Every city with a sizeable cycling population likely has one ride popular amongst the Strava set, the wannabe neo-Pros and resident/visiting elite riders. Here in Brisbane it is, apparently, the Zupps ride, a fast-paced 90km hit out departing the northern suburb of Aspley for Burpengary followed by a loop of the Redcliffe peninsula, before returning, via Nundah, to the starting point at the car dealership from which the ride takes its name.
The numbers participating in the ride vary depending on weather conditions (regardless, the ride still will take place every Sunday from 6.30am) or if regular riders are otherwise engaged in a real race somewhere else in southeast Queensland. Several years ago I took part in a number of Zupps rides with up to 100 other cyclists. Yesterday, at about 7.10am, whilst on the train to work I saw a bunch of about twenty riding north on Narangba Road passing the Dakabin rail station. From the speed they were going it can only have been Zupps, despite the route being popular among other bunches in the area.
The etiquette of the riders has been called into question on many occasions before. Previously I have criticised the attitude of the ride leaders and some others in the bunch towards compliance with the state road rules; apparently, red traffic lights on busy Gympie Road through Strathpine and Lawnton do not apply to cyclists before 7am!
Yet, despite the call by Queensland cyclists for respect, consideration and tolerance by drivers and the recent enactment of a minimum passing distance to provide an appropriate safety barrier between bicycles and motorised vehicles, there are some who, by their flagrant inability to ride safely and within the law, damage the reputation of those who do not take part in the ride and so do nothing to promote the hobby/sport.
This was never more obvious than at about 8.30am on Sunday at the intersection of Barclay Street and Adams Street in Deagon. Having received numerous complaints over several months of poor riding behaviour in the locality on Sunday mornings as well as generally poor driving behaviour by some motorists towards cyclists, particularly with regard to the safe passing distance legislation, officers of the Queensland Police Road Policing Task Force deployed on an operation to monitor and target errant cyclists and motorists. Knowing well the locations cyclists would be likely to break the road rules, the officers attended and observed in this instance numerous cyclists in the Zupps bunch ride straight through the intersection without complying with the visible stop sign and stop line.
Well done. Now not only do many motorists think cyclists wilfully flout the law but so do the police and we can be sure of an increased police interest in the area in the months to come.
The non-compliance with the recognised law on this raised some discussion Australia-wide on what is and what is not required to avoid falling foul of the law with there being some confusion as to whether the Queensland Government had agreed to the trial/ implementation of the “Idaho Stop” rule, effectively permitting cyclists, and only cyclists, to treat “stop signs” as “give way” signs. Proposed in the recent review of cycling law (which heralded the 1m rule) the motion was discarded as it would treat motorists different to cyclists, particularly at a time when cyclists were seeking a higher degree of equality with motorists.
In essence, the existing law remains the same: cyclists (and motorists) are required to come to a complete stop before crossing the stop line and then proceed if/when the road is clear for them to do so. Contrary to what some cyclists believe there is nothing in the Queensland Road Rules which requires ANY VEHICLE to stop at a stop sign for a prescribed time before proceeding. Likewise there is NO REQUIREMENT for cyclists (or motorcyclists) to place at least one foot on the ground whilst stopped.
Different states have different interpretations on this but in Queensland, to avoid copping a fine, you only need to stop before the stop line. Nevertheless, at least one Facebook discussion on this incident generated numerous comments from misinformed locals and interstate migrants alike indicating a poor knowledge and worse interpretation of the law on this matter.
One local cyclist, during the discourse and chastisement of myself (who unbeknownst it him has a higher than average knowledge of the road rules), proudly declared his cycling pedigree and imparted his and his ancestors’ opinion that stopping at stop signs is an unsafe practice.
I’ll wager it’s safer than blowing through such an intersection in a bunch (or by yourself) and ending up as a bonnet adornment of the P-plate Commodore speeding in the street you are entering.
Your call mate…
There is no doubt that cyclists, especially those who ride with others, or who ride in garishly coloured Lycra, or who ride bicycles more expensive than a white 1991 Holden Commodore, are not the most liked road users in (insert name of Australian city here). Not a day appears to pass without some poor cyclist(s) being targeted for verbal abuse, thrown objects or vehicular intimidation by the drivers of cars, trucks and even buses.
The reporting on this by the media, often including comments about the cyclists which add nothing to the issue and do more to fan the anti-cyclist fervour, is less than impartial and does nothing to promote tolerance of ALL road users (by both motorists and cyclists) and certainly has little impact on promoting safer road use.
Such mundane facets of life are left to the individual cyclist and, increasingly, state and territory cycling associations, national lobby groups and independent organisations. The promotion of cycling for many such groups is a fine balancing act with them seeking ways to work harmoniously together to achieve their common goal. There always will be differences of opinion in how to approach tasks but with most the desire to seek the best outcome for everyone overrides the desire to marginalise motorists whilst making the most noise in the narcissistic quest to get more followers. (And woe betide the followers of at least two particular groups for they are not allowed to express any opinions different to that dictated by the relevant group’s pontificating Führer or they will be blocked from commenting further).
The involvement of an individual, a member of their family or a friend in an incident where that person is placed at risk creates in many a sense of confusion as to what to do next. Do they report that person to police? Do they report them to their employer if they can be identified as driving a company vehicle? Or do they report them on social media for the benefit of ridicule by the aggrieved’s wider circle of friends so leading to a suggestion they, perhaps take the bull by the horns and confront the individual at fault or their employer, in person, at the workplace?
The first has benefits if that person is seeking a degree of application of law, i.e. a verbal warning, written warning or punitive action by police. There is no doubt there are some police who would rather watch paint dry than do police work and, because they are human too, there will be some that have no love or respect for cyclists. But if a member of the public wishes to make an allegation of crime then police are obliged to make some form of formal note (written or entered into the relevant online database) detailing the allegation and any advice given or action taken. If the police to which it was reported do nothing the complainant is within their rights to seek further advice from that person’s supervisor. In such circumstances it is refreshing to see the speed of action generated by the involvement of a more senior officer. Newton must have another law of motion to explain this as the degree of action is directly proportional to the rank of the supervisor involved and potential disciplinary trouble the errant officer could find them-self in.
The second course of action, contacting the employer of the driver concerned, has limited benefits. These are dependent on whether the person seeking redress is content with an employer dealing with the matter in-house thereby having little control over whether the employee is admonished or given a pat on the back for good driving. Such action carries greater risks in that the company concerned may be openly hostile to criticism of its staff, whether from cyclists or other persons.
The third option, at least in the short term, often can satisfy the primeval desire for instant gratification. Exposing through the various forms of social media the perceived wrong doings of drivers brings with it the support of family and friends and that warm, fuzzy feeling of having the moral high ground. Adding a YouTube video of an incident together with the registration number and any identification details reaches a much wider audience and before you know it a sense of euphoria, bettered only by a good single malt, washes over you. Many friends will suggest contacting police and in the early stages that still is an option.
The advice of many of the cycling advocacy groups is to take option #1 and not to be fobbed off by an individual officer’s apathy; remain respectful and firm.
Deciding to contact the individual or a company in person places the aggrieved person at higher risk; it is human nature to be defensive when confronted. It all depends on whether the cyclist is prepared for a confrontation to turn nasty and whether they want to risk being assaulted or have property damaged.
So it comes with a modicum of surprise to see that one noisy cycling advocate has apparently advised the family of yet another target for anti-cyclist abuse to visit the company office of the errant driver and make a complaint.
