2 February 2008

TDU Stage #2

Stage 2, for a total of 148km, starting in a small town not far from the city called Stirling. Finishing up, and passing through for 4 laps, in a German looking (they were the first settlers of this area in the early 1800’s) and sounding village of Hahndorf. The boys were feeling good, and the sun and temperature was up as usual, with our regular police escorts making lots of noise, we ventured to Stirling. Now with the race being in it’s 10th year, the local towns folk were getting right into it. With some pretty large prizes being fronted by the council for the best dressed town of the tour. Stirling was looking pretty cool, with about 100 old bikes painted up all blue and orange (must be a South Australia colour thing) lining the streets as we entered the town. Now I was getting excited, as the second stage was about to start, the race was really looking good. The bikes were perfect of course, as we had spent the previous day sorting all the bugs out of them. And the leaders Jersey was in the hands of a Aussie rider, from the only National team ever to race a Uci Pro Tour, UNI SA. A team assembled in the last few weeks, with some pretty good talent in it, including the last spot filled directly after the nationals, as it was left open for the winner of this event, nice.

Andre getting his massive legs prepped before the start.

The stage was pretty good looking, with some great little climbs leading into Hahndorf, then a 20km or so, lap around the town, with some good little grovels to get over each lap. Bottle bitch for the day again, but we were so organised this time round, we had about three hours to kill (this is such a hard life they lead). After sitting in the feed zone for an hour waiting, I did a quick calculation, the race was not passing for another hour and a half, with Hanhdorf 12km away, we left for coffee. At the edge of town there was a very nice German looking café, Chocolate No.5, sounds great. It was stinking hot outside, but as we walked into the little café, the temperature dropped considerably. When my eyes adjusted to the light, we were greeted to an amazing array of hand made chocolates and treats. We were all stunned as we dribbled looking at the treats displayed before us, and a coffee machine to boot, what more could you ask for. But as the waitress came to serve us, It then felt like we were in heaven, I was at least. Coffee, chocolate, airconditioning, and the race seemed like miles away. After an hour I was getting nervous, as we didn’t want to miss the feeding today, that was our only mission for the day, so we better not fail.

Don't they look delicious, and they were.

We headed out to the course, at least I would get a good view of the race, as we would see them 3 times on the lap, and then we would get to the finish in time to them pass once, and then see the win. First lap around there was still a break of three riders out the front, (we had a race radio with us, so this was no surprise), the bunch was just cruising past us, not worrying at all. The time gap climbed to a high of 6’40”, and that was it after two times past us, the heat was on, and the bunch was getting serious for the chase. By the time the race went past us for the third time, the break was caught, and out team plan of sending Adam with a few attacks out the front, was working a treat. Teams chased him back with all their good riders working like hell. When the race came through the finish chute for the second last time, they were flying, with more attacks happening constantly. I waited, and listened to the radio, which like normal, talked shit all day, and then when there is 20km to go, suddenly they have nothing to say.

Adam Hansen coming through the finish chute for the second to last time.

The lead police bikes came screaming through the finish-line for the last time, this was it, it was getting exciting. Hanhdorf looked pretty amazing, old German looking buildings lining the streets. With a little bit of Aussie influence here, with the veranda’s sticking out the front of all the shops. The towns folk had placed a load of big purple balloons, bunched together like enormous bunches of grapes lining the streets. This was the coolest town so far (sorry it was my attempt top stop thinking of the race coming through, you need that for nerves sometimes I hear). And every inch of the street was packed three deep with spectators. I could see about 200m past the finish line at the race directors car coming through at about 70km/hr, the boys were close. The announcer was shouting, but I was not listening, while trying to run from the van, with my camera, trying to catch the finish in time. There was a huge noise as the fans slapped the advertising boards on the barriers, my ears were trying to listen to the commentary on the race radio and the loud speakers, but the race was in sight. The sprint for the line was on, and as it came into view, I stopped. I could see the kit of Rabobank’s Graeme Brown (Brownie), and the kit of Alan Davis , UNI SA (the current leader), and then the big German rounded the corner, all in black. Yeha Team HighRoad has a chance.

And that guy in the red should learn to stay still, my perfect shot ruined. But hey Andre still looks good wining.

With absolute ease, Andre stomped on the pedals, winding out what was left of his gear. As I was looking, the sprint seemed to be in slow motion for me, but with the riders moving at 70km/hr, I must have been affected by the heat. But he came around the others, and wham, just like that, he was in the front. He cleaned up, won the stage by a bike length. What a buzz, and what a machine. I jumped up inside (albeit in a very cool and clam manner as usual). I congratulated the other team members as they passed me to the van, and then to Andre, who was ecstatic with the win. The press had mauled him, three or four deep with cameras and microphones. I have never seen this at a race with the Women, maybe one camera occasionally, how things are very different with the men. The team was happy and smiles on their faces you could not wipe off. I packed up the bikes and all the gear we had set out, and hit the road with the boys. Andre had the podium, and the ever present doping controls to contend with. The Boy’s were animated the whole way home, they had worked hard for the win, and Andre just smashed the other sprinters into submission. We were sitting in third place in the GC, with Brownie taking the Ochre Jersey, and Alan Davis in second place. Now the race was starting to hot up for the team. Time to get serious.

And more pics of the stage here.

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