When I started writing the races in Wheeler, I wanted to give the reader a dual perspective of being on Loren’s shoulder in the race, but also how they would see the action live on television. The race commentators, Peter Donnelly and Michaela Navarre, are a combination of different announcers and color commentators in the world of professional cycling.
Peter Donnelly was inspired by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, the voices behind the most famous men’s cycling race in the world, the Tour de France. They commentate other races during the men’s pro calendar, but they are most famous for Le Tour. Often, the things they say are hilarious, but they also teach the viewer about strategy in cycling, what rules are new, who the riders are, and the makeup of the teams.
Michaela Navarre is also a combination of two people, but from the women’s arena: former Wiggle/High5 team rider turned owner/manager, Rochelle Gilmore and women’s cycling blogger, Sarah Connelly, ProWomenscycling.com. Both of these women are juggernauts in the world of women’s cycling and have inspired me as a writer and as a (pseudo)athlete. While Sarah has taken a break from her podcast for 2018, past ones are still up. What I love about her is her unbridled love of women’s cycling, her unique British wit and her perchance to drop an F-bomb, or five.
The following is an excerpt featuring the two race commentators, Peter Connelly and Michaela Navarre from #WheelerNovel
Aviva Women’s Tour
Stage 1 – Bury St. Edmunds to Aldeburgh, 112.6km
Loren tugged at the bottom of her yellow leader’s jersey, waiting her turn to check-in with the stewards. Aria had been busy ironing several of their secondary sponsors’ logos onto the jersey that morning, and the spots still felt a little warm. She rolled her shoulders and adjusted the straps on the two sports bras she wore, then tugged the jersey down again.
Damn Euro cut jerseys never fit right. She moved forward, accepting the black Sharpie from Cece, then signed her name in the appropriate block on the Plexiglas sign. With a smile and a wave to the crowd gathered below, Loren followed the team to the start area. A steward directed her to the front of the group for introductions, and when her name was called, she smiled and waved at the photographers clustered in front of her.
“Darlin’, that outfit is just awful tacky,” said a voice colored by a Southern accent from a row behind her.
“Get a good look, mon amie.” Loren patted her rear end, flashing a grin at Heather behind her. “’Cause it’ll be all you see for the next few days.”
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first of five stages of the Aviva Women’s Tour. My name is Peter Donnelly, and my co-host for the Tour is former Road World Champion, Michaela Navarre.”
“Thank you, Peter, and what an exciting morning it has been. The race was barely a kilometer old before five riders took advantage of the slow start.”
“As we join the peloton with 97 kilometers remaining, it doesn’t seem the leaders are in a hurry to chase, Michaela.”
Loren dropped back a few rows to meet up with Ashley, Ingrid, and Irina. “There’s already been a breakaway, but nobody’s worried about them. We have some time to get the plan together before the first Mountain banner at Hemingstone.”
The four of them kept to the front, gradually increasing the speed before the first climb with the goal of controlling the race from the beginning. Irina had let a gap open behind Ashley, and as they headed into a tight corner, the trailing bunch caught Irina and tried to go in three abreast.
“Now that’s a nasty fall. IDC’s Irina Bendsen got squeezed out in a narrow turn to hit the kerb.”
“Her teammate, Ashley Hargrove has sat back to wait for her, while Chloe Monteith of Orca-Roto looks to take advantage of IDC’s disarray and breaks out with a chase group of eight riders.”
“Yellow leader, Loren Mackenzie sets off a counterattack and surges ahead of her rival, taking two of the chase group with her.”
Loren led the way through the first sprint checkpoint at Kesgrave, and the trio latched onto the original five-rider breakaway. The group worked together to keep themselves ahead of the peloton until the second sprint banner, ten kilometers away.
Her radio crackled in her ear. “Stay with them, but keep out of the scrum,” Felix told her.
“Mackenzie drifts back a bit to let the other riders fight it out for the sprint points at Melton.”
“That’s keeping her head in the business. No need to get into that mix.”
Loren glanced around to check who was in the breakaway with her. If I keep going all out at the top of the climb, Cole might be the only one who can catch me. She flinched as Felix spoke sharply in her ear.
“Leave them behind, now.”
She clenched her jaw. I am the storm. I am enough. Rising out of the saddle, Loren jumped away from the group.
“With eighteen kilometers remaining, the breakaway hits the base of the climb at Snape and Mackenzie attacks, clawing her way to the line first, just ahead of PZI’s Ardyn Cole.”
“She seems to be releasing some kind of frustration on this group, Peter.”
“But that wind will sure pick up in intensity now.”
Loren didn’t let up on the descent, bursting from the tree-lined road into the open flats near the coastline. The wind hit her then, pushing her bike across the road like a sailboat. Even as her muscles burned with the effort, it felt like she was barely moving. She groaned as sweet relief came when she turned a corner and dove back into the cover of the trees. There was no chance for rest as Felix began yelling in her ear.
“Are you going to whine about it or win? You will not back off! ” Loren curled her lip and hammered into the pedals.
“Mackenzie has committed every molecule of energy into the final stretch, but PZI’s Ardyn Cole is breathing down her neck!”
“They’re diving into the abyss of lactic haze, Michaela!”
“With one final jump, Cole crosses the line a tire width ahead, but Mackenzie will keep her lead over Orca-Roto’s Chloe Monteith going into tomorrow’s stage 2.”
“Holy shit, that wind was brutal,” Loren complained as Ardyn Cole rolled to a stop next to her.
“You’re not jokin’,” the Australian replied, then grimaced at the tight knot of reporters waiting for them. “Cripes, I’d rather be out in that wind again than deal with them.”
Loren huffed as she dismounted. “Come on, let’s go and be the dancing bears.”