- Cycling News
October 12, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
Hi all, Well, I started writing this the last night in Belgium for the 2006 season, and I am...
Rockhampton, October 7, 2006
Well, I started writing this the last night in Belgium for the 2006 season, and I am polishing it off now in Rockhampton after arriving home on Wednesday, October 4, a day later than originally planned, but more on that later. The season for me has ended a little earlier than I had planned, due to circumstances out of my control. The team is heading out for the Sun Tour, whereas I am home in the warmer, drier climate of Rockhampton, content with how the year finally turned out, albeit with a broken collarbone.
Since returning home from the Tour of Britain our race program was still ticking along. A few pro kermesse races came and went, and my condition seemed to be good. Koolscamp, our next 1.1 category race, arrived and I performed strongly to arrive at the finish for the sixty- rider bunch sprint. It wasa hard day out there due to the wind and the warm conditions. Jeremy and I kept ourselves out of trouble and, although not being the best of sprinters, did what we could in the finale.
It was not long after Koolscamp that the numbers in the house started to dwindle. Jeremy was the first to head out after his New Zealand national team withdrew from the world champs. Jeremy's head promptly fell off and went home for a romp with his sheep before preparing for the Sun Tour. Bernie was next to go a few days later. Sorry, but I don't know what Tasmanians get up to when they're at home. Our next 1.1 was on the horizon at Lichtervelde, and for me, a bad moon was a rising.
Lichtervelde Oomloop de Houtland
Up early again for another long drive on the E17 west. Bit of a drag, this month of September as all the races, pro kermesse and 1.1, are all past Gent and then some. Warm weather was here to greet us today but unlike last year, a pretty nasty wind was blowing, which was going to make it tough. Lichtervelde is a typical Flemish race with heaps of small, bumpy roads, cobbles, corners and any other obstacle you could think off.
After the first 15km, three crashes had erupted and ended the day for a number of riders prematurely. My old mate, Glen Chadwick, came down hard in one and subsequently tore his right calf muscle. After having dinner with him the other night, he is currently jumping around on crutches and enjoying six to eight weeks off the bike. Get better soon, sticks.
After 30km the wind bore its teeth and the bunch was split into four pieces. I was in the second bunch, but there were a number of big riders that missed the split, so no real need to panic just yet. I just had to suffer through and stay with the bunch. Low and behold, it did come back, and after a few more splits on the second big lap, after 100km a big bunch was present and entering the local laps.
The local laps came and went pretty quickly until five laps to go when a strong group of nine rode clear. All the big team leaders were there so the bunch slowed down a bit, and the group in front quickly built a lead of five minutes. With three laps to go, I jumped into a chase group, while the rest of the bunch had had enough for the day and pulled it up. It was a group of 25 or so which never had a chance of catching the front, but there were still some good places/prizes up for the grabs, so the race was still on.
I had a dig on the last lap which lasted two kilometres or so, but our group came into the final kilometre all together. I put myself in good position for the sprint and ended up 10th in the kick. Immediately after the line the road swerves a little to the right, and it was here that I heard all this yelling behind me and then some rider leaning on my right hip. He ended up hitting the deck, but in the process he pushed me into the left hand barriers and down I went. Initially I felt ok, but as I got up and was sorting out my bike, cursing the fact that I was brought down, I felt my collarbone was a little stiff and sore. I took off my shirt and it wasn't looking the best as the doctor checked me out. Off to hospital I went for some x-rays and, low and behold, I had fractured my collarbone right on the end and I now required surgery.
So, two lovely days were spent in the Holy Heart Hospital at Roeselare, where I had plenty of chats with an old mate in the next bed about cycling and other stuff in general. It turned out he was a member of Nico Mattan's fan club, so we got off on the right foot and had a common interest. I struggled a bit understanding his strong west-Flemish accent/dialect. He probably had trouble understanding my Flemish with a strong Rocky accent, but we got through the two days well. See you later Jack, old mate. Leigh the legend drove two hours from Booischot to pick me up on Friday, and I was back home into the warm, safe nest that is the Booischot house and into the loving arms of Mother Munge.
