I've posted a gallery of photos from the 2014 Tour Down Under Here
I've been resisting writing anything about the Lance Armstrong saga,but on my recent training rides I can't get the story out of my head.So as an attempt to exorcise the demon from my head, I'm going to have my 2 bobs worth.
Many years ago I was heading to Tasmania for a couple of weeks, I'd be staying on my sister's fairly isolated farm in the Liffey Valley.I found myself in a book store in Melbourne looking for something to take with me to read.Picking up "It's Not About the Bike" I can remember thinking,"I've heard of this bloke,survived a pretty nasty dose of cancer and has won the Tour de France".At the time I had no interest in cycling as a sport, had only ever heard of the Tour de France,The Giro and our own Herald Sun Tour.
The book was an excellent read and I couldn't put it down,staying up till all hours and had it finished in a couple of days,bugger,what am I going to read for the rest of my stay.
So when the TDF rolled around that year it was time to tune in and see how Lance was going,I don't exactly remember the year but he's already won the race a few times.Reading this book got me interested in watching the TDF,before I would have changed channels to avoid it. L.A. owned the TDF,or thats the way it seemed to me.He had this awesome team who completely dominated proceedings.I cheered for Lance to win and thats what he did.I watched the TDF every year after that and was really disappointed when he retired.
Fast forward on a few years, after becoming frustrated with golf one of my friends suggested cycling. My first outing was quite memorable,it was hot and I was in Melbourne and we'd gone to the Kew Boulevard early in the morning.My bike was an old Malvern Star purchased brand new in the mid 80's.I was hopeless,getting passed on the hills by everyone.I smashed myself but went nowhere fast and had to lie down for about 2 hours afterward as I wasn't feeling very well.
That first experience seemed to spur me on and I've been riding now for about 4 years.The last 2 pinning a race number on quite regularly with the Wangaratta Cycling Club and the Hume Veterans CC.The more I started to mix with other cyclists,some who've been involved in the sport for many many years,I started to hear the doping stories about LA.What I also noticed was some people particularly seemed to really dislike Armstrong, whilst others worshipped him.I was probably in the camp of worshipper until about 12 months ago.Slowly more and more doping allegations against LA were surfacing and I couldn't help but think,maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.
Further on down the track and I'm not going into the whole series of events,most people know this stuff anyway.The USADA reasoned decision pretty much was the final nail in the coffin of the LA fairy tail.
Now we've had the Oprah interview and heard it from the man himself that he cheated in every one of his TDF victories,using performance enhancing drugs,transfusions etc.
The fact that he used banned drugs and transfusions is somehow not that big of a deal as it seems most TDF contenders were also doing the same thing.Of course I believe it's wrong and I'm very disappointed that I believed in something that turned out to be bull shit.And I probably feel quite foolish as in the past I'd backed Lance 100%.
The worse part is the way he treated the people who were bold enough to speak out.Even suing newspapers and ruining peoples lives when all along they were telling the truth.It's hard to reconcile this in my mind as here is a man who survived cancer (my sister in Tasmania is a Doctor and when I read to her how bad he had cancer,her comments were "it's a miracle he survived") and set up the Livestrong foundation helping raise awareness of cancer on a global scale.So it seems he has empathy for his fellow human beings so how could he be such an arsehole?
I'm not sure if I'd be riding my bike it it wasn't for Lance,nobody can answer that,not even me.My curiosity in the sport was certainly piqued by the reading of "It's not about the Bike".Maybe if golf hadn't been so frustrating I'd still be out there smashing that little white ball up the fairway (or in my case usually in the rough).My friends may have had more to do with actually getting me involved in riding and racing.I've done several things I swore black and blue I'd never do.Wearing Lycra,buying the latest carbon bling and last but not least shaving my legs,(when I read that I still wonder how it's come to this) :)
By nature I'm a pretty forgiving person and I also am a believer in what is good about the human spirit.Everyone on earth deserves the opportunity to redeem themselves from past wrongdoings.For me I still think of Armstrong as an amazing cyclist and I'm not sure about his 7 TDF victories,mainly because they didn't or couldn't award then to anybody else as most of the contenders appeared to have been doping also.
