the last two days. As he finished his entry, the phone began to ring in his hands. He saw the caller announced as his agent, Rodger.

ÔÇ£Hey, Rodger. Did you get anywhere with discussing my contract with my beloved Principal?ÔÇØ asked Scott.

ÔÇ£Hi, Scott. No, I didnÔÇÖt have to. I actually paid J├®r├┤me a visit, to see how he was. Of course we got talking about your position and your contractual difficulty. The long and the short of it is that heÔÇÖs got plans for you and has pressed your Principal on your contract without me having to do any more. I now have in front of me a reference copy of a three year contract, which IÔÇÖm sure will satisfy your every concern. Marc is having both yours and the teamÔÇÖs copy couriered out to David overnight. You can read through it, but I seriously say sign it. We did have a higher offer from Milanolat, but I know your views on that squad. Three other squads were asking about you, but one is likely to have contractual difficulties next year, and the other two, well, I couldnÔÇÖt see any progress from your current position.ÔÇØ

Rodger didnÔÇÖt go through the specifics of the contract with Scott then, but asked Scott to call him back when he had the paperwork in front of him. They ended the call quickly. Just as Scott was putting his mobile down, it rang again. He didnÔÇÖt recognise the number, but it was evidently from a French landline.

He answered it, « Allo ? »

┬½ Bonsoir, Scott. C'est J├®r├┤me. Comment ├ºa va ? ┬╗

ÔÇ£Hi, J├®r├┤me. How did the surgery go?ÔÇØ asked Scott.

ÔÇ£Yes, it went okay, although IÔÇÖm feeling a little sore. IÔÇÖll start turbo trainer work in a couple of days.

ÔÇ£Anyway, IÔÇÖve been having a word with Rodger, your agent, and he tells me that you are having a little difficulty signing your new contract. I want to tell you something, in the strictest of confidence of course, which might help you make up your mind. IÔÇÖve already told David of my plans to retire after another two seasons, with next year being my last assault on the yellow jersey. I was impressed with your riding; in fact, IÔÇÖve always been impressed with your riding, but especially during this Tour. I want you as my lieutenant again next year, not on some other team. After that, IÔÇÖll be your lieutenant for one year before I retire. Now, I hope that reassures you of both your position in the team and your readiness.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£To be honest, J├®r├┤me, I have just talked to Rodger. HeÔÇÖs recommended that I should sign, and heÔÇÖs never steered me wrong. So as soon as I get the documentsÔǪÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, wonderful! You wonÔÇÖt regret this.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Nor will you. Thanks for the vote of confidence.ÔÇØ

They ended their call and Scott sat pondering the implications. It wasnÔÇÖt going to be next year, but he was destined to be the leader of a major French team with capability of winning the Tour de France. It probably wasnÔÇÖt the best thing to have on the mind when going to sleep, but he flicked the light off and tried to settle down anyway.


When Yvette arrived home that evening, she saw the copy of LÔÇÖ├ëquipe on the coffee table and that the box containing her letters and e-mails was not quite where she had left it. She also detected a distinct change in ChloeÔÇÖs demeanour, as Chloe busied herself making dinner, undressed and humming. Yvette took hold of the paper, held it up and coughed as she shot Chloe a questioning look.

Yes, I admit it, said Chloe, I saw the photo on page two and it made me wonder if he still had feelings for me. I came back here and read all your e-mails that you had printed from the time of our breakup and realised I didnt dump him just because I didnt believe him; it was also because I couldnt face losing him little-by-little when we went to separate universities. I might have listened to him and understood, if I could have faced the prospect of losing him eventually.

ÔÇ£Oh, come here, you crazy, mixed up girl!ÔÇØ cried Yvette, and wrapped Chloe in a hug. ÔÇ£Scott loves you. He would have fought tooth and nail to keep you, if you hadnÔÇÖt been so determined to push him away.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Please,ÔÇØ said Chloe, ÔÇ£donÔÇÖt set me off crying again. I need to know what I can do about it now.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Well, weÔÇÖll have to figure that out, but for now we need to eat. I think this is a moment for celebration, so letÔÇÖs open that bottle of good white wine. Just let me get out of these clothes first.ÔÇØ


The excitement hadnÔÇÖt disturbed ScottÔÇÖs sleep as he had feared; he awoke the next morning well rested. Having slept in his compression longs and top, as he did the night after every race, he felt like his skin was contaminated and oily, so he started the morning with a shower, before dressing in the loose team issue leisurewear and going for breakfast.

The energy requirements for a Tour rider demands that they have two breakfasts, so after having finished his early breakfast, Scott was returning to his room for more sleep when David collared him, a full sized A4 envelope in hand.

ÔÇ£You know what this is?ÔÇØ asked David.

Scott nodded and let the two of them into his room, taking the envelope from David and opening it to find two copies of the contract already signed by the Team Principal. He then took out his mobile, selected his agentÔÇÖs mobile number and set it into speakerphone mode. Rodger answered quickly.

ÔÇ£Hi, Scott. I think you have the papers and that David is there with you?ÔÇØ Rodger said in clumsy French, hoping to be understood by the D.S.

ÔÇ£Yes, itÔÇÖs true.ÔÇØ Scott kept the language simple for RodgerÔÇÖs benefit.

