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TDU ’12 Roadside: At The Classic!
Okay, we are off! It was a hot day in Adelaide as the women hit the streets at 3:45PM, followed by the men in the evening, for their first races. PEZ’s roadside reporter gets used to the heat, a second chance with Eddy Merckx, and meets the hostesses – read on!

- Words & Photography by David Lipnowski -

Being Canadian, and being from Winnipeg, at this time of the year I am used to the -20C to -30C range of the thermometer. It was around +30C today, and +37C is expected for tomorrow. It is nice that the Cancer Council had volunteers walking along the 1.7KM race circuit, giving sunscreen to those in need. I wish the tour organizers had volunteers handing out cold beer on the circuit. Maybe I’ll put a note in the suggestion box.

Photographers have to stay cool too. Ice cream seemed to be a popular choice as the mercury rose.

It was easy to get around the roads for the women’s race, as there were very few fans out. I used the opportunity to scout locations for the big show, the men’s race. GreenEDGE AIS dominated the race, but it was Specialized Women’s Rebecca Werner who pulled off the win. Following the finish of the women’s race was the team presentations for the men’s teams. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen took about 2 hours interviewing key players on each team, but the crowd and I loved every minute of it, as many of the Europeans had some funny answers, and a few riders had a bit of difficulty with English.

Robbie McEwen took his interview opportunity to announce that this will be his last Tour Down Under, as he is retiring. We'll be sad to see him go, but suspect he'll be back in some capacity.

Robbie McEwen announced prior to the start of the Down Under Classic, that this will be his last time racing in the Tour Down Under, and that he is happy to be finishing his career on the Australia GreenEDGE team.

The highlight of the team presentation period was Jens Voigt. The crowd gave him a monstrous roar as his name was called, and during his interview with Paul Sherwen, he talked about how old he is, and how he wondered how much longer the UCI will continue to issue him racing licenses.

Following each team presentation fans called out to their favourite riders, and many riders went over to the fan barriers, and gladly signed autographs for fans. The only real disappointment I witnessed was that Alessandro Petacchi didn’t acknowledge his fans or sign autographs, and went straight backstage.

Following the RadioShack-Nissan team presentation, I followed Voigt as he signed autographs for fans. Voigt is one of my favourite cyclists currently racing, and he is always saying the funniest things on and off stage. I had the opportunity to hear some great quips, including one fan asking him if he would ever try to get Australian citizenship. Voigt replied that “I need to work on surfing skills, but my barbequing skills are pretty good”.

Three young fans look up at Jens Voigt as he signs some autographs for them.

The men’s race was pretty exciting. I tried to move around the circuit as much as possible, but with 112, 000 people lining the streets of the course, it was much more difficult than the women’s race.

112,00 fans lined the streets of the east side of Adelaide for the Tour Down Under Classic.

A fan watches the action from a high vantage point, glass of wine in hand.

I've shot a lot of races in Canada, but this is my first major tour. My father has been to the Giro d’Italia, and has told me stories of what it was like to see the stars race by you for 5-10 seconds, with a blur of colours and a gush of wind, but it was quite amazing to be there myself.

All of your senses are in use when the peloton shoots past you at speed -
1. Sense of touch: The breeze you feel is quite overwhelming, especially when it’s so hot, and all of a sudden you feel like there is a strong cool wind coming from out of nowhere.
2 Smell: These guys are riding ~50km/hr in the sweltering Australian sun, and working up quite a sweat. You smell this.
3. Taste: This might be a bit of a stretch, but if you have your mouth open as you cheer for the riders, you may taste a bit of #2.
4. Hearing: The buzz of close to 200 freewheels in synch is a beautiful thing.
5. Sight: the bright colours of the jerseys as they blur together as they pass you.

Your senses come alive when a peloton full of star riders race by you at tremendous speeds.

It was a great idea to start the men’s race at 7:00PM. The evening light was beautiful, and the temperature was much easier for this Canadian to handle.

It was a great idea to start the men’s race at 7:00PM. The evening light was beautiful, and the temperature was much easier for this Canadian to handle.

The bike race was good. Tour organizers said it was the fastest race to date. The highlights were Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel winning the stage, and Garmin-Barracuda's Nathan Haas of Australia rocking the lead group to win the lap 10, 15 & 20 sprints. I also saw the aftermath of Vacansoleil-DCM’s Kenny van Hummel’s crash. He had some bad road rash, but it didn’t look like anything too serious.

Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel won the Tour Down Under Classic.

Garmin-Barracuda's Nathan Haas of Australia gets kisses from the Tour Hosts. I wonder how the girls how they feel about kissing all of these guys after they sweat away in the hot Australian heat on a bike.

The aftermath of the Vacansoleil-DCM’s Kenny van Hummel, the first crash of the week.

The podium presentations were interesting for me as well. I’m still trying to figure out why the giant cheques that were handed out to winners were in Euros? It was pretty cool to see the winners throw the flowers they were presented into the crowd. It was just like at weddings, when the bride throws her bouquet to all of the single ladies in attendance. Instead of single ladies though, grown men fought to catch the flowers. It was quite the sight to see.

It was just like at weddings, when the bride throws her bouquet to all of the single ladies in attendance. Instead of single ladies though, grown men fought to catch the flowers.

I’m happy to say that I made some new friends today. I tried to get some behind the scenes photos of the podium girls, and long story short, we are exchanging contact details. Oh, sorry. They are not referred to as podium girls anymore. They are Tour Hosts. Eloise, Lauren, and Casey are very nice young ladies.

The Tour Hostesses getting ready.

(L-R) Lauren Tscharke, Eloise Hoile, and Casey Saint are the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under Tour Hosts, and my new friends.

I did use them as an excuse to speak with the great Eddy Merckx again though. I just had to have a better encounter with him, than the one we had yesterday. I asked to take for a photo with him and the ladies, and he was very happy to oblige, and The Cannibal was beaming with a huge smile. The ladies were very happy to meet him as well. By the end of the week, I’m sure Eddy and I will be on a first name basis.

The Cannibal was beaming with a huge smile.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Stage 1 of the Tour Down under gets underway on Tuesday.


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