Two events not only reveal but also contribute to the central conflicts in the novel: the Southern Games (including the fifteen-mile Blue Riband cycling race) and Trinidad’s most important annual event, its colorful and hedonistic Carnival. These two events are to be held only weeks apart, and for the first time, Leon Seal turns his back on Carnival and single-mindedly prepares to win the race which will establish him as one of the country’s cycling stars.
Under his father’s guidance, he quits his job at the Pointe-a-Pierre oil refinery and avoids any activity which might strain a muscle or weaken his body. Accepting the popular mythology, he decides to abstain totally from any physical involvement with his devoted girlfriend, Sylvia, during the several months of his training. Leon’s carefully calculated regimen and his iron discipline are coolly and rationally directed toward the goals of heroic action and personal glory; Leon’s assumptions concerning the people close to him and the importance of his quest, however, fail to take into account the feelings and needs of Sylvia, who is in love with him but has little real interest in cycling. Intellectually she accepts her diminished position in Leon’s life, but emotionally she is hurt and confused by his treatment of her.
Leon further complicates the situation by sexually arousing Sylvia during the occasional visits he permits her, only to turn away from her abruptly with a show of his self-control. The situation leads Sylvia to reassess her relationship with Leon and to question her own social and moral views. Frustrated and resentful, she is forced to conclude "Bicycle is his woman!" and consider other options. Mirroring and contributing to her inner turmoil is the general excitement building in the population as Carnival approaches with its loosening of inhibitions and its invitation to bacchanalian abandon.
Sylvia is gradually drawn into an affair with her employer, Imbal Mohansingh, and becomes pregnant. She seeks help from her friend May in obtaining an abortion but is refused. She decides to take May’s advice and pretend that the baby is Leon’s. May urges Sylvia to forget her troubles and enjoy the Carnival: "This is Trinidad. And you young, and you ain’t dead yet!" Yet, as often happens in the novel, the external world reflects the psychological or moral state of the characters: "In the street all the calypsoes were twisted into obscenities and were on the lips of young and old alike."
Sylvia persuades the unsuspecting Leon to promise that if he wins the Blue Riband race he will marry her immediately, but she knows that Leon is fully capable of putting her off for another year if his goal is not achieved. The tension of the entire novel becomes focused on the last chapter and the expertly controlled account of the fifteen-mile race on which ride the fortunes, for better or worse, of the central characters. The novel’s last sentence indicates that Leon has indeed won the race. Yet Michael Anthony’s skill in creating characters who live in the imagination forces the reader to speculate on the true nature of that victory for both Sylvia and Leon.