Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 7, 2011

Monday, 7th February 2011 – report from a ‘cycling brother!

A few days ago, I asked my brother, Robert, how the Tour Down Under [TDU] experience compared with the Tour De France [TDF], and his interesting reply came back over the weekend – the following are the bits of relevance I’d like to include in today’s contribution to these pages.

“Terrain is the obvious one – sure there are climbs in S.A. but nothing of the length and constant steepness that you encounter in the Pyrenees and Alps (although S.A. does have a mini monster called Checker Hill; it’s very short at 1 km but over the last 600 metres pitches up to a 22% grade – to put in perspective a typical steep climb would have an average grade of about 9%; even the pros have to hit “granny gear” to get over Checker Hill);

 [The] Pros [professional riders] love TDU because of weather (particularly those from Europe) and as they get to stay in the same hotel (Adelaide Hilton) all week; and travelling with Trek we get to stay there also;

[The] Opportunity to mix with and talk to pros is much greater; obviously helps staying in the same hotel. Great access with Trek boys including – drinks with Radio Shack team (minus Lance, but he did send his bike!), dinner at Teams’ village with Phil Liggett / Paul Sherwen as hosts + a great talk by Anna Mears about coming back from a broken neck to win gold, and “Legends dinner” – intimate dinner with Lance Armstrong & Mark Cavendish (+ about 2,000 others);

[You] Get to see more of the race live as a number of the stages include loops, so if you get to the right spot you can see the race pass 2-3 times. Plus with Trek we get great “finish line” seats for the opening criterium race and the final day race around Adelaide streets – came past us about 20 times in the final 90 km race and never cease to be amazed at just how fast they go. My usual Sat/Sun morning ride is 90 km and takes me 3 hours (average 30 kph); they did the 90 km in 1 hour 54 min at average 48 kph!!;

> Crowds are big in S.A. but clearly nothing like TDF where people are camped out for days on the mountain stages. Which means greater informality with roads not closed until just prior to the pros coming through versus some hours before in TDF.

Saturday stage you saw on TV was in McLaren Vale – stage does an initial loop taking in south coast (beautiful riding along here) and then two loops of a famous TDU climb called “Old Willunga Hill” – it’s a great climb to ride crowded with spectators and is followed by a fast 20km of flat/downhill into Willunga itself – on this section we boys managed to get up to 45 kph on the flat and 60+ on the downhill. Willunga Hill is a great spot to watch the race, which is where I headed after riding the stage during the morning. Best memory of that day was a battered and bandaged Mark Cavendish almost riding over my toes as he tailed the field up the climb (twice) looking very miserable. I’m not his biggest fan, but to give him credit he turned up to the Legends dinner that same night and was philosophical about his bad luck crashing so early (and finished the Tour despite being dead last – probably a first for the fastest road sprinter in the world.

For a Tour that was promoted as having 6-7 of the worlds best sprinters in attendance (including Cavendish, Robbie McEwen, Robbie Hunter – South African, had nice chat, Farrar, Greipel, Alan Davis), it was the young Aussies who came to the fore with young Cameron Meyer winning – while 23 he looks about 10 on the podium; saw his mother being interviewed on the final day just in front of us; needless to say she was proud as punch And the not so young Aussies also did well. Robbie McEwen getting 2nd in 2-3 stages and briefly in the yellow jersey; and that war-horse Stuart O’Grady is amazing – always on the attack including on the last day – was in every attack around the Adelaide street circuit (after spotting him in the Hilton bar at 1.30 am that same morning – you recall he and Andy Schleck were sent home from the Giro last year by their team for going out for a few beers – he says he only had one!)

Was happy with my own ride, usually putting in a bit extra than what was planned for each day. I know the Trek guide (Dave) well and he told me the group’s name for me was the “energizer bunny” plus they kept calling for me to be drug tested! Need to be in shape, as possibly doing something bigger with Trek later in the year but ride is not confirmed yet, so will tell you about that later. In the meantime, doing a ride with Evelyn in Japan in May (on island of Shikoku, south east of Tokyo).

Will this man never stop – the more he relates about his riding feats, the more depressed I become about my own physical abilities these days [or lack thereof!!], and remembering that he is only 28 months younger than myself!  Nevertheless, I did appreciate the foregoing summary of his week in South Australia, and while I doubt he will ever think to keep a record of things of that nature, I will at least have his thoughts recorded, if called for at some future time


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