On Saturday 7 January, we spent 14.5 hours attending a cycling competition….in fact the Australian National Road Cycling Championships. This was after 3 hours of sleep. If those two numbers were reversed, I would have been happier.
Anyway, all the bad stuff I ever said about cricket is hereby rescinded. Bring on the cricket, I say, especially at the MCG where even the general public (albeit only in the newer stands) has a padded seat and a roof over his head, and a bar or restaurant within 10 m.
I have to admit, our day was not bad, or not too-o-o bad. There were many positives, and we returned safely, having been lost only on the way there: understandable in the dark, with reading glasses that don’t quite cope any more with tiny-print maps and dim light (navigator’s excuse). On the way back, we didn’t get lost even once. Oh, only once.
I can report that at Buninyong, near Ballarat, we saw innumerable bunnies, an amazing number of butterflies, and several bums on bikes. All of this is wildlife that I am not used to seeing, but the bunnies and the butterflies were too quick-moving for me to photograph and even the bums had to be chased.
First plus was that the roads around Buninyong didn’t close for the cycle race at 6 am after all, but 7 am, and we got there at 6.58 am so domestic discord was averted. We were in very good time for the race starting at 1 pm, and lucky for us, there was a filler race starting at 9.30 am. We were able to park at just about the best viewpoint along the whole route (what would I know – that’s all I saw anyway, but I take it on good authority).
There was live music AND I learned that Fate answers. First a group of lads dressed funny (woolly hats and my-god-where-did-they-get-those trousers) played a drum and a 2-note trumpet when their friends went past (they had a lot of friends too, more and more as the day wore on) and there were lots of cow bells for people to ring too. I said, “All we need is a vuvuzela!” and blow me down, that’s what we got.
I saw an Australian playing a vuvuzela! More to the point, I HEARD an Australian playing a vuvuzela. I have to give the vuvuzela player due credit – by the end of the afternoon, he could play two different notes, which is 100% more than 99.999% of South Africans can manage (perhaps even a slightly higher percentage.) Of course the other wry positive here is that Australians can go away for lunch and leave their chairs and vuvuzela (not to mention table, bells, water bottle and even a car) unguarded, in the expectation that they would all be there when they came back, and they were. K wouldn’t let me stand on the vuvuzela.
Another positive: Day 7 of the New Year Diet was very easy since we were far from food. We parked at the furthest part of the circuit, 5 kms outside town, so there was no coffee, no hot dogs, no pizzas. Just the water and salad and two apples we brought, which would be a good dinner for many Africans, I admit. As we came through the town, we stopped at the local take away and asked if they served coffee, and the lovely young lady said, “Yes, but only instant.” K said, “What?”, meaning, “I must apologise, but I didn’t hear what you said.” and I said, “WHAT?!”, meaning, “You have to be joking – after getting up way too early and having a 1.5 hour journey that lasted 3 hours, you tell me there is no real coffee to be had?” but she only heard K. And she explained further, “You know, instant coffee…. like you get at home? If you want shop coffee, you’ll have to wait till the coffee shop opens at 9 am.” Buninyong is a small place, and perhaps she hasn’t travelled further than the coffee shop.
There was a lot of time to read in the sun (and in the wind, and also a little bit in the rain). I read one book and a bit of another book, while also taking 47 shots of cyclists in various near-missed positions. Once you’ve seen one cycle race, I guess you’ve seen them all, so let me précis this for you:
Picture I: First circuit, U23 men’s race at about the 5 km mark (and I reckon we could have gone home a lot earlier if they hadn’t restricted the cyclists to 80 km per hour). Note that there is 1 vehicle for every 2 cyclists, one to lead the way with a big sign board “Warning Cycle Race” (who’d have guessed, with the roads so empty), a few with flashing lights behind that car; and after the peloton (French for ‘pack of cyclists’, so named because of the Tour de France being televised globally before anyone else started talking about ‘pack of cyclists’) comes a medical vehicle, a few media vehicles, the support vehicle for each cycling team with spare cycles on top and spanners inside, and then the vehicle to escort the also-rans with more flashing lights. Round and round 12 times per race.
Picture 2, several hours later: Last circuit, women’s race, at about the 100 km mark (women only have to go 10 times round, which is a big positive, as they go so much more slowly, and 12 times would have been Too Much for all concerned).
Spot the difference?
In the shots in between, there were increasingly fewer cyclists, more spread out, at about 15 to 20 minute intervals per circuit. Use your imagination.
And you know what… on Sunday, as a special treat, TV had a live broadcast of the Elite Men’s race from start to finish. Thank you, special broadcast crew.
The outcome of the elite men’s race can be seen here: