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TDU’14: Hot & Steamy Down Under
hotandsteamy650 Roadside Down Under: Between catching up with the stars of the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under Team’s Presentation, taking in the local scenery or watching people run around in their underwear (true story), Steve also managed to ride with a legend, have a front row seat at the People’s Choice Classic and more. It’s been a hot and hectic first few days in Adelaide this year.


Words and pics contributed by Steve Prokop


Day 1 – Getting Settled
Adelaide in summer, is HOT. There is simply no other way to describe it. The temperature got to 44.8 degrees on my first day here after my mammoth Road Trip, so not quite the 46 that was predicted, but it was enough to keep the bikes in the apartment for the first day. This was of course torture after the anticipation of riding again in Adelaide had been building for so long but we did however manage to make it to one of our favourite cafes in town. It’s been 12 months since the last visit and it was great to see that all was still OK and the food as good as ever.

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The owners seem to have remembered Steve from last year and gave him the scenic seat next to the toilets…

On a day off from the bikes and with a good lunch under the belt what better way to spend the afternoon than looking around Adelaide’s sights? And by that I mean their bike shops of course!

With one small problem of a damaged rear tyre to fix, a bike shop was needed and as luck would have it, the most awesome bike shop was discovered, Treadly Bike Shop. They only work on, and with steel bikes, geared and single, fixie, road and townies.

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Inside the Treadly Shop

The difference between this shop and others I’ve visited that zone in on the trendy fixie scene is that Sam the owner spends a lot of time planning and presenting his shop, and clearly has a lot of fun putting it all together. Custom builds and bespoke restorations are very much a specialty and passion. It is true I spent a bit too much time there, but hey it was too hot to ride – at least until the forecast cool change came in that evening anyway.

Everything repaired, bikes sorted, admin done, dinner dusted – it was time to set the alarm for our second go at our first day in Adelaide, tomorrow!


Day 2 – It’s Riding Time!
On waking I was happy to discover that a cool change had arrived and that the temperature had dropped an impressive 15 degrees. Heading off into the city to see if there was a bunch to ride with at dawn, Adelaide City was a ghost town. Just a couple of single riders out getting some solo k’s in. Checked the time, 6:15, sun was up, no answer. So off into the hills, alone I went.

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On the way to the hills and in fact on the way to anywhere in Adelaide you’ll always pass some churches as Adelaide isn’t called the ‘City of Churches’ for nothing!

I lived in Adelaide for 12 months in 1983 as a young teenager, so I thought that I might retrace some old roads of mine and I went in search of the house where I used to live. The hills in Adelaide are incredibly accessible once you leave the flat city and within 10 kilometers, I was on a 12% climb up to the suburb of Blackwood. It was incredible to ride on roads which I had not seen for so many years, and remarkably the suburbs were still very recognisable. Modernised and looking good, clearly maintained in those years, but comforting that wholesale redevelopment had neither taken place nor was needed.

Heading back towards Adelaide after my trip down memory lane I passed a couple of cyclists heading up the hill, each of which gasped a hello, and when I hit the first set of traffic lights, there was 6 or so groups of riders, each with at least 10 to 15 riders in each group, heading towards the hills. Lesson learnt, rides in Adelaide leave at 7:30 ish!

Back in the city of Adelaide, bikes were everywhere, cafes full, this is the Adelaide I remembered from last year. Brilliant.

After a great start to the day with a nice ride it was now onto my first duties as media man for PEZ at the Teams Presentation. The launch of the race was exciting for Adelaide but also for the teams who had their first public display with new kit designs and new sponsors.

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The teams received a traditional Aboriginal welcome to start the proceedings.

To make the evening even bigger, the re-developed Victoria Square was being unveiled to Adelaide’s residents as well which is a fantastic parkland with grass and beautiful landscaping, completely remodelled with plenty of architecture for outside seating and relaxing.

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The big crowd on hand for the presentation

During the TDU the organisers have set up a huge screen which will be showing the stages live, and highlights throughout the race here. It is a space that can now be used by the community and it also means that the Adelaide City Council’s TDU Village is now much bigger. The stage is set, the companies have set up their displays in the Bike Expo and Tour Village, it all looks awesome.

As soon as the gates open people are flocking in, and I wonder if the renovations and extensions have not just been done for the TDU. The stars of the show, the riders are here checking their bikes and equipment and some were even taking the opportunity to get better acquainted with Koalas, Kangaroo Joeys and Carpet Pythons!

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Jens Voigt getting up close and personal with a python.

A huge crowd gathered for the Team’s Presentation to cheer and welcome the competing teams with the evening hosted by the irrepressible, legendary voices of cycling Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin.

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Phil Liggett chatting with crowd favourite Richie Porte on stage at the Team’s Presentation

After the BMC team were introduced, Adelaide techno band The Potbelleez took to the stage to make sure Adelaide was in full party mode. The Adelaide City Council and the SA Government have every reason to be rightly proud of this development, and the TDU fans are the ones who will benefit the most.


Day 3 – Let The Racing Begin!
Our third day in Adelaide was always going to be a big one with the People’s Choice Classic in the evening kicking off the actual racing at the TDU festival. Before all that though it was time for another morning ride and our 60 k loop to the North East of Adelaide was a beauty. We got to experience not just some really entertaining roads, but also the courteous Adelaide drivers. Our group, one of many that are rolling around Adelaide numbered 40 or so, so it was a big mass of riders, that included a famous cycling journalist – and no, I’m certainly not talking about me!

