A LOVE LETTER FROM THE FINISH LINE

 

Here we were, standing in somebody’s front driveway in Uraidla. We’d tried making our way out of the finishing circuit where we happened upon a minor roadblock of a garden bed and a local dad who was all to happy to host us among his set up in front of his garage door.

He had called in sick on account of his driveway, and most local roads being completely closed off from the early hours, swapping shifts with a colleague the much easier option. Mum didn’t really care, as for the son…he was pretty keen to stay inside where there was aircon, a plush couch, and probably an Xbox. Outside they had camping chairs, a pedestal fan, the TV set up with the volume real loud, 2 bottles of coke, and most importantly of all, a bottle of Absolut vodka to lubricate their spectating experience.

 
 
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By the fence side at 800m from the finish we watched the race whizz by, scampering back in front of the TV to see the finishing sprint that resulted in nothing more than a fist bump between two rivals after crossing the line. The rather anticlimactic and confusing finish involving Peter Sagan and Luis Leon Sanchez left us feeling empty, but the feeling paled in comparison to what we felt just days earlier…

 
 

STAGE ONE: PORK CRACKLING

 

The Trek-Segafredo Women’s team had jumped back on their bikes, and we’d filled our bidon’s up at the Flying Fig with ice cold sparkling water. The men’s race had rolled out a few blocks away just minutes ago, Matty Boi and Adrian consulting Google Maps to figure out how to head into a largely unknown pocket of Adelaide – the north east corner.

Today the race would roll up to the edge of town, run some laps around Paracombe and finish back outside the Port Admiral Hotel in Port Adelaide. With freshly mortgaged Yung Lugo now residing out near the KOM, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to link up and catch our first glimpse of bicycle racing for the week.

 
 
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The predicted heatwave that had been roasting us for the first few days turned itself up to produce the crackling kicked in to full effect as we made our way out towards the fringes of Adelaide, the first servo stop coming less than 10 kilometres in. Solace found in a purple Powerade.

 
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The next stop came no more than 15 minutes later, bodies spent. This time some water from the fridge to cool the insides, bidons of tap water to cool heads.

 
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The third stop came a little while down the road, our 20 kilometre journey from North Adelaide to where we currently stood in Golden Grove taking a little over half an hour, but feeling like an eternity thanks to the heat. Fresh water, another Powerade and some Clif Bloks sustaining us enough for the next 10 or so minutes of riding where low and behold we would run into Lewis and Finn at the top of the KOM.

 
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The race had gone through the KOM while we were busy refuelling at our third servo stop, but would soon be returning after a few circuits of Paracombe before returning back from whence it came and heading off to Port Adelaide for the finish.

Sitting in the shade of a Coolibah tree we waited for the race to come through, the caravan, then the TV helicopters a sure fire giveaway as we sporadically tuned into the Tour Tracker app to watch current progress. In real time we watched the breakaway get reeled in at the hairpin on their way back down the KOM, one the race passed, our race to get back to the finish was on.

 
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In temperatures pushing the boundaries of 40ºC and into a cross-headwind we made our way back towards the Adelaide CBD, turning off only at the most pristine stretch of cycling road in this fine cycling city: Grand Junction Rd. For those who haven’t been blessed with experiencing this fine stretch of dead straight, uncomfortably lumpy and rather heavy road, here is an artists render.

 
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Considered the most direct route, it wouldn’t be until we’d ridden along Grand Junction for about half an hour where things would become grim. Water would be scarce, the cross and head winds would take its toll, and the fact we would hit every single red light, leaving us baking for a minute or so in the middle of this concrete wonderland wore us thin. It wouldn’t be until we were mere blocks away at a Shell servo stocking up on water that we would discover we had missed the finish, and Elia Viviani pulling off one of the sprints of 2019 in mid January by minutes. Instead this is what we got to see of the finish: professional cyclists heading back into Adelaide like 140km of riding in 69ºC weather wasn’t enough exercise for one day.