Okay. Its for three years, with head of the team in the second year. Money and bonuses are on the second the second face. Okay?

Scott turned to the second page of the documents, took a sharp intake of breath and gestured to David the need for a pen. David handed a pen over.

ÔÇ£Are you still there?ÔÇØ asked Rodger, concerned at the silence.

ÔÇ£Okay, IÔÇÖve signed both copies,ÔÇØ said Scott.

ÔÇ£Fantastic,ÔÇØ called Rodger, then slipping back into English he said, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll make a press release this morning.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Hang on, Rodger,ÔÇØ said Scott, also in English, ÔÇ£David might want to coordinate that with our Principal and J├®r├┤me. I mean, itÔÇÖs not just my news. J├®r├┤me said that it was in the strictest of confidence, when I chatted with him yesterday.ÔÇØ

Okay, conceded Rodger, Ill leave that to the team. So, post me your copy back and Ill keep it on file and Ill leave you to it for now.

Scott terminated the call to Rodger and received David in a congratulatory embrace.

ÔÇ£Well done, Scott. How do you feel?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs a little numbing, actually. ItÔÇÖs best that I put it out of my mind and concentrate on finishing off this yearÔÇÖs Tour first though.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Of course,ÔÇØ said David, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll let you get back to your rest and IÔÇÖll see you in two hours when you come for second breakfast.ÔÇØ


Being out guiding tourists during the working week, Chloe wasnÔÇÖt able to follow progress of the TourÔÇÖs stages live, but took to joining Yvette, Pierre and Jean for the broadcast of the highlights in the evenings. Work seemed to be a lot more pleasant, too. The British members of the excursions, although they may not have been knowledgeable of the sights and artistic attractions, were there because they at least had an interest. Chloe found it humorous when some old dear would complement her on her command of the English language, at which point she would let them in on her secret, much to their amusement.

Although Pierre and Jean always followed the dayÔÇÖs racing on their smart phones when out and about working, they never let on what they knew about the dayÔÇÖs action before the evening was over. However, come Wednesday evening, Yvette and Chloe could both detect some agitation in Pierre and JeanÔÇÖs attitude. As the replay of the race progressed, the young men eyed the countdown of the distance to the finish.

Suddenly, at one hundred kilometres to go, the scene changed to one of carnage; the camera static amongst the melee of downed riders and stationary team cars, with mechanics running about with spare bikes and team doctors who were checking over the fallen. A stray dog had wandered out in front of the peloton, and the cascade of collisions took down forty riders and trapped most of the remainder. A few, who were at the very front of the pack, made their escape, taking advantage of their opponentsÔÇÖ misfortune.

The commentator had just questioned the state of the yellow jersey wearer when a camera picked him out, hobbling about in pain, with another team mate holding a bike ready for him. Then the view changed again, with Scott, his white jersey ripped and bloodied, being checked out by the team doctor. The doctor ran his hands over ScottÔÇÖs shoulders and across his clavicles.

ÔÇ£Oh, God no! Please, not his collarbone!ÔÇØ cried Chloe, covering her mouth with a hand.

Jean gripped her free hand. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs okay, youÔÇÖll see.ÔÇØ

The doctor gave Scott a pat on the shoulder, a mechanic rushed up and swapped ScottÔÇÖs bike for a spare machine and Scott set off again, with his team mates in close attendance. The yellow jersey, too, was underway and being paced back to the front of the race. As the bunch coalesced from the many small, splintered groups of those who had managed to pick themselves up, Scott paid a visit to the car of the mobile doctor to get patched up. He had a nasty gash to his left forearm and a graze to the left buttock, as exposed by the tear to his shorts. There was nothing to be done for the buttock wound, except spray over the area with antiseptic. The arm wound, however, was cleaned and dressed, with the dressing secured with an expandable mesh, all whilst in motion.

After a commercial break, the camera concentrated on the chasing pack as the teams of both the yellow jersey and white jersey holders whipped it along in pursuit of the escapees. The commentators dismissed of the actions of those who had made the escape as being disrespectful to the yellow jersey, as it was in breach of etiquette to attack the leader when heÔÇÖs involved in a crash. Amongst the escape group was ScottÔÇÖs rival for the white jersey, but his actions had put the yellow jersey under threat, too. So, once again, the accord between white and yellow was struck, and both teams joined forces, along with a helping hand from those with sprinters who wanted a crack at winning on the fast finishing straight.

As they slowly reeled in the errant breakaway, the yellow jerseyÔÇÖs team didnÔÇÖt let up as his position became safe. He wanted to claw back the entire deficit, plus he had a debt to repay to Scott. As the capture was made, Scott held his hand out to the yellow jersey and they shook, in gratitude and recognition of mutual respect. Chloe saw this on the screen, and reflected that this was the gesture that Scott had shared with the girl; it was respectful, nothing more. Yvette, Pierre and Jean may have mistaken ChloeÔÇÖs tears as being of relief at Scott defending his position, but Chloe knew it ran much deeper.


