Friday, January 22, 2010

Live coverage of Tour Down Under stage 4 - Norwood to Goolwa

Welcome back to ridehappy as Lisa's Mum brings you live coverage of stage 4 of the Tour Down Under. Today's stage is 149.5km of rollicking fun and takes in 2 intermediate sprints and a KOM.

10:45am CST The riders are relaxing in their team vans ahead of the stage start and...wait, CADEL HAS ATTACKED! Yes, the man who never attacks is clearly trying to shake that reputation as he has grabbed a Channel 7 cameraman by the scruff of the neck and appears to be laying into him with both fists. This man is clearly out for the Most Aggressive jersey today.

10:55am CST: Cadel's attack on the cameraman has been brought under control and the riders have lined up on the start line. It looks like Greipel is just polishing off the last of his pre-race baby snack. All the riders in the tour have to be constantly aware of the need for hydrating and re-fuelling before, during and after the race. Jonathan Castroviejo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has clearly got this in mind as he finishes his fifth Pedro Ximénez.

11am CST: And the riders are off! The first 10km are a neutral zone. Robbie McEwen appears to be pulling a mono for all but 3m of the 10km, where he pauses to flick the bird at Stuey O'Grady. Stuey doesn't appear to have noticed as he has put one of his kids on his bike to pedal and he is just sitting on the handlebars. And...OH MY GOD, CADEL HAS ATTACKED AGAIN! This time it's his bar tape that is bearing the brunt of his anger. You can see how this man is world champion, the attack was so quick that I don't think even the bar tape saw it coming.

11:30am CST: The wind is picking up now and the peleton has strung out. Mum has been receiving a number of texts from followers online, here are a few:
Dear Mum, I am doing the 160km challenge ride today and I'm a bit unsure about what to pack for snacks. Is 14 gels and a whole smoked chicken going to satisfy my carb and protein requirements? Sincerely, Jim
Jim - it all comes down to your personal preferences. Lisa's Mum packs a combination of scones and cucumber sandwiches, but only because she can't fit a smoked chicken into her jersey pocket next to the thermos. Perhaps if you were short on space, you could try smoked chicken flavoured gels.
Dear Mum, I am thinking of attacking today, how would you suggest I do it? Cheers, T Roe
Roey - The key to a successful attack is to set up a diversion. I would suggest you get Bling (UniSA teammate Michael Matthews) to ride up the front for a while and flash his gold chains into the eyes of the rest of the peleton. Whilst they are blinded by Bling's bling, take off. If anyone asks where you are, get your teammates to tell them that you popped home for a bit as it was on the way anyway. Foolproof.
Dear Mum, I am having trouble getting out of my house as all these people in lycra are in the way with their blasted bikes. This morning I went to the bakery and they had run out of pies and gatorade. All I want is to drive my car in the left hand lane in peace. What can I do? - Agnes Smythe, Goolwa
Dear Agnes - I suggest you drive in the right hand lane like everyone else in Adelaide. Love Mum.

12:30pm CST: A small breakaway has got a gap of 1:19 on the rest of the field. We can't verify who is in it as all the media bikes have stayed to watch Lance in the main bunch.
Dear Mum, if you speak to Lance, can you tell him to return my tweets? I'm worried sick. Regards, M Rann
Randy - Don't worry. I've just made contact with Lance and he says that you two are still besties. Love Mum.
Mum - how come Lance returns your texts but not mine? Regards, M Rann
Randy - He says he's lost your number. Love Mum.
Mum - it's 0402 654 574. Can you pass that on? Regards, M Rann

2:05pm CST: Sorry for the delay in broadcast folks, Mum was at lunch. They're coming into 40km to go, not long now. And... wait folks, we are having some broadcasting problems, we may be interrupted... yes, we will have to take a break and return in a moment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stage 3 - TDU Confidential

Following the misunderstanding on stage 2 when she was inadvertently left behind by the SBS media van (Phil and Paul missed some great cupcakes that Mum had baked for morning tea that day), Lisa's Mum left nothing to chance for Stage 3 and pre-arranged a limo (the Silver Bullet) and chauffeur courtesy of the Australian Sports Commission to escort her directly to Stirling. Mum was thrilled not only to travel in the Silver Bullet, but also to drive on one of the few expressways in Adelaide that is not one-way.*