The next week was pretty cruisy for me as I just floated around the house in a daze and started to pack and tie up some loose ends around the place. I said my goodbyes to Casper, Day Off, Cocky, Fonzy and Barras a couple of days before we were heading off (see you guys next year!). Meanwhile, the other guys were still 'busy as a one-armed bricky' with racing, training, organising the Sun Tour, and generally getting ready for the trip home. And what a trip home it was. It was a return flight home that requires a whole separate diary entry dedicated to it. Nevertheless, here is a quick summary: flight delay in Brussels by six hours. Connecting flights missed. One night in London. Arrived in LA for a 10-hour lay over. Jumped in a taxi, "Star Bucks, Chauffeur!" and arrived at Manhattan Beach for a coffee and a burrito. Landed in Brisbane a day late, minus our senses, three bike bags, and two suitcases. Tank and Munge left me there and I headed for the domestic terminal for another four-hour wait for my flight home. Enough said on that matter.
So, I'm back home and everything is the same, just the way I left it. My Rocky boulder (shoulder) is getting better, but I won't be rushing into things. I've had two weeks off now, so I think another two weeks are on the cards catching up with friends, family and paperwork, and letting my hair down a little. What hair I have left, anyway, after tearing it all out on the way home.
'Til next time we meet
P.S: Cheers to Tank and Munge for the trip home, and for carrying my bags now and again. I couldn't have picked two better guys to have a flight from hell with.
P.P.S: Good luck in the Sun Tour, guys.
Thanks go to:
Ian Weigh at Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence and the team at Wizard Home Loans
Grant Olman at CQ Cranes
Central Queensland University
Dr. Peter Reaburn PhD
Dr. Andrew Russell
Gary Ireland at the Rock Pool Water Parked
Russell Tucker at Tuckers Cycle Inn Avanti Plus
- Cycling News
September 15, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
Hi all, It's been just over a week now since returning from a successful Tour of Britain, both...
UK, September 14, 2006
It's been just over a week now since returning from a successful Tour of Britain, both personally and for the team. Settled back into house life well and back into discussing important topics like how many Steven Seagal movies are watchable (none, by the way). Apart from this, the week has flown by as I have been able to catch up with friends Anna Meares, Wayne Clifford and Jen who all had quick stopovers at Glen and Belle's place down the road in Tienen between their respective European trips. Good to catch up with you all. Back to the matters at hand, though, you must be wondering how the Tour of Britain went.
The trip over and preceding days
We had a good trip there and were met by our mechanic Wezzo at the airport. Fine young scouser. Got to the hotel and were greeted by the staff. They arrived earlier in the day after travelling over earlier, pickingup the team cars, camper etc. Our staff for the tour was Gil and Eric at the helm, Raoul and Patrick rubbing the legs and Wezzo and Andy keeping the bikes running.
The day before the tour we went for a little ride in the morning. Glasgow it seems is a place where every second person you see has a can of beer in their hand. The people who do not have a beer have an IRN BRU instead, which is a lovely Scottish drink by all accounts. After our ride we had to start a criterium in the centre of Glasgow. Having the tour starting the next day we weren't keen on risking our lives so we started the crit and sat in the bunch for a few minutes and got out of there. Hats off to Tom who beat us all back to the hotel, pulling out after 3 laps. I hung in a bit longer and pulled the pin after 20 minutes, happy that any cobwebs were blown away.
Stage 1 - Glasgow to Castle Douglas
First stage of the tour and it was going to be a little nervous. The course ran down the western side of Scotland and was expected to be exposed to the wind. After 30 kilometres of steady riding by the bunch, a group of three jumped away and was never really headed. They built up a lead of 10 minutes before the bigger teams started the chase. The last 50 kilometres was quick but the leading trio out front held off and won the stage by two and a half minutes. Russ had a good sprint and was sixth on the stage and everybody stayed upright through the thick layer of cow manure that covered the road some 3 kilometres out. After the stage, I jumped in the camper and had a long transfer over the wee border to Blackpool for the next day's start.
Stage 2 - Blackpool to Liverpool
Today was a longer, tougher day. Three climbs in the first 60 kilometres and then rolling and exposed terrain to the finish in Liverpool. Was in good position over all the hills and kept out of trouble. For the remaining 100 kilometres I kept Russell out of trouble and toward the front and also had a go in a group some 15 kilometres out. The group was ten strong and had a decent gap, but a couple of bigger teams missed it and piled on the pressure behind and brought it back. It was pretty hectic coming into the finish. I tried my best to help out Russell for the sprint but after my earlier work I handed over that duty to Deano and anyone else who wanted to switch their brains off. As it turned out I punctured with 500m to go, hitting a man-hole cover and finished the day behind but at the same time as the bunch. Russell had a great sprint to get third behind Roger Hammond (GBR) and Art Vierhouten (Skil-Shimano). Then it was off to Bradford with another transfer but not as long as the day before.