The company representative spoken to stated the driver would be reprimanded and a note placed on her file. This may be the desired outcome of many (assuming that is the company took the action indicated) but the big question is whether it is enough of a deterrent in today’s environment of willfully targeting and intimidating vulnerable road users?
In effect, wouldn’t a visit by police prove more of a deterrent and so send the relevant message to others? And isn’t such a course of action worth pursuing further?
You’ve got to admire the tool behind a certain, self-important, cycling advocacy group hell-bent on making cycling safer in Australia.
He posts some whinge about police inaction over someone driving on the footpath (and then whinges that the driver isn’t hung, drawn and quartered (and if still alive not ticketed for breathing oxygen).
Yet, when people point out certain flaws in his bullshit…oops (sorry 😏)…argument he deletes their comments and stops them from commenting further; I consider this a badge of honour and I know it is worn by others apart from me 😊.
And then he has the temerity to complain about other advocacy groups, such as national and state cycling bodies as well as rational individuals whether they cycle or drive, resorting to behaviour tantamount to online stalking in at least one case. Maybe that is why those respected cycling bodies wish nothing to do with him.
Maybe if those who support him knew of the damage his bipolar outbursts are causing they would think twice…
I have an admission to make.
I’m not proud of it (making the admission) but for the sake of my fellow riders I feel it is time to come clean.
I am a doper. A big fat doper.
I regret to announce since I returned to competitive cycling in 2008 I have regularly consumed performance enhancing substances. You see I have been addicted to these substances for many years, sometimes going clean for weeks, but since getting back into cycling I have found it increasingly difficult to not dope (although that may also be down to being the father of two squabbling red-headed boys) even though I knew it was wrong and could see me ostracised by my many friends in the cycling community.
In the early stages of my return, my inspiration coming from watching Stuart O’Grady win Paris-Roubaix 2007, I had that overall feel good factor knowing the chances of me being found out were minute. This was compounded as I shed kilos enabling me to climb hills previously deemed by me to be Alp-like and increased my very ordinary average speed to a slightly less ordinary average speed.
But it was after I discovered Strava that I could actually measure how much my doping was helping my performance. The ability to see my segment times get faster, especially going downhill (until Strava stopped us measuring that) and to measure my performance against my fellow club riders on weekend bunch rides or weekday commutes and River Loops, was almost as much a boost as the euphoria I felt as the gear coursed through my veins.
In fact the more I doped, especially the night before a ride, the more awesome I became. Often I would tell myself as much as I looked in the mirror when cleaning my teeth before bed.
That’s what drinking single malt whisky will do to you…
Back on 24 October 2012 I had the temerity to question the Safe Cycling Australia campaign (via Dave Sharp’s Facebook) to get his and SCA Facebook followers to stump up $$ for the “Jonathon Brown Fund (Seeing as big JB is apparently hard to see when riding his bike, we’re going to get him into a new SCA cycling kit. Please help)”.
My stance was why should us followers donate towards the $500 target so a bloke who earns heaps more than us can get a free cycling jersey?
Now, don’t get me wrong – even though I barrack for St Kilda – I’m sorry he got hit by a car. Truly, I am. But there are likely to be many more cyclists out there that have been on the receiving end of some poor driving and who would spend many more hours in the saddle than ol’ JB (and therefore provide more scope for free advertising for SCA). And I bet they don’t earn the moolah he does!
I received some robust argument against my stance from the SCA “CEO”, Dave Sharp, and being in a democracy that is what I would expect. So imagine my surprise (just now) when checking stuff I missed on FB (since I was overseas) and found a post from SCA: “Please try not to run this down mate. BCC are in Bq’s pocket so the option is closed to us…(edited).
I appreciate all Dave has been doing to raise the issue of motorists not giving sufficient space to cyclists when passing at normal speeds (or higher) – that Venturi effect is a PITA! – but stand by my comments, and so am surprised to see Dave/SCA have censored my comments critical of his/their stance on this issue, comments I hasten to add were neither crude, vulgar or defamatory. So much for freedom of speech…
However, I also feel vindicated in that the campaign to get Browny a SCA jersey has not been well supported. One solitary donation of $20 ain’t going to buy him much more than a zip. Maybe he can use it to curb his on-field sledging of opponents when AFL season 2013 starts in March…
Is it not enough that cyclists are apparently treated with contempt on the roads but have to hope and pray that justice prevails when matters in which they are a victim, by virtue of their cycling, go before a court?
Every time we clip-in and head out for a training ride, to simply get some exercise or just to catch the sunrise we are cognisant of the risks of injury riding alongside cars, buses and trucks. But, in the scheme of things, those risks are small, especially given the greater risk is from copping an earful of abuse.
I have been on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse when riding more times than I can recall, usually just because I am riding a bike or wearing Lycra (which seems to cause more angst in the motoring public if comments in The Courier Mail are anything to go by). From sledging to a frozen coke to the head to a punch in the kidneys from a passenger leaning of the car, I have had it all.
But I have never been put in the position where I had absolutely no control in avoiding being hit by a driver too stupid to be behind the wheel of a car.
Unfortunately, Jorge Alvarado was. Twenty-seven years old and a pro-cyclist in a new team on the US circuit he had everything to look forward to.
The sad story of his death, over two years ago, and the lack of justice served last week in San Bernardino county, California, can be found at the blog BikingInLA. Sadly reminiscent of the July 2005 accident that took Amy Gillett and severely injured a number of the Australian women’s cycling team, it seems the only people worldwide who don’t seem to understand are those foolish enough to street race on public roads and the judiciary that hear their pleas for mercy.
Sadly this level of justice is not restricted to other countries. The death of Ian Humphrey has shown miscarriages occur here as well.
Jorge Alvarado (and Amy Gillett and Ian Humphrey)…RIP.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect. No, it’s true! (But please don’t tell my wife and destroy her perception). I swear too much and have bad habits too numerous to mention but none of them, now I’m middle-aged, include driving or riding in a manner that is likely to cause danger to others or myself.
My commute to work is about 28km of a few rolling hills and one nasty one towards the end, with both pedestrian crossing and traffic intersection lights on the ascent and, in Spring, a particularly aggressive magpie. But the first part of the journey isn’t too bad. There have been a few occasions where cars and trucks have come too close for comfort but none like there was this morning.
The incident which increased the heart rate above 135bpm at about 6.50am yesterday occurred on a roundabout at Petrie (ignore the date/time stamp on the recording). Travelling south in Beeville Road the road widens from one lane plus a parking lane to two lanes (with no parking lane), the left most of which is signed for traffic to exit on Dayboro Road towards Strathpine. The right lane is for traffic going straight ahead into a housing sub-division or right on Dayboro Road towards Youngs Crossing Road intersection or past there to Dayboro. Approaching the roundabout Beeville Road bends slightly to the right and as it widens to two lanes I checked back and saw a silver four wheel drive a short distance back, still climbing the hill. I signalled my intent to turn right and – for reasons of safety – positioned myself in the left lane whilst continuing to signal right with an outstretched arm letting traffic on the roundabout pass in front. I then moved onto the chevrons to the left of the edge line and continued to ride towards Dayboro Road still with my right arm signalling my intended course. So, considering I had signalled heaps more than many other cyclists tend to do I was a bit shocked to find the silver four wheel drive, a Mitsubishi Pajero Queensland registration 692ITY drive straight in front of me into the Petrie-on-Pine estate. But as he/she had signalled their intent (note flashing indicator) to turn into this road then their wanton disregard for other traffic can be forgiven. Apparently. But as my name is not Jesus I decline to forgive and so you shall have your 15 minutes of fame.
