Did you know there was a bike race on last week? Neither did I. It was called the Tour Down Under (gauche, I know) and it did so well they reckon they’re going to do it again next year. I thought bike racing happened in the colder months in parks and involved mud and jumping barriers and whatnot, but then again I’m relatively new to this bicycle caper. One thing is for sure, there were a hell of a lot more cyclists on the roads during the tour. Apparently some of them even came from interstate(!). At first I assumed all the extra cyclists were out for some sort of ride-to-work week. Despite all the Hubbards* fronting up to what is seemingly the most prestigious cycling event in the country (After #ADLCrossNats14 – represent!) some of their presentation was, and I say this as an arse sitting behind a computer, somewhat lacking. It starts with the traditional mismatched kit. Just the other day I saw a gentleman sporting a red Specialized jersey and bibs from (the near-ubiquitous) Orica-GreenEDGE kit. Incidentally, is OGE essentially our national team now? Are they our Rabobank? Because if so, I’m keen to start wearing team colours and stand on the corner of a climb acting like a lout. On another note, and I’m not sure if this is an Australian phenomenon, but the trademark bandanna amongst the older male Australian cyclist has always perplexed me. One would think that if a cyclist was given to wearing something under their helmet in the middle of summer, the traditional cycling cap would be an obvious choice. #capsnothats should have been thriving in Australia for decades. Part of me thinks it’s a Marco Pantani thing, but the Australian bandanna is rarely accompanied by hill-killing heroics, so this explanation seems even more unlikely. I also wondered, what with Jens Voigt no longer racing at a professional level and Simon Gerrans a late scratching, who were the Hubbards actually rocking up to watch this year? Perhaps it was some of the foreign pros that came over for the race. You know them, the ones who look good on a bike and don’t struggle to clip in while taking off from the lights. The ones we smile and shake our heads at as they take off on the wrong side of the road on their first day here. It also has to be said that while they’re making us look like crap on local climbs, none of them have paid rego and so where they derive their right to train on our roads is a mystery to me (probably stealing our women too [grumbles]).
Naturally, the highlight of any Tour Down Under is (what passes for) the queen stage, which this year culminated all over Willunga Hill (twice!). The miscreants at Treadly Bike Shop, the ladies of Fondo Cycling and the dope people at The Rescue Project had organised a ride from Treadly out to Willunga that took in some nice countryside, a couple of hills and thankfully avoided the Hubbard Highway that is the Southern Veloway. Starting a little after 8:00am, it was a ride full of beautiful people and bikes you can’t put magnets on. The early morning denizens of Sad Café provided pastries and tried to keep up with a roadie tsunami of coffee orders. Top folks. The best part of one hundred cyclists left Treadly and struck out for Belair where I realised I’d been kidding myself that I’ve gotten better at climbing hills, and was promptly passed by all and sundry, including several bunches that I’m positive weren’t part of the ride. (Generously) regrouping at the top of the climb, we continued on towards Clarendon, which is preceded by a lovely, if intermittently surfaced descent that I’m proud to say I carved down, following the wheel of a guy called Hot Brad. Leaving Clarendon I was in slightly unfamiliar territory, and it was reassuring to see the Fondo Cyling kits dotted up the road, reassuring me I wasn’t lost. Indeed, those of Fondo Cycling did a great job shepherding the bunch the whole ride down. Also top folks. It wouldn’t be a route mapped out by Sam from Treadly without some stupidly steep climb and/or dirt, and sure enough we hung a left onto Toops Hill Road. Thinking myself every bit as capable as a vintage Tour de France rider (the original Gravel Grinders) I pointed my bike upwards, stood on the pedals for a few revolutions, realised I suck, and tried to unclip before I stalled. I hiked my bike to the first crest, summoned my inner Thomas Voeckler and resolved to gurn the rest of the way up. Aside from the lingering smell of burnt toast, the climb was a blast. The views were lovely and a lot of people seemed to have considerably less trouble on the climb than me. Fun times for all. From there it was pleasant rollers along Range Road all the way to the top of Willunga Hill. Then it was time to get stuck into the San Pell, slip-slop-slap and wait for the racers.
An interesting sense of solace can be derived from watching Pros ride up a hill, and not necessarily the climbing specialists either. I know some people who are really good at riding bikes up hills quickly and often in succession. I know some people who have raced and, reputedly, could have “gone pro”. None of these people are anywhere near as fast as the people I watched. Seeing a pure sprinter like Marcel Kittel practically soft-pedalling up the hill with a smile on his face faster than anyone I’ve ridden with erased any illusions I had about getting faster up hills. Obviously there is a lot of fun to be had caning yourself up a hill, but it is better enjoyed as part of a good route with a bunch of mates old and new like I’d just ridden to ensure a great day out on a bike. Cheers again to Treadly, Fondo Cycling, The Rescue Project, Jenny who gave me some food and water just outside Darlington on the way back, and everyone who came out, rode and chatted. You are what great days on the bike are about.
Same time next year, yeah?
*If you’re inexplicably an international reader (seriously, how did you get here?) Hubbard is what we call a “Fred” in Australia. Yes, you’re right, that is a better name. We think so too.
About the author.
Henry Veitch is a slightly overweight self-described “bicycle derelict”. He is as surprised as you are he was invited back for a second tilt at this “blogging” windmill.