History will tell us how he'll be remembered.He made some big claims that the rest of his life will be spent trying to repair the damage he has done to the sport and the many people that got in his way.There is no doubt he is a powerful character and should he choose to embrace his own sentiments then hopefully we'll see some good come out of this tale of deception.
For me now when I roll out in the morning on a 3 hour solo ride in quiet Australian countryside I'm hoping there are better things occupying my thoughts than this sorry tale.I love to ride and would be lost without it now.I love the sport and want to believe in the current crop of amazing athletes.Past dopers should be encouraged to speak out not kicked out of the sport.Let them help by giving them the chance to own their past and not be fearful about losing what they love.
I had a trip to Sydney last week to visit family and catch up with legendary bike fitter Steve Hogg. I have recently changed from Speedplay pedals back to Shimano and wanted Steve to set up a couple of pairs of shoes and check my bike position.
My appointment was for late afternoon which coincided with a couple of quiet beers with a couple of Steve's mates when we had finished.My bike fit was pretty easy as once the shoes were set up nothing else was changed.We also organized a ride for the Sunday which I was looking forward to.Sunday turned out to be pretty wet and we rode in some pretty ordinary conditions around Botany Bay.Still nice to get out on the bike and the feast at a local Bakery on our return was pretty special.
Yesterday I decided it was time to get out for a decent ride, I also wanted to have a play with a new toy I'd purchased in Sydney during a rush of blood and retail therapy. The new toy is a Garmin 800 bike computer which I bought mainly so I could read it's larger display as I struggle with the Garmin 500 which is much smaller.During yesterday's circuit I planned to call into local chocolate producers, Renaissance Chocolates,where I also have some of my photographs for sale.
On arriving and looking forward to a coffee and beautiful chocolates,only about 4kms from my place,Neil said"we've got a present for you".This was certainly unexpected and I wondered what was going on.After sitting down to my feast Robyn came out of the chocolate making area bearing the gift.Both Robyn and Neil have just returned from a trip to France and Italy and happened to be in Milano on the last day of the Giro d'Italia
They were initially unaware what was going on as they are not cycling fans and it was pure coincidence they were there.They told me initially they were a little annoyed, as the tourist bus that you can get on and off at the various attractions, was cancelled for the day.After trying to avoid the cycling crowd for most of the day they weakened and went to have a look.
It turned out to be the final TT of the Giro with the top 5 riders still left to start.So they saw history being made with the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour,Ryder Hesjedal.After 3 weeks of racing and over 3,500km he took the overall victory by 16seconds.After 3 weeks of racing
Now,back to my present.You can see the pic above and there is a signature on the hand.I asked Robyn who's signature it was and her reply was something like."Some Canadian bloke,the winner"Not only had they accidentally stumbled across this very exciting event,Robyn got the signature of the winner because she new I would like it.
Like it?I love it and it's gone straight to the pool room and if it was in a wrapper I would not have taken it out.
These Youtube videos are great.I know most cycling fans will have seen these backstage pass videos by now.But just in case I've added one from the Tour of California. Neil Stephens,sports directer for GreenEdge is such a character,I love his laid back style.
Finally I've finished editing the photos taken last week at the Junior Mountain Climbing Championships-Alpe de Buffalo.
Have a look at them in the Galleries I've created,I had lots of trouble with my wireless internet coming into Easter so only uploaded the last Gallery on Saturday
A bit of an update on the Mt Buffalo Challenge Competition is local cyclist Matt Clark became the new leader with a time of 49min 30sec, which will be pretty hard for anyone to beat. I've now also added the descent as a separate competition.You can see results underneath the climb competition.I rode Mt Buffalo on easter Sunday for the first time this year and managed the climb in 1hour 4min 30sec which is 1 min slower than my best time and then turned around and completed the descent in 21min 53sec.So far Shane Miller is leading the descent comp. at 18min 39sec.
I don't normally have much to say about Professional cycling here as there are many websites that specialise in the pro scene. However, watching Paris-Roubaix last night was so exciting to see Tom Boonen ride the last 55km by himself.The following group,including a number of Team Sky riders,were powerless to close the gap as Boonen powered away to his 4th Paris -Roubaix victory.
If you haven't seen any of the GreenEdge backstage pass videos,have a look at them,really gives you a feel for what goes on inside a professional team.Below is the Paris-Roubaix one but I really love the Milan-San Remo video they did, when Simon Gerrans won they just went ballistic.
