Pro cycling

Lisa's Mum presents: Snow Whitey and the 7 Dwarfs (aka her review of the TDU)

Once upon a time there lived a directeur sportif named Snow Whitey. Snow Whitey was a beautiful creature, and could often be seen around town, her mane of blonde hair and curiously prominent ears turning heads at every café. Snow Whitey lived in the kingdom of Garmin with an evil stepmother called Jonathan Vaughters. One day, the evil stepmother decided that Snow Whitey was too beautiful and her blonde mane too glorious to stay in the kingdom of Garmin. The evil stepmother cast Snow Whitey into the woods and hoped that she would be eaten by hungry sprinters.

Luckily, Snow Whitey had excellent survival instincts cultivated from years of being a domestique for local warlord Lance Armstrong. She survived by eating forest berries and using her ears as giant nets to trap flies and small birds. One day while hunting she happened upon a large Jayco caravan owned by a group of merry dwarfs. There were 7 of them, and each had a name: Robbie, Stuey, Gerro, Durbo, Leigh, Cam and Gossy.

The 7 dwarfs ate together, rode together and dressed the same, in little green suits (probably designed for slightly smaller dwarfs, Snow Whitey suspected). Each day they would leave their caravan on their shiny matching bikes, singing, 'Hi ho, hi ho, it's up the road we go,' as they set to work, digging themselves into holes in the hope of finding diamonds.

Snow Whitey was not a dwarf but did enjoy wearing little tight suits too, and so the 7 dwarfs welcomed her as one of their own. Snow Whitey loved the dwarfs, but every day she thought about her evil stepmother and vowed revenge.

One morning at breakfast, Snow Whitey was sipping her espresso and reading the paper when she saw a story about a race going on in the neighbouring kingdom of Adelaide, in which her evil step-mother would be competing.

'Look at this!' Snow Whitey exclaimed. 'It's a bike race in the kingdom of Adelaide! Teams 0f 7 race for 5 days over hundreds of kilometres in 40-degree heat! It's lucky there are 7 of you dwarfs. I will drive in an air-conditioned car behind you.'

The dwarfs looked hesitant, but Snow Whitey assured them that she would look after them and never let them come to any harm from Warnie or troublesome chauffeurs with a history of playing giant animals on morning TV. And so the 7 dwarfs prepared to race. They organised a team training camp where they went golfing and go-karting. They flew around the country wearing matching suits and posed for photos with kangaroos. And, finally, they went to a studio and recorded a team song. At last, they were ready to take on the evil stepmother.

The 7 dwarfs raced hard. They took on giants, convicted dopers and yellow teletubbies on the top of Willunga Hill. By the end of the race, one of the 7 dwarfs was on equal time on GC with another team's dwarf. Luckily, the race director called upon by-law 1.2.11 of the race rules which stated that, where 2 riders were tied on GC for time, and one rider had won a stage, the leader's jersey would be given to whichever rider had professionally pre-recorded a team song in the weeks prior to the tour.

'Phew,' thought Snow Whitey, 'I am glad we did not end up shooting that swimsuit calendar that Robbie McEwen wanted.'

And so the dwarfs won, and Snow Whitey beat her evil stepmother, and they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

Lisa's Mum's guide to the Tour Down Under

Lisa's Mum loves the Tour Down Under, mainly because she has a small crush on Andre Greipel and enjoys seeing Adelaide drivers being forced to be nice to cyclists for a week (hoons in Adelaide are nothing if not economic rationalists; even the dumb ones like a tourist dollar). However, as an Adelaide local, eager to open her arms wide to the greater cycling fraternity in expectation of a passionate embrace (or at least a Euro double-kiss, or a Belgian triple-peck if she happens to chance upon Eddy Merckx), Lisa's Mum feels compelled to provide a short guide to the Tour Down Under to assist visitors and non-cyclists alike:

  • The Tour Down under consists of a series of 3 women's crits run on Sunday, Monday and Thursday respectively. Stars in attendance include the reigning world time trial champion, 3 reigning Australian national champions and local celebrity giant-killer Bec Werner. There is also a support race in which men may participate and feel involved. The support race goes for 5 days because everyone knows that men take longer to do things.
  • Adelaide is a charming city in the south-eastern part of Australia that is renowned for wine, pie-floaters, and the Snowtown 'bodies in the barrels' murders. Actually, the murders never took place in Snowtown.
  • Lance Armstrong is not racing in the Tour Down Under. And despite Adelaide's new Livestrong cancer centre, Livestrong bike path, and the promise of Mike Rann naming his next child 'LiveStrong', it appears he will not be coming back.
  • Replacing Lance as TDU guest of honour is a gentleman called Eddy Merckx. Eddy was the Lance Armstrong of the 70s, except that he won more races and never pretended to like the other riders. Everyone keeps telling him that he is the Don Bradman of cycling, although Don Bradman probably didn't take quite so many drugs in his day. Also, Eddy has no idea who Don Bradman is, so the reference is kind of redundant.
  • Melbourne drivers please be advised that Adelaide does not tolerate any loutish behaviour on the roads, like U-turning at traffic lights or letting people into your lane. An appropriate speed is generally between 10 and 15kph under the speed limit. Under no circumstances should you attempt a hook turn.
  • German drivers, please be advised that the O-Bahn is not the same as an Autobahn. Do not attempt to drive into it.
  • If you are a non-cyclist and see someone in lycra on a bike, please do not ask them if they are racing in the Tour Down Under. They are not.
  • Related to the above: If same cyclist is wearing a bandanna and has tri-bars on their bike, you should instead ask them if they want to buy your super-vitamin-miracle-water that is guaranteed to lift their time over a 40km time trial by at least 83 seconds. Give them a glass of water and charge them $20. (This WORKS!)
  • A related point: Adelaide water is meant to taste like that.
Enjoy your week and Lisa's Mum looks forward to seeing you for scones and tea on Willunga Hill on Saturday.

World Champs preview on CyclingTips

Just a quickie to say that I've done a preview of the Australian women's team for road world champs in Copenhagen today on CyclingTips.   And a big thanks to Apollo Bikes and Fitzroy Revolution for coming to the rescue today after my rear derailleur had an altercation with a stick. I'd show you a picture of the stick but it was taken into custody today pending a bail hearing.

Ride happy (without sticks)


Bec Werner: Riding happy and racing in the USA

Bec Werner is a mate of mine from Adelaide and someone I really respect. She has come through the ranks of National Talent ID and has shown a lot of talent both on the road and the track. (Her palmares include a podium in the individual pursuit at Oceania Track Champs in 2010.) But the reason I really respect Bec is that she is a Top Chick. She is always positive, smiling, and maintains her sense of humour in a world that thrives on cut-throat competitiveness and personal sacrifice. Bec kindly agreed to do a guest post for Ride Happy reflecting on her first international season as a pro cyclist. I found it inspiring; I'm sure you'll find the same.

Bec Werner rides happy in the USA

My Ride Happy t-shirt* arrived in the mail a week or two before I was set to jet off to the mighty US of A on my first ever overseas adventure, bike in tow, excited at the prospect of a double summer and the chance to have a crack at some big races with the Webcor Bridge Team. My purchase was mainly influenced by the ‘ride like you stole it’ slogan printed on the back, which always brings a mischievous grin to my face, yet the two simple words printed in bright red on the front would prove much more significant.

Over the last 5 months I’ve come to discover what ‘riding happy’ really means. This is not to say that I was never happy when I was riding before. Or that I’ve cracked the Da Vinci Code of cycling, and now when my book is published and made into a big money motion picture everyone will forever ride in pure joy and look to me as the cycling Buddha. I’m simply saying that I’ve experienced moments on the bike, and come to be in a certain place in everyday life that have filled me with a great sense of happiness at being a cyclist and spending long, butt-numbing hours seated on a wafer thin piece of plastic.

It’s amazing how training in new and exciting places can change your perspective. Suddenly the rain isn’t quite so cold, the false flats aren’t quite as long and the climbs don’t hurt quite so much. Well that last bit’s a lie, the climbs always hurt, but you get the gist.

Training in my new stomping ground of the Bay Area, California, has taken me back to square one. With massive bunch rides that are more like races, it’s a melting pot of people who ride for all different reasons, yet also for the same – a simple love of the bike. It’s like being a kid again. Riding with childlike enthusiasm, free of any inhibitions. Sprinting for city limit signs as if they are the finish line at a world championship. Throwing around elbows a dishing out headbutts to friends to claim prime position in the bike lane.

I’ve ventured up paths to places that can only be accessed and truly experienced aboard a bike. Clambered up dirt climbs in the granny gear, setting a new max heart rate in the process, while passing through spectacular scenery and seemingly untouched country on the way to magnificent views. It was one of these moments that brought total clarity. This is what ride happy is about. Gasping for air, and with legs like cement blocks, I looked at the other totally wrecked, yet happy people standing around me in this picture perfect, magical place, and it just clicked. At that moment I knew that as much as I thrive on the competition of racing, and am driven to ride by ambition that doesn’t like rest days; if all that was taken away, I would simply ride for moments like these, and ride happy.

If you take those good vibes from training and living as a full time athlete, free of the stresses and complications of everyday life and then add to it living in a happy and passionate, bike crazy environment, it’s sure to flow into racing. Racing over here is big and exciting, with all the American bravado and hype that only they can bring, which in turn brings the crowds, and your adrenaline level up all at the same time. It’s been a total adventure. Jumping into an environment full of unknowns and where no one knows you, it takes away any expectations and perceptions, and lets you re-invent yourself on the bike if you like. Nothing to lose, and oh so much to gain.