That evening, after his massage and dinner, Scott took a tour of the teamÔÇÖs working compound, which was set up in the grounds of that nightÔÇÖs hotel. He exchanged greetings with all the background staff, as they busied themselves preparing for the next day. As he approached the service truck, his eyes fell on the main object of his interest: the bike that was taken from him after the crash.
ÔÇ£Hey, Gunter,ÔÇØ Scott called, in German, to the chief mechanic, ÔÇ£whatÔÇÖs the damage?ÔÇØ He pointed to the bike.
ÔÇ£ThereÔÇÖs nothing much: a bent gear hanger and scratched bar tape. I was just about to strip it, clean it and get it ready for tomorrow.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£May I?ÔÇØ asked Scott, taking a set of allen keys.
ÔÇ£Please, feel free,ÔÇØ said Gunter, ÔÇ£but IÔÇÖll have to verify reassembly with a torque wrench. I donÔÇÖt want anything going wrong, because it looks bad for me.ÔÇØ
Scott set about removing the rear gear, to gain access to the damaged gear hanger. His spare bike was of exactly the same construction and set-up as this machine, but he had made a vow to this one to ride it into Paris. Having liberated the old hanger, he took a new one from Gunter and secured it in position before reattaching the rear gear.
ÔÇ£Okay, IÔÇÖd better leave it to you. IÔÇÖm sure David wouldnÔÇÖt be happy if he caught me mucking around here when IÔÇÖm meant to be resting.ÔÇØ
Gunter pointed Scott to the wash station, to clean his hands before he left, and then set about finishing off the work on ScottÔÇÖs bike.


Thankfully for ChloeÔÇÖs and YvetteÔÇÖs nerves, the racing on Thursday passed without incident. Pierre and Jean had come round again, with Pierre swearing that he and Jean would get a new television come the weekend. Neither Chloe nor Yvette minded much, after all Pierre was YvetteÔÇÖs boyfriend and Jean had begun to relax. Chloe had prepared them dinner to eat whilst they watched the highlights of the racing, and Pierre passed around the ÔÇÖvin ordinaireÔÇÖ.

On Friday, however, before Pierre and Jean were due to come over, there was a knock on the apartment door. Chloe looked quizzically at Yvette, as Yvette bounded across the lounge.

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll get it,ÔÇØ Yvette called.

There was a momentÔÇÖs giggling before Yvette opened the door fully.

ÔÇ£Surprise!ÔÇØ called Jess, as she and Stuart entered.

ÔÇ£Jess!ÔÇØ Chloe jumped up, ran across the lounge and wrapped Jess in a hug, with a kiss. She then did the same for Stuart. ÔÇ£Come; letÔÇÖs get some sun on the terrace. Are you here to watch the end of the Tour?ÔÇØ

Jess and Stuart didnÔÇÖt answer for a second, as they undressed, but they looked at each other as if wondering what to say.

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs okay, she knows,ÔÇØ said Yvette, having guessed that Jess and Stuart were keeping a secret.

She knows and? asked Jess.

Chloe said, ÔÇ£She knows and realises what an idiot sheÔÇÖs been.ÔÇØ

Jess again wrapped Chloe in a hug. ÔÇ£What made you change your mind?ÔÇØ

Chloe didnÔÇÖt need to answer, because Yvette grabbed the nearby newspaper and turned to the finishing line photograph.

ÔÇ£They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£He was telling the truth all along, but he never said ÔÇÿI love youÔÇÖ as clearly as this.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£So,ÔÇØ said Stuart, ÔÇ£the question is how you are going to tell him that you love him.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, I donÔÇÖt know,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt even know how to get in touch with him.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£We do,ÔÇØ Jess said, ÔÇ£but it is hard when heÔÇÖs racing as he only puts his phone on for an hour each night. There will be his teamÔÇÖs party on Sunday, but thatÔÇÖs an all ticket affair, so I doubt youÔÇÖd get to see him then. If I had his agentÔÇÖs number we could call him to get it arranged.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Can you get next week off?ÔÇØ Stuart asked Chloe.

ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt think so, not with such short notice. Why?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Jess and I are going to be staying with Scott and his family at his place near the Pyrenees.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖll be shocked at how big little Dawn is,ÔÇØ added Jess.

ÔÇ£We could just go to the presentation on the Champs ├ëlys├®es, and shout for him,ÔÇØ said Yvette.

ÔÇ£Jess and I have grandstand seats for the finish, so when we see him we can tell him that youÔÇÖre there.ÔÇØ

Just then, there was a knock on the door and Yvette went to answer it. Pierre and Jean entered and introductions between them and Jess and Stuart were made, with Pierre handing out the glasses and passing around a bottle of red. All talk of ChloeÔÇÖs predicament was ceased as the television went on for that dayÔÇÖs highlights.


The final time trial arrived on the penultimate day of the Tour. As he was holding eleventh place overall in the general standings, Scott was starting tenth from last. There were a couple of riders that would be following him whose time trialling abilities were questionable, so Scott hoped to pick up a couple of places. He and Alex had taken the time to ride the course in the morning, on their time trial bikes, accompanied by a team car. Alex went over every aspect of the course in detail, highlighting the hazards and the opportunities.

Now sitting in the start house, Scott wondered if heÔÇÖd remember the details of AlexÔÇÖs advice. The first thing Scott had remembered was to tape off the display of his power meter; he would ride on feeling alone, not distracted by numbers. Still with time to spare, Scott enacted his mental focus routine; closing his eyes, he clasped his right hand around the bracelet on his left wrist, paused, and then came to with a deeper sense of certainty and clarity than he had ever felt previously. The moment arrived as the time keeper began his countdown, with the final five seconds reached all too soon.

