The flight to Tokyo was long, and it was no good for Alexis's legs, back, or anything for the matter. She had one day to get over her jetlag before the competitions started, but the national committee was wasting it to do mental strengthening.
Alexis wished that the bus ride to the hotel would be quiet—at least, but it wasn't. Besides the blasting Japanese music that sounded like a bunch of dying hyenas with a drumbeat in the background, the bus driver had a need to talk non-stop, in a language that was a cross between English and Japanese. Christa and Grace-Anne were comparing their personal fragrance lines, and Aliya was looking out the window. Nina was sitting next to Alexis and was trying to focus on her geometry homework. When they finally reached the hotel and passed through the swarm of cameras and people, they all gathered in the bedroom to do yoga and visualization. It was supposed to improve their performance. Alexis was skeptical. She knew that all that could help them would be a light meal, a good massage and a good night's sleep. She didn't really have any friends on the national team, and all she really wanted to do was to compete, win, and then go home.
That was when she felt a buzz in her pocket. It was her phone which had caught the Wi-Fi signals in the hotel and was receiving the texts she got through the instant messaging program.
Good luckYou'll rock it. I'm watching you on TV, and you owe me a date when you get back.
It was Neil. Alexis was happy everyone was meditating with their eyes shut because she flushed to a deep shade of purple. She texted back.
Sure, thanks! See ya.
She tried to play it cool, which was easy to do by text, and smiled a bit.
Riley and Mara landed in Brussels in the late afternoon, and made it to a small apartment on the border of Holland and Belgium by bedtime. They couldn't go to sleep though, because they had to meet the team. There were 14 other girls, mostly from Europe but two girls from Australia too. The team director, Anna, a business woman type in her early 30's with blonde hair and penetrating hazel eyes, explained that the goal was to have a team of 10 by the end of the 2 week period. She also explained that everything would be very different: The next morning they would go out on a long training ride together for bonding, but from then on it would be all racing. They would be expected to work by team tactics, and to be good role models and spokespersons for the sport and as human beings. They would also be expected to win—even when they were racing without the whole team, and to make it onto world championship teams and such. In return though, they would get the highest quality of care: there bikes would be fixed for them, they would get massages before and after races, there bottles would be filled for them in the mornings and they could get almost anything with a simple request. Riley sort of just watched everything happen as if she was watching her life happen from the outside. She was still in a state of shock. Mara was trembling. She knew that her spot on the team wasn't a permanent one.
After playing a quick game of cards with everyone to lighten the tension, the rest of the girls headed off to bed and the duo were left on the couch with Anna.
"I was very impressed with you when I saw you," She started out, "I can tell you really want this." Anna was speaking directly towards Riley, which made her feel uncomfortable. Mara was next to her, and needed to be complimented.
"Of course," Anna continued, "I knew I couldn't go wrong with another girl getting coached by Seth Dawes, and I was right. I had to look online for some footage of you, but you show a lot of promise." She said, and Riley felt Mara's relief.
"Riley, your spot on the team was given to you, which means tomorrow you can ride in the back and relax your legs for the races this week. On the other hand, you—" she said as she pointed her head at Mara "—need to be on your best behavior for the next few weeks. I only have room for 10 girls on the team, and I think that supporting female American riders is important, and I think that you deserve a spot on the team, you just need to prove it to me and the rest of the staff." Anna smiled at the two quickly before she excused herself, and then Mara and Riley headed off to bed as well.