I’ve had my most enjoyable, and subsequently my most successful racing season ever. It all adds up. There’s no cold, hard facts, but I’m convinced that some of these simple things that we often overlook, not only ‘recovery’, but resting and relaxing your body and mind and simply ‘riding happy’ play a massive part in performance and success.

Now it’s back to reality, and the real world that moves at a faster pace, and doesn’t allow for waiting until the temperature is just perfect before you trundle off. Hopefully I can take some of that ride happy back with me, as I’m sure it doesn’t really matter what road you ride on, the road is what you make it.

So ride happy, because it’s true, life is too short to ride mad! 


[Ed's note: The Ride Happy tees are producd by the awesome St Mel Designs in Victoria. Get your hands on one here.]

Lisa's Mum contemplates Cadel's legacy

To celebrate Cadel's momentous Tour de France victory- the first ever by an Australian and certainly the biggest cycling achievement Australia has seen- Barwon Heads is thinking of naming a bridge after Cadel. Bravo, Barwon Heads! (Lisa's Mum did hear a rumour that DSE were thinking of renaming the river below The Omega Pharma-Lotto Tributary to celebrate Cadel getting over it, but this has not yet been verified.) This has got Lisa's Mum thinking; surely there are some other appropriate tributes we can make to celebrate such an historic achievement? Here are her suggestions... Ted Bailieu please take note:

  1. The keys to Melbourne. I guess if we are being honest, Cadel should really get the keys to Geelong (his local), but somebody put them in a safe place in shoe next to the front door and now we can't find them.
  2. The ravine at Werribee Gorge to be renamed the Cadel Cleft. It takes a great chin to make a great rider.
  3. The Cadel Expressway: a freeway that goes for miles and miles and has 14 lanes so drivers can get some privacy.
  4. The Cadel Cappuccino: signature drink of the champion. Made without froth, chocolate sprinkles or other frivolity. Actually, it's a short black. Best served with a Schleck sandwich.

Any other suggestions? Send them in to Lisa's Mum here.


Highlights of Le Tour

 WHAT A TOUR! In no particular order, here are my highlights of the 2011 TdF:

  • The excitement. I wish every year could come down to the wire, preferably with an Aussie in the box seat.
  • Miles Prosser's Le Tipping TDF tipping comp - if you aren't already on board, get in.
  • 'Evans is back in the Schleck sandwich' - Phil Liggett, stage 19 (Alp d'Huez)
  • Contador giving a sandwich of a different kind - punching a spectator dressed as a scientist who was chasing him with a steak during the race (see pic)
  • The Skoda ad. Reminds me that no matter how gentle and genial your team manager might be, put them in a race convoy and they will turn into the devil himself.
  • Twitter updates - getting up and personal with the riders never got so up or personal.
  • The TE Alp d'Huez party - thanks Matt and Kerrie!


Hope you all enjoyed the Tour as much as I did.


Lisa's Mum does Cadel's PR

The words on everyone's lips today: Cadel Evans. Well, actually, the words on Lisa's Mum's lips were 'bin night', but she was distracted. But WHAT A TOUR, and what an achievement. One of the highlights of Le Tour was seeing the huge number of Aussies getting behind Cadel with the 'Yell for Cadel' and 'Crikey Cadel' campaigns. Not many people realise, but there were also some other, lesser-known and less succcessful Cadel PR campaigns... Lisa's Mum investigates: - Spell For Cadel: An ultimately unsuccessful campaign launched by the NT Dept of Education, where children were encouraged to spell words like 'Go' and 'Cadel'. It was abandoned after the spelling challenges posed by Voeckler taking the yellow jersey proved too great.

- Sell For Cadel: An Ebay initiative, this campaign folded after it became apparent that Cadel prides himself on philanthropy rather than salesmanship. Apparently, 'I just want the best price I can get out of myself, that is enough' is not a valid minimum bid.

- Libel For Cadel: The Victorian legal community got behind Cadel as only lawyers can: by suing people. Popular targets included parallel imports from Luxembourg, Spanish butchers, and the driver of the media car on Stage 3 (Jonny Hoogerland's favourite). The campaign was halted by the LIV, citing incompatibility issues between clocking up billable hours and following SBS live coverage.

- Smell Like Cadel: Doomed from the start, this campaign failed to think through the implications of supporters smelling like a Tour de France rider after 6 hours in the saddle. On the positive side, it did free up some space on the mountain side during some of the more popular stagess

If you know of any other campaigns, please send them through to Lisa's Mum via the Contact Form.



