Back where it all began ….

The start of a new year is always a good time for looking both forward & back.

It’s just short of 4 years (13 Jan 2009) since I started blogging and this’ll be my 110th post. You do the math, not exactly a prolific output but tough luck …. As I’ve said before, if someone wants to pay me for this drivel, I’ll do it 5 times a week, but until then it’s as the mood strikes me.

And I’m back where it all began, in Byron Bay, and riding with the same group of locals that I wrote about 4 years ago. Except by now, having pedaled with them lots & lots of times, I’ve pretty much remembered everyone’s names. Almost. The odd mistake now & then.

We finished 2012 with a cracker of a spin to Lismore & back, over endless quiet country roads (with the odd minute or three on nasty busy highways), through rainforest, farming land, past diary cows (amazingly shiny hides, it’s summer) ignoring us as we rode by. The group of nearly 20 was whittled down as we went along – some people had to be home early for whatever reason – until there were only 5 of us, two visitors from Melbourne and three locals. And without the locals we would have been very lost; even with a map I’d struggle to find some of the roads we cycled.

About 12,350Km for the year, plus maybe 1,500 of commuting (I don’t really record that) means 2012 was my biggest year on the bike.

2013? Who knows, my crystal ball is out being fixed, but here’s hoping it’ll be fun. And with a trip planned to Northern France & Belgium for the Ronde & Paris Roubaix, I reckon there might be some cycling to blog about too.

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A long hot day .. #GABR

Yesterday, Day 6 of the GARB, we rode Mt. Buller to Acheron, 165km and 1,750m of climb. But the stats never really tell the story.

The day started with a bang, descending 16km (in just under 18 minutes) off Mt. Buller. LOTS of fun, and my descending is going from good to better, having learnt from Phil Anderson that hands on the drop lowers your centre of gravity I’m much quicker into & out of corners now.

After Buller we regrouped at Merijig then rode as a bunch to Jamesion, stopping for lunch at the Brewery with about 75Km on the clock.

Two o’clock saw us depart and immediately begin a tough 9Km climb in what can only be described as scorching heat (or you could describe it as bloody hot). Having done the climb we were then treated to another 40Km of rolling hills. I’m sure it’s pretty countryside that we were rolling through, but like most of the less fast group, I was struggling, and just trying to pedal and mentally ticking off the distance until the end of the day.

Finally we rode a beautiful descent with wide open corners (almost no need to touch the brakes) stopping about 2Km from Eildon to regroup and ride together for the last 40Km or so.

The heat might have gone out of the day and the last section was mainly flat, but we were all, to use a technical cycling term, buggered. It wasn’t the neatest riding you’ve seen, at one stage I misheard a call from behind and stopped almost causing a pileup.

At Taggerty we turned right to be greeted by a the sign saying 8Km to Acheron, one of the nicest things I’d seen for some time! A little more effort, a bit more pain and we’d done it. Another long day in the saddle.

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Honoring the jersey #GABR

As both of you probably know, in cycle racing, jerseys of all sorts of colors are awarded: yellow for the leader of the Tour de France, pink for the leader of the Giro d’Italia, ochre for the leader of the Tour Down Under, and so on.

Cycling commentators talk about honoring the jersey, meaning you have to ride hard to win it, but ride even harder to keep it, and them giving you the strength of 2 men.

Each night on the Great Albert Bike Ride, they’ve awarded a jersey to be worn for the next day. Some have been serious, others a little light hearted. Our youngest rider, Melissa, who’s 26 and only started cycling in May was awarded the pink jersey for her determination. Craig, who’s a multiple Hawaii Ironman finisher, was awarded the green jersey for, amongst other things, a helping hand on Melissa’s back up a few of the bigger climbs earlier in the week.

Last night I was awarded the BLUE jersey. I’m not 100% sure why I received, but it had something to do with leaving my Garmin at home and having to ask Sarah to Express Post it to one of the hotels, and my enthaustic use of chamois cream (I’ve been having some issues with chafing!).

