2 February 2008

TDU Stage #3

Arriving at the team’s base with all the teams and riders was the easy bit, but the public had a chance to see the mechanics and the bikes this week so the tent was packed. The organisers had the team’s base open to the public all week, giving them a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes in a bike race. It was pretty cool for me to see this sort of show, and even better for the punters, a good chance to check out all the new team bikes, tools and equipment we use up close. I was busy cleaning the bikes in the sun outside, so I didn’t have to deal with any of the public, asking questions and gawking at you working, taking multiple photos. Some of the European mechanics just ignored the public completely, just their normal selves. With the people in their face all night, some of the mechanics were telling me later that their English is fine, they just thought it was funny, with question after question being asked, the public never gave up, even without any answers or acknowledgement that they heard their questions. I came out after washing, and talked a bit, again my retail background helped here, as there was some pretty standard simple questions as usual. What do you wash the chain with, what oil did you use, what pressure is in the tires, how much are the bikes. I don’t mind this sort of thing, after all, it’s these type of people at ground level, that support and enable our sport to continue at the elite level. There was nothing too technical, even though I was ready with the answers, just in case. Sometimes you got to give a little bit back to the little guys, it’s too easy to keep them happy sometimes.

From left, Rabon, Berni and Greg, getting ready to race.

Stage three was about to start, from the small town of Unley, just down the road from the event village. Actually they had a huge street party here the night before, and it looked great as we headed into it, to find some glasses for Andre, from one of his sponsors who had a stand there. I could of stayed all night, with plenty to drink and eat, and lots of the local wildlife wandering around, I had to leave, think they call it being responsible, it felt strange. But I had our German sprinting machine in tow, so had to get him home to bed, ready for the stage in the morning. Racing from Unley, we cover 139km all the way to the coast, to a wicked little town called Victor Harbour, right on the beach. Last year the race was won on this leg, with a mean head wind all the way out there, and a break bunch of 30mins in front, it was not going to be the same this time. I was hanging with the Souigneur’s again, it was starting to get fun, and it gave me a chance to ease into the men’s racing style. Nick, the team’s head mechanic was in the car for the last few stages, but I would give him a break for the next two stages. So bottle boy again, sweet, time for a sleep out on the course, and to catch up on a bit of preparation work for my upcoming races.

Franki doing his part to stop the drought in the area

We again had a bit of time to kill, so we checked out the climbs that were in the 5th stage, and found some great coffee again in the town of Willunga. The race came past, and like the last two other stages, there was a break out with three riders in the front. I have seen that before I think. After they passed us, we fanged it to the finish to get set up for the return of the lads, and to check out the last few km’s of the race. We relayed the info to Allen, our director, and then relaxed in the sun. there was plenty of people at the finish waiting. Great for any race organiser to see the public getting behind his events, and great for the riders to get the applause they deserve as they bust it through the finish-line. I found a good spot on the finish line, I had the race radio in hand, and my camera poised for that elusive shot. There was a few kids hanging around, and their mum was trying to keep them occupied for the last half an hour, but she was failing. So I stepped in, with a full race commentary translated from the French and Aussie Commissionaire’s on the race radio. The kids were killing themselves, as they listened to me talking shit, the public speaker was about a minute or two late with his comments, and he was always wrong with the translation anyway. They were loving it, as I explained all the tactics and the placements of the riders and teams in the last 20km’s, telling them when the break riders were going to get caught, and when the race would arrive in front of us. By now there was about 20 fans listening to my comments, I didn’t notice them too much, as the kids were getting my full attention, another few fans in the making I thought, and they might even start to race in the future, who knows.

The boys looking a bit frazeled out on the tarmac

The riders out the front were caught with 2km to go, just like I had predicted to my little fans a few minutes beforehand. The race was about to come into view, and here they were. That slow-motion effect was happening for me again, and worked a treat as they came around the last corner before the finish, the road was full of sprinters, moving all over the place. I spied Andre, and a few of the lads that pulled him into position, but it was not to be. Three Aussie riders got the full podium, 1st , 2nd and 3rd place for the locals, with Alan Davis taking back the jersey off Brownie (think he was 2nd or 3rd) with Andre getting 5th or something, still good for the team, and were still sitting in 3rd in the GC (General Classement).

Australia one, two , and three. Great for the spectators.

And of course, some more images round about here.

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