Some forty minutes later, and still marvelling at my good fortune of almost meeting the courteous Pajero driver, my disappointment in the attitudes of some Brisbane road users continued. On Old Northern Road/South Pine Road at Everton Park, just after the intersection with Dargie Street, the traffic starts to back up to a standstill. For some unknown reason drivers are unable to position their cars on the road to allow cyclists to pass safely on the left, so many cyclists, myself included, pick the safest option which is to ride between the two lines of traffic (see, I told you I wasn’t perfect!) until the space on the left increases . Unfortunately, just after the intersection with Stafford Road the entire scenario is replicated on the approach to where South Pine Road becomes Wardell Street. This is a long, straight stretch with an appalling road surface and camber on the left of the southbound lanes. The road passes Mt Maria College and so is in a school zone. Now traffic is so heavy here that speeding is not an issue but right outside the main entrance to the school is a pedestrian crossing controlled by traffic lights. So you would think that when riding along through stopped cars and trucks, which are stopped because the lights were RED, that you would err on the side of caution and stop too or at least slow to a crawl pending their change to green. But, no! Apparently if you are a cyclist then that ridiculous rule shouldn’t apply to you. So a big round of applause to Mr “Lend Lease” for doing the wrong thing at a red light and giving Brisbane drivers more anti-cyclist ammunition. And a dollar to the swear jar for me for calling him a fuckwit.
But it didn’t end there. A bit further on Mr “Lend Lease”, like me, took an exit to a back street next to the Enoggera train station. Due to a blind corner at the bottom of the off-ramp the intersection is controlled by a stop sign. The big question for users of this intersection during the morning rush hour is whether there is a police officer on the other side, just out of sight, but in possession of a video camera filming the evidence before he issues the $300 fine. Lucky for Mr “Lend Lease” there wasn’t since he (and the driver following) made no attempt to stop.
I eventually caught up with Mr “Lend Lease” when he stopped for the lights at the Samford Road / Enoggera Road intersection (this one is a bit busier and so perhaps he didn’t feel so brave). I told him he was doing some wonderful things to enhance the reputation of Brisbane cyclists in his disobedience of the red light and the stop sign and called him a tool (no more money for the swear jar!). I must have hit a nerve because he reacted and told me in no uncertain terms to worry about myself.
And their lies the root of the problem because I do worry about myself when riding, especially during rush hour. All the time. I worry that some cranky motorist who has seen other cyclists ignore the road rules will give me less room because, well, I must be a road-rule flouting cyclist like Mr “Lend Lease”. I worry that some cyclist-hating driver will report his sighting of the behaviour of those Mr “Lend Lease” types and give fuel to the anti-cyclist vitriol published ad nauseum in the Courier Mail. I worry that my wife and kids will one day receive a visit from a workmate with the news that I won’t be home for dinner. Ever. But I also worry that one day I might be the one that has to deliver similar news to the family of cyclists like Mr “Lend Lease”.
P.S. Unfortunately there appears to be an issue in the uploading of videos 2 & 4 in that the sound is out of synch to the files held on my hard drive.
P.P.S. If you are a manager from Lend Lease (offices at Waterfront Place in Brisbane) and you recognise this fool as one of your employees I most strongly recommend you “educate” him in setting the right example when riding on the road. Alternatively you could recommend he doesn’t provide such negative advertising to your brand.
Last Saturday I completed the usual club ride followed by coffee and calories at CBD North Lakes (purveyors of the most excellent DiBella Coffee). The weather was perfect (once the sun came up and put some warmth into the morning) and for once I had visions of getting through the 80km without suffering the disdain of those on four or more wheels for those of us choosing two. I should learn not to have visions.
Riding back home (why am I always one of the last to leave?) I was approaching a roundabout, riding on or just to the left of the lane marker on Anzac Avenue, Kallangur, when I became aware of a truck approaching from behind. Now, I was riding at about 30-32kph and would find it easier to negotiate the roundabout close to that speed, much close than the truck would. So what does the dickhead truck driver do? Ease off the gas and allow me, who is ahead of him, to get through the roundabout into a position where it would be easy for him to overtake on the straight road following the roundabout? No! This…
About 500m later I caught up with the truck waiting at the lights on the intersection with Duffield Road. I rode past and as the lights changed wondered whether the truckie would turn off somewhere or pass me a bit further on. I should have known. Another 500m later he passed me again. Just as close as before…
Which just goes to prove if you are a truckie driving B-Double not only do you not need a big dick, you probably don’t have one. Unless it is on your head.
Last Saturday I went out for the usual club ride with other members of the Dutton Cycles Racing and Recreation Club (very soon to be renamed “Moreton Bay Cycling Club”). The route is not always the same but, thanks to Strava, always fun to see if we can beat our own PBs or others on the various sprint or climb segments uploaded to the site.
The ride last Saturday was one of the most frequently ridden, leaving North Lakes and riding via Petrie, Strathpine, Albany Creek and Zillmere out to Shorncliffe before finishing off around the Redcliffe peninsula and the jelly-legged sprint up Mango Hill for coffee and cake.
There is always much to see en-route: other bunches (some of whom don’t know how to acknowledge other cyclists); bogan drivers (who only know how to abuse cyclists); the rear wheels of others in the bunch as we rotate through; and of course fantastic views such as the one below.
Although not the halfway point of the ride (in fact it is over half way) it is the regular stop for us and many other bunches. Some riders will use the 5-10 minute break to catch their breath, others to talk incessantly. Most however will use it to snack on whatever they packed for the ride yet forgot to eat until then, get some more water or get rid of other “water”. Which brings me to the reason for this post…
At the southern end of Flinders Parade in Sandgate there is an amenities block. Toilets and washbasins are provided and there is a small gazebo with benches and tables adjoining an electric BBQ. All these are maintained by Brisbane City Council. Those exercising along the foreshore make good use of the facilities which, given their frequency of use, are usually found in good condition.
However, riding in to the rest stop last Saturday it was clear something was amiss. A gentle S/SW breeze was picking up and until I was passing the BBQ I was unaware of what was actually “cooking”. Looking towards the gazebo I saw a bloke with some bags, one of which obviously contained food. The glum look on his face told me he was not impressed at something but I didn’t for one second think it would be down to the BBQ. But a split second later, as the vapour of piss emanated from the BBQ, I realised that some feral bogan, too lazy to walk the ten metres to the toilets, had used the BBQ plate as a urinal. What had not evaporated in the early hours before the arrival of Glum Bloke and the hordes of cyclists stopping or just riding past must have collected in the trap below the plate and was now being warmed by the generated heat on the plate.
The stench was overpowering, so much so it was the unspoken encouragement for many of us to cut short our break or even forego it altogether. The below image I sourced from my helmet camera. Note the wisps of urine steam rising off the hot plate and Glum Bloke sitting on the bench in the shadows. There goes the serenity…
To give the reader the full experience I have made the image “scratch and sniff” enabled.
Use your imagination.
The comments by Shane Warne in mid-January that inflamed cyclists around Australia, and which drew comment on numerous blogs, first and foremost by Wade Wallace’s CyclingTips, apparently inspired a number of Warnie’s bogan Twitter followers to new depths of feral behaviour the moment they are passing cyclists in their Bogandore sedans (many resplendent with their red or green ‘P-plates’).