Finally it was lovely to have my sister and mother out for dinner on Saturday night and we cooked up an excellent feed on the outside BBQ.Just lately I've become quite accustomed to lighting a fire then cooking on the coals,there is something very special about cooking on a fire.
The Tour of Bright one of Australia's biggest and best cycling races was held over the weekend. It was my first attempt at the race after spending the 2010 version photographing the action.There was a large contingent of local riders competing and it felt a little like an extended family as we all checked each others progress on the excellent results website which updated the moment you crossed the line. You can view the results website here.
Stage 1 on Saturday morning saw my group of Masters 4/5 start last at 8.45am and I had been awake for hours raring to go. After deciding to drive out to the base of Tawonga Gap and ride into Bright as a warm up. I figured after the stage I could save myself the 10 km ride into town.For the 90km stage I had some company in my group with Gavin Frawley,Stephen Fields,Ray Jarratt who had all raced the TOB before and Tony Barton who was like me a first timer. The highlight of the stage was flying down the Ovens Valley in a big peloton and feeling like you were almost a pro at speeds up to 50kmh. The lowlight was getting dropped by the main bunch up the Rosewhite climb. That being said I wasn't the only one and forged a small working group of around 8 to ride to the bottom of Tawonga Gap. Just after starting the climb the A grade bunch motored past like we were standing still. I did the climb in around 33 mins and was greeted at the top by several local riders waiting at the finish line.
Stage 2 on Saturday afternoon was a 16km time trial which is 8km out the Wandiligong Rd and the turning around and riding 8km back. My start time was 16.48 precisely. Riders start every 20 seconds and you even get to roll down a proper starting ramp . The out leg is a gradual climb up the valley punctuated by a couple of small hills particularly the first one which takes the wind out of your sails. I had a decent ride and came in just under 26 mins which was a little slower than I'd done the course in practice but after stage 1 in the morning I could live with that.
Stage 3 on Sunday morning was The Queen stage from Bright to the top of Mt Hotham. Due to pretty bad weather on the top third of Mt Hotham the race organisers made the decision to end the race and the end of the false flat near the ticket box about 10km short of the summit. My bunch was still together at Harrietville after all the breaks were kept well under control, but as we rounded the first hairpin the sounds of chains being shifted up cassettes into easier gears for climbing could be heard reverberating throughout the peloton. The first part of the climb is really tough and any disappointment felt from not being able to finish at the top quickly evaporated into relief. After the initial pinch it settles down for quite a while until the Meg which is a real gut buster section albiet quite short but enough to make the legs hurt and the heart rate climb skywards just to maintain forward momentum. After a few more kilometers of 5-6 percent gradient the road levels out to around 2-3 percent for around 10km and in this case the end of the race. It was great to be cheered on at the end by the local riders and their families who had made the journey up to watch the finish of the race.
It's been fantastic to have had support and encouragement from heaps of people. All the local riders who have had to put up with me asking endless questions about racing and gear etc. The health professionals who looked after my injuries when about 2 weeks out from the race I thought I would not be competing. Also the help of all the volunteers that make events like these possible and the Alpine Cycling Club for putting the race on.For the record I finished 53 rd out of about 70 riders in masters 4/5. As I sit here this morning typing my legs are sore and I'm feeling pretty stuffed but I reckon I'll be back again next year.
A few little anecdotes from the weekend.
Watching all the riders sizing each other up on our Friday afternoon ride around Bright.
Having a chat with Bridie O'Donnell at rider registration but at the time not being quite sure it was her.
Meeting Wade Wallace from the CyclingTips website in person after some of my photos from the Bright race last year were used in his race report.
The constant surging of a big peloton and the smell of burning carbon under heavy brakes.
When Wes said "you know when you think you might well be right on the back of the bunch but don't want to turn around and look just in case you are" and knowing exactly what he means.
Ashley Baines screaming out "Reeeeeckmaaaan" as he blasted down Hotham as I struggled up.
Shane Miller the leader of The Mount Buffalo Challenge saying he is not riding up Buffalo again on Monday.
Seeing some of the older guys in your group fly up the hills leaving you in their wake.
Watching Laurie Lyster climb onto the podium several times during presentations.