TOUR DOWN UNDER '16: ARCHER, MORTLOCK, MOSS, SILVER WE'RE TALKING STIRLING
Yes, it's not quite the same Stirling/Sterling but if you're reading this out loud who is to know? We remembered last years stage in and around Stirling in the Adelaide Hills for a few reasons. For some it was the first time watching bicycle racing live and in the flesh, amateur or otherwise. It was also an afternoon where we experienced Sheoak Drive, watched Durian Rider slipstream his girlfriend up the climb to Bel Air on an e-bike, and discovered that a different, rough n' tough em bike internet personality wasn't anywhere near as fast, or friendly as we had expected. But despite all of these things, what we remembered the most was the brilliant setting Stirling offered for a bicycle race. Considering we had been in Adelaide for four days now, we figured it better be time we started actually checking out what we came here to see.
I: (NOT SO SECRET) PLANZ
The previous night, whilst discussed in great detail offered no real certainty about what the day would bring. All we knew was that the humidity that sucked the last morsel of life out of our bodies the previous day had passed, and we were presented with partly cloudy skies and a cool breeze. Heading out of town we all commented at how "surprisingly pleasant" the weather was for the apparent 31ºc it was reading on our Garmin's. Despite trying to solidify a plan for the day over breakfast and street side bike tune ups, the following, plus thousands of other alternatives were mentioned.
Go get some fruit. Although it was more eloquently phrased as "we need to stop and get some f**king fruit on the way out otherwise I'm gonna f**king die." As contradictory as it may seem after our first 3 days of coverage, nutrition is something we take very serious, even when on a bicycling holiday.
Do some sort of climb. All we knew was that we would catch some of the bicycle race today. Maybe we do Greenhill Rd and then Lofty again. Adrian showed his complete lack of local knowledge by suggesting a climb that was almost entirely in the opposite direction to where we wanted to head.
See the professionals strut their stuff around the hills. Somewhere. Anywhere.
Big dog chain ring it everywhere. Up whatever climb we do during the day. Even if its corkscrew.
Eat at a bakery. Not a place that advertises themselves as a cafe but serves pastries, a bakery. There has been a disturbing lack of bakery attendance this holiday.
Smash Eagle on the Hill a.k.a the old freeway, this time during daylight hours. With plans to hammer it.
III: BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
EXCHANGE. Sitting in a part of town that seems to be our favourite when it comes to breakfast hangouts (in the CBD at least). Most of the food ordered was strong on the berry and continental Europe vibe, we're talking Danishes and French toast. Both were thoroughly enjoyed, and caffé lattes helped fuel the discussion of the days plans (which you already know didn't amount to much). If you're gonna go, either get the French toast, or make the person you are with get the French toast so at least you can look at it. Divine.
IV: GOOD, BAD & UGLY
Exchange. We went there last year and the breakfast was a highlight, this time around it was just as good, if not completely better.
Greenhill Rd. The surface leaves a lot to be desired and some of us find it weird that there are bus stops on the actual road, but its a fun climb right.
Channeling your inner Marco Pantani. Jack was all about it this afternoon. That 29t huh?
Still being a young whipper snapper and not feeling to shot to shit following a 7.55km climb, unlike Chris Froome's father which we will tell you about in a moment.
Stirling as a setting. What a wonderful little place to host a bike race. Both years it has held an awesome festival type feel that gets you more and more stoked on the bicycle races. The $2 Lions Club snags, the $1.50 drinks. What is this? A country town in 1997? or heaven?
Not being "from the media". Can you imagine us doing the high vis vest, iMessaging photo editors, carrying around all that gear. Where is the time for chilling? And how do you expect us to get up a HC category climb with two pelican cases in each hand hmm?
THAT bridge in Aldgate. Why didn't we get up there to snap some photos? We're not scared of heights are we?
The decision to chill over the decision to get decked by a hubbard a la Campbell Flakemore c.2015 (broken collarbone). Also more on this later.