Reports from some cities in the days following the controversy highlighted intimidation of cyclists by car loads of youths, many slapping their hands on the sides of the cars and repeatedly shouting “Warnie”. From personal experience most acts of intimidation only occur on lone cyclists, those targeting us generally being too gutless to pick on more than one cyclist. And having been abused and had stuff thrown at me on numerous occasions, and more recently assaulted five minutes from home by a passenger of a white ute being driven by a grub from Burpengary – a grub who was at the time and still is banned from driving until mid-2014 – I decided it was time to invest in a little insurance. So I bought a camera.
I picked this one as the manual states it records for 2.5hours which is more than enough time for my commute with a bit to spare. In fact I could do the commute and a River Loop of Brisbane and still have a few minutes spare. I used it on the way into work a couple of days ago and although I got buzzed a couple of times it was nothing too heavy and there was no “Warnie” abuse. But on the way home, five minutes after leaving the office, I got buzzed by a truck. I just love the way he cuts in after passing then drives on top of the line at the edge of the road adjoining the bus stop emphasising his ownership of the road.
A short distance further on I witnessed the best driving through a red traffic signal I have seen for a couple of years. The intersection with Enoggera Road and Ashgrove Road at Newmarket is always busy with vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians and yet at 4.36pm Mr Pajero Driver makes no attempt to brake let alone stop as the lights turn amber. At this stage he is not in camera, the lights turning amber with the camera almost 56m away. When he is in camera and 15m away the lights turn red and he continues driving through the intersection. As I remark on the video, he is a fucking knob!
Ride safe people and watch out for fuckwits driving cars and trucks…
Well…HE came. HE saw. HE got the same treatment many of us mad cyclists in Queensland put up with ride in, ride out. And, as usual, the bogan element responded to the article published about it in The Courier Mail (I refuse, on principle, to add to that rag’s coffers by linking the article here).
The visit of Australia’s first Grand Tour winner, Cadel Evans, visited Brisbane briefly last weekend and departed on Monday. Unbeknownst to most of his Brisbane cycling fans he took part in a family fun ride from South Bank to the Sirromet winery and then had the temerity to complain about the attitudes of drivers in the region towards cyclists. I don’t disagree that there are a number of cyclists who flout the road rules, the same as there being a number of drivers who behave in an equally deplorable manner or a number of thieves who steal to ensure retailers add an appropriate mark-up on goods to compensate them for stock loss. The fact is they are here to stay and the rest of us just have to put up with them and the negative attitudes that are generated towards the those of us who try to set a better example. I know we shouldn’t but, really, hands up who thinks attitudes are going to change in those who drive white utes, covered in stickers (see end note) just because others criticise their behaviour? However, maybe if Cuddles had not engaged in such a selective ride with only a few of his fans as opposed to a majority, the unnecessarily nasty drivers might have decided discretion was the better part of valour (as we know they are gutless when faced with superior numbers) and kept their unsavoury opinions to themselves (until the next cycling article is published in The Courier Mail).
The main purpose of Cadel’s visit was to sign copies of his new book The Long Road To Paris. Essentially a pictorial record of his quest for the Tour de France yellow jersey, with photographs by renowned cycling photographer Graham Watson, it is Evans second biography, complementing Close To Flying which was co-written with Rob Arnold from Ride Cycling Review. Strangely though, The Long Road To Paris is much easier to read.
Evans’ appearance at Dymocks bookstore at Albert Street in the city was well-publicised to the Brisbane cycling community with flyers available at the Brisbane BMW Ride For Life Challenge, next to the coffee outlet and across the way from where Evans former Lotto team mate Robbie McEwen was signing copies of his biography One Way Road. Word spread even further with notification posted on various cycling forums and blogs and big posters in the windows at Dymocks.
So it was no surprise, at a little after 10am, to find a queue almost 200m long, four deep in places, snaking its way into the Queen Street Mall and forcing pedestrians to detour around much to their bemusement. What was a surprise though was the lack of abuse from pedestrians when answers were given as to why we were queuing. There were no derogatory comments about cyclists blocking their way, or snide comments about those of us ignorant enough to flout red lights. And there was only one person I saw dressed in Lycra. I didn’t even get any abuse when I returned to work after two hours standing in the sun.
What was almost poetic for those of us who still revel in what is arguably the greatest sporting achievement by an Australian, and who looked up whilst in the Queen Street Mall, was seeing the queue strategically pass Evans’ Tour de France ride number, 141, emblazoned on the facade of 141 Queen Street Mall, an obvious but silent homage to the 2011 Australian Cyclist of the Year.
The signing commenced at 10.30am and it wasn’t long before the future generation of Australian cycling came to be anointed by kang-ga-ri lama. And this is possibly what caused the queue to move oh-so-slowly. The signing was due to finish at midday so myself and those waiting in close proximity to me, not ten metres from the door, were none too happy to be advised at 11.57am by a Dymocks’ employee we might miss out. All that waiting and expense for a fleeting glimpse of the champion many of us had devoted last July to. I feared he might do the bolt and could reasonably foresee such behaviour would be likely to cause a public nuisance so was all set to snap on the cuffs when I made it to the front of the queue.
Unlike his previous visit in 2009 Cadel was not in the mood for a song. But then he wasn’t accompanied by his wife Chiara Passerini so there was no one there to serenade.
Nevertheless he was in the same cheerful mood he had been since Sunday 24 July 2011 and signed the three copies of The Long Road To Paris I had brought along, acknowledging the congratulations of myself and others waiting for our books to be signed as well as others passing on the adjacent escalators.
I left the store just after midday and looked up Albert Street towards the Queen Street Mall. There would be many who had waited who would miss out and wished they had joined the queue much earlier…
End note: I drive a white ute covered in stickers
This blogging lark is not as easy as I thought it would be! My biggest stumbling block is time. When I want to sit down and do it I don’t have the time due to work, or running around with the boys to various things (at the moment we are in Dalby for a swimming carnival). But when I do have the time I am either too tired from work and running around with the boys or, as has been the case in the past week following yet another acid treatment to get rid of a plantar wart from the ball of my left foot, feeling sore and nauseous. But now we are in Dalby and the boys are fighting and squabbling and if I don’t ignore them and write up what I planned to write a couple of weeks back I might end up getting very cranky and that will be it for me doing the blog. So, here goes…
On Sunday 6 November 2011 the second Brisbane BMW “Ride For Life Challenge” was held. The event had first been announced in mid-July and I had indicated to the Minister for War of my intention to ride as I had done the previous year. As the months drew closer and registration opened I became aware the Minister was set for a Council of War with other Ministers (who also happen to be members of the Wide Bay Swimming Association management committee) and that the scheduled date was going to clash. With the meetings being held a couple of hours north in Queensland’s own Middle Earth and commencing at 9am, so necessitating an early departure from home, there was no likelihood of the Minister for War assuming her other portfolio (Minister for Child Safety) so I approached my last chance. Her mother, the wicked witch of Bribie Island, was initially receptive to my plea but within 12 hours had decided to forego the pleasure of hosting a sleepover of two of her grandchildren. I decided to send a tweet to Robbie seeking his assistance. He failed to change her mind and I was left with no choice. No ride for me and no chance of Australian cycling legend Robbie McEwen seeing if he could beat me in a sprint to the finish (we would have to settle it once and for all in a sprint to the coffee stall). The upside however was that I would get to meet Robbie as would my boys and that hopefully they will, one day, be inspired to ride as well as him. So, estimating the riders would be back soon after 8.15am we set off from home for Brisbane BMW in Fortitude Valley.