ÔÇ£Five, four, three, two, one, go.ÔÇØ

Scott pulled on the bars, stood out of the saddle, forced the pedals round and rolled down the start ramp. He remembered not to over-cook the departure, lest his body take revenge for the sudden exertion. He had fifty two kilometres to complete in the shortest time and most efficient manner possible.

ÔÇ£Okay, Scott, weÔÇÖre underway. I want you to knock the gear up one sprocket and hold your cadence just where it is. Judge your breathing effort, like you discussed with Alex.ÔÇØ Scott had the privilege of having David, as the driver of his support car. ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖll give you your relative position at each of the intermediate time checks.ÔÇØ


Back at ChloeÔÇÖs and YvetteÔÇÖs apartment, they gathered around the television to watch the later riders start the time trial. Stuart and Jess had come over from their hotel to be with Chloe and Yvette, whilst Pierre and Jean arrived, but this time they had run out of wine. Since everyone else was nude and having finally realised that he hadnÔÇÖt had an issue with that over the last week, Jean decided to join in and stripped off with the others.

Having given a loud cheer when they saw Scott starting off, the gathering was becoming impatient as the T.V. coverage concentrated on other riders. There were noted time trial specialists within striking distance of the yellow jersey, and their time splits at the intermediate check points had to be dissected for the viewing public.

Just as the forty three minute mark from ScottÔÇÖs departure approached, the T.V. coverage switched to a view of him arriving at the third time check. ÔÇ£Here is the breaking news,ÔÇØ announced the commentator. ÔÇ£Scott Lowry, a rider who has shown his climbing ability in this yearÔÇÖs Tour, has eclipsed the leading time at the third check point. That time was set by the World Time Trial Champion, and the young Briton has smashed it by thirty seconds.ÔÇØ

Chloe, Yvette and their guests were all on the edge of their seats, but their frustration rose again as Scott disappeared off the screen, only to reappear minutes later in a view from one of the motorbike mounted cameras.

ÔÇ£Ah, look,ÔÇØ shouted Jean, ÔÇ£theyÔÇÖve dropped the camera bike back from the rider in front. He must be about to catch them.ÔÇØ

Jean was right, for as the camera following Scott rounded the curve, the view opened out to reveal the rider about to be caught.ÔÇØ

The commentator started, ÔÇ£Here we have Alexi Tchmil, riding in the colours of the Ukrainian time trial champion. He was lying a minute behind Lowry on the general classification and hoping to move up, but by this performance, heÔÇÖll be falling down the rankings tonight.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Hold on,ÔÇØ cut in the second commentator. ÔÇ£Up ahead, just out of shot, is Louganis, the top American rider. This isnÔÇÖt a poor performance by Tchmil, but a superlative performance by Lowry.ÔÇØ

The coverage of the next thirteen minutes of ScottÔÇÖs test, was interspersed with shots of the following riders at the third time check as, one by one, they failed to match ScottÔÇÖs time. Only the yellow jersey, as last man off, surpassed ScottÔÇÖs time by ten seconds, but a quick comparison of all their relative split times showed the yellow jersey to be slowing towards the end.


As Scott passed the finish line, he checked the time clock; first place, forty five seconds ahead. He punched the air in satisfaction. Whatever anyone else did now, Scott knew that his was a fine performance. He broke from his aerodynamic position and grabbed his brakes to rapidly decelerate. Team helpers came and made way ahead of him, leading the way back to the team compound. His road bike was already set up on the turbo trainer for him to conduct his warm down whilst watching the remaining riders come in on a small screen. As at the intermediate check, rider after rider failed to hit the mark. Scott could see people at the fence, straining to catch a glimpse of the yellow jersey. As ScottÔÇÖs finishing time approached, the yellow jersey appeared in the finishing straight. Scott could hear the finishing line commentator whipping himself into a frenzy, but couldnÔÇÖt make out exactly what he was saying because of the echo formed in the bowl of grandstand seating. As the commentator hit a crescendo, all the team mechanics, soigneurs and other riders who were around the compound started leaping about in celebration.

ÔÇ£Scott,ÔÇØ shouted Luc, the service lorry driver, ÔÇ£youÔÇÖve won by two seconds.ÔÇØ

As he raised his hands to his face in disbelief, Scott was mobbed by his team mates, training staff and support crew. He didnÔÇÖt have the figures at that point, but Scott knew that his performance would have an impact on the overall standings. After a few minutes of not being able to move, Scott waved the guys away and went to get a fresh set of team kit on, ready for the podium presentation. Before he could make his way to the podium, however, there was a small matter of another visit to the anti-doping control. Scott was just leaving the team compound when he met up with the drug testersÔÇÖ escort and they headed straight for the portable control unit.

Last edited by sirius631 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 'Champs ├ëlys├®es.'

Postby sirius631 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:58 am

The Sunday at the end of the Tour de France was always special in Paris. The grand boulevards were closed to traffic and the pavements were packed with about a million people. Chloe, Yvette, Pierre and Jean had caught the M├®tro into the heart of the Capital and were sitting in the Jardin des Tuileries. Things were already not going to plan for Chloe and Yvette.

