Monday, January 26, 2009

A walk in the park

Well, here I am back in Perth - finished the Sat report in the Qantas lounge in Adelaide but honestly did not have the steam to put my thoughts down about the final day. Perhaps that was because of the 70k 'spin out the legs' ride I did earlier on (Parkside to Glenelg to Largs Bay and then back to Parkside), combined with a complete walkaround lap of the circuit race course.

So - we all know circuit races can be circuit races - that is, a bit boring. But as it turned out, that was not the case with this one, due primarily the fact that Wes Sulzberger (Uni SA, go figure) got in an early break and for about 5 laps or so was the virtual race leader. Allan Davis was back in the main group, and with the break having over a minute gap, and Sulzberger only 20 or so sec behind Davis in GC - well it doesnt take a rocket scientist, or even a geologist to figure out that something had to happen. So, QuickStep went to the front and put the hammer down - but the gap did not close for the first couple of laps -tempo up - gap comes down - but only until there are about 2 laps to go. Then Cameron Meyer and Ryder Heysedal counter attcked, dragging about 4 others with them. Big moment of the day came when Lance bridged across to the the break, but could not find enough help (or help with enough strength) to keep everything from coming back together on the last lap. So it was a group sprint - with Rabobank driving for Graeme Brown, and Robbie hiding in the wings. But at the line it was Chicci (Liquigas) taking the honors as Brown pulled his foot out w/200 to go. Replays showed a ton of contact between Brown and McEwen with each one saying the other interfered. Commisaires did not see it that way so the results stood. Brownie was pretty pissed - I actually ran into him cooling his heels up the street and got his autograph - he was not a happy camper.

As you can see from the photos you can get pretty close to the action - too close as McEwen will attest to. The one with Jens in it is on the KOM up Montefiore hill -as usual Jens was in the thick of it. And finally there is a nice on of Meyer and Heysedal in the final break before Lance bridged over.

The wrap -up :

Definitely going to do this again next year. I think riding all the stages (bar the two circuit races) would be totally cool (and, I believe, do-able). The riding in Adelaide is fantastic - a lot of variety and all of it accessible from downtown Adelaide. So I am looking for volunteers. Remember, Lance said he is coming back next year and I would be willing to bet there will be more top line riders coming next year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Was the wait worth it???

Sitting under the meagre shade of a scrubby gum tree near the top of Willunga hill at about 1pm this afternoon I and hearing the reports on the race radio, I was beginning to think the nearly 3 hour wait until the first riders would arrive might not have been worth it. But, at about 1:31 approx 10min ahead of schedule, the sirens of the lead moto followed by the commisaires car (complete with Phil and Paul) quickly dispelled those thoughts. They were followed by 19yo Jack Bobridge (UniSA) and a mulleted Klimov (Katusha)holding as small gap over a small chase group containing David Monticute (Cofidis). Then about a 30 sec gap to a larger group containing Armstrong and Hincapie, then over a minute to the peloton, followed by numerous stragglers. McEwen was obviously not in his element from a riding perspective as he was hanging on to the back of the main pack, but was making a big effort to even out his cyclists tan by rolling up the sleeves on his jersey.

2nd time up it was Monticutie solo followed closely by Matty Lloyd (Silence Lotto), Adam Hansen (Columbia) and Armstrong with a bigger group containing Davis and Graeme Browne about a minute back. From there back everyone was spread out over about a 5min period, with the 'laughing bus' following some 10min or so back (McEwen etal) having a great time soft pedaling up the climb.

I did not get back to Willunga for the finish, but listening to the race radio I heard that the 3 lead groups came together and Davis took the sprint ahead of Jose Rojas (Caisse D'epargne) and Martin Elminger (Ag2r).