Stage 3 - Bradford to Sheffield
Today was the toughest stage of the tour at a little over 180 kilometres, including all the steepest climbs of the area. Making it a little tougher today was the presence of rain adding a little more nervousness in the bunch. Start of the stage was tough with the climb out of Bradford. The big teams were keen to shake the jersey from Matt Goss so they put the pressure on early. I followed a couple of moves over the top which I thought could have stayed but it wasn't until the second climb of the day that a group did go. We missed it, but fortunately for us Davitamon-Lotto missed it too, so they, Dean and I took up the chase. The group came back and the bunch sat up for a while after a flat-out first hour but it was not long before it was back on again.
With 100 kilometres to go, and after more attacks, the roads narrowed. Coupled with the cross wind and the pressure put on by CSC, the bunch split. Russell got there and that was the day. Everybody was represented so the peloton shut down and rode to the finish. Up front, Russell again showed what kind of form he has and got eighth on the stage winning a small group sprint behind the winner Filippo Pozzato. The main bunch rolled in through Sheffield rain soaked, dodging parked cars, moving cars, and people. Found the soigneur and camper and got rolling as soon as possible. Another three-hour transfer to our next hotel.
Stage 4 - Wolverhampton to Birmingham
A good day for the team and I. After trying in the previous stages to sniff out a break, I finally succeeded today. On a little rise out of Wolverhampton, a group of five got away and I managed to jump over to it. No one in the group was a threat to GC so the bunch stopped for a natural break and our lead quickly got to three minutes. In the break was Juan Manuel Garate (QuickStep-Innergetic), Frederik Wilhelms (Chocolade Jacques), Johan Van Summeren (Davitamon-Lotto), Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile), a Recycling.co.uk rider, Paul Manning (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), a young GB rider and yours truly.
After a while it came over the radio that three teams were chasing behind, so Wilhelms and Van Summeren let us all know that for the next hour we really had to go hard to hold them off. Over the KOM and Sprint points we kept the bunch at three minutes, with everybody doing their share and with 30 kilometres to go, the bunch stopped again for another break and our lead bounced out to 5:30min. Time to relax a bit and recover.
I was feeling good towards the end and followed the moves and was away with Wilhelms, Manning and the GB rider with 4 kilometres to go, but Garate pulled the bunch back. I followed the wrong wheels towards the finish as Wilhelms and Manning rode away again and I was in pursuit with Garate. Come the finish, Wilhelms won the stage and I crossed the line in sixth place. Back in the bunch, Russell did a great ride to gain a few more points and hold onto the Points jersey. Cavendish was nipping on is heels now after getting second today.
Stage 5 - Rochester to Canterbury
It's all gone "Pete Tong" (wrong). The stage started as usual with a nice neutral section, but coming towards the end of the section the Police escorts sent us the wrong way and into oncoming traffic. An official complaint was lodged after the Sheffield stage with regards to traffic conditions, and with this in mind the heads of state in the bunch issued a go slow day in protest. I guess this left me feeling a little bittersweet, as I was feeling the effects slightly of the day before in the legs, but a few prizes were yet to be determined including the Points jersey and overall GC for the contenders, so we rolled along at 40 kilometres per hour for the day. A few attacks came and went but were quickly nullified and ridiculed by the bigger teams. One local GB rider got pushed off the road as he came back to the bunch after attempting to get away.
The bunch did race the last 20 kilometres and once again we did our bit to get Russ in position and he once again arrived in the top 10. However, young gun Mark Cavendish placed second and wrestled the jersey away from him by a point. I was called in for a doping control and five minutes later I was out of there and proceeded to get lost on the drive into London with Eric. We were misinformed by a member of staff (who shall remain nameless) and headed on the A13 East instead of West. East coast of Britain is lovely at this time of year. Anyway, we got there, and the day was done.
Stage 6 - London
It's the final stage and enjoyed a lay in this morning as the stage did not start until the afternoon. Drove to Greenwich Park had a few coffees and lined up for the stage. The first 40 kilometres was controlled through London as we weaved around the streets and monuments of the city. The only real problem was finding somewhere to pull over for a natural break. Bunch rode through a small tunnel/underpass and I took my opportunity like some others and pulled over. Beauty! Nobody around, I thought, until I looked up and over my shoulder at the spectators on the bridge.
Coming into the finish circuits Tom and Dean lit it up on the front and tried to get away. However they were quickly brought back and received a right bollocking from the same guy who pushed the GB rider of the road the day before. Nice one, mate. No harm done and the lads got their mugs and jerseys on BBC. The circuits were fast and flowing with only one corner where the brakes were required. We kept Russ up the front, out of the wind and away from the crashes on the last two laps. He once again put in a great sprint but could not out sprint Cavendish to regain the points jersey. Cavendish was second and Russell was seventh. The big champ, Tom Boonen won the stage much to the delight of the crowd and one podium girl in particular.
So, the end of a successful tour with a DFL rider placing in the top ten everyday. Russell made it onto the podium the final day receiving a jersey for best placed Great British rider. It was an enjoyable week, albeit with a few dramas, but overall a success. All the guys got through the test apart from Kane who had to withdraw due to illness on the second day. All the bosses and other people involved with the team were rapt with how things turned out for the local team in an important international event. A big thanks goes to all the staff.
I arrived home the following day minus the Poms in the team who went on a race/holiday in Bermuda. By all reports, Russell was going well again leading after two stages and eventually winning the tour. With the World Champs coming up in Salzburg, and with Russell selected for the GB team, I hope he was doing a few laps of the island in between time on the beach!
That is it for now. I'm racing the Koolscamp Championship of Vlaanderen tomorrow.
'til next time we meet,
Ian Weigh at Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence and Wizard Home Loans
CQ Crane Hire
Dr. Peter Reaburn and The School of Health and Human Performance
Central Queensland University
Gary and Bridgette Ireland and The Rock Pool Water Park
Dr. Andrew Russell
Tuckers Cycle Inn
- Cycling News
August 30, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
Hi all, from memory I last wrote upon my return from a tough and successful trip to China for the...
Belgium, August 30, 2006
from memory I last wrote upon my return from a tough and successful trip to China for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. It has been busy since returning with racing and getting ready for our next big objective, the Tour of Britain.
Had a little break upon my return from China just to recharge the mental and physical batteries. Took full advantage and squeezed some shopping in on the final days of the "solden" (sale) season here in Belgium. After this little break it was time to knuckle down again and focus on the races coming up. First up we had a few local kermesse races in the area and they went well, scoring eighth in the first rain sodden race at Linden and fourth at Neerlinter a few days later. We were then heading west, west I say good man to Erfurt for Rund um die Hainleite in Germany.
Rund um die Hainleite
The Rund um die Hainleite is a bit of a shiny race. It was being held this year a few days after the Tour of Germany so many of the stars who completed the Tour were backing up a few days later for this nice 1.1 race. Among the starters were Jens Voigt and Sebastian Lang, two riders at the pointy end of the Tour of Germany, and a man on the comeback after injury, Alessandro Petacchi. With this said we all knew it was going to be a tough day.
The race was a big lap of 145 kilometres with a few obstacles to contend with before returning to Erfurt for five tough finish laps. The finish laps were seven kilometres around with a tough one-kilometre hill and a tricky descent to deal with. A break did get away but the race was being controlled by the teams up for the win and the break was never in danger of getting too far away. About 20 kilometres from the finish laps it started to rain, which life a little difficult in the bunch.
On the first finish lap a heap of riders in the peloton called it a day and got out of the way. I was feeling okay and safe in the bunch. On the next lap, it was the same story and then on the third time up the hill I was a little off the back. I chased and got back on before the first cobbled corner on the descent. I mentioned earlier that it had been raining. Well, a puddle on the apex of the corner had been gradually creeping out due to the lead and follow cars splashing the water. I hit the corner a little faster than previously and clipped a wet cobble and down I went. My pedal disintegrated in the fall, therefore calling an early end to my day at the office. Other than that I was unhurt apart from a nice patch of skin off my hip. Alex had a decent day out and finished in the front. All the other guys finished the race as well. The man of the moment, Jens Voigt, won the day, riding away from the bunch with two laps to go to win by 40 secs.
Heusden Pro Kermesse
After a few days licking wounds I lined up again for the Heusden Pro Kermesse and the pouring rain. I'm just loving the weather in Belgium this year. I wanted to take the day relatively easy after hitting the deck a few days previously and did just that. I was content to muddle through the 170 kilometres today and finish safely in the bunch. With the weather the way it was and the skin off my hip, I did not really feel like taking risks. Mission accomplished, 170 kilometres raced locked in and everybody had a decent day. Time for new brake blocks though.