Mum's lap of the Stirling circuit drew gasps of admiration from the crowd

As one of the hardest, longest and hottest days of the TDU, Stage 3 provided a perfect opportunity for Mum to bring to you her much-anticipated Musette Expose. To those lacking in pro-peleton know-how (don't feel ashamed, Mum was once one herself), a musette is a little sack full of goodies that riders are handed as they whip through the feed zone on longer tour stages. The rider grabs the bag, slings it over their shoulder and keeps riding. The idea is that the rider can get fed and watered without stopping and can also dazzle and entertain the crowd with feats of no-handed musette swinging.

Teams are notoriously secretive about what they put in their rider's musettes. However, Lisa's Mum did not do a cadetship at Today-Tonight in the bin-rummaging department for nothing. With charm, grace, and a bit of old-fashioned thievery, Mum today managed to get her hands on the musettes belonging to a few of the more famous faces in the peleton. This is what she found inside:
  • Lance Armstrong: iPhone (for live stage tweets), draft of latest autobiography, love letter from Mike Rann, taco.
  • Alejandro Valverde: TUE, lawyer, Vuelta trophy
  • Cadel Evans: Picture of Molly the dog, dog toy, Molly's favourite blanket. Chocolate bar.
  • Andre Greipel: Baby (foil wrapped in bite-sized chunks), sunscreen supply for left leg (2x bottles), sunscreen supply for right leg (2x bottles)
  • Arthur Vichot: Copy of 'Accidental Hero' (French-English version), Port Adelaide CC guest membership, croissant.
Stage 3 itself held many surprises for the peleton and showed that even riders with terrible poo-brown kit can win stages. This win has given hope to teams like Mapei and Acqua-Sapone (zebra edition) who are now considering mounting comebacks to the ProTour for 2011.

Tomorrow (Friday), Lisa's Mum is hitting up Stage 4 and in particular urges anyone left in Adelaide to go to support the inaugural elite women's criterium on Norwood Parade at 6pm. Some top chicks are racing and they really need your cheers and help to make this a regular event.

Two of the legs on display at tomorrow night's elite women's crit. The one on the left looks serious, I'd watch out for her...

*That is a joke for Adelaide readers. Yes, Mum loves you just as much.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stage 2 TDU - under construction...

Lisa's Mum apologises for not being able to provide a TDU update today. She is just flat out signing autographs and having cups of tea with Phil. Don't go far away, she'll be back on top of her game tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stage 1 TDU: Robbie and the Beanstalk

Today Lisa's Mum brings you the story of Robbie and the Beanstalk. This story is about a young boy (well, he is actually a man but is kind of short) from the land of Katusha. Katusha is a faraway place in Russia where everyone wears their sunglasses on the outside of their helmet straps and young boys like Robbie marry hot podium girls and name their kids after themselves.

Robbie was on his way to Stage 1 one day, wheeling his bicycle beside him, when he came across a gnome who was also wheeling his bike. Robbie knew he was a gnome because he was wearing a rainbow on his front and was also short. "That gnome is short," thought Robbie. "I bet he has a hot wife too, although not as hot as mine and with no kids named after him. I wonder why he is keeping a caterpillar on his brow."

Robbie stopped to say hello. "Where are you going, gnome?" he asked.
"Why, are you from WADA?" the gnome replied.
"No," Robbie answered, feeling a little uncomfortable. "But I am going to Stage 1 and I have lost my way. Please help me or my ruler from Katusha will take away my hot wife who is probably hotter than yours and will make me go back to peeling turnips and being a lead-out man rather than the super-hot sprinting machine that my fans know and love."
The gnome smiled. Robbie flinched. "I can help you," the gnome said (for he was a kind gnome, and largely misunderstood). "I have these magic beans that will help you find your way to Stage 1." The gnome whipped out some brown mouldy beans from the cavernous dimple in his chin. "But in exchange you will have to give me something. Not the Ridley."
Robbie rummaged around in his jersey pockets and pulled out a set of race radios. "Here, gnome. Take these radios that I borrowed from Astana. They assured me that they were valuable but that they would not need them today as all their riders are super-alert and would never leave behind the defending tour champion on a hill 8 minutes down from the leader. They are yours."