ÔÇ£Why did we get off the M├®tro where we did?ÔÇØ asked Yvette. ÔÇ£The podium site is nearer the Arc de Triomphe, which is ages away.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£There are always too many people around the finishing line and the podium site,ÔÇØ said Pierre. ÔÇ£Here you get to see the race developing and itÔÇÖs less crowded.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, you idiot!ÔÇØ cried Yvette. ÔÇ£The plan was to get Chloe up to the podium to meet Scott.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Why didnÔÇÖt you say? I could have told you that would be impossible. We would have needed to be in place by ten this morning,ÔÇØ retorted Pierre.

ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs right,ÔÇØ confirmed Jean, ÔÇ£by the time you get to the podium, for him to see you and recognise you would be like picking a particular grain of sand off a beach.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£We can but try. Come on,ÔÇØ called Yvette, getting to her feet. ÔÇ£Perhaps you should try JessÔÇÖs mobile, Chloe.ÔÇØ

Yeah, sure Oh, bugger, the batterys flat. Do you have her number on your mobile, Yvette?

ÔÇ£Yes, certainly, but I find that I canÔÇÖt get a good signal on my service on the Avenue du Champs ├ëlys├®es.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs okay; IÔÇÖll call now, before we cross the Place de la Concorde.ÔÇØ

Yvette activated her phone, selected JessÔÇÖs number and handed it to Chloe.

Jess answered in a few rings. 

ÔÇ£Hi, no, itÔÇÖs Chloe. My phoneÔÇÖs battery is dead, so IÔÇÖve borrowed YvetteÔÇÖs. Look, Pierre and Jean have told us that our plan to just get to the podium wonÔÇÖt work, so IÔÇÖll have to rely on you to grab Scott and tell me where you are. Okay?ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£Good, IÔÇÖll speak to you later.ÔÇØ

They had just made it across the Place de la Concorde when a breakaway group at the head of the race appeared, on the first passage of the Champs ├ëlys├®es. The foursome stopped and watched as the peloton crossed the Place de la Concorde, evidently not in full pursuit.

ÔÇ£Did you see him?ÔÇØ Chloe asked Yvette.

ÔÇ£No, it was all a blur to me.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Here,ÔÇØ said Jean, holding out his camera, ÔÇ£I fired off some rapid shots as the peloton came past. We can step through the pictures.ÔÇØ

Jean reeled through the pictures on the cameraÔÇÖs large rear display, but Chloe and Yvette didnÔÇÖt know what to look for.

ÔÇ£Look, there,ÔÇØ pointed Pierre. ÔÇ£ThereÔÇÖs the white jersey, behind a string of Arc-en-Ciel riders. ItÔÇÖs their job to protect him.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs made it!ÔÇØ Chloe and Yvette hugged each other and literally jumped for joy.

For three more laps of the finishing circuit, the peloton held the breakaway at the same distance before setting about reeling them in. As they did so, Chloe and her friends were battling with the dense crowds to make progress along the avenue. Come the final lap, they were still nowhere near their target. They hadnÔÇÖt made much more progress when the first strains of the Tour anthem were being played for the final podium presentation.

ÔÇ£This is impossible,ÔÇØ said Chloe, ÔÇ£weÔÇÖre not going to make it. I had better call Jess.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You canÔÇÖt. I havenÔÇÖt got a signal,ÔÇØ said Yvette.

ÔÇ£Here,ÔÇØ said Pierre, ÔÇ£I have. Just tell me the number and IÔÇÖll dial it.ÔÇØ

Yvette looked up the number from her contacts and dictated it to Pierre, who then dialled and handed the phone to Chloe.

ÔÇ£Hi, Jess?ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£Yes, itÔÇÖs a long story. Look, weÔÇÖre trapped. We canÔÇÖt move from here. Will you and Stuart be able to get to Scott?ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£No?ÔÇØ Chloe shot a worried glance at Yvette.


ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know what to do, then.ÔÇØ

As the others were talking to Jess, Jean stepped away to execute a plan of his own. As a reporter, he never knew when a story was going to turn up, but this looked interesting. He had a SIM card for each network, to ensure coverage in any given area. Finding he had a signal, he pulled up a lesser used number and dialled.

ÔÇ£Hello? LÔÇÖ├ëquipe? Yes, can I have the news desk pleaseÔǪHello? Yes, my name is Jean Renault, IÔÇÖm a freelance reporter, and I have a good human interest story for you. Wait! PleaseÔǪI promise you itÔÇÖs good and right up your street... Okay, you know Scott Lowry and the ÔÇÿone sacrifice too manyÔÇÖ quote? Yes. Well, I have Miss ÔÇÿOne sacrifice too manyÔÇÖ here, right next to me on the Champs ├ëlys├®es, and she wants to be reunited with him, but we canÔÇÖt get to him; the crowds are too big.ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£Yes, I have.ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£Okay, picture and a thousand words for the standard fee. We are by the Toyota showroom, next to the pedestrian crossing by Rue Quentin-Bauchart.ÔÇØ


ÔÇ£Okay, her name is Chloe Evesham. ThatÔÇÖs spelt E, V, E, S, H, A, M. IÔÇÖll have her waiting.ÔÇØ

Jean shut off his mobile, put it in his pocket, moved further away from the group and raised his camera. These shots captured Chloe, straining to look over the crowds, mobile in hand, looking worried. Chloe spotted what Jean was doing and shot him an enquiring look, thus ruining any further pictures. As she ended the call to Jess, Jean had Yvette move away with Pierre, so that he could get a good, clear full length shot of Chloe on her own.