We arrived just before eight and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more. Whilst waiting we met and were entertained by Australian swimming legend Duncan Armstrong (this country is choc-full of legends, both sporting and general). He was there as the MC for the event and spent a bit of time warming up the gathering crowd ready for the arrival of the riders. He is one of those people who has “the gift of the gab” and had the boys in fist of laughter with his spruiking of Robbie McEwen’s autobiography, One Way Road, and other products which were for sale. In particular, his continual recommendation for people to buy some of “Robbie McEwen’s bum cream” would have the boys sniggering and running around talking loudly about bum cream.
So, with me recently having run out of a decent chamois cream and Keywin being hard to find outside of New Zealand, I parted with some cash and bought a couple of tubs. It didn’t take long for the boys to find out and that set off round two as they ran around and mentioned loudly to anyone in earshot that their dad had some of Robbie McEwen’s bum cream. A passerby oblivious to the significance of the event, Robbie McEwen or me would surely have left with the impression Robbie and I were more intimately acquainted than either of us would choose to be or that I was a proctologist (to an Australian cycling legend).
Apart from some very lovely BMW cars on show at the venue one of the sponsors (I think) brought along two of the toys from his own car showroom. They made such an impression on Mr Ten that he has decided he would like dad to salary sacrifice one, a yellow one, for the next family car (as opposed to another Honda). The fact he is also taller than the roofline of the car also pleased him.
Just before 9am the first riders drifted in. Robbie was not amongst them, having done the decent thing and joined some of the slower groups on the ride back, but didn’t take long and he soon arrived. It was time for me to spring into action. I made a dash for the coffee queue and beat Robbie to a long black. Then I turned around I saw one of his assistants had already secured one for him and he was seated and signing books already. I had been beaten again! Trying not to be too disheartened by his subterfuge in sending in a proxy to humiliate me, I took solace in the coffee and my astute purchase of bum cream. I then joined the queue for the book signing.
With me I had three books; one for me, one for my brother and another belonging to a workmate (who couldn’t be there as the boss had sent him to St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean for a week). As the queue advanced I could see others were getting cycling jerseys signed as well as copies of his book. I suddenly realised I should have brought along the Silence Lotto Australian Champion’s jersey I had sitting in my wardrobe at home as it was the same that would have been worn by Robbie back in 2005. The queue quickly advanced and we were soon at the table where Robbie “Movember” McEwen sat surrounded by books, “One Way Road” cycling jerseys and tubs of bum cream. I introduced myself and the boys to Robbie and asked if he would sign the three books and if we could get a picture with him and he readily accommodated the requests (a lady in the queue behind took the pics for us).
I jokingly mentioned I was disappointed he was unable to respond to my Twitter plea for his help in convincing my mother-in-law to change her mind. Some have commented he had every reason to look bemused but I could see he was more relieved I was prevented from beating him back to the finish line.
After this it was time for the sponsors’ presentations and a talk from Robbie. The development and backing of the event by Brisbane BMW and Westside BMW etc cannot be applauded enough, generating necessary funds for Variety Queensland, Guide Dogs Queensland and the NexGen Foundation and giving weekend warriors, corporate riders and some local racers the chance to ride alongside seasoned professionals like Robbie and the next generation being groomed by the Team Jayco-2XU Pro Cycling. Robbie spoke of his 2011 season and his plans for 2012 with his new team and Australia’s first Pro-Tour team on the UCI World Tour, Green Edge Cycling. (What is it with professional Aussie cyclists? Give them a microphone and they start singing – see picture below of Cadel Evans from 2010 for proof).
Thanks to Lance Armstrong and Team Radio Shack Robbie secured a ride for 2011 after Pegasus Racing were denied a licence by the UCI. But his omission from the squad sent to the Tour de France robbed his legion of fans around the world from seeing him go up against Mark Cavendish in what has turned out to be his last full season. Robbie has announced plans to compete a half season in 2012, finishing after the Tour of California in May then taking a mentoring role with Green Edge guiding the likes of Leigh Howard to sprint wins and (hopefully) the coveted green jersey in Paris. With his wealth of experience and that of Stuey O’Grady in the team, Green Edge will be a force to be reckoned with in seasons to come.
And that was it. We left Robbie to the rest of his adoring fans and headed home.
Before I begin I feel I should clarify something about Team Dave: we don’t really ride as a team per se. We are a bunch of middle-aged guys who like gathering to ride around Port Phillip Bay. We are of varying abilities and speed levels and most of the time are gathered together only on the day before the ride, at the start of the ride, at the end of the ride and on the morning of the day after the ride. All of these meets (except at the start of the ride) involve the consumption of coffee and food, especially pasta, chicken burgers and cooked breakfasts.
Well, my previous comment regarding the Melbourne weather looking good for Around The Bay must have been read by the weather gods who, on such occasions, seem to follow me around and spoil my day. Wind, and lots of it, was on the menu and the previous nights feed at Café Grand Forno in Ashburton had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Despite less than five hours of sleep, a bellyful of pasta, half a pizza and the best part of a bottle of Cab-Sav I found rising at 4.15am for the ride surprisingly easy. With kit prepped the night before it was just a matter of checking the weather forecast, getting dressed, having a couple of slices of toast and something to drink (the remaining Cab-Sav seemed appealing), riding to the Hanger’s Hanger to meet the rest of Team Dave…
…and then riding through the back streets of Ashburton to the cycle path which runs alongside the Monash Freeway in to Melbourne, not forgetting the traditional pit stop after 8km to water the plants at Loys Paddock Reserve in Burnley.
The ride this year would include a first for me (at least) as organisers had stipulated riders, if they wished to have their total riding time recorded, would need to cross the official start line and the timing mats in Queenscliff and Sorrento as well as the finishing line back in Alexandra Gardens. Previously Team Dave have opted to bypass the melee of riders leaving Alexandra Gardens and started opposite, on the northern bank of the Yarra, before riding over the Old Sandridge Rail Bridge, onto Queensbridge Street then picking up with the now not so congested bunches on City Road.
As the only rider in the team who had signed up for the full 250km I should have started with the others riding the same distance; the start for these is at 5.30am. But, as in previous years, I rolled up a bit later than them and made my way to the start line to set off with those leading off the 210km riders. The rest of Team Dave started in their speed groups further back. My plan, as in previous rides was to try and go faster than the rest of the team and attempt to arrive in Queenscliff to be on the same ferry as them.
As the lead group in the 210km set off I joined in and was soon on my way to the Westgate Bridge. In the dark of an early daylight savings dawn in Melbourne and concentrating on avoiding any bunch-riding mishaps I was oblivious to the fact the group I was with had ridden straight ahead at a set of lights instead of turning right (they must have been doing a much shorter ride). But, as soon as I realised this, I peeled off and was soon up and over the Westgate Bridge and on my way to Geelong.
As soon as I was past the RAAF base at Laverton the route follows a steady south-westerly track for the next forty-five kilometres, all bar about ten kilometres of it on the Princes Highway, and this is where the winds started. Unlike last year when I managed to ride thirty kilometres of this stretch with a team from Bendigo Police, this year, I was largely on my own. The south-westerly winds had picked up as the forecasters predicted and kept my speed down in the early stages to the mid-30s average. As I was approaching Little River I could see a rainbow ahead. A shower I expected but not a shower of hail. By the time I got to Geelong I had ridden through a second and decision time was looming. I stopped for a minor bike adjustment at Rippleside Park and then reminded myself I had signed on for the 250 and the 250 it would be!
