Here they come, juddering through the narrow pass between bollards and boutiques. Their bikes rattle on the uneven bricks. Cables slap frames. Disorderly, they jump and jitter as they near the tight bend, gingerly.
Then a shout: “Coming through!”
She passes on the outside, leans confidently into the corner. She has momentum for the cobbled hill.
She rides. But she won’t win. Not tonight.
Number 4 has grace tonight.
Number 4 clicks down for the climb and finds the worn lines in the gutter. She crouches, pedals quick and close to the barriers and the crowd. She finds the lines and rides them, smoothly; eases uncontested from the cobble-splintered peloton.
All they see is her number, the rumpled yellow vanishing point in the blue of her back.
“On another night,” thinks Number 5. “On another course. I’ll take her.”