The Tour Downunder, it’ll be fun they say, come for the food and wine they say, do the Bupa ride they say…can’t say I was all too fond of “they” after the first 2 days.
So after about 8 1/2 months off the bike it was back into it with the MC. Easy Tuesday morning roll out, and by easy I mean I rode to Nesto’s and had a coffee before riding home. Somehow, in between me having a coffee and a croissant I decided it would be a good idea to head to Adelaide with the MC guys and check out the TDU after everyone heaped praise about how it’s such a good week and how i’ll love it!
Ok, let’s go! Time to pack.
Flights; check, accommodation; check, bike bag; check. 5 days later and i’m off to Adelaide. Oh boy this is going to be awesome, I thought to myself, I can finally meet those people I stalk on Instagram and hopefully ride with some pros and drink some of the best wine in Australia…how could this be a bad thing!?
I landed in Adelaide on Monday evening and after checking in decided to go for a wander. OMG! Cyclists everywhere, team cars driving through the streets, TDU village and bike porn everywhere! So. Much. Bikeporn. "I love this and i’m going to ride all this tomorrow!!"
Tuesday morning. Baptism by fire. Somehow I agreed to ride out with some mates and do a 110km ride so that we could check out the first stage of the TDU. Riding out there was amazing, the scenery, the KOM hill, the sheer number of cyclists and just the fact I was riding roads I never knew existed made it all the more amazing. Up until I got lost and had to slug it back up an extra hill about half way out to Williamstown. No problems, i’ll just do a bit of wheel sucking out to Williamstown and hopefully it’ll be all good.
After a few hours on the bike I made it. I rendezvoused with cycling mates, ran into the one and only Mr Crabtree and hung out at the Specialized stand waiting for riders to come by.
*Waaeeyooooowaaeeyoooooo* HERE THEY COME! Woosh, woosh, woosh, there goes AG2R followed by Tinkoff and Orica and Drapac and IAM and so on and so on. It was such an awesome vibe! Everyone was cheering and we were sitting mere metres from these professional cyclists absolutely flying past us around the bend. After watching a couple more laps we decided it was time to head home before the storm kicked in and the huge rush of people began.
After sitting down, resting and eating for about 2 hours it was time to ride back to Adelaide…what could possibly go wrong after letting the legs sit like that?
CRAMPS! CRAMPS! CRAMPS! F**K YOU, YOU STUPID F**KING BIKE AND F**CK YOU, YOU STUPID BLOODY LEGS, SHUT UP LEGS, SHUT UP SHUT UP!
After about 30km’s of the 55km ride back to Adelaide my legs decided to pack it in. I thought I could stretch and rub it out but alas every 5-10km’s I was back off the bike. I was feeling nearing Marcel Kittel rage levels and ready to toss the bike over the guardrail and grin as it bounced down the countryside. Thankfully I didn’t. After a quick bike change and a very welcomed much much easier gear ratio I was ready to continue.
Sometime later I made it. Slightly sunburnt, very sore and completely woebegone.
“this…this is only the first day” I mumbled to myself. “5 more days of this”.
Day 2. Ok, we’ll just make it easy and do a slow roll to Stage 2 in Stirling about 30km’s away. No problems.
I forgot we had to do hills to get there.
Not sure if it was the endorphins kicking in, my joy of riding a TDU stage or simply that I just couldn’t feel my legs but this was one of the most beautiful rides I have probably ever ridden. Just 10km’s from Adelaide CBD and you’re heading up beautiful mountain ranges with an epic view of the city in the background. Norton Summit - just go ride it and thank me later.
Thankfully this ride was a much easier one than the day before and I knew that once we made it to Stirling it was going to be downhill all the way back to Adelaide.
Stirling. The finish of the second stage. Here we waited. Here we watched Adam Hansen doing his best to keep his solo lead out and here we watched Caleb Ewan be broken by the hills. There were to be no missile sprints today.
PHOTO FINISH! Without a doubt the closest finish you will ever see. All eyes were on the screens to see who won. In the end it was the Australian, Jay McCarthy, by what must have been quite literally a centimeter pipped the Italian, Diego Ulissi to take the stage win.
Ok, so the race is over, now we ride back. “Wait, wait, waaiitt...the pros are riding back too?!” I was like a child, again.
Here I was absolutely flying downhill along bike paths and freeways with riders from Saxo Tinkoff, BMC, IAM and Drapac. If I ever had any fears of going downhill fast, they were gone for now. Just trying to sit with these was amazing experience. Everything they did was flawless. I was in awe.
Back in Adelaide and after a few hours, it was time to meet up with the MC guys and indulge in some fine wine and food on offer in Adelaide. If you’re ever out with Harvey, just let him order the wines, trust me. If there’s one thing that this Pom does right, it’s order wine...and I guess, cook too.
Friday morning, 4am, beep beep beep beep. Time to get up for the Bupa ride. Thankfully I was onlyl doing the 70km ride and not bonkers like the rest of the Sydney crew who decided to do the 140km ride. Yeah, nah.
Talk about a great ride, rolling hills, long stretches of flat roads, plenty of small bunches to ride with you. Perfect. Then there’s an odd sign sitting in from of slightly hidden but ominous hill.
“←- ESCAPE ROUTE ONLY 12KM’S TO FINISH”
Hmm, should I shouldn’t I. No let’s do this, that hill doesn’t look too bad. Suffice to say no more than 10 minutes later I was thinking just how easy it would be to turn around, roll down the hill and take the easy way out. SCREW. THIS. HILL. For those who have ridden Crows Foot hill will feel my pain.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the ride as it was fairly easy in comparison, except for the massive crosswinds whilst descending at 70km/h, but there was plenty of simultaneous cursing and joy throughout. Somehow I even managed to end up on TV.
As the days went on, so did the riding. Thankfully the km’s went down. Giant Adelaide put on a great little ride which had a huge turnout! Probably close to 30 riders split over 2 groups. Despite getting on to the wrong ride (yeah, I wasn’t down for the hills) and getting slightly lost on the return, I managed to meet up with all for a coffee and a bit of cycling banter.
As we neared the end of the week after being treated to some amazing hospitality by locals and having a rare look into some behind the scenes of the Drapac team (thanks to MC!) it was time to chill out and spend some time in the TDU village.
Beers, bikeporn and big screen tv’s. Perfect.
After one last roll out to the beachfront it was time to pack the bike up and start packing for the flight home tomorrow. One last day meant one last stage. Although I didn’t get to see it in its entirety, that which I did see was absolutely incredible. Positioning myself on one of the corners made for some great tight white knuckle moments. My water was warm, the sun was burning my neck and my legs were still sore but right now none of it mattered. It was the final stage of the TDU and I was right here watching it.
An hour or so later and I was in a taxi on the way to the airport. It was over.
Despite my opinions only a few days beforehand - “They” were right. I loved it. I loved it all.