With a good breeze behind me the ride through the Bellarine Peninsula to Portarlington was a joy. But as anyone who knows this area can attest, after this the south-westerlies are not much fun blowing head-on from St Leonards, then side on as the ride follows a southerly route to the Bellarine Highway. I played “tag” with a couple of riders along this stretch, the others gaining strength as I was losing mine before digging deep and passing them again. The remaining five kilometres into Queenscliff I spent passing many on the 210km ride since both rides follow the same roads at this point. I passed the timing mat 4h 57m 37s after rolling over the start line in Melbourne (average speed for this leg 29.23kph).
Approaching the lines for ferry tags and lunch packs I heard the ride staff indicating riders would be on the 11.30am ferry; less than half an hour to wait! I got to the front of the queue and suddenly realised the man handing out the tags had run out. I had a momentary fear I would be joining the line for the 12 noon ferry before noticing the man grab a handful of tags from another line and then hand one to me. This would be my first time with less than 30 minutes to departing for Sorrento. Last year was the longest wait with one of the main ferries breaking down on the Saturday evening, which meant less transportation available and a wait of over an hour.
I got my lunch and found somewhere to sit and stretch for a short time whilst tucking into the chicken sandwich, Mizone drink and Winners bar. Within ten minutes I and a few hundred others were called to the ferry. I saw none of Team Dave in the park or the queue and assumed they must have been on an earlier ferry.
I sent a message to Grant (he’s the one on the right) to let him know I was getting the 11.30am ferry and received a call whilst underway to let me know he and a couple of others would be on the 12 noon ferry with another two some distance back after the youngest member cramped up on the road to Geelong. I expressed my surprise that they were not on the ferry ahead of or even with me only to discover the ride marshals had not let some of the bunches depart the start until over half an hour after I had departed!
I told Grant I’d wait at Sorrento until he arrived and then discuss the ride back. This also gave me the opportunity to grab a coffee and check my Twitter messages. Just before crossing the timing mat I detected the distinct aroma of ground beans and brewing coffee emanating from a stall set up at the Sorrento Seafood Tavern. I grabbed a long black and checked my messages.
One tweet that particularly caught my eye was this one from @MelbourneJulie who was attending the finish of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne:
The mischievous type that I am I couldn’t resist replying with something (in)appropriate:
Before too long Grant, Marko and a new member to the team, Ken, arrived. Grant suggested I go on ahead as he and Marko wouldn’t be able to maintain my pace and indicated Ken, a fitness instructor, would ride on with me. So we all clipped in, rolled over the timing mat and that was the last I saw or them, including Ken, until the finish. The ride from Sorrento through Rosebud and Dromana has the benefit of the south-westerlies and knowing they would be buffeting me later on in the afternoon I pushed on as hard as I could, made good time up Mount Martha (avoiding the inexperienced hill climbers on the left) through to Mornington and then Frankston. (Oh, how I love that sweeping hill down the Nepean Highway into Frankston; the Garmin registered 69.7kph this year and I didn’t even pedal!)
From Frankston North the road follows a northerly/north-westerly route and following the coast there is little (if any) respite from the ubiquitous south-westerlies. For some unknown reason the relatively short sixteen kilometre stretch from Frankston to Mordialloc always seems (to me) to take a long time and this time was no different. Crossing the Patterson River I could see the mouth of the river and a large part of the inlet white with foam as the winds, which forecasters assessed as gusting to 45knots (or 80kmh), whipped up big waves. The same winds were funnelled between the numerous beach mansions, blowing through to the highway and at times unwary riders were buffeted and blown across the lane potentially causing havoc for other road users. Thankfully, unlike Brisbane drivers, Melburnians seem aware of these issues and give riders a wide berth. But other riders, like me, had to maintain a high degree of concentration, picking a spot to overtake where the other rider was not alongside a driveway open to the wind or chance riding out in the traffic.
The next section up to Brighton and through to St Kilda was not as intense and provided me the opportunity to dream of a massive mortgage as we passed some very expensive beachside properties, anything to take my mind off the last few kilometres of traffic lights as we got closer to the city.
Turning off Beaconsfield for the last five kilometres sees riders bunching again and at every red traffic light many display the bad habits of overtaking on the left and forcing their way to the front to be in the best position for the final sprint from the back of Southbank, under St Kilda Road and left to the finish in Alexandra Gardens. People…please! It. Is. Not. A. Race. If you were trying to beat your previous best time then you should have worked harder earlier on, not on inner city streets surrounded by fellow cyclists.
I rode over the finish line 8h 26m 57s after rolling over the start line in Melbourne and 3h 29m 19s after leaving Sorrento (average speed for this leg 30.10kph with an average of 29.59kph for the whole ride).
The first rider home was, as usual, Team Dave’s mountain goat mascot “Purvo.” An avid Audax rider, this year he had arrived with a new Giant carbon bike then declared he preferred such long rides on his old steel Giant. This time he missed the chance to do the loop with a ferry ride and had to settle for riding to Queenscliff and back. Consequently he was back earlier than the rest of us thanks to a huge tailwind which, he claims, ensured he remained at 45kph or more all the way to the Westgate Bridge. He even managed to sink a couple of beers and get a massage before I arrived (and was still at the bar when I did). Next home after me was Ken followed by Grant and Marko. Muddy and Son-of-Muddy (“The Cramper”) arrived much later, just in time for a snag and a beer courtesy of Skinny on the south bank of the Yarra (thanks mate!) before heading back to the Hanger’s Hangar where we could dump the bikes and jump in the spa to relieve the weary muscles then finish off with beer and pizza and much needed sleep.
As always, the morning after is spent at a local café re-stocking depleted supplies of protein. This year we went to the Oak Room. Situated on High Street, Ashburton, it serves breakfast until 3pm so is ideal for us late risers. So, rather strangely, I decided on the “Early Birds” meal: roasted capsicum, onion and herb frittata over house-made potato rösti with chorizo, grilled tomato and feta salad. The Nicaraguan single-origin coffee topped it off nicely.
After packing and wishing each other all the best with their training for next year’s ride (which at this stage I am unlikely to be around for as I am planning a trip to London) it was time for the trip to the airport and home. Thankfully the Qantas industrial sagas were placed on hold although it would have been good to sink some more carbs in the Qantas Club before heading home.
I am yet to fathom how the tracking can be so wayward nor figure how Garmin registers my top speed accurately but Ride With GPS has me reaching a maximum speed of 182kph in the inner city streets of south Melbourne.
This Melbourne spring has got to be the warmest I have experienced in the few days of the past few years I have been coming here. For someone acclimatised to Brisbane weather, where overnight temperatures in the low teens is the norm for this time of year, to arrive in Melbourne and be able to wear shorts and no jumper or jacket is a bonus and bodes well for tomorrow’s ride Around The Bay. Whatever the weather though, I will be feeling the pain tomorrow afternoon and looking forward to the spa tomorrow night.
Qantas engineers and ground staff came to the party yesterday and didn’t unduly delay my flight south and I arrived in time to get to the Optus store at Prahran to pick up my pre-ordered black iPhone 4S 32GB. And there I met the sales person with ADHD. You’d think she’d have the nous to concentrate on one customer at a time and leave the one looking after the counter to deal with customers of the shop floor; or leave the answering of telephones to one of the others waiting to sign up customers eager to get their mitts on a new phone; or maybe, perish-the-thought, not try and deal with her colleagues customers as well? But, alas, no. She was so busy with everything except my transaction that she stuffed it up half-way though! It only took an hour and ten minutes but now I am armed with the latest that Steve Jobs (RIP) has to offer. The wife has now inherited the trusty ol’ 3GS.
