Well today was my first look at a real UCI World Tour stage race. It is pretty impressive.
Before I left, a little route planning. I know Adelaide like the back of my head, so I called on the expertise of my gracious hosts.
Yes, that is right, a street directory. Sweet lord! So a route was worked out that would get me to the start, a point in the hills about 30% into the race and the finish. Excellent.
I got to the start at about 10:15am and started wandering around taking photos of anything and everything. Here are a few examples.
It was an interesting experience getting up close to the guys I usually see racing in Europe. They are bloody tiny. And very lean.
The race started and then it was a race for me to get to my car and get going again to Houghton, th second stop. I got back to the car and some nufty had parked me in. Luckily he was just behind me. He apologised and explained he was a local and that he was off to the same place as me. Good enough for me, I will follow you I told him.
The best laid plans can and do go wrong. It took about 40 minutes just to get out of Prospect. I got to the point I left old mate behind and dived down a side street and proceeded to get my self totally lost. The GPS was no help, telling me I would be there in 68 minutes and sending me the scenic route.
I hit a main road again and seemed to be heading in the right direction when we hit roadworks. Oh for the love of Phil and Paul!
I made a hasty decision, the mid stage stop was gone, I was heading to the finish. Lobethal, here I come.
Before I knew it, I was behind a media car going up Gorge Road. Sweet. I cycled this very road last year on a charity ride, and I have to say, I am a beast. It is a hell of a climb.
I got to Lobethal and the media car left be at the road closed barriers, so I turned around and parked in the shade. I loaded the camera bag onto my shoulders, the stunning straw hat on my magnificent bonce and off I went. It turned into a fair old walk. I stopped at the bakery and grabbed a couple of rolls and drinks, knowing full well that once I staked my claim, I couldn’t move.
I then went for a wander. Said a quick hello to Mike Tomalaris and then bumped into the dynamic duo from SBS.
We had a chat and then Mr Tan saw free coffee and was off. I walked back up the start finish straight and found a spot about 70m from the finish line. Excellent. This will do me.
I set up camp. I Had a feed and a drink and a chat to a few cyclists. The peloton was going to pass us 3 times at this point.
About 45 minutes later, the helicopters are getting close and the break away rider, Jordan Kirby from UNISA was out on his own. Go son! The crowd went mad.
Then the rest of the peloton flew by. I had, with the help of a cyclist standing next to me, hatched a plan to try and get a shot of Gilbert in the rainbow jersey. He was going to call “rainbow” when he saw him, then it was my job to find him, focus on him and get the shot. What a ridiculous plan, right?
Ha, arsed it! So that was lap one. Another 40 minutes until they came past again. It was starting to get crowded. My buddy the cyclist wanted some drinks, so I told him I would look after his spot and off he went.
Then, a bloke that made me look like a Colombian climber walked up to the spot the cyclist was in and called his family across. I told him there was someone there and he basically said he didn’t care. Hmm. Could you not just stand on this side of me, where there was a gap and I would move down a little bit. He wasn’t happy, but obliged. I’m not real good in crowds and I like my space. Old tubby decided he would lean all over me. He smelt like he had walked from Perth and it had been 40C every day. What an arsehat.
They were on their way through for the second lap and this time we had a new leader. Jérôme Pineau from Omega Pharma-Quickstep, was on his own and blasted across the finish line with the peloton not too far behind.
As the riders left for the last time, there was movement behind me and next thing I know I have half a bottle of coke poured down my neck. A pair of young idiots playing argey bargey. I gave them a little bit of Norbury wisdom and hot footed it out of there. I figured I would go up behind the finish line to try and get the winner coming in with his arms raised. I wandered up the road a little and waited for the race to finish. Whilst waiting, I saw something I think is probably unique to the Tour Down Under.
It was then a wait for the race to finish. It all sounded very exciting, I had no idea what was going on as I couldn’t see a thing. Then, flying up the road came Andree Greipel, winner of stage 1.
What a bike rider! The rest of the peloton came home and there was bike riders everywhere. I managed a couple more shots before heading off for the car.
It was then an interesting trip down Gorge Road sharing the road with a few thousand cyclists. What a terrific experience.
So day 1 of the Tour Down Under done and dusted. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as enjoyable.