I’m writing this on my return flight from Adelaide after spending a week enjoying Australia’s own UCI cycling event, the Tour Down Under. For those of you who don’t already know about it, it’s a six day professional men’s road racing event held every January centred around the South Australian city of Adelaide.
It was my sixth visit to the southern capital for the race and it’s great to see it continue to grow in popularity with lots of locals coming out in support as well as interstate and international visitors.
For me it has always consisted of two key components – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) ride in the Barossa Valley and the Tour Down Under itself.
This is a charity ride around the Barossa Valley that’s held each year to raise funds to find a cure for diabetes. It was my fifth JDRF ride and the sixth for my partner Phillip. It includes a 35 km, 80 km or 160 km ride around the picturesque Barossa Valley. This time I tackled the 160 km ride and while it wasn’t quick, and wasn’t easy, I got to the other end. I had to remind myself on more than one occasion that I was there to raise funds for a great cause.
To attend the ride which included my airfares, accommodation, meals, ride support and airport transfers I had to raise $3,500. I’m very grateful to my friends, family and business colleagues who helped me reach the fundraising target.
The best part of the weekend is the celebration party on Saturday night after the ride. This year’s inspired theme (thanks James) was ‘Barossa Valley High – Class of ’86’. You’d be surprised how all those legs that rode 160 km during the day could hold out and boogie on the dance floor.
After we waved goodbye to the JDRF crew we headed for Adelaide and checked into an apartment with our friends Pip & Ryan for a week long stay.
Adelaide is a great place to ride a bike. It has many dedicated bike paths and bike lanes and everything is just a slower pace than my home city of Sydney. On Monday morning Pip and I headed down to Glenelg and joined a ride organised by cycling apparel company Champion Systems. There were about 100 riders in all, including about 25 from our home club LACC. It made us feel right at home.
The rest of the week included a number of rides early in the morning or out to the various Tour Down Under stages. Unfortunately I didn’t ride in the latter part of the week because I was unwell but I didn’t let that stop me at least seeing the pros by car.
The Tour Down Under is a very accessible race to watch. Every stage starts somewhere near to Adelaide and then heads out in various directions. So each day we’d choose a place to see it at various locations – the start, the feed station, the finish or just somewhere en route. The rolling road closures make it really easy to catch the riders several times in one day. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit the Tour de France you’ll soon learn that you can only ever see the riders once in a day because the roads close many hours before the riders come through.
One very encouraging observation I made throughout the week was the number of female cyclists we saw and met along the way. In the four and a half years I’ve been cycling there’s definitely been an increase in female participation and despite the fact that we were watching a men’s professional cycling race, there were plenty of female riders following along. Go girls.