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The Long Road To Paris

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.

The Long Road To Paris

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 queue for Cadel passes his special number. Poetic placement!

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.

The determined resolve to finish a marathon signing session

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

Our dad’s got Robbie McEwen’s bum cream!

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.

One Way Road (signed) and tubs of Robbie's 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.

Please buy one of these dad...puhleeease?

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).

Mr Six, Me, Mr Ten & Robbie

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).

Robbie serenades Duncan Armstrong

Cadel the crooner

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.

Spring is here (bring on summer)

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…


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