Regardless of why I won it, I was determined to honor it today. The strength of two men? Not quite, but I did my best to sit near the front of the bunch all day, and of course I contested the sprint into Mansfield (equal first). I mightn’t have been the first up Mt. Buller (I wasn’t 2nd, 3rd or 4th either) but I plugged away at the climb and finished the day after 155km, just under 7 hours and 2,210m of climb from our starting point.

There isn’t much in my sporting trophy display case – a first in class from Targa Tasmania a few years ago (don’t ask how many there were in the class, but it was at least 2), and not a lot else. But there is now a blue jersey.

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For those of you that don’t know, I’m the exhausted looking one on the left – in the blue jersey, and Phil Anderson (multiple TdF yellow jersey winner) is the relaxed looking one on the right.

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A quiet ride in the country … #GABR

I don’t have much to say about today’s ride, mainly because I’ve sort of run out of words.

Tough doesn’t really describe it. Fucking hard comes close. I’ve just looked at my Strava stats for the day …. 110K and 3,356m climbed.

Anglers Rest to the back of Falls Creek. Down into Mt. Beauty (why is the town at the BOTTOM of the hill called Mount?), then over Towonga Gap and done into Bright.

We’ve up for an way day tomorrow – 110K, but mainly FLAT. I think I need it.

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The old bull … #GABR

If you don’t know the joke about the old bull and the young bull, google it.

While on paper day two didn’t look all that hard, we’ve got some solid days ahead, so I decided to save a few matches for later in the week and ride with the not as quick group – which sounds much nicer than the slow group. I probably could have hung on with the big kids, but instead I was able to stay comfortably within my limits all day.

And what a day it was.

Metung to Anglers Rest is 150K with a couple of longish, but not too steep, climbs. Some rolling hills, then 10 of the best kilometers I think I’ve ever ridden – a stunning road that winds along the top of a valley in the Alpine National Park, not really dropping or climbing, with just amazing scenery.

We finished the day at the Blue Duck in Anglers Rest. An iconic Aussie country pub, it’s been here for over 100 years. Great steaks, cold beer. If you’re in the part of the world you don’t have to worry too much about going to the Red Duck by mistake – the Blue Duck is it for Anglers Rest, nothing else here.

I’d link to a map, or post a few pictures, but there’s also no Internet or phone here in Anglers Rest. This has to be about as isolated a place as you could find in Victoria, you can almost imagine the descendants of a bush ranger are still hiding out in the hills & forests somewhere nearby.

I hopped off the bike and did what any sensible cyclists would do: walked into the bar and bought a beer. Then i discovered a few of the boys were standing mid thigh deep in the river that runs past the pub. Apparently freezing cold water is good for tired legs (if it’s good enough for AFL players, it’s probably going to work for me) so in I went. After 5 minutes or so, the pain went away, more because my legs were numb rather than from any therapeutic from benefits the water. But I have to say that as I write this the next morning, they’re feeling pretty good.

Today is going to be tough – Falls Creek & Tawonga Gap, but I’ll tell you all about it next time.

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Prologue blues … #GABR

I’m in Metung. Not sure how many stories start that way, but it’s probably 16 or 17 years since I was here last. Unless things have changed, don’t order the Fisherman’s Basket at the pub.

But I’m not here to review restaurants, I’m here to ride bikes. Today was the prologue stage for the Great Alfred Bike Ride. We’re doing some 825Km, mainly around NE Victoria, raising money for the Alfred hospital.

Today we bussed to Bairnsdale (3 and half hours) then did an easy 42Km to Metung. They kept the group together trying to seed us (sort of) and work out who will ride in which group over the next few days. Lots of nervous wheels in the bunch, everyone sizing each other up and trying to see who’s who.

At least I think it was 42Km, but I can’t be sure because I managed to leave my Garmin (GPS driven bike computer) at home. I have a feeling that it’s a €30 fine if this gets out. I’m going to ask Sarah to post it to me, and hopefully I won’t have to chase it all over the state!

But enough whining, back to the riding – today was fairly flat, with one shortish (1.5Km?) but SHARP climb. I did my usual trick on these climbs (which I’m no good at) start the climb on the front, because I sure as hell finished the hill at the back!