And - was the wait worth it? Definitely - it was good to see Lance working hard to and it was good to see that the double circuit of Willunga broke things up a bit. But obviously not enough as it ended up a bunch sprint in Willunga. This means tomorrows circuit race is pretty much a formality and that barring any bizzare occurrences, Allan Davis will win this year's TDU.
Posted photos are 2 from the Victor Harbor stage (3)- one from the 1st KOM and one from the 2nd. The other two are from Stage 5 KOM (Willnga Hill) and then a cool one from of the Saxo Bank bikes from the bike pits. Spent a bit of time there last night checking out the bikes. Coulda got Cadel's autograph as well, but ...... well you know! No Legends Dinner for me tonight - in hindsight should have spent the 250$ to hear Lance, George and the wit and wisdom of Phil and Paul.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Quickie

Well - here's a quick summary - did not get back on the bus until 7pm and then off to a quick well deserved meal with JB.
To make a long story short - the ride was great - cool temps (12 at the start) along with a tail wind made the first 40ks up Gorge Road pass very quickly. Managed to latch on to a group from Sydney (Ciclismo) who gracioulsly allowed me to join them and were riding my pace. And, one of their crew, Declan, spent a few years in Dubai and rode with my old group (now Wolfi's group) for a few years. Stopped at about 55k and then at apprx 90k - about 2ok before Menglers Hill (KOM). Menglers was tough after 110 k, but managed to dispense the 4k in about 12min, so it really could not have been that tough (not Potter Valley tough). Nice descent into the valley floor and then 50 k to the finish. Last 2k were abominable. Traffic, hills etc. But at the end of the day managed to do the 166k in just over 5:15. Thanks to the Ciclismo team for letting me join in and for the safe, intelligent ride. You guys (and Kerry) rule!
After a short nap watched the finish from the pub- Coopers Pale Ale in hand. Alan Davis took the sprint (and retained the leaders jersey) from Graeme Brown with Jose Rojas (Caisse Depargne) in 3rd. Stuey was 4th - he is definitely in with a chance.
Tomorrow - Willunga Hill . I will be there early to get a good viewing spot and will update photos and blog tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Short and sweet

No long-winded post tonight - need to get my beauty sleep before tomorrow's 155km. Short synopsis of the day (w/o photos) - got to both KOM points - Lance was up with the front group all day - the cross-winds played havoc with the peloton so the splits were early and big. Big George was strong as well - I think he ended up 6th or so in the final sprint. Graeme Brown won the sprint ahead of Alan Davis and Stuey - Davis keeps the Ochre jersey. Greipel is out after colliding with a moto - lots of echelons and gutter riding probably was a big contributor.
Hopefully will update tomorrow eve, though dont count on it!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A little bit of 'F Troop'

I have got to admit today was pretty uneventful after the last couple of days -each of which had their own little drama. Alan's bike is now fixed so he, Brett and I drove up to the finish at Stirling, then rode to the start at Hahndorf (complete with ompah-pah band and hurdy-gurdy), and then on to the town of Woodside to watch the pack come through before heading off to the KOM point at 30k. I have to admit - riding in the Adleaide hills is great - not much traffic, nice roads and lots of hills (go figure). But one can get confused with all the roads (see paragraph 2). After a short wait at Woodside, which we spent having our picture taken (see photo), visiting the pub dunny and eating the poppy seed pastry bought at the bakery, the first motos came through, followed by a 3 man breakaway (Euskaltel, Cofidis, and, as usual, UniSA). The peloton soft-pedaled through about 2 min later - no hurry there.

We then jumped on the bikes and rode off see if we could get to the KOM point before they got there from the other direction. To make a long story short, we just misssed making it, but in hindsight could have as we stopped after the lead police escort passed. But it was another 10 min until the riders came by. So we were short by about 2km - never mind. Probably did not matter much, as everyone came by in the same order as we had seen them about 40 min before - actually the Uni SA rider had just flatted so he was a bit off the back of his breakaway companions.

Then, back on the bikes to get back to Stirling to watch the 3 laps around the Stirling/Aldgate circuit. 'Found' a different way back - bigger (longer) hills and more sweepy turns and fantastic vistas - a lot like Norther California in summer- they have gum trees too!
Back to Stirling in time to see the group, and the two in the breakaway, come through on the first of the three 20km laps and the feed zone. Much chaos, but everyone got through ok. 2nd lap much like the first but with the breakaway group being joined by Julian Dean (Garmin), then the final lap all together at the base of the uphill to the sprint finish. Result; an Australian 1-2 with Alan Davis ( Quick Step) taking the sprint and Graeme Brown (Rabobank) right behnd. So at the end of Stage 2, Alan Davis is now in the Ochre Jersey - he is the only rider that has competed in all 11 TDU - and I am not sure if he is even 30!
Oh, and Lance - well he finished in the pack, but not after testing his legs a couple times on the 20k circuit (Astana with Lance driving finally shut the breakaway down). But, the post race media swarm was just as big as if he had won. Hmm...
Tomorrow - Stage 3 - Unley to Victor Harbor (without the 'u').

