Back to reality

Back to reality now with just under four weeks until the Longcourse champs.

I've been training fairly well, building all three disciplines but without any specific training in terms of speed work. Swimming in the new pool at work has been pretty good - usually not too crowded, and often a lane to myself.

My running has been progressing well - only 2 more long runs before race day. And cycling has been constant with the preparation for the Tour Down Under.

Our photo on

Check it out properly in Lance's photo album on

TDU Stage 6: City Criterium

We had another early start to stake out our spot for the day, and also had to pack up the iMAX with all our gear for a dash to the airport after the finish.

Again we got the jerseys out to try and get Lance to SIGN HERE. Again we got plenty of attention - most notably from Lance's own Livestrong photographer. We've realised since that we have a photo on the Livestrong site!

We took turns to move away from our spot to eat and check out the atmosphere of the event. I got my photo taken with Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson (home page or Wikipedia) before heading back to watch the day's action.

The QuickStep team worked hard to earn a win for their leader Alan Davis, and we watched him climb the podium to be awarded the ochre winners jersey for 2009.

And yes, the iMAX made it back to the airport! KKB and I got the last two towels in the QANTAS lounge, so had a comfortable trip home.

TDU Stage 5: Snapper Point to Willunga

We got the chance to get up close and personal like no other opportunity today. We got our spot early just opposite the sign-on board, just shy of the start line.

We had close encounters with Oscar Pereiro and George Hincapie, and watched all the stars sign on - Michael Rogers, Stuart O'Grady, and a contemplative Alan Davis, still in the ochre leader's jersey.

Becauase we'd gotten such a good response to the LANCE SIGN HERE jerseys yesterday, we decided to get them out on show again today. They again attracted attention, from the stage premier Mike Rann, and Channel Seven sports guy Mark Beretta. I was even interviewed by a Channel Seven reporter, which despite my best efforts (dropping phrases like "superstar like Armstrong" and "iconic event" and "travelled from Queensland and we'll be back") appears to have ended up on the cutting room floor.

And still no attention from Mr Armstrong. We got just a couple of glimpses of him through the peleton but our attention was not reciprocated.

As soon as the peleton rolled out of Snapper Point we headed straight for Willunga Hill. Always trust a scientist with a map - Andy got us to a plumb parking spot about 200m from the action on Willunga Hill. Sure, we had to cross a major highway on foot... but everyone else was doing it. And noone died, right?

We got our position about halfway up the hill and got to see the entire field pass by three times.

Yes, three times! That never happens in the Tour de France!

We had to rely on Team Nokia to get the final result for the day, then ventured into the heart of Adelaide to experience the tour village festivities. Each of the teams has a booth in which each afternoon, the mechanics work on the riders' bikes. Today Cadel Evans was also there to sign autographs.

The Tour Down Under offers a different experience to the Tour de France. While we were looking forward to seeing Alan Davis defend the ochre jersey on tomorrow's final stage, we were disappointed that the week had gone so fast.

TDU Stage 4: Burnside Village to Angaston

Today was our day to ride. We entered the Mutual Community Challenge which rode the Tour 155k route from start to finish. There were other options though, and some in the group had opted for the shorter 97ks version.

There were two starts for the 155, the earlier of which was for "faster" riders with a start half an hour later for the more casual riders. Miri and I took a gamble on the second start. Although worried about being at the back of the pack and being caught up with less experienced riders, we thought it better than to be caught up with bunches of gung-ho riders that might just want to flatten us...

The gamble paid off. We arrived at the start just as the first bunch pulled out. It was massive. We were pleasantly surprised to find a significantly smaller bunch to start with, and an additional start just 15 minutes after we arrived, rather than the scheduled 30.

We'd talked tactics the day before. Happily, we both agreed that taking one of the "bailouts" was perfectly acceptable. After all, they were sanctioned bailouts - fair game right? I also figured that I was training for the Australian Longcourse Championships and if I was at home I wouldn't be doing a 155k ride. I'd probably in fact be looking at a 100-120k long ride. So, taking the bailout wouldn't even harm that.

However, the highlight of the ride was breaking out the team jerseys. The organisers had an event jersey that was compulsory for all riders. If you had enough people, though, you could register as a team and customise your jerseys with a team name. We had gone for the team name:

It got the thumbs up from almost everyone that passed us (and in Miri and my case, that was a lot of people). But whether it would get the same from The Man himself remained to be seen...

We arrived at Angaston in plenty of time to get a spot for the race finish.

When we headed home, tired after a long day, we spotted pro riders on their "warm down" ride. Surely they weren't riding the full 80ks back to Adelaide...? Yep, we think they did.

TDU Stage 3: Unley to Victor Harbour

This morning we went "star spotting" at the race start, and witnessed for the first, but not last time of the week, the Lance Armstrong media frenzy.

It was just a short ride from our apartment to the race start on Unley Road. Of course, as tourists, we got lost, but had plenty of time to get there before the team cars rolled in.

We got to see the preparations of hard man Stuart O'Grady, up and comer Jack Bobridge, ex pro Matt White in his new role as Garmin team manager, and Alan Davis in the ochre leader's jersey. A couple of us were most thrilled to meet legendary commentator Phil Liggett. We sheepishly asked for his autograph, wondering whether we'd catch him off guard... and were perhaps a little disappointed when he obliged as if it happens all the time!

The Caisse d'Pargne team of Oscar Pereiro casually sipped coffee at one of the cafes that lined the street, while other riders sheltered nervously from the crowds in the back of their team vans.

The circus arrived, though, when the Astana van pulled in. We saw glimpses of Lance through the media scrum. Between media commitments and the last minute sign on before the peleton rolled out, there was a short window for autographs. Alas, I was on the opposite side of the road and would miss out today. (Probably just as well; I was wearing my Livestrong jersey and would have had to whip it off very quickly had I have had the opportunity to pass it over for an autograph.)

I also spotted a placard in the crowd, bearing the words

I wasn't sure quite how I felt about this. It was either pure genius, and bound to get a much sought after signature or meeting with Lance; on the other hand it may have been incredibly bad taste.

I don't know whether or not it worked. But when we returned home after a quick lap down to Glenelg for lunch, we regrouped to formulate better tactics for future Stages.

TDU Stage 2: Hahndorf to Stirling

On arrival at Adelaide airport we had the logistical challenge of fitting four people, four bike bags/boxes, two large suitcases (ashamedly, mine and KKB's) and two smaller suitcases (Mark's and Mike's) into our rental car.

The Hyundai iMAX was the butt of many a joke during our time in Adelaide, but I have to say, we managed to fit a lot of stuff in it.

Reminiscent of the TDF, the locals of Stirling had done some decorating along the streets. Photos of a couple of my favourites - especially I Like Lancealot. Would perhaps have been better if it were held by a knight in shining armour rather than strapped to the trunk of an elephant (what the?). But even so...

The honeymoon?

Not exactly. Straight after getting hitched KKB and the Athletic Powerhouse ventured to South Australia with friends to chase down Lance in the Tour Down Under. We weren't sure what lay ahead. We were hoping not quite the frenetic pace of activity for us that we'd experienced watching the Tour de France last year, but were hoping for the same frenetic pace of racing!