There's a few things you guys know pretty well about me. One...I love my cycling, especially racing. Two...I'm extremely patriotic when it comes to supporting my nation's sporting teams. In an earlier thread where we were discussing the make-up of the Australian team for the World Championship I posted that in this country we don't choose teams on form or fame...we choose teams, or to rearrange the letters a little...mates.
That was more than perfectly demonstrated during the men's U23 Road Race yesterday and as I saw each of the Aussie team doing their jobs as I ventured around the course for the best vantage points, and then saw Michael 'Bling' Matthews tucked in behind Phinney's wheel as they approached the final turn for the finishing straight I didn't need to look up at the big screen to know who'd won.
The best way to feel a bike race is to be in it yourself....the cameraderie, the pleasure and pain, the unique noises of wheels whirring and gears clicking into place. If you're not really fast enough to sit in the middle of the peleton and enjoy such heavenly surroundings then the second best way to watch a race is on the TV...that way you get to see everything, every crash in slow motion several times, every break, every lap, all the way.
But, there's also nothing like being at the race itself, that way you get to feel the emotion of the fans, soak up a bit of outside (and sun if you're lucky) and get to breathe the same air as some pretty amazing athletes. There are several ways to watch a bike race such as this from out on the course, and Geelong has catering for all of them. Some are lucky enough to be able to sit on their front lawns and watch the race pass by where they normally only venture out to place their rubbish bins every week. There are those that bring the fold up chairs, find their favourite vantage point and cement themselves to that spot for the duration of the race, cheering intently as the peleton passes by then going back to reading the Sunday paper in the twenty five or so minutes until they pass by again. Some even sit in the middle of a big field and watch an even bigger TV than the one they've got at home and drink beer or coffee and either head to the barriers when the cyclists pass or pass out. I do it my way.
Yesterday I jumped on the Madone and did a loop of the course, bunny hopping kerbs, weaving through crowds without clipping out, catching up with mates (most of whom had chosen to find a vantage point in close proximity to where they sell beer) and sussing out the best short cuts, photo spots, coffee stalls and chickie babes.
This is the starting line.
I only made it a short distance down the road for lap one as a bike shop was having a big sale but 'Burger' Ben King had already played the ace
...I knew the Aussies would have to play a trump card and there can only ever be check-mate with two Kings up the road. "Vegemite' Ben King did his job to perfection, forced a couple of others to give chase and got to enjoy the downhill on his own for a couple of laps.
By lap two I was in the Barwon Valley so I watched a few laps from there as I concentrated on how the race was panning out. The peleton was relaxed through here allowing the protagonists to joust it out up front.
The top of the climb is where you find the most people in lycra and the best spot for pictures for reasons explained during yesterday's TT.
The bottom of the climb is probably where I will spend the most time during the men's race on Sunday, hard on the brakes, the wooden bridge and the little steep climb up the other side is surely where the race will be won and lost. The atmosphere is true cycling fan down there and the food and drink is just what's needed to quench the needs.
The next couple of laps I got stuck in a pub on Pakington street and watched as the Aussie team controlled the pace of the race and each reeled of as they busted their collective asses for their designated leader. This is probably the most social place to watch the race and being the 'fashion store' street in Geelong it's thick with chicks :-)
On the last lap I made my way to my usual 1 K to go spot. I tend to avoid the finishing straight as it tends to be full of the kind of people who make my viewing unenjoyable.....I usually know who's going to win from 1 K out anyway.
But first....a couple of hours along the Great Ocean Road to soak up a bit of sun and sea mist.