Biggest surprises of Le Tour

Video of stage 9 breakaway crash It's been a big start to the Tour de France. Favourites getting caught out, crashes and maverick moto drivers. In no particular order, here are my top surprises (so far) from the Tour:

- Contador getting caught out on stage 1 with poor bunch positioning. Rookie error. - Hushovd climbing so well and holding onto yellow. - Cadel's aggression so early in the Tour. - BMC's great TTT. - The number of crashes and GC contendors taken out. A mix of bad luck, reckless conduct by spectators/media cars... and perhaps some responsiblity needs to be taken by the race director (for stage 5, at least).

What are your surprises?

Lisa's Mum's guide to surviving a conversation with a Tour tragic

Lisa's Mum understands the unenviable position of being stuck in a conversation on a topic she knows nothing about. She encountered this very problem only the other day when sitting next to Julia Gillard at a roundtable forum for Influential Women of the 21st Century held at the Altona South RSL. Although Lisa's Mum found Julia charming and very smartly dressed, her views on carbon pricing were somewhat limited, which made for some awkward silences between the pair. Lisa's Mum is here to ensure that the same does not happen to you during Tour time. Here are some fail-safe phrases to throw into water-cooler discussions about Le Tour / the Giro / Vuelta. Just make sure you deliver your snappy line and move smoothly away before the other person draws you into a proper conversation:

On the way the tour is panning out:

  • It's a game of cat and mouse
  • Ah yes, but they haven't hit the mountains yet
  • It's because Cadel still has a crappy team

On individual riders:

  • He's bluffing
  • Crikey he's arrogant. Can you believe what he gets paid?
  • What a hard man. They say he can crack walnuts between his calves just by putting his feet together and sneezing

On doping:

  • Doper or non-doper, Contador is still the best cyclist in the world
  • I ate a steak once, but I didn't test positive
  • Have you read 'Rough Ride'?

On the race radio debate:

  • Rider safety is important, but it's also important that I get to watch exciting TV
  • Why don't they all just listen to ABC NewsRadio? I do.

Good luck! And get some of your wife's eyeliner onto you - those dark circles are unbecoming.

Lisa's Mum's guide to the Tour de France

The Tour de France starts on July 2 and Lisa's Mum is excited. She is still a little bit miffed that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen have declined her offer to join them on the SBS TdF commentary team. Apparently, they do have enough women commentators and no, they do not think omitting Lisa's Mum from this year's line-up would alienate a large portion of their audience.

Alberto is a big Star Trek fan but even big fans can get the official greeting wrong sometimes
Le Tour this year winds through all sorts of romantic-sounding French places before ending up on the Champs-Elysees where, like most tourists visiting Paris, the peleton will be too tired to do any decent shopping and won't be able to afford anything there, anyway.

Lisa's Mum appreciates that not all of her fans will have as intimate a knowledge of Le Tour as her. Accordingly, she will be providing Le Commentary for the next three weeks to help the uninitiated through the Greatest Show On Earth. To start with, here is a glossary for beginners:
  • Tour: A multi-day stage race (like the Tour de France). A Tour provides many days of racing, but just one overall winner. Which makes you wonder why the other 197 riders are so slow to catch on. The overall winner and some lucky other guys get to dress up in colourful jerseys at the end and everyone else loses 5kg. [See also Lisa's Mum's previous Guide to Cycling for Non-Cyclists]
  • Stage: One day of racing in a Tour. Even though there is only one winner at the end, each stage tricks riders into thinking they may have won (a 'Stage Winner'). On the podium, the Stage Winner is told the sad news that no, they are not the real winner, and they have to race again tomorrow. The frustration leads him to throw his bouquet of flowers into the crowd in a huff.
  • Time Trial: A stage of a Tour where each rider races not against other riders, but against the clock. Each rider is set off one or two minutes apart and told that there is only enough hot water in the showers at the end for 3 people. Each rider turns themselves inside out trying to get there first.
  • Neutral Start: Technically, this is where the start of the race is 'neutralised' and not part of the race, so that riders can parade through the start town nice and safe. I think in most pro men's races where the stages are 200km+ this generally works. In women's pro races of 100km, 'neutral start' means 'get to the front any way you can, as fast as you can, before the neutral zone ends'.
  • Finish line: Where the race ends. A rider's finishing time is taken from the moment they cross the line... unless they are in a big bunch, in which case the time is taken from the first wheel and given to everyone in the bunch. This is so that the riders who have not yet worked out what a Tour is (see Tour, above) will not be tempted to race everyone else in the bunch in order to 'win' the sprint for 38th place.
  • King of the Mountains: The smallest and skinniest rider who gets to look like Where's Wally as a reward.
  • Sprint Leader: Given to the rider with the biggest and strongest legs. Also the first rider likely to get fat when they retire.
  • Domestique: A rider who can ride just as well as their leader but is paid half as much. Often seen getting water bottles and getting spat out the back after an epic 150km solo breakaway.

Next: Lisa's Mum's guide to surviving conversations with a Tour de France tragic!