Tomorrow the real riding starts with 150Km from here to Anglers Rest, and we’re doing a bit of climbing along the way.

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The alpha personality #gabr

I don’t know if I’ve blogged about it or not, but Sunday week I head off on the Great Alfred Bike Ride #gabr. It’s an 825 Km, 7 day (6 really) epic cycling adventure around country Victoria to raise money for The Alfred Hospital’s trauma department – they’ve got their eyes on a new digital x-ray something or other and need some help buying it.

I’m doing the ride for a number of reasons, including:

  • It’s going to be another cycling adventure – something I really can’t say no to – and I’ll see some of country Victoria that I’ve either never seen or only through a car window. Big climbs, amazing scenery, fresh air, bikes – all good stuff.
  • The ride is being led by Phil Anderson, one of my cycling heroes. First non-European to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. I started to get interested in pro cycling in the early 80′s, around the time that Phil was making a name for himself in Europe. There wasn’t any internet, SBS or front page coverage of cycling in those days. The Age had a few lines of news, usually 3 days late, when the TdF was running and I’d scour the results looking for Phil’s name.
  • I’m a former customer of The Alfred’s trauma department – spent a bit of time there nearly 18 months ago when I broke my back, so I decided I should give something back.

That’s me on the left, Phil Anderson (r) is the one that looks like a cyclist

We had a ride briefing (it’s going to be tough) & were presented our cycling kit for the ride last week, and got to see trauma, intensive care and the helipad at The Alfred – last time I was in trauma, all I saw was the ceiling; and I hope it’s a long time until I have to see any of these areas again.

I’ve been training for the ride – 5 to 6 days a week, but I don’t like to blog about it: Kms completed for the week, hills repeated, strength efforts, ergo sessions and the like doesn’t really make for interesting reading.

This Sunday just past I did a training ride with about a dozen of the other GABR participants. When I ride with a new group, I say my version of the Test Pilot’s prayer, usually “don’t let me fuck this up” but in my case, “don’t let me be the slowest”.

I don’t know why I hadn’t considered this before we pedalled off for a total SMASHFEST around the eastern & northern suburbs of Melbourne early on Sunday morning, but the alpha personality types that end up running hospitals, or emergency & intensive care departments, tend to be COMPETITIVE & DRIVEN PEOPLE.

Every steep pitch in Templestowe, every rise in the road in Kangaroo Ground or Eltham, there we were fighting to be first to the top. After the first few I realised I wasn’t anywhere near the fastest, so while I didn’t relax, I stopped worrying. At least someone had been listening to my prayer and I wasn’t the slowest. And I’m one of the quicker descenders (a few Kgs excess can have it’s advantages)

It’s going to be a fun week riding with these guys!

 

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Will CA or the UCI really care?

I don’t know if I’m an activist or not.

I’ve never been to a protest rally (I even missed the one earlier this year complaining about the lack of cycling infrastructure in the State budget), and I don’t think I’m all that convinced that boycotts work (just look at how terrified the South African regime was when there were sporting boycotts in the 80′s).

But I do know I’m pissed off about the way the people at the top of the UCI, i.e.: Hein & Pat, have handled the entire DopeStrong saga / fiasco / nonsense / insert your own word here.

And there are some questions that Klaus Mueller at Cycling Australia should be answering about Matt White, like why they didn’t asking him about doping when they hired him (as he’d just been sacked by  Garmin Cervello).

In both organisations, the rot seems to be at the top of the tree. I have, as part of the committee of a local cycling club, had any number of dealing with staff at Cycling Australia. They all seem to be decent people, working for an organisation and a sport that they love.

But if any of the accusations being directed at Hein & Pat are true, it’s time for a change.

What can I do about it (other than this post)?

I’m going to stop financially supporting both CA & the UCI while they’re there. Which means no race license renewal fee (and a letter explaining my position).

Is the Melbourne bike racing community going to notice one less almost 50 year old hacker going around in D grade on an occasional Sunday morning? I doubt it.

But if enough license holders send the same message, maybe Cycling Australia will see the light.

Perhaps it’s time I became an activist.

