A LOVE LETTER FROM THE START LINE
The heat wave of the TDU had decided to stop taking the piss and calm down for a few days, and just in time too as the race itself was heading out of Adelaide proper. If you wanted to catch a real glimpse of it, your best bet was to head towards the beach until you found a bootleg St Kilda in Glenelg; the trendy(?) hotspot(?) once again playing host to a stage start that would see the race fuck off out of Adelaide and finish somewhere too far down the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The saving grace however came courtesy of a coming together, or to use the phrase in the completely wrong context: a perfect storm, of things. Sure it had been mega hot the day before, but we had taken it pretty easily from heatstroke impaired memory. That coupled with an earlier than expected night, and a deeper than anticipated sleep – a sleep devoid of any bonk related night terrors, meant that there was minimal fuss in getting to the starting line well before roll out in Glenelg.
In fact we’d managed to even sit down for coffee and a bite to eat, before latching onto a full Light Brigade worth of Dad’s honouring the brethren down Anzac Highway to Glenelg, the calm breeze keeping us cool in the normally stressful situation of holding the wheels of overzealous cyclists.
With all this spare time up our sleeves we were able to take in one of the things that is truly lovely about the sport of professional cycling.
Unlike your ball sports or your motorsports, hell even a fair few track and field events, the athletes are normally out of sight and out of mind until they come storming into their chosen arena in a Conor McGregor, or little more humble manner.
But then there’s the black sheep of the sporting fam, cycling. Sure at the track the riders might be hidden and/or chilling in the infield, and the Tour de France might be a little harder to catch a glimpse of the pro’s doing their thing without getting some notoriety, but at the Tour Down Under at least, you’ve got plenty of chance to either a) get up close and personal to simply observe pre-race rituals, or b) kindly ask but be borderline demanding a selfie, an Instagram shoutout, an Instagram live interview or more.
And what makes it truly beautiful is that being an early season race, a race where riders are still living on the high’s of Christmas, New Years and escaping the European winter, they’re almost always in good spirits. Even through observing from the fence line, or in this case the cafés that lined this bootleg Acland St, it feels like you’re part of the inside jokes teammates are sharing, by observing the pro’s pre-race rituals you feel, nay you KNOW that emulating them during your own season of barely holding on at SKCC D Grade crits will come to a close soon, for by next summer, after 6-12 months of emulating the way the Astana riders vibe out in their camping chairs, by asking Luis Leon Sanchez what his pre-race playlist is, you will be lining up for the elite’s at Supercrit.
Hell we’ve observed it, could this mean it will happen to us?
All week Dean hit up the group chat asking us to hook him up with one of the EF Cannondale riders. Without judgement we would ask him why, his silence on the matter deafening. We went as far as interviewing one, telling him well in advance we were interviewing one, and even asking a question he submitted that he could have asked in person, but he never showed.
Then on the day of days he pulled up at Exchange in the morning, rolled down to Glenelg and managed to caught up with (so far) our Number 1 Downball Rival: Lachy Morton. While he certainly did remember that fateful afternoon (for him), he was awfully quick to change the subject when we started talking about the result of said downball game. Maybe we’ll have to take him on at the Dirty Kanza.
Anyway back to Dean. Turns out the reason he wanted to link up with an EF Cannondale rider was for a competition via Rapha, a competition that he knew he was a shoe in for, mostly because he had been advised by the faceless characters of the Walmart board, or the Rapha inner-circle, that his name would be pulled out of a hat filled with his name only. Somehow that wasn’t the case, Taka won instead, but at least Dean has this photo and the memories of a rather underwhelming ride to Glenelg to look back upon.
SPECIAL FEATURE: BEN X LEHNER
While we were out on the fence line braving the conditions (it wasn’t hot but god the sun was SKRONG) and the crowds, man like Ben Lehner, Media Pass and all was in the inner sanctum of it, there especially for the crew at Lotto Soudal and their associated helmet sponno HJC (Hungry Jacks Cycling).
His job wasn’t to just showcase the helmets, but capture the vibe of the team before the stage – Adam Hansen looking mean, the squad scrolling through the latest meme’s that popped up overnight, the most recent string of GCN Advertorials. One figure that featured prominently throughout his set, and one that garnered a lot of the fans attention wasn’t, for whatever reason in Mr Thomas “Doomed Breakaway” De Gendt – but Caleb Ewan.
Oh Caleb, still so young. It was like it was only yesterday that he was fronting up a local pop punk band playing shows supporting other pop punk bands from slightly bigger towns, or from suburbs with more skinny jeans per capita. Incredible what can happen to a young man when he chooses to reject the devils music, stage dives and high fives and instead swap them out for a kind of Street Luge x Cycling kind of collab.
Thanks to Ben for supplying us with this wonderful photoset, his work during the “Summer Of Cycling” has been bang on, in a kind of forever evolving and levelling up type of way.
But what about the start?
Yeah no shit, we’d made our way to Glenelg, found out there was no Luna Park or even a bootleg Luna Park, and probably gotten sunburnt taking selfies and copping autographs, imagine if we missed the start.
Fortunately one of us had the Channel 7 streaming app on their phone, while the other had an 85mm L series lens which provided just the right amount of zoom, and the perfect amount of clarity to hone in on the screens of people simply “out there just living in the moment”.
As the Australian national anthem was belted out for another morning, the whistle to kick things off echoed (they should get muskets like Road Nats) and the orange flag fluttered from the Race Director’s car, Stage 5 was a go.
Fans so overjoyed with witnessing the start of the neutral zone that they couldn’t resist throwing their arms up into the sky have inspired the following micro-playlist.