ÔÇ£Follow me, everyone,ÔÇØ commanded Jean.

Chloe, Yvette and Pierre followed Jean into the Rue Quentin-Bauchart, a one-way street that was cut off by barriers and packed with television trucks. Jean looked at his watch and tapped his feet impatiently.

ÔÇ£What are we doing here, Jean?ÔÇØ enquired Yvette. ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖll never make it to see Scott standing around amongst these vehicles.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Sorry, I didnÔÇÖt explain,ÔÇØ said Jean. ÔÇ£We are getting Chloe a lift. Chloe, have you ever ridden pillion before?ÔÇØ

Just as Chloe shook her head, a powerful Kawasaki weaved its way through the melee of vehicles and people. It came to a halt by the foursome, as Jean flagged it down. Jean had a quick word with the rider, who then handed Chloe a helmet and folded down a couple of rear foot rests before turning the bike around. Having directed Chloe to take the pillion, the rider had a few words of instruction before starting a slow weave back to the traffic flowing beyond the cordoned off street.

ÔÇ£Now, Yvette,ÔÇØ said Jean, ÔÇ£you and I are going to sit down in that caf├® over there and you are going to tell me everything you know about Chloe and Scott ÔǪYou too, Pierre. Come along, I'm buying.ÔÇØ


The podium presentations over, the riders made their way back to their team buses, and on to their hotels for the nightÔÇÖs festivities. Although Scott was going to be taking a two week break from training, it didnÔÇÖt mean that he could totally forego his recovery routine just yet. He waited until he reached the hotel before getting a shower in his room, but still followed up with the usual visit to the team masseuse. The compression gear still had to be worn, too, but Scott decided to only keep it on for about four hours, by which time he would have avoided the muscle cramps, eaten an early dinner and have been getting ready for the teamÔÇÖs end-of-Tour party. David already had ScottÔÇÖs measurements on file for team clothing, so a hired evening suit was already hanging in the room, for ScottÔÇÖs use that night.

Next week would be different. He would be at his rented home, near Bagn├¿res-de-Bigorre, with Stuart, Jess, his parents and his eight year old sister for company, enjoying the solitude and freedom of his quiet farmhouse. ThereÔÇÖd be no compression gear and no race clothing. HeÔÇÖd need the sun on his bare skin to heal the wounds. The week after that, heÔÇÖd start riding again, but just for enjoymentÔÇÖs sake, without any of the structured training or recovery routines.


Chloe wasnÔÇÖt sure what was going on. The motorbike had sped away from the direction of the podium, and they were now pulling up outside a boutique, away from the thronging crowd. The rider waved Chloe off the bike and took the helmet from her. She was then met by a smartly dressed young lady of oriental extraction, who had emerged for the store.

ÔÇ£Miss Evesham? Would you follow me please?ÔÇØ the young lady asked, in French.

Chloe did as she was requested but asked, in the same language, ÔÇ£What is all this? What's going on?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Sorry, has nobody explained? Oh, heavens above!ÔÇØ exclaimed the woman, throwing her hands up in mock anguish. ÔÇ£First of all, IÔÇÖm Suki. IÔÇÖll be your assistant, so to say, for the rest of the day. We got a call just fifteen minutes ago from LÔÇÖ├ëquipe, asking us to do an emergency outfitting for a guest at one of their parties. We had no details of your form or colouration, so this will be a hard task, but Louie is a bit of a genius and miracle worker. YouÔÇÖll just have to trust him.ÔÇØ

Suki led Chloe into the back of the premises, where Louie and his team were waiting.

ÔÇ£Louie, this is Chloe,ÔÇØ Suki made the introductions.

ÔÇ£Hello, Chloe. ItÔÇÖs lovely to meet you. Now, can we get you undressed, so that we can see to what form we have to work?ÔÇØ Then to everyone else he called, ÔÇ£Those that donÔÇÖt need to be here, vamoose!ÔÇØ

Louie, although he spoke French, was evidently English and campier than a scout jamboree. She had never been asked to undress so directly before, but Louie was probably used to impossible deadlines. Kicking off her trainers, she soon dispensed with her t-shirt and jeans and stood there for LouieÔÇÖs analysis in only her knickers.

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs so good to work with a natural form. With some girls, their breasts have too much to say for themselves. I love your hair colour, too; so even and vibrant. For the dress material, IÔÇÖm feeling purple silk.ÔÇØ

The last sentence was clearly an instruction, as only a matter of seconds later a whole swatch of varying shades of purple were presented to Louie, who discounted a good number and then held the remainder up against ChloeÔÇÖs breast.

Thats a lovely tan you have, too. Let me guess natural and all over?

ÔÇ£Born and bred a naturist,ÔÇØ confirmed Chloe.