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Maybe it is just about the bike

It’s been a shitty week to be a fan of pro cycling. Every day seems to bring a new revelation of guilt, a new confession, and ultimately another former cycling hero committing seppuku. We’re urging them to come clean, but when they do (we knew all along, didn’t we!) we want them gone, as if they never were.

I’m not even going to try to describe the conversation I had over drinks last night with a couple of mates who know nothing about cycling. They wanted to know if I was on the gear as well.

Combine that with a shocking case of manflu which has progressed to the point that I’m not a lot more than a snot factory and a mild hangover means today didn’t start out looking like the best day.

But a shitty start doesn’t always mean a crappy end … For some reason on Monday I decided this was “soup for lunch” week and was going to have, go on, guess … yes, soup for lunch every day this week. Isn’t amazing the things that I find to keep my mind occupied.

Monday was chicken pho in Victoria St, Tuesday was Moroccan meatballs from The Soup Place (did they spend hours working on the name?) in Centre Place, Wednesday was beef pho at Hanoi Hannah and yesterday I slurped down some great noodles at Ramen Ya. And the plan was to cap the week off with a bouillabaisse, the king of soups.

But I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for another liquid lunch, and decided to just jump on my bike and see where it took me – because, sometimes that’s what they’re for.

I rolled along St Kilda Rd and into town, looking for somewhere to eat. Stopped at a couple of busy places but just didn’t want to be surrounded by too much noise, so I kept going and ended up in Gertrude St. Nice enough lunch, a crap coffee and a browse in Saint Cloud (some nice bike bits) and I was heading back into the city.

I stopped at Town Hall – the subject of another post, maybe next week, need to do some more research first – then continued along Swanston St and on to the bike path on the southern bank of the Yarra.

Perhaps loped along is a better adjective. The vast bulk of my riding is for sport, and I try to do it at a reasonable clip. On my beautiful Dutch bike from WorkCycles, it’s a little different. 23Kgs of Belgian steel & Dutch design moves at a more leisurely rate. It’s not a bike to be hurried.

After the beauty of the Yarra path, I swung right on to Chapel St. Not even the shitty traffic or the idiots racing for the next light could upset my rapidly improving start of mind. That I kept catching them made me smile. A lot.

An interesting conversation with a pretty Spanish girl using an old fishing basket on her bike was the next highlight of my day. The lid stops things flying out when she rides over bumps. When was the time you chatted with the person in the next car at the lights? Half past never ago?

I cruised through some lovely leafy Prahran side streets, then worked my way along High St to the madness of Glenferrie Rd. Cars everywhere. I just weaved through them and parked outside my destination. Rock Star park? On the bike, always.

Shopping done, bike loaded, home time. 

Sometimes it is just about the bike.

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The two minute rule.

So I’m sitting in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital, with Mr. 12 and his dinged up wrist, waiting to be seen for an x-ray sometime in the next two hours if we’re lucky. None of which has anything to do with this post, but I thought I’d just set the scene.

I’m a fan of The Velominati and their rules for cycling.

Sure, sharp tan lines matter, but for me, the real rules are #5: HTFU and #87: rides start on time.

Or the two minute rule – if you’re more than two minutes late for a group ride, don’t expect us to still be there. Sound harsh? Maybe, but why should 6 or 8 or 15 of us hang around waiting for you to arrive? If we all made it there on time, why can’t you?

But that’s not what’s up my nose, because at yesterday’s ride, everyone was on time.

At yesterday’s club ride we almost carried one guy over two large climbs. Nursed him to the top, waited while he struggled to keep up.

But that’s what happens on a club ride.

It’s not a race. There weren’t any KOM points awarded. The cafe we stop at on the way home had more than enough coffee for everyone, the first up the hill and the slowest.

What really got up my nose was the same guy who he struggled on the climbs but is reasonably strong on the flat, spent five minutes over coffee telling anyone that would listen that he doesn’t like going on club rides.

The reason: doesn’t want to have to ride a little slower so some of the “slow guys” (his words) can keep up.

Sadly, I don’t think he saw the irony in his comments, or for that manner remembered that we’d been waiting for him at the top if climbs all day.

Maybe he’ll find another club to ride with.

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