The gathering of “Team Dave” this afternoon involved much setting up of bikes and packing of various bits of kit. As usual for this ride we are preparing for everything from summer sun to winter sleet after some light rain and cold winds swept through Melbourne. Tonight we filled up on carbs at Café Grand Forno in Ashburton and after a belly full of pasta and wine I’m sure none of us will be looking forward to getting up just after 4am tomorrow, especially if the wind and rain are still around.
“Rouse” is now 5h away…
There is something almost soothing, strange as it may seem, in the sound of the bugle call “Rouse” as it sounds in the early morning on my iPhone. This may be because, on a workday, I have this innate ability to outstretch my arm and subconsciously silence the alarm either to the snooze function or even turn it off altogether. However, in these circumstances when I am again awoken, sometimes after snoozing for the third or fourth time, it is not so soothing and creates a degree of panic, especially if I was planning to ride in to work that day. If not on a workday, for example a Saturday or Sunday when I have a ride with Duttons planned then it is comforting since I am about to do something I enjoy. Like, ride for a bit then drink coffee at Coffee by Di Bella as well as savour one of their bacon and egg toasties. But when “Rouse” calls to me at 3.30am after four-and-a-half hours sleep I’m not feeling soothed. In fact I’m not really feeling anything. Numb. The inability not to consume half a bottle of Cab Sav and watch TV the night before a long ride is not my forte. And so it started last Sunday…
Wake up. Rub sleep from eyes. Stare at clock in disbelief. Silence alarm before wife wakes as well. Apologise to waking wife. Go to kitchen. Get dressed for ride. Have a bite to eat. Drink some water or electrolyte. Make drink bottles up. Pack snacks. Pump tyres. Unlock and open front door as silently as possible. Apologise to waking wife. Leave with bike. Close and lock front door as silently as possible. Apologise to waking wife. Walk the 30m to the top of the hill as GPS boots-up then clip-in and ride. (The routine is a well-worn path of many a non-competitive MAMIL I suspect).
The Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge which this year, for some unknown reason, I had entered as a 25-30kmh rider, started at 5.45am for the orange group. Most of the Duttons riders had chosen to go to the start by coach, but as I was riding in I left just after 4am, and allowed plenty of time as not only did I not plan on riding my usual 55-60 minutes into Brisbane I wanted to allow enough time to fix a puncture (the previous day it had rained heavily and the local councils don’t keep the breakdown lanes, cycle lanes or gutters as free from debris as us cyclists like). I arrived just after 5.15am as the sponsors groups were leading off then completed a quick pit stop before joining the throng of orange (interspersed with the late reds and the slower ones trying to get away early), sighting two Duttons riders along the way.
I think I made it through the start line sometime between 5.35am and 5.45am and then joined hundreds of others in trying to get through the South Brisbane stretches of the busway on the 100km trip to the Gold Coast. Climbing away from Woolloongabba the packs thin out considerably and faster riders and bunches can make good speed down to Eight Mile Plains. At 6.02am I left the busway and was back with the traffic, albeit well segregated and policed by Queensland’s finest, ably supported by the numerous volunteers who did an amazing job helping us smile and keeping us on the right route. The next few kilometres whizzed by and I arrived at the first rest stop at Eagleby and promptly shunned the supplies on offer, keeping to my plan to ride all the way through. The hardest section for me in previous years has been the section through Alberton and Gilberton due to a less than optimum road surface and, often windy and wet weather. This year, same road surface notwithstanding, it was much better and contributed to a much better second 40km than in previous years. Two of the racing guns from Duttons passed me as I followed the highway to Coomera and a third soon caught up. But we rode together for a bit, with a couple of others tagging along, ignored the second rest stop with 20km to go, and I got the best way along Hope Island Road towards Paradise Point before my club mate, who had ridden most of that section from Upper Coomera on the front, pushed the pace like Stuart O’Grady and left me in his wake. The other two kept up with him for a while, one of them later dropping off and me passing him on Marine Parade at Biggera Waters. I soon realised I was looking at a sub-three hour time and tried hard to keep the pace on, finally crossing the finish line in 2h54m20s, an average speed of 34.5km/h. You can see my ride details (Lap2) at this link.
Over the next couple of hours I caught up with the other club members who had ridden and swapped views on the ride. I heard one of the members had already left for Brisbane; he had ridden down on his 48×12 fixie in 2h28m and, I’m told, swapped his 12 for a 14 on the way back so he could “take it easy.” Late morning we went over to our pre-arranged lunch venue at the Southport Yacht Club. The buffet lunch served up was of excellent quality and the sight of so many lovely cold beers being sunk was playing with my resolve to ride all the way back again.
Just after 1pm myself and another set off for home. The break in the journey was designed to replicate the break I will have on this weekend’s Around The Bay (even though that break will only be a maximum of two hours long). It was harder going back as the winds had risen and were mostly against us and not having the benefit of a closed busway meant an alternate route had to be found. But we got there in the end, arriving home about four hours later.
The following day I had booked a massage and I was glad I had. Despite lots of stretching the hammies, quads and calves were suffering but after one hour with Zoe from Entire Health I had forgotten all about the muscle pain and could only remember how good she is at finding pressure points.
I had also put my bike in for a service ready for this weekend and found, to my horror, I had ridden 242km with a stretched chain.
So, with a new chain, tuned transmission, a rejuvenated muscular system and a swag of Honey Shotz and Aussie Butt Cream in the musette I am about to pack my bike for Melbourne where, Qantas staff industrial action permitting, I will land tomorrow afternoon for more Cab Sav and late nights before hearing the gentle sound of “Rouse” very early on Sunday morning…
As mentioned yesterday, I will be completing my fourth Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge tomorrow. I did my first in 2008 (and got paid for it!) returning in 2009 and 2010 to ride with friends made on that first ride in 2008.
The 100km ride departs South Bank and immediately enters the Busway, remaining on it all the way down to Eight Mile Plains, some 16km south of the start. No traffic. No buses. Just 10,000 cyclists enjoying the one day in the year they can ride that road. The route then essentially follows the Pacific Motorway service roads before heading for Southport via Hope Island.
On that first event the sponsor’s peloton with whom I was riding maintained a leisurely pace, overall, of about 27km/h, stopping at both refreshment points for refuelling and for the sponsors to chat without some of them getting out of breath.
Returning in 2009 to ride with sponsors for Team Red, the Heart Foundation, we took off and were making good progress on the Busway, flying at 49km/h when, in front of us, disaster struck. A rider in another bunch just ahead of us lost control and managed to get his bike sideways leaving no escape for two riders in our group. One managed to continue but for the other her race was run as was her triathlon season with a fractured pelvis and abdominal injuries. Myself and another stopped to assist the injured and ensure they were given some room from the thousands of riders still approaching the scene. It was disappointing to receive abuse from some riders for directing them to give the injured some space. We rejoined the ride some forty minutes later after the ambulance arrived and then hammered it south making up some twenty minutes of lost time.
In 2010 the original date for the ride was rescheduled after it was beset by storms. So in November Team Red regrouped and this time proceeded without incident through the Busway. In fact, with the assistance of Sheree Hughes from Activ Cycle Coaching who kept on at me whenever my legs started to spin slower, I managed to complete the course in 3h 0m 30s (this year I hope to go thirty-one seconds quicker).