One good turn deserves another

It's funny how things work out - today I got to pay back Brett and Alan for bringing over the seat collar. 9:05 AM today heading out to One Tree Hill to ride out to the Stage 1 KOM I get a call from Brett - 'Hey Jeff - where are you - Alan's bike is not fixed yet so neither of us are going to ride - are you near enough to come and pick us up?' As it turned out, I was close enough, and in the process discovered the 'correct' way of getting around the city as well. And - best of all- I was able to score a great coffee at the drive thru coffee spot near where Brett and Alan are staying - cool idea for those languishing drive thru bottle shops in Perth! So, Brett and Alan stayed at One Tree Hill to watch the first sprint and I rode out to the KOM points - plan was to go to the second KOM point at 40k's but, after the 1St one (at 10k out) kicked my butt AND all the people there said it was better than the 2nd one, I put in a few extra K's towards the 2nd and then headed back to watch the show. A good vantage point was obtained - just before the KOM banner there is a hairpin - pretty much on the steepest part of the climb so the speeds would be slow (10-15kph) and the picture opportunity greatest.

Pretty much right on schedule the lead motos came through - followed closely by a breakaway of two riders - Andoni Lafuente of Euskataltel and Olivier Kaisen of Silence-Lotto, then about 6 min to Australian Will Walker (Fuji-Servetto) just ahead of the peloton being driven by Uni SA (see photos). And then they were gone - time for me to get back to Brett and Alan in One Tree Hill and then on to Mawsons Lake for the finish. Lafuente and Kaisen held off the peloton until about 25k to go, then Jack Bobridge attacked and built a 2min cushion which he held until about 2km out. So it was a group sprint - Columbia driving the pack and this time getting the result they wanted with Greipel taking the spring followed by O'Grady and then Brad McGee (UniSA). Turns out Robbie had an altercation with a spectators camera on the final stretch - he may not start tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow - more hills are on the menu - plan is to drive to the finish in Stirling (after coffee at Cibo's in Hyde Park) and the do about 60k's and end up watching the 3 laps of the finishing circuit.

More tomorrow!!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, Monday

Can't trust that day. Well, so someone said. But I guess it's ok if it's a rest day and you can get a nice long, if not hot, ride in.

Due to the heat and the late departure hour plans of going to the hills were abandoned and a route into town, then to Glenelg and north to Port Adelaide along the foreshore and finally a return to Panorama was the order of the day. Guess it was the right decision as I was able to hook up with a fast group for the trip from the city to Glenelg. Then, just as we were about to turn north, a couple of police motorcyles appeared from that direction, followed by team Astana with Lance firmly embedded, followed by a couple more police motos, and then a gaggle of hangers -on. As it turns out, my Perth compatriots and couriers of the infamous Kuota seat collar, Brett and Allan, were in that follow group. As it turns out, perhaps they deserved it -when Brett put his bike together in the morning he had discovered it had been damaged in shipping and Allans bike had a mysteriously loose headset, resulting in a trip to the bike shop after the ride.
Anyway, after that bit of excitement more of the teams were spotted along the route north. Cofidis, Columbia and Fuji were all out spinning out their legs, so I guess that the choice to head to the beach for the ride was the correct one. Remainder of the ride uneventful, but I was able to hook up with half a dozen riders from Townsville for the north leg into the wind, no effort expended whatsoever. They are going to ride every stage, starting about 3 hours before the race start. Sounds like a good idea - maybe next year.
Tomorrow AM things start in earnest. The plan is to park at the finish and then ride the 40 or so k's to the second KOM, then back to the end of the loop portion to see the peloton pass and follow them back to the finish. Will let you all know how it works tomorrow.

PS. Promise to get some pics tomorrow!