This time also coincided with Navigator Pro and mate from Rockhampton, Glen Chadwick landing back in Belgium after a successful stint in the US of A. I had a bit of time to catch up with him and put in a decent couple of rides and get ready for Zottegem and Overijse, two 1.1 races back to back. We also had or first opportunity to meet or new Director Eric Vanderaerden. He is an added addition to the team as our current Director Daniel Willem is still with us and will continue to play an important role. Eric is another legend of the world of cycling. Those who know who he is will know what he has done, so I won't not bore you with his palmares. It could take a while suffice to say. I feel lucky and honoured to be to work alongside two guys like Daniel and Eric.
A tough race ridden around the Flemish Ardennes that surround the city of Zottegem. Pretty uneventful day for me personally but the other guys like Harro, Deano, Russ and Matt all had good days with aggressive rides on the finishing circuits. Russ and Matt in particular rode strongly getting into a late move and getting into the top 20. A break was away for most of the day and missed them at the finish by a minute or so. I finished the day in the bunch and did not expend too much energy for the next day.
Druiven Koerse Overijse
A great race down past Leuven where many of training rides head. The race was up and down all day, so no chance to have a break. This race, with its place in the calendar used to be the final selection and tune up race for the pros heading to the World Championships. This was when the date for the Worlds was set in the first week of September so the challenging parcours were set to test the best riders back then, just like they still do today. Three big laps of 35 kilometres with four climbs each lap, then eight local laps with 3 climbs each lap. Do the math and it equals 36 climbs for the race.
First 20 kilometres I made an effort to get in the early breaks but at that stage nothing was let loose. A break went at the end of the first big lap and quickly built a lead approaching two minutes. Fortunately for us a few other teams missed it and with one climb remaining on the big lap the break was caught. Cheers to Harro who did a nice bit of work closing the break down in the last kilometres.
The local laps were pretty special. Here is what they look like. The first hill comes after 1 kilometre with a turn onto a cobbled stretch then left up the first 1 kilometre long hill. When over that, we descended through Overijse past the church and straight up the next 2 kilometre drag. The feed zone was at the top, you grab a bottle and downhill for 3 kilometres then turn right through a town called Tombeek and go up another 2 kilometre climb. A quick descent follows, then another little pinch, take the main road downhill, go through a chicane then there is 300m to the finish.
The first three laps or so were okay and a natural selection took place where no real attacks were made but riders succumbed to the pace and called it a day. At this stage the team was still well placed with Russ, Dean, Alex, Jeremy, Tom, Dave and myself in the group.
On lap four Lamonta attacked up the first hill and after a bit of chase I made it to the front group of 40 along with Alex and Russ. It was like this for a lap then through the feed there was another surge, which dragged a group of 25 clear. Alex was there, but Russ missed it. Somehow, he wrestled himself over the break by himself, a gap of 30 secs and that is where he stayed. I was still with a group of 15 chasing at a minute or so for the rest of the race.
I don't know exactly how the last five kilometres turned out up front apart from the fact that Russ won the bunch sprint from 25 guys against some classy opposition. Good on ya mate. The only way I found out that he won was that when I crossed the line in 35th place I was looking around for Raoul. Little did I know that he was with Russ in the tent getting him ready for the podium. It wasn't until someone congratulated me on my team-mate winning did I find Raoul and my much desired Coke. Big win for Russ and the team. Gave team morale a nice little boost before heading off to the Tour of Britain which starts Tuesday.
Looking forward to that just quietly
Till next time we meet
Ps. A little plug to a brand new band out there in Australia, "Hanimex Stand". Have a look at www.hanimexstand.com and you might just recognise the drummer. Former Australian U/23 champion, podium finisher at the Bank Race, Doctor and brother of yours truly - Warren. If you are up in Cairns and happen to be at The Barrier Reef Hotel, check them out. I think they sound okay.
Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence at Wizard Home Loans
Grant Olman at CQ Crane Hire
Dr. Peter Reaburn and the School of Health and Human Performance
Central Queensland University
Dr. Andrew Russel
Gary and Bridget Ireland at The Rock Pool Water Park
Russel Tucker at Tucker's Cycle Inn
- Cycling News
August 10, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
In the last month I have seen, heard, smelled and tasted a pure sensory overload of experiences, all...
Tour de Beauce, Tour of Qinhai Lake reports, August 10, 2006
In the last month I have seen, heard, smelled and tasted a pure sensory overload of experiences, all of which have shaped me mentally and changed me physically for better or worse I have yet to decide. Still be it a good memory or a bad one I have some great stories to share.