This year I will be riding with some of the members from Duttons Cycles. For the first time I will be riding from home to the start (28km), completing the course, having a bite to eat at the Southport Yacht Club and then returning with some of those who have chosen not to take the coach back to Brisbane. All told I will have completed somewhere around 240km which should stand me in good stead for Around The Bay in Melbourne next weekend.
The winter months in Queensland, unlike my former home in the UK, are an ideal time to prepare for the longer rides of Spring, Summer and Autumn. In fact, in the southeast of the state with temperatures rarely getting lower than 5C in winter, it is one place where year-round cycling can be achieved without resorting to layering up too much or resorting to rollers.
Having said that, I’m not the sort of cyclist to venture out from home if it’s raining before I am on the road. I have done it once in the past three years (and you can read a bit about it here) but the thought of getting soaked before I am warmed up and having to put up with slippery roads and drivers who don’t care is not high on my priorities. Another exception would be if it was an event I had paid to take part in but, so far, I’ve been lucky in that regard.
Now spring is here (we are already into the second month – where does the time go?) the state cycling bodies start holding their key events.
Here in Queensland Bicycle Queensland have their nine-day Cycle Queensland event in mid-September with about 800 riders from around Australia taking part in a tour of a particular region which changes every year. A month later this is followed by the biggest event on their calendar, the Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge, with close to 10,000 riders expected. This ride is on this coming Sunday and will be the fourth time I have taken part.
In Victoria the state cycling organisation, Bicycle Network Victoria, hold their first event of spring a week after the ride to the Gold Coast. Australia’s premier mass participation ride Around The Bay, now in its eighteenth year, attracts 18,000 riders from around Australia and some from overseas to ride around all or part of Port Phillip Bay, with those undertaking the longer 210km or 250km options taking most of the day to complete it. This year will be my third ride with Team Dave.
After that it will be back to Queensland and, willing in-laws permitting, I will drop the boys off for a sleepover in early November before riding in the second Brisbane BMW Ride For Life Challenge. Last year’s was great fun, being able to ride with members of the Fly V Australia and Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans Pro-cycling teams and raise funds for the Variety Queensland Children’s Charity. This years will be just as good with the participation of Team Jayco-2XU Pro-Cycling and Australian cycling legend Robbie McEwen.
Bring it on…
First of all I must say I didn’t expect it to be almost three months before I wrote part 2 of my search for a good bunch to ride with. I could put it down to the pressures of balancing work and home life or that I can be a lazy git, preferring to sit with a glass of red and watching the crap that is on TV. Truth be told, it is a combination of both. I’ll leave you to guess the which carries more weight.
For a woman with an innate inability to master the use of gears on a bike my wife (bless her) struck gold in her recommendation I check out “the bunch in North Lakes.”
Dutton Cycles Racing & Recreation Club has been around since 2007. Founded by the Dutton family behind the Dutton Cycles shop at North Lakes, the club held its first bunch ride in March 2008; four members turned up. It was almost two years later that I joined, but in the intervening period the numbers had swollen proportionately with the growth of the North Lakes and Mango Hill developments and through word of mouth. The profile of the club was also noticed by the Sizzler restaurant chain in 2009 when they used club members to participate in a series of advertisments for the chain which were shown, primarily, during the 2009 Tour de France.
The Dutton Cycles club ethos was explained to me as joining a family. No riders would be left behind. Riders were encouraged by ride leaders to ride within the Road Rules. The attitudes were the complete antithesis of the Zupps Ride. This sounded like the bunch for me! I turned up one hot Saturday morning in early January 2010 and joined an easy bunch for my first ride (club rules) and completed the circuit to Woody Point and back via Scarborough. I expected a longer and harder ride and often during the morning felt I should join the next group up as I spent a lot of the ride easing off and letting the rest play “catch-up.” Nevertheless we all returned as a bunch to the Coffee by Di Bella shop at North Lakes.
Since then I have had great fun riding with the faster groups (mostly “Group 2″), joining in the sprints and suffering on the final bump up Mango Hill to North lakes after smashing it earlier in the loops. I’ve enjoyed also the climbs (23mins) of Mt Mee and, even more so, the descents (6mins). In addition I’ve enjoyed the frequent interaction with car drivers, many of whom have absolutely no understanding of traffic regulations pertaining to them, let alone those that govern the use of bicycles, and some who abuse then stop at the next red light seem quite surprised to be accosted by a cyclist brandishing police ID then given a dressing down. Other than club rides I take part in a number of organised rides through Bicycle Queensland and Bicycle Victoria as well as other rides that take my fancy. But, like many recreational cyclists, I am drawn to the consumption of fresh coffee and cakes. In fact no ride is really complete without it!
When I started riding again it was, generally, to and from work in the city (about 28km each way – a journey I continue to treat as a time-trial) as well as weekend rides when not working. Having said that, a couple of weeks after I got the bike I picked up an Easter trip to Noosa for work and spent a few paid hours riding down and up David Low Way or out through Eumundi and Cooroy before flying down the hill into Tewantin. But riding alone ain’t much fun so I decided to explore the local bunch rides.
Now, most of the rides start in the centre of Brisbane, close to or from well-known bike shops or cyclists’ Meccas such as Park Road. But living where I do I’m not about to ride all the way in (about an hour with traffic lights), complete the circuit and then ride all the way home, despite how good the company and coffee might be. In addition I will be riding the Huyundai Excel of bikes amongst a sea of Ferraris and I’m sure me drooling over flash bikes is not appreciated. So I started looking for rides closer to home.
The Zupps ride starts from the Zupps car dealership at Aspley in North Brisbane. This is a twenty minute ride from where I live and actually passes about one kilometre from my front door. But if I started cold from home I would get smashed as they were already warmed up and riding at 40kmh pace. So I figured I would ride down there and join the bunch and see how long I would last. The ride that first morning I joined was over 100 strong and as we rode up Gympie Road through Strathpine and Lawnton the paceline was stretching out. It appears we had some of the elite Brisbane-based riders at the head. As we continued north approaching a set of traffic lights the lights started to change to red and, even though they must have known they were towing sixty or so riders through the quiet northern suburbs early that Sunday morning, the leaders decided to push on, most of them flying through the glow of the red lights much to the disdain of the drivers of the white utes and Commodores waiting to cross on their green lights. I stopped. Some behind me went through as well (Fuckwits!) but that was it for me. When the lights changed the remainder of the bunch continued at our own pace. I started the ride twice more, once when the same thing happened and a second time when I managed to keep up with the frenetic pace for a short time before getting dropped (however, I’m still grateful to the bloke who eased off and towed me back, even though I got dropped a second time).
What sealed it for me though was the blatant disregard for other road users, something I find it difficult to come to terms with as a copper. The attitude to cyclists in Brisbane, compared to Melbourne, is appalling with many cagers verbally abusing and driving far too close to cyclists, whether alone or in bunches. Given there are some of us who ignore red lights, stop signs, and ride more than two abreast it is no wonder the rest of us are marginalised. But then most motorists are completely ignorant of what cyclists are allowed to do, such as ride two abreast AND wear Lycra! With my survival instinct kicking in I decided the Zupps ride wasn’t for me. Over the next few months I met up with a few similarly unimpressed souls and rode with them before the Minister for War suggested I check out a bunch in North Lakes…