The "tap" made for "drenching" at the summit of Mount Lofty. It's disappearance announced by the aforementioned hippy mountain biker who had just chased off a pack of Galah's chilling on the railing. Sometimes there is such thing as too much single track.
We appreciate the cops for "most" of the things that they do but someone back at the station needs to tell some of them that not everybody is a natural born traffic warden, in the end all you get is a whole bunch of confusion, which isn't great when the setting you're in is already a logistical nightmare.
Brenton Jones for just missing out on the time cut. It's not being marked as bad for his efforts, but for how we feel for him. Especially after his tweet "Bad day in the saddle today, devastated to just miss out on time-cut. I was enjoying the #TDU. Huge thanks to everyone who cheered me on" that summarizes how we feel as well.
Closures due to road works making navigating parts of Stirling just a fraction harder than the near impossible task it is.
Not even running tubs.
Snapping your chain in the middle of a lead out train down Glen Osmond Rd. The Soup Boys lead out is the sleeping giant of 2016, its only the third week of January and we are already pushing too many watts for our bicycles to handle.
At least one of the pro teams bikes. We're just unsure of which ones yet. Maybe a visit to the tour village and actually attending more of the bicycle races will help with that.
The pile of Reid bicycle boxes out the back of the glorious marketplace in Stirling.
A matte black and gold plated carbon Colnago. It belongs in the ugly column but we smile ear to ear knowing it's someones pride and joy.
Decided by Alex, Roval wheels on a BMC. If you're not going to do Zipp's or Shimano wheels, you do Bontrager as a last resort.
Women with young children in the back seat yelling abuse from their car window, as you ride and they drive down a completely closed off to anyone other than bikes and pedestrians.
Camera batteries dying at the crunch. An exciting chapter to beam to your smart devices, computers and whatnot will have to come at a later date, hopefully with better light.
Some of the Cannondale paintjobs for their SuperSix Evo's. The light blue, black and red one however is not. Neither is Wilko's, even if he is just borrowing it for his epic comeback.
Road snobs. Wave and say hello yo! Whilst we aren't going to police road etiquette as that's been self appointed by the Velominati (...ok...) it's surely not too hard to say hello considering your fellow riders are with you as one in attending Australia's only Grand Tour.
V: ANTE MERIDIEM LOFTY
On the Treadly MNR Greenhill Rd then onto Lofty was ascended at sunset, descended in the pitch black, minus lights. After much discussion in the foyer of Norwood Central (where we stopped to get some f**king fruit) it was decided we would hit these climbs in weather that was significantly hotter (which is a con), but offered a very useful pro, that being that we would be able to see where we were riding our bicycles. Jack was relishing his newly built Ritchey Logic, sitting pretty with a 29t big dog cassette that made the anti inflammatories he consumed back in Norwood not as required. It allowed him to channel his inner Marco Pantani every now and again as he whisked on up the road when it ramped up a little more. Fortunately for those finding the going a little harder, a 75 year old Assos sunglass wearing Chris Froome was steadying the ship, simply offering a "Good Morning!" chirp and a leg buckling pace to the top. After light refreshments at the summit of Mount Lofty, and navigating past the psychological minefield of elderly hippy mountain bikers we shot down to Stirling. Making sure we turned up plenty of dead end street climbs on our way to being course side.
VI: ACTUAL PROFESSIONAL BICYCLE RACING
FINAL STANDINGS: TOP 3
1. Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff Saxo)
2. Diego Ulissi (Lampre Merida)
3. Rohan Dennis (BMC)
1. He already won Bolle play of the day, which surely is evidence that Adam Hansen's efforts out on the road today didn't go unnoticed as he hammered away at the circuit around Stirling all on his lonesome. Sure we might have loved the finish we had, but you could argue that seeing Adam take the win from a solo break would have been something truly special.
2. Jay McCarthy, for taking line honours against a man we thought was a red hot favourite to take the stage (that someone was Ulissi). In a premium double up, he also gets to don the Ochre jersey (is there any language where those two words sound nice together?) for tomorrow's roll out of the poor man's St Kilda.
