The still dark sky was cold and damp as Harry Potter flew down from Hogwarts to Broadbridge Village Hall, his Cervelo P3 strapped to his broom-stick. He stamped his feet and blew on his cold hands but his new Castelli Gabba blocked out the wind and the icy air.
'Nice Gabba, said Ron Weasley. 'Wiggle?'
'Shut up Ron,' said Harry.
Inside, the hall had that just got up smell mixed with coffee and damp shorts, freshly sprayed embrocation and deodorant. Harry signed on and collected his number. He went to the toilet to change; grunts and sighs and much worse issued from the locked cubicles as the riders readied themselves for the last time. Back in the hall he saw Hermione easing her bib shorts over her pale shoulders and asked her to pin his number on.
'Turn around and bend over,' she said but she wasn't smiling.
Harry did as he was told and felt her delicate hands pinching the thin material and then jabbing his quivering flesh with the pin.
'Ouch!' said Harry.
'Don't be such a baby,' she said.
Harry rolled to the start line, passing Dave who was warming up on his rollers, head-phones dangling. He could see Dumbledore setting off, his spindly legs furiously thrashing the pedals, his flowing white beard blanketing his new Planet X.
Harry waited at the start line, sleep ravaged eyes gazing around as the pusher-off's hands squeezed his saddle.
'3, 2, 1, go.'
Harry caught Ron at the first roundabout. He was riding a Dolan with PDQ bars and Enve wheels. Ron wore a white skin-suit with red lycra shoe covers and a Kask Bambino helmet and was panting hard.
'You look like a twat,' said Harry as he went past.
Harry settled into a steady rhythm; he had practiced this pace on the turbo back in his room at Hogwarts and knew his FTP.
He heard the rumble of Bash's wheels long before he caught him. Bash swept past, beads of sweat rolling down his face, teeth bared with the effort.
'Come along Potter,' said Bash, without turning his head.
Harry smiled grimly to himself. He reached behind him and drew his wand out of the centre pocket of his Gabba. He pointed it at Bash and muttered a spell. Shortly after, Bash punctured and Harry passed him at the side of the road, stomping around and swearing at his useless wheel.
Andy flashed past him. Harry felt the whoosh of his carbon wheels and he was gone. Harry pedalled on through the mist, tired marshals in grubby tabards pointing the way over the rolling roundabouts. He took a gulp of butter-beer from his bottle; the frothy sweet drink made him gag but he soon felt the energy flow through him.
At last he was finished and joined the other riders in the sweaty hall. He stood on tiptoes to read the numbers on the board.
'How did you do?' said Hermione.
'Long 24,' said Harry. 'Rubbish. The others?'
'Professor Snapethorne was disqualified for drafting behind Voldeblunt and the Reverend had a fall,' said Hermione. 'Ron did a 26.'
Harry ate a bacon roll, the dry butterless crumbs sticking to the roof of his mouth and then had 2 pieces of Say's bread and butter pudding; it was delicious.
The Half-blood Prince of Tadros won with a short 21. Andy was second. Bash was third despite his puncture.
Dumbledore set off in his Fiat 500, his and Hermione's bikes strapped to the rear. Harry gazed longingly after her; he was desperate to get his hands on her Zipps. Harry strapped his Cervelo to his broom-stick, switched on his Knog Blinder light and flew off into the warming sky.
Maybe he would have better luck next week on the B36 course.
In memory of Ian Bashford
The views of Lanterne Rouge are his own and do not reflect the club or any individual member.Lanterne Rouge