26 January 2008

Tour Down Under Classic Race

The boys lined up, just before the start.

First up for the Tour Down Under extravaganza (as the local media have been saying all week) was a criterium in the newish town of Glenelg. Built near the sea, and looking much like the Gold Coast was ten years ago, with high-rise apartments sprouting up everywhere. This seemed to be the place that most of the local bunch riders hangout both before and after their rides. We had been there a few times before, as the team were finishing their training here most days with coffee and checking out some of the local wildlife. The cool thing about this tour, is the local councils have gone to so much trouble organising the race, and the surrounds for the riders. They had a set of tram tracks, right down one of the main streets into the cafĂ© area. The day before the race, we were scoping out the circuit, I was a bit worried about the tracks, more for the tyres, seeing if there was any good lines we could take. Halfway thought the day, the council arrived, with a shit load of trucks ready to reseal the road, with about 100mm of new tarmac. And what a job, you couldn’t even tell the tracks were there (and they removed it overnight again for, the first tram at 8am).

And the big man himself, Andre

The Classic is an hour long criterium, about 50 km long, so they started late in the evening about 7.30pm for the spectators to line the streets. But we had to arrive at 4pm for some reason. We left en-mass for the start, with a full police escort back and front. The sun was still up, and the temperature was a killer in the sun. But they had a nice little area for us to hang out for a few hours until the race started. Each team had to present themselves for the public and press to get a good look. It was a pain in the ass, waiting, waiting, and then we were on stage. Phil Leggit, and Paul Sherwin were here for the week, (Phil was here for the whole month, so had hooked up with him at the Jayco Crits and Nationals), so we got the hell plug when the team was on stage. We had a few victories already to brag about, and he did it so well.

Rabon on attack, giving everything he has

The crowd was pretty lean when we arrived, and it was not looking like it was going to reach 20,000, let alone the 50,000 they were expecting. By the time the race had started, it was five deep in places, so things were starting to get noisy. The race was underway, and the speed of the peloton was exciting, I was expecting to see the bunch bust into a few pieces, but it stayed together for the whole race. There was the odd breakaway, but they came to nothing. Rabobank putting a good show on the front for the last few laps. Even our boys had a few goes to breakaway, but to no avail. They raced a few more laps, round and around, but it was altogether. In the final straight there was a mean head wind, and form the last corner it was about 500m to the finish. The team rounded the corner, with a few of the boys on the front, but a few other teams had the same idea, and the sprint was on. They sprinted hard, but not fast enough for our guy Andre Greipel, and he took the win a few meters clear of the rest of them. And what a sprint, he managed to hold on long enough, but I thought he was going to blow, but I was wrong. What a machine, and a great day for the team. The first win, for the trip down under, and the fifth win for me, nice.

Andre in the sprint on the big screen, and what a win

And some more pictures for your viewing.

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