 
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At first Adrian and Finn would drown sorrows at the Dutch Coffee Lab, strategically positioned right next to the Hemp store unapologetically emblazoned in weed paraphernalia as if to say “fuck you” to the Port Adelaide Police Station directly across the street. Drinking our despair away would shift from iced coffees to lemonades, cocktails and beers later that evening at the Port Admiral for dinner, a majority of the Soup ADL division pulling up for an evening of talking shit.

 
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STAGE THREE: STEAMED VEGETABLES

 

Give it just a few days and the weather would be much the same if not a little steamier, only this time our fortunes would change. A day earlier we sat down with Jimmy Whelan who spoke of getting in breakaways to #digitally #disrupt the race in the name of team mate Rusty Woods, a large chunk of his “goals for the week” – and there he was, making the days bike race a bike race.

We’d started our morning with a casual breakfast at Crack Kitchen, a blue car that looked innocent enough nearly spelling an end to Kip, and bringing forth the most overused reference of “No Blue Cars” as placeholder for “Car Back” until we returned to Melbourne. From there we shook off the shackles of heatstroke and brain fade with a climb up Montacute, slowly rising from the dead in the humidity.

 
 
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It would be Joy who would first help with the slow paced resurrection, taking a moment from hosing the roses in her driveway to offer us supreme respite from the conditions. All she asked was that we remove, or at least hide our electronics, but we were far from concerned about the conditions of our iPhones, pixels, cameras and iPad’s, we just wanted some of that sweet sweet hose water.

 
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The second saviour was a lady who appeared at the top of Montacute Rd out of nowhere, the ute she drove filled with Solo’s on ice and Allen’s lollies like it was a completely bespoke SBC feed zone. Thirst quenched we were able to roll on to the top of Norton where we would link up with King Looc Cool Alex on his first day in the hills since last Tour Down Under.

 
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We’d manage to catch the race passing through the edge of Basket Range just in time, nobody really driving the pace all that much thanks to the heat and a rather tough finishing circuit around Uraidla, a small town only a few kilometres away.

 
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FINISH LINE: URAIDLA

 

And up in Uraidla shit was packed. There were dad’s in matching Fila kits, selfie sticks a-plenty, a whole bunch of big screens that made race watching a piece of piss, and free pasta being handed up by the Don’s at San Remo. These complimentary car-loaded morsels weren’t enough to full satisfy, which led us to the 25-deep line at a General Store with near empty drinks and ice cream fridges, and an EFTPOS machine that was a few pay passes away from a Genius Bar Appointment.

 
 
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With our third quenched and snacks had, we sought shade, a bathroom, then a vantage point to catch the end of the race. Thats when the beauty of the buzzing finish line were truly realised. Still an hour from seeing a sprint finish, or a daring breakaway effort, the anticipation rose with every lap of the finishing circuit ticked off. There were men, women, children, whole families, entire tour groups, locals who had also called bosses to say they were working from home all having a stickybeak and trying to find the best possible location to catch a glimpse of this beautifully colourful parade.

 
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With one lap to go Dave McKenzie begins to work towards full climax, the crescendo in his voice growing and growing through the rest of this final circuit, next time they come back into Uraidla he’ll have a winner to announce. Despite the best efforts of Jimmy, his teammate Alberto Bettiol, and a number of others in the breakaway, Dave McKenzie’s yelling and the bell announcing the final lap spurs the peloton into catching, morphing into one supergroup, then splitting the race apart kilometres from the finish. The back markers and the team cars go through Uraidla for the second last time as we begin our exit strategy, wanting to catch the end of the race, but make it down Greenhill Rd alive and with the roads as much to ourselves as possible.

 
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We tippytoe our way along the side of the road, fences, barriers and inflatable installations making it a dismount, remount kind of game. We get a chance to ride along the edge of a stone fruit orchard and a vineyard before settling in the driveway of some locals to watch the finish of the race.

 
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