Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about integrity by Craig Smith.
Craig Smith is a poet and novelist from Huddersfield. His writing has appeared on iambapoet and the Mechanics’ Institute Review, as well as in The North, The Blizzard, and The Interpreters’ House. Craig has three books to his name: two poetry collections, L.O.V.E. Love (Smith/Doorstop) and A Quick Word With A Rock And Roll Late Starter, (Rue Bella); and a novel, Super-8 (Boyd Johnson). He is currently working toward an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University.
Road Captain’ follows a Tour de France cyclist considering what it takes to win.
Why am I here? Why am I even here? Why am I riding with these guys?
We should let them go. They’re no threat to us. These jokers aren’t GC contenders. They’re doing nothing in the mountains and, if they were, that’s not our objective this year. They won’t even be in the bunch at the end of the stage to mess up the sprints because they’ll fade. They just want their moment at the front so the TV shows their jersey so the sponsor is happy so the team gets funding for another year and they get to carry on riding a bike for a living. We should leave them to it. We’ve got bigger concerns.
I’m the road captain. I should be back in the pack, controlling the peloton for Nicholas. I should be helping him preserve his energy for the climbs. I should be running his errands. I should be collecting his gel packs. I should be marking the teams targeting the GC. They would’ve laughed in disbelief to see me haring down the road after this bunch of chancers. What kind of a team sends their road captain to the front so far from home? It’s madness.
Robert is clueless. He’s been directeur sportif since winter and he has absolutely zero aptitude for the job. He was an OK rider back in the day, provided someone told him what to do, but he never had the brains to run the show on the road, never mind calling the shots from the car. He’s got the tactical nous of an amateur. I’ve known some first class directeurs in my time, but Robert isn’t one of them.
A good DS has vision and can think on their feet. They know the team goals for each race and for the season. They prioritise each stage within the race, and know where the team leader needs to be positioned for each climb and sprint, and which domestiques need to be on hand to support them. And they have a realistic idea of what their rivals will do at any point in the race.
Robert has none of that. He panicked. Panicked and now can’t back down. He’s sent me down the road chasing six riders from six different teams who’re never going to stay away the whole day, and he left the rest of the team exposed without their road captain. That’s amateur. That’s a fireable offence.