Robbie took the beans from the gnome and bade farewell. Once out of sight, he examined them. "Oh crap," he thought. "The gnome has tricked me. These beans aren't even arabica. I may be from Russia but even we Katushans draw the line at robusta. And he could have thrown in a grinder. These beans are worthless."
Robbie threw the beans off a nearby cliff in disgust. Suddenly, there was a mighty roar and the earth shook as the beans came to life, growing into a huge beanstalk leading up into the clouds.
Robbie thought about climbing the beanstalk, but he was a cyclist and cyclists don't climb up stairs, let alone beanstalks. Luckily he spied an elevator built into the beanstalk and jumped into it, pressing the button for the top.

When the elevator had reached the top of the beanstalk and Robbie got out, he heard another almighty roar. Robbie took a few steps forward and saw what it was that had made the roar. A giant dressed in yellow and white sat at a giant table, eating babies and spitting out the bones to his mechanic, who was chiselling them down to use as spokes for his new race wheels.
The giant stopped eating and looked up, for he had heard something (Robbie was still wearing his cleats and his steps were rather noisy).
Fee fi fo fum, bellowed the giant, I smell the blood of a Katushian!
"Hello," said Robbie, "My name is Robbie and I am from the land of Katusha where we wear sunglasses on the outside of our helmet straps and get to marry hot podium chicks and name our kids after ourselves. Do you have a hot wife?"
"My name," bellowed the giant, "Is Andre and I eat babies and win races and when I am in a bunch sprint my calves glisten like the sun and my eyes narrow into little slits of hate. After I win my races I sit in a bath made from the tears of a thousand albino maidens and eat grapes peeled by my mechanic, who is building those new race wheels behind you."
"I have come to beat you," said Robbie. "For I am the thunder from down under and while the crowd may gasp at your strength and marvel at your blonde locks and blue eyes, it is I who have their hearts and all their plastic clappers will be clapping for me (and maybe also for Stuey O'Grady, but mostly for me). And if any clappers clap for you, it will be because people see you in yellow and think that you are Mick Rogers."
Robbie and the giant talked for a while, and then agreed to race in Stage 1 together, where the strongest rider with the best calves and appropriate sock length would triumph in the stage. And so it was that Robbie and the giant raced, and the giant held out Robbie in a tight sprint finish as Robbie was blocked in the middle of the bunch and steamrolled from behind.

image courtesy of Mark Gunter, cyclingnews

Sunday, January 17, 2010

TDU - Cancer Council Classic

Lisa's Mum apologises for those fans who missed her on the SBS TDU highlights this evening. The Cancer Council Classic was a cracker, with the only obvious oversight being that event officials refused to allow Mum's 1974 Datsun 120B onto the racetrack as a follow vehicle. Obviously this is all politics - if Mum were driving a Skoda it would be a different story - but it did inhibit Mum's ability to commentate on the race. Luckily it allowed more time to network with Mum's many contacts in the media tent. Not sure who won, Mum thinks he was from the pommy team. After the 4th or 5th champagne she can't be too sure.

Australian XC mtb champs 2010

On Sat I went up to Eagle Park in beautiful Adelaide to cheer on Australia's best men and women mountain bikers. Wow. Those guys can ride. Here are some pics from the day. This is just a selection, the rest are up on Facebook.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lisa's Mum previews the Tour Down Under

Well, it's late January again and Lisa's Mum has doffed her embroidered TDU hat and taken up position in the commentary chaise lougue. Mum this year will be ridehappy's official TDU roving reporter, a position she regards only as temporary pending SBS' official announcement of its commentary team (Mum is not pre-empting anything but she did see Mike Tomalaris getting into the champagne on the podium at Aussie nats last week and, while she is no dibber-dobber, she wishes to make SBS aware that she is available for his position, should it become vacant). Mum's key to commentary, she tells me, is that she generally manages to remain incognito around the tour village and is therefore well-placed to pick up bits of scandalous gossip that most riders would not share with the regular media. In fact, only today while picking up her daughter from Adelaide airport she and Matty Lloyd walked past each other, with neither party actually realising it. Try doing THAT, Paul Sherwen. 

Yeah, you'd want to look worried Paul

Following her coverage of the Tour de France this year, Lisa's Mum was approached by SBS to join Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen for their coverage of the Tour de France 2010. Mum was pleased with the opportunity to impart some wisdom to Phil and Paul, whom she says are quite nice boys but still learning the ropes.


The new face of SBS's Tour de France 2010 commentary team (Mum is the one in the middle)

So without further ado, Mum presents her preview of the Tour Down Under:
  • Local media swarming around the Adelaide Hilton on the promise of meeting a Tour de France winning legend will be audibly disppointed when Oscar Pereiro rocks up at the press conference. Team Caisse D'Epargne subsequently announce their last-minute withdrawal from the Tour after organisers fail to invite Pereiro to their $250-per-head Cycling Legends Dinner. When lodging their complaint, team officials were told by organisers that 'Oscar's a great guy, but no one remembers 2006'.
  • Mike 'Randy' Rann will announce the renaming of North Terrace to 'Lance Parade' and pledge a new annual public holiday ('Livestrong Day') to residents of SA as part of his upcoming election campaign. Lance insists that the two are 'just friends' but when pressed in a separate interview, Randy admits that he is looking into revamping SA's gay marriage laws in time for the 2011 tour.
  • Allan Davis, returning TDU champion, reveals that he is much more relaxed and confident going into this week than he was at the Aust national road cycling champs last week as this time he won't have to contend with the awesome firepower of Jonny 'Long-Ks' Houston in the bunch with him. Davis stated, 'Yeah, to discover that Jonny has opted to skip the tour this year is certainly a weight off my mind. I'm not sure I could have handled his calm breathing and it really unsettles me when I am biting the handlebars up the climbs and Jon just wants to make conversation.'
  • Cadel Evans announces that he is contemplating retirement after being pantsed going up the Kinglake climb by two non-professional cyclists in their 40s (reportedly from local outfit TE) who just wanted him to sign their book.
More updates to follow...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Australian Open Road Cycling Championships 2010

Road nationals were on last week. They hurt. It was also hot – apparently 47 deg on the road for the women’s road race. Luckily I did not carry a thermometer with me (ignorance is bliss) and my core temperature tolerance has been permanently set on high thanks to a childhood spent playing tennis tournaments in Adelaide in the days before hot weather OH&S policies.

Time Trial (28km): Wed 6 Jan
For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of racing a TT, you can get the same effect by slamming your head in a door repeatedly while someone pokes you with a branding iron. Your heart rate goes up pretty high and it hurts a lot. Needless to say, when people ask me why I ride, I tell them I do it for fun. The TT course went up Mt Buninyong and around, then down a massive rollercoaster hill. I was extremely excited about racing the TT because I enjoy the feeling of having my head slammed into a door repeatedly and I love being alone with my own thoughts while I am scraping the bottom of the barrel of hurt. It is a happy place and one day I will write a song using all those thoughts that came into my head that will not be able to be screened on Video Hits because of all the bad words in it.

Warming up for the TT (Amber Halliday on the left and me on the right. If this was after the TT she would have been wearing the green & gold jersey!)

 Really, though, I was excited about racing the TT because I had the meanest, pimpest looking race machine ever. It’s a racing red S-Works 2010 Transition loaned courtesy of DC at Fitzroy Revolution and dialled to perfection by Sean ‘The Man’ Hurley, the most patient man with a rear derailleur I have ever seen. Actually, the whole TT was an exercise made possible only by the generosity of my mates and sponsors who provided a bike (Fitzroy Revolution), rear disc (Justin Graham), TT helmet (Andrew Killer), and follow car (Dave Olle and Topbike Tours). What a bunch of legends!