3. Completely left field, but Cadel Evans. For winning le Tour at the ripe old age of 34, proving we still have plenty of time (for most of us a decade or slightly more) to register as a pro team and take the Maillot Jaune back to Soup Boys HQ. Chapeau to Cadel, chapeau to complacency as a junior mid twenties athlete.
The thing about liking breakfast, and sleep in's and being on a cycling holiday is that even when the pro's don't roll out until 11am, you're still with your friends arguing in the foyer of Norwood Central about what climb we are going to do, and if we are even going to ride around following the days stage. Instead you leave it out on the road and dish out some cruel and unusual punishment on the uphill, before calling a truce and aero tucking all the way through a roundabout on the descent (into Crafers).
We caught the race with a few laps of the circuit around Stirling to go. Roads introduced to us last year began seeming more and more familiar as we caught a Drapac rider off the front, who a few seconds later we would find was in fact, way out the back. Cycling as a spectator sport can be so cruel sometimes playing with your emotions like this. The decision was made to park up in the shade and peruse the local cuisine ($2 snags from the Lions club, Falafel salad next door, Cibo) that was on show as part of this huge market type environment around the finish line and feed zone. One of the best parts about the stage into Stirling (and we are speaking from the experience of no more than x2 visits to the TDU) is that you can spend most of your time sitting in the shade, eating food, talking smack and wondering why there are a pile of 25 Reid bicycle boxes laying on the ground over there, YET you can still catch the race numerous times in multiple locations.
It was in Aldgate where we saw the solo breakaway forged by Adam Hansen of Lotto Soudal. The crowd was eager to see such an attack, and it wasn't till it got to the penultimate lap back in Stirling that we saw it really being eaten into, and eventually killed off as he was caught. Instead it was Orica GreenEDGE leading the pack through the final lap or so until the solo breakaway hero himself (164km in the 2000 Giro d'Italia) Dave McKenzie who announced that there had been a crash with only a few kilometres to go. Following the announcement our pre-final lap predictions of Gerro, Diego Ulissi or Juan Jose Lobato taking home the win started to have some decent backing to them. Of the three only Ulissi would feature, pipped on the line by Jay McCarthy of Tinkoff in what RSN race caller Greg Miles would describe as a "photo finish". Hats off to both riders, as we tried numerous uphill sprints at what could only be described as a near identical tempo on the way out of Stirling and even we found it hard. When you're laying down the power on the slight uphill, your legs are barking wildly in agreement, you're hammering, you're leaving people in your wake, they're eating your dust. Then as you're about to crest the climb every single time your legs fall five metres short and you end up rolling back to the bottom with your heart about to rip out through the front of your chest. So yeah, uphill sprinting seems like a pretty damn hard thing to do, whether to train or race...and that's without all the extra weight of sponsors and coaches and Oleg Tinkov to answer to. Maybe oval chain rings would help in this scenario. Product review?
*!@bikesanddogs makes the most important cameo to bicycle racing ever!*
VII: DID WE MENTION UPHILL SPRINTS ARE HARD?
Because they're goddamn hard. We rode the final 1km stretch before the finish a few hours before the actual riders so we knew what it was like, and despite the fact that we were sticking true to our promise to big dog everything, it was tough going. Fortunately we were able to get a stellar vantage point to watch the battle to the thick white line.
VIII: HOW THE GOD'S CHILL
Following the stage we made arguably one of the smartest decisions at least since choosing to eat pizza over watching the People's Choice Classic, and that was to bail on the commuter cup via the old freeway and bike path, instead opting to head to Stirling Cellars & Patisserie. Sure it's in French but we are considering this our visited bakery for the day. We set up out the front like a bunch of old Italian men with nothing better to do with their midweek afternoon's and enjoyed the post race banter, Little Creatures long necks, cerveza and what has recently been anointed the best iced coffee of the week (sorry Johan & Gene but size is something that we just have to factor in...Once the heat died down and we had sufficiently chilled the right amount of time we then hit the mad quick descent back into town, gloriously now a vehicle free zone.
IX: CHURCH OF THE DAY
We forgot to do "Church of the Day"...again...