ÔÇ£That would explain the total ease with which youÔÇÖve taken to our study,ÔÇØ said Louie. ÔÇ£Michele, you can forego the spray tan,ÔÇØ he called over his shoulder. Turning back to Chloe, he said, ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not going to insult such natural lines with stick-on push-ups, but weÔÇÖll have to make up some seamless panties so that the edges donÔÇÖt show under such fine material.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Would me going knicker-less help?ÔÇØ asked Chloe.

Youre willing oh, of course, nudity doesnt embarrass you, and so why would no knickers? Okay, I need to see your nude form, to judge. Will you trust me that much?

Chloe replied by removing her final garment.

ÔÇ£Good, youÔÇÖre shaved. That clinches it; no panties it is then. YouÔÇÖre making our job so much easier,ÔÇØ said Louie, as he grabbed a sketch pad and colouring pens. ÔÇ£I think weÔÇÖll go very daring on the cut, too.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Excuse me, Louie,ÔÇØ broke in Suki, ÔÇ£I was wondering if Chloe would like something to eat or drink.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, yes please, Suki,ÔÇØ said Chloe ÔÇ£I havenÔÇÖt eaten since breakfast, and now IÔÇÖm starving. Could you get me a sandwich, please? Oh, a cappuccino and a Belgian chocolate brownie as well, please.ÔÇØ

Suki nodded and moved off.

Louie worked silently for a while, capturing ChloeÔÇÖs form in pencil before he felt the need to relax the mood with some light conversation. ÔÇ£So, Chloe, tell me, what gets you an invite to an end-of-Tour party?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know really,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£Four of us were trying to get up to the podium presentation to see an old friend of mine, but we couldnÔÇÖt make it. The next think I know, one of my male friends had made a call somewhere, and I was whisked off here on a motorbike. The first thing I knew about an end-of-Tour party was from Suki, when she explained what I was doing at a boutique.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I can see that I need to improve my explanations,ÔÇØ said Suki, as she brought in ChloeÔÇÖs cappuccino. ÔÇ£Michel at LÔÇÖ├ëquipe told me that you are Scott LowryÔÇÖs date for the evening.ÔÇØ

Chloe let a sob escape and she covered her mouth. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm sorry. ItÔÇÖs Scott that we were trying to see. I was his childhood sweetheart, but I foolishly dumped him just before we went off to university, thinking that he was cheating on me. He probably wouldnÔÇÖt even have gone to university if we hadnÔÇÖt split. His heart was already on riding as a professional, but I recently found out that he lost motivation and stopped riding because his heart was broken.ÔÇØ

Louie pulled a tissue from a box next to him on the work bench and passed it to Chloe. ÔÇ£But Lowry is that English rider, is he not? How is it that a Parisian like you gets to be his childhood sweetheart?ÔÇØ

Chloe couldnÔÇÖt help but laugh, despite the tears she had just shed. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not a Parisian. IÔÇÖm from the northwest of England, just like Scott,ÔÇØ said Chloe, in English, letting her southern Lancastrian accent colour the words.

ÔÇ£Well, you could knock me down with a feather,ÔÇØ said Louie, also in English, a cockney accent now evident. ÔÇ£Oh, youÔÇÖre the ÔÇÿone sacrifice too manyÔÇÖ, arenÔÇÖt you?ÔÇØ he asked, returning to French.

ÔÇ£I bought that bracelet for him for our first Christmas, when I was thirteen.ÔÇØ

Louie took out a tape measure and checked Chloe over, calling out figures to an assistant who noted them down on a tablet computer.

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm done here,ÔÇØ announced Louie, rolling up the tape. ÔÇ£Michele will take you to get your hair and makeup done. Suki will bring your refreshments through for you. IÔÇÖll now go and get really creative, and weÔÇÖll meet back here when I have the templates ready. Can I offer you a robe? Some people around here might find you very distracting otherwise, and I need all minds on the job.ÔÇØ


Scott didnÔÇÖt know what heÔÇÖd let himself in for. There he was, alone at the teamÔÇÖs end-of-Tour party, awaiting his assigned escort. About him, most of his team mates had their wives and girlfriends; those that didnÔÇÖt were matched up with some B-list actress or pop star. Those on the A-list would have either had an invite to the party for the yellow jersey winner or have gone off in a huff, so Scott was left wondering who the white jersey winner rated as an escort. David had indicated that LÔÇÖ├ëquipe, who was sponsoring that eveningÔÇÖs festivities, had lined up someone special for Scott, but who that was, was unknown to David.

This was a night to blow all the fuses; not a single member of the backup team and few of the riders would be left standing come the early hours of the morning. They had plenty to celebrate; ScottÔÇÖs victory on the final mountain stage and in the final time trial, his taking of the overall young riderÔÇÖs white jersey, his seventh place on the final general classification, ArnaudÔÇÖs victory on the Champs ├ëlys├®es, the Ôé¼203,000 of prize money gained (Ôé¼73,100 having been contributed by ScottÔÇÖs efforts) and the squadÔÇÖs confirmed three year extended contract from Arc-en-Ciel all adding to the effervescence. Scott swirled his first glass of champagne and took a sip as he regarded the rest of his team mates in the room; this wouldnÔÇÖt be his last glass, he was sure of that.

