THE WINNER | Jo Somerset celebrates the modesty of a woman athlete.
by Jo Somerset
In honour of Fiona Kolbinger, winner of the 2019 Transcontinental Cycle Race from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Brest (France) – 2,500 miles.
‘My sights were set on the women’s podium,’
said Fiona, the winner,
finishing her first ever ultra race, finishing first.
She pushed, she trained, she aimed to be the best
Success surprised her,
Victory caught her out.
She aimed for the women’s podium.
The one behind her, runner up,
a man called Ben from Bristol,
ten hours, a hundred-and-fifty kilometres behind,
didn’t aim for the women’s podium.
He aimed to be the best
rolling into Brest.
“I could have done it faster,” she said,
with the delirious achiever’s voice
reminding me of squeezing out a baby after forty hours’ labour and saying
“I think I’ll have another one.”
But Fiona Kolbinger, a twenty-four-year-old force no-one reckoned on
might just mean it.
She bowled through Bulgaria, then swept over Serbia, slaughtering Slovenia, topping mountains in Austria. Intrepid in Italy, sucking up the Swiss Alps and finishing finally with a flourish in France.
Beat that, Ben.
Her sights were set on the women’s podium,
but she trounced all the men.
A hundred-and-eighty hours in the saddle,
spare tubes wrapped around her middle,
she played piano at checkpoint four
(on day eight)
while volunteers looked on in hushed awe.
She played ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’,
the hurtling trainee doctor, the hurricane from Heidelberg.
Sun, rain, wind, thunder,
freezing, boiling, it’s all the same
for a cyclist who’s aiming to be the best
who in the end
beat all the men
to the podium in Brest
and was the best.
Jo Somerset | @josomerset | https://josomersetwriter.wordpress.com
Jo Somerset is a Manchester-based writer. Publication in 2019 includes poetry in Dear Damsels, anothernorth.org, Buzzin Bards and Generations (Write Club OU) and, in 2018 the article ‘Pushing the Boundaries of Feminism in a Northern English Town’ (Northern History, March 2018). When she’s not working on her Creative Writing MA at Salford University, she’s out on her bike with Team Glow women’s cycling group.