La Route de France
Stage 6 Soultzmatt/Issenheim/Guebwiller, 116.4km
“Welcome back to stage six of La Route de France. It was a later start for the final stage of La Route, due to some tremendous thunderstorms that rolled through this morning.”
“It was some nasty weather out there, for certain Peter. IDC’s Loren Mackenzie holds the orange leader’s jersey by a slim margin ahead of Orca-Roto’s Chloe Monteith, and as we come to the first ascent of Col de Bannstein, IDC has been vigilant in defense of Mackenzie’s lead.”
“Now this climb is a real leg breaker.”
Drafting off Ashley, Loren was chomping at the bit watching her teammates giving everything they had in their dual-pronged strategy. Elsa, Holly, and Ingrid raised the pace at the front, while Chantal and Cece took on the role of attacking.
They’re doing all this for me, but I can’t just sit here.
“GoreTech’s Belinda Roberts, currently third in the GC, is having a go at breaking out on the Col, but she’s tripped up by a French wall, as sprinters Chantal Tremblay of IDC and PZI’s Adele Colbert maneuver her back to the peloton.”
“That’s an interesting bit of strategy, using your sprinters to attack on a climb.”
“Sprinters are known for their ability to go ballistic in the short term, and that’s exactly what they’ve been asked to do there.”
Felix was soon in their radios. “Monteith hasn’t been doing much today. Chatter is she’s going to ride it out. Chantal and Cece, drop back and rest for the finish. Holly, you go with them.” Loren narrowed her eyes at Monteith, riding just ahead of her, then squeezed her mic.
“Felix, she’s been shadowing me all day. There’s no way she’s just going to–.”
“You will do what you are told,” he snarled. “All of you.”
You son of a bitch. Your pride would lose the race for us. Loren and Ashley exchanged a glance, with Ashley nodding just once.
“The peloton has come to the final ascent of the Col de Bannstein, and Orca-Roto’s Chloe Monteith takes a final throw of the dice!”
“Shooting off the front is tour leader, Loren Mackenzie, digging deep to catch her rival, incredible power driving every pedal stroke.”
Ashley jumped after Loren and Monteith, pulling out GoreTech’s Flavia Medina and Orca-Roto’s Alana Perrot. Felix was in Loren’s ear as she caught her breath.
“How dare you,” he growled. “How dare–.” She and Ashley glanced at each other when his transmission was abruptly cut off.
There was cooperation between the two leaders and their supporting riders as Perrot, then Monteith, Ashley then Loren, rotated off the front, each rider pushing harder than the last. Medina was finally blown off the back of the train and the partnership officially dissolved.
“At 800 meters, IDC’s Loren Mackenzie puts in a hard acceleration that few had been able to match throughout the tour to claim the final stage and the win in La Route de France!”
“Chloe Monteith of Orca-Roto finishes in second, with Samantha Sharpe of GoreTech rounding out the podium.”
“Congratulations, Loren,” Theo said as he accompanied her back to the team’s ready area. “That was one for the books, for certain.”
“It was a roller coaster of a tour,” she said. “Once Chloe took the lead, I didn’t expect to get it back. I certainly didn’t think I’d win. It wasn’t my focus.” She stopped and turned to him. “Thank you for not printing what I said.”
“I know you didn’t mean it,” he replied, then gave a tight smile. “You didn’t ask, but I’ve done some digging around, and Atherton hasn’t been seen with anyone else but you.”
“Thanks,” she said, and started to turn but halted. “I meant to ask you, who was that photographer with you earlier, the red-head? We’ve seen him at just about every race, which is strange. I mean, you haven’t even been at every race.”
He glanced down at his tablet. “He said his name is Nick. He’s with a German newspaper,” he replied, then gave her a big smile. “Did you know Team USA’s start list for the World Championship has been announced with your name on it?”
Her eyes widened. “What? I thought I was an alternate.”
“The report doesn’t say anyone dropped off,” he told her, patting her shoulder. “Congratulations.”
Loren returned to the team area to cheers of “USA! USA!” from her teammates across the lot as she approached. Ulrik clapped her on the back.
“Marcia called me this morning. I didn’t want to say anything until now. Congratulations.” Aria and Sven came out of the RV with two bottles of champagne and several boxes of pizza. Loren laughed as her ears grew warm.
“Champagne and pizza. My favorite combination!”
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