Just as he was about to bolt down the rest of the champagne, Scott felt someone wrap their arms around him, gently, from behind. Whoever it was, they were slightly shorter than he and being very familiar. He didnÔÇÖt recognise the perfume, but he did recognise the kiss behind the right ear as being how he used to kiss Chloe when he was behind her. Sure enough, as he turned he met the eyes of his one true love. The champagne flute slipped from his grasp and shattered on the floor, as his hands became occupied with holding the girl whom he should never have let go. A second or so passed, with them just standing, nose-to-nose, breathing each other in, before passion pulled them together, locking them in a deep entwined kiss. The stream of camera flashes that followed was lost to them, along with the pulsing sound of the flash discharges.


Jess and Stuart had received a special invitation to the end-of-Tour party from Scott. They had not wanted to tell Chloe for fear she would feel hurt by another ÔÇÿbetrayalÔÇÖ by her best friend. In any case, when Yvette called earlier that afternoon, and told Jess that LÔÇÖ├ëquipe was setting Chloe up to be the surprise escort for Scott, the question became moot. So, after Jean left to write up his piece for LÔÇÖ├ëquipe, Yvette, Pierre, Jess and Stuart met for an early dinner and then Jess and Stuart returned to their hotel to change for the party.

Paris is a traffic nightmare at the best of times and that night, with the Tour de France barely finished, one had the impression that three quarters of all the cars in France were driving along its streets. As a result, the taxi that Jess and Stuart had hired to bring them to the party venue took forever to get there. The final straw came when they were within sight of their destination; the way was cut off by a stretch limousine that pulled in ahead of them. All their frustration with being late fell by the wayside, however, as they recognised Chloe step out of the limo, wearing a sheer deep ÔÇÿimperialÔÇÖ purple dress, cut to leave one shoulder bare and a waist-high slit on the other side.

While Stuart quickly paid off the taxi, Jess hopped out in the middle of the street and called out to Chloe. Chloe hesitated then waited for Jess, and then Stuart, to catch up and they entered together. When they entered the ballroom, Chloe immediately spotted Scott, standing alone and looking a bit lost. Signing to Jess and Stuart to stay behind, she quickly ran up behind him and gave him a kiss behind the ear the way he used to do it.


A touch on their shoulders caused Scott and Chloe turn around and into embraces from Stuart and Jess, respectively, followed by a hug and a kiss with their best friendÔÇÖs partner.

Up to that moment, Scott and Chloe had not spoken a single word but when he took her in his arms again, he murmured ÔÇ£Marry me, now, this week. Be mine, as I have always been yours.ÔÇØ

Oh, Scott, my love of course Ill marry you, said Chloe. But first, please tell me that you forgive me for pushing you away, for doubting you.

ÔÇ£ThereÔÇÖs nothing to forgive,ÔÇØ said Scott. ÔÇ£We would never have been in that situation if we had our special time together and I wasted too much time riding when I should have been with you. I have achieved my goal, but I could have done so without sacrificing my dream, of loving you, which made everything else worthwhile. ItÔÇÖs only the memory of our love and the hope that IÔÇÖd find you again that has made it possible for me to be here now.ÔÇØ

"Oh, Scott...I should have guessed... It was like that when we first met. I love you more than ever."

"Me, I've never stopped loving you since that first day when Monsieur Claveyrolat had me sit next to you in French class."

Jess couldnÔÇÖt hold off any longer and she jumped in, hugging both of them. ÔÇ£Oh, congratulations! IÔÇÖm so happy for you two. You wouldnÔÇÖt believe how long IÔÇÖve hoped for this moment.ÔÇØ

Stuart couldnÔÇÖt let that slide. He took ScottÔÇÖs hand and pumped it vigorously. ÔÇ£Yes, congratulations, mate. It couldnÔÇÖt happen to a nicer bloke. How are you going to swing the wedding?ÔÇØ

Scott looked at Chloe. Well, next week, my parents are popping over anyway. We could do it at the farm. I could call up all your parents and have them fly over with my bonus, I can afford it. They could stay over, as well; I have the room. Turning back to Stuart, Scott said Youd be my best man, wont you, buddy?

Jess looked at Stuart Stuart looked at Jess and blinked. All smiles, Jess said I have an idea Lets make it a double wedding; you two and we two.


Yvonne and ├ëlise were best friends, in fact they had been practically raised as sisters, although ├ëlise was the elder by four months. If there was anything else needed to tie Yvonne and ├ëlise together, they were given the first name of each otherÔÇÖs mother as their second name, so it was Yvonne Chloe Clay and ├ëlise Jessica Lowry. They were bright and amiable, and excellent students. Their linguistic skills alone meant that they had full scholarships to the grammar school, back home in Bury.

If there is one thing that their parents had told them about love, it was the fact that true loves and friendships were based on trust. Both girls filed this away for future reference, thinking that boys were a long way down the line. However, since the girls were now thirteen years old, all four parents knew differently, and steeled themselves for the day when their daughters found boys with whom they could entrust their hearts.

With their old friends, Jess and Stuart, Yvette, Famke and Stefan, and their partners, gathered about them, Chloe lay beside her husband, Scott, and rested her chin on his shoulder, watching their youngsters splashing in the pool of the Domaine Du Soleil Gironde, nude in the warm French sun, amongst the French, German, Dutch and other English kids. Some things changed, often in a big way, and yet some things seemed to repeat, as if in a cycle.
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