 Left: The machines in action - mine is the red one. To the left is Al Rhodes' Teschner

The course itself was not super-technical, although I think every TT is technical as it’s often fractions of a second that separate riders, especially at the pointy end. This makes selecting the smooth part of the road, the cleanest lines and the tightest corners much more important. At the top end of the field the riders have been through wind tunnel testing to select their most aerodynamic position, had bikes set up to suit their unique biomechanics and know exactly how to sit on the rivet (anaerobic threshold) while maintaining a pedalling form to maximise their power output. It’s pretty amazing really. Every time I see a top time trialler perform, I think about the hours and hours of technical and physical work that went behind their ride. The mind boggles.

For riders like me who are not TT specialists, the TT is a necessary evil that shows how our form is going. I finished 7th in the elites, a result I’m chuffed with considering the TT has not been a focus this year (and I rode the bike for the first time the day before). It was a good confidence booster as I wasn’t feeling great and the last couple of months have been a bit tumultuous and stressful.

 Left: Pre-race at the SASI tent. Max charmed the locals into not only saving us a spot outside their house, but also letting 10 very nervous athletes use their toilet pre-race. I'm not kidding.

Road Race (102km): Sat 9 Jan
I had entered the criterium on Thurs (7 Jan) but elected to skip it in favour of getting the extra rest ahead of Saturday’s road race. Crits can be really fun and the course looked like it probably suited me, but I was glad of the extra recovery time.

Talking about the road race beforehand with my supercoach, Donna Rae-Szalinski, we knew the heat would be a big factor and keeping core temp down would be key to survival. It was definitely the toughest conditions I have ever raced in and the heat claimed a lot of riders – 29 finishers out of over 70 starters. Thanks to a top coach and support crew I had the use of an ice vest pre-race and an icy-cold fresh bidon each lap from the lovely Andrew. Regular readers may remember that Andrew was appointed Head of Bidons and chief soigneur at the Bright Enduro in October. You will be pleased to know that Andy’s performance appraisal this year went well and as a result he has received a promotion to Chief Executive Officer of Bidons (Asia Pacific) which involves an attractive fringe benefits package including a personal chef. Andy never missed a feed and anticipated my every need perfectly.

 The Buninyong nationals course is tough, comprising 10 laps of a 10.2km circuit. Apart from Judith Arndt, who escaped off the front at the beginning, the pack stayed together until lap 6 when an attack on the hill trimmed the lead bunch down to around 15 riders. Rachel Neylan (SASI) rode the race of her life with a solo attack on lap 7 and an eventual 4th place. Rachel came to cycling via an NTID (National Talent ID & Development) program in 2007 with me and it has been pretty amazing watching how she and other NTID athletes have really ripped it up, especially on Saturday. The future of women’s cycling in Australia is looking pretty good.

By lap 9, the rest of us in the lead bunch (apart from SASI) were getting a bit antsy that the break was getting too big a gap. Most of us were waiting for Ruth Corset to make a move. On lap 9, her Tibco teammate Emma Mackie attacked, which shed a few riders, then Ruth attacked and rode away from everyone as if we were standing still. Bridie O’Donnell, in super-fine form, escaped as well shortly afterwards. I didn’t have the legs to make the final kick and finished 11th (9th elite), which I’m happy with and gives me a few things to work on for next year. Ruth really deserved the win and the green & gold jersey will look great on her shoulders this year overseas. I don’t know how she combines being a world-class athlete with having 2 young daughters and still manages to stay such a nice person, but Respekt. Bridie’s 2nd place was amazing. As someone who trains with her regularly I can say that she is one hard worker and her race on Saturday was out of the box.

What’s next?
  • Tour of New Zealand – with the National Talent ID & Development Team – choice bro, sweet as (late Feb)
  • Tour Down Under – stay tuned as Lisa’s Mum returns to the commentary booth!
Before I sign off, another big thankyou to all the people behind me at Nationals - ubercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, Fitzroy Revolution, Tammie Ebert at the Australian Sports Commission, Team Mock (best support crew ever!) and John Hill at High 5. High 5 deserves a special mention as this was a race where almost everyone cramped and dehydrated and their product saved my bacon. And thanks to all my mates who came to cheer - you guys rock.