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Phil Liggett got out with Steve and friends on Sunday for a nice ride.

Clearly the club that I rode with likes their rides well organised, with good communication along the line and there was always a helping hand if someone was struggling up a hill. The banter was constant and as there are so many new people in town – us and our friends inclusive – we were warmly greeted and encouraged to join in the fun. It is brilliant to have so many groups who are so keen to show the visitors their city and their favourite circuits. It is no wonder that once you have experienced the TDU you will be coming back for more, as the official numbers suggest.

A bit more exploring on the bike and then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the first race for the 2014 World Tour Teams and riders, the People’s Choice Classic. A 50 kilometer crit race on the streets of Adelaide. This year there was a brand new circuit, so all prior information was no longer useful. Accessibility for the crowd was once again improved and the crowd numbers were huge.

Arriving at 4:30 we found the place absolutely packed and it really was fantastic to see the huge number of people out supporting the event. Everywhere you went around the 2 kilometer circuit there were people at least 2 deep and in most cases more. It struck me too that there is no class destination or prejudice in the crowd with all shapes, sizes and walks of life enjoying the action. Two local characters I noticed were Bazz and Scott who were taking in the event straddled across their very custom cruiser bikes.

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They were fielding questions from the passers by with everyone interested in their rigs and nobody was dismissing these guys because they didn’t have the latest carbon roadie. In fact they had a roadie of sorts – they race these things downhill on tarmac, Bazz telling me that he is building his own, and he is designing it to descend at 120 km/h! They were first time spectators of the Classic and road racing in general, preferring to do mountain biking and downhill MTB’ing, but they were damned impressed by what they were seeing.

With crowd watching behind me now it was time for some racing and the first event was an ‘Undie’ race that was part of a giant fundraising against Bowel Cancer. Yes, ‘undie’ as in underwear meaning competitors took part in their underwear running around the circuit. The Undie race was both competitive and fun to watch but it is one of those fundraising events that I think or suspect would only be allowed in Australia! All the participants were appreciative of the support from the crowd and some cheeky antics were being served up!

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These 3 lovely ladies (l-r) are Elise, Amalia and Tess and they were part of the People’s Choice Undies Run. Elise’s dad has just beaten bowel cancer so the run was a great way to have a little fun while raising money for a worthy cause that was certainly close to home for her and her friends.

With the spectacle of the Undie Run behind us it was now time for the women’s race and it was a cracker! A massive field of 70 plus riders, the cream of Australia’s talent along with some International stars taking to the circuit, and they put on a fantastic show.

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The women’s racing is certainly every bit as entertaining as the mens racing, and was a great way to get the crowd hyped up for the action of the men’s race. Orica-AIS’ Loes Gunnewijk narrowly held off the sprinters in a fine solo victory with her teammates Melissa Hoskins and Nettie Edmondson making it a clean sweep for the home team.

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The men’s race kicks off

Straight up after the women’s action was the men’s race which was fast paced and frantic with the finish a nail biter between two big stars that also showed the talent of the next generation. Marcel Kittel managed to get the win in a tight sprint over fellow massive German André Greipel with the small but super fast young Australian, Caleb Ewan taking third.

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Steve’s front row spot on the start/finish line meant that he almost felt like a rider with all the cameras pointed his way…

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and that he could have a quick G’day with TDU and crowd favourite, Simon Gerrans…

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or suffer some serious calf envy with a close up of André Greipels monster legs.

I spoke to a few people in between cheering the riders on, bashing the signage along the route, and generally sharing the excitement. What surprised me most, and to be truthful it always does, is the accessibility to the riders while they are racing. There simply cannot be any other sport that allows you to get so close. And the athletes themselves are completely approachable. It is brilliant. I think that even they too are super excited that the season is underway and that they’re in Australia, soaking up the sunshine and the atmosphere.

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Steve reluctantly shared his front row spot with the TDU podium girls.

After the race was over one fan that caught my eye was Justin rolling around on his beautifully restored Gazelle, another local who is a veteran of 7 TDU’s.

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He keeps coming back because it is a week of bike happiness. He saves up his holiday leave and makes sure he and his mates have the entire time off so they can get out on to the road stages. Simon Gerrans or ‘Gerro’ as he’s known is his favourite for this year’s TDU title.

So after all the hype and build up, good weather, fantastic riding and a city that seems to embrace cycling even more with each passing year, the 2014 Santos TDU is looking like it is going to be as brilliant as ever. The weather may have cooled but Adelaide is still hot. The crowds are up, the noise is going to get louder – the cow bells this year are bigger than ever and some of the other promo stuff is getting louder as well!

There’s a rest day on Monday so a little ride in the morning to check out all that is the latest and greatest from the Village is on my agenda followed by a coffee and perhaps a little bit of Coopers Ale tasting – That should get the carbo balance correct for the start of the Santos Tour Down Under!

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More of this on Monday before the serious racing starts Tuesday.


Steve ‘VeloRoo’ Prokop is an Aussie cycling enthusiast who runs a bike hire and Tour company with his wife Julia in the south of France for most of the year before returning to Australia in the French winter to enjoy the sunshine and visit events such as the TDU. Check them out at veloroo.com for an unforgettable cycling holiday.


 

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