Tour de Beauce
Starting with a trip to North America to race the tour of Beauce (French speaking part of Canada). With this part of Canada being unique with a mix of American culture and French having me confused to what parallel universe I was in. One moment you are in the middle of a typically French village the next the scene is transformed into Banjo playing America with the rednecks instead saying bonjour and kissing each others cheeks.
The Tour de Beauce itself started fast, 108km/hr to be exact. At those speeds you are glad you have got glasses on. But just as fast as the race started my race finished. On the second day I managed to ride into a metal shelving brace that was lying on the road. Normally things like this happen but this time the L shaped piece of metal managed to flick into my front wheel and chopped my forks clean in half. I happened to be standing up on the pedals at the time and I face planted still holding onto the handlebars.
Bewildered on how the road had managed to come up and hit me in the face I started the normal body check list before I tried to stand up and get back on the bike. I got to the first thing my teeth as I thought I would have lost a few. My teeth where thankfully all there, "mom would be happy about that" I thought. I noticed that I was pumping blood onto the road. Thinking that I had cut my throat open from seeing the amount of blood I clasped around where I thought my jugular was but the blood wasn't coming from there it was squirting from my chin. Deciding that I might take it easy and get someone to look at it I relaxed back onto the road waiting for some help to arrive.
The first guy on the scene was the neutral service mechanic. His face went pale at the sight of me before he turned and hurried away. I knew then that I was doing the right thing getting someone to give me a hand. I managed a smile at my team manager and team mechanic (who was taking photos) as I was being put onto a stretcher to go to hospital where I received 13 stitches in my chin. Girls like a good scar.
I spent the next week in Canada watching the boys race while walking around with a big bandage over my chin looking like I was in the television show Extreme Make Over. I did, however, have some luck when travelling back from Canada I was upgraded to business. I made sure I was in my seat early to wave to my team mates as they shuffled past me too the back with the other economy peasants.
Getting back to Belgium from Canada with nearly a week off the bike and all healed from the crash I was keen to get some good training in before I headed to China for another tour. I decided to travel to the South of France to Limoux in the Pyrenees. The two weeks spent down there on some of the best training roads you can find was awesome. Also being the New Zealand base in Europe meant lots of Kiwis and heaps of socialising. This was a great break from life in Belgium and the training in the mountains was out of this world. Riding some of the course that in a few weeks would have the riders of the Tour de France drip sweat on the same hot tar that I was riding.
Tour of Qinghai Lake
The Tour de France started in Europe and my team started the Asian equivalent race the Tour of Qinghai Lake. The crowds, culture, madness, smells, sounds, sights, landscape, weather and organized chaos makes the tour of Qinghai Lake a fantastically unique spectacle.
The quality of the teams riding this 2.HC ranked race was very high with Pro tour teams and other very good Professional teams making a truly international race at the highest level. But the level that really mattered was the altitude at which we had to race. With all our racing done at over 2000m and most of it spent between 3300 and 4000m above sea level. Traversing mountains at just under 4000m that take in climbs of over 40km long. With the extreme toughness of the course it doesn't take long for the climbers and the rest to be separated by enormous gaps.
Most days I spent riding in the grupetto. Grupetto is the word for a bunch of riders that are riding a steady pace so everyone in the group finishes within the time limit of the race. The time limit is determined by a percentage of the winner of each stage. For mountain stages it is normally around 15 percent. This sounds like a lot but believe me when you have a bad day trying to finish inside this time can become just as hard as winning.
Most climbs start with the whole bunch being slowly stretched then snapped into many pieces. Shouts of 'grupetto' can be heard early from the back of the bunch as the pace or steepness starts to form cracks in the peloton. For the non-climbers or the guys having a bad day this bunch of riders is the only thing that lets them survive. With everyone in the grupetto working collectively for the same goal. Without each others help they are all doomed to elimination.
Everyone carefully calculates the absolute least amount of suffering they have to undertake to get to the finish in time. There is a lot of different sorts of riders in the grupetto from the sick to the workers that have protected and helped their team-mates before the climbs. For most riders like me it is just trying to save your legs for tomorrow where there is another opportunity perhaps to get away from the bunch in an early attack or win on a flatter stage
The grupetto is run by masters of determining survival time. They govern the speed at which the group goes with an iron fist. These dictators are normally larger riders that are already angry that they have to carry 20kg more up the side of a mountain. People setting the pace too fast on the front are abused to slow down. Riders that do not share the work are abused. Riders that need abuse get abused and the abuse is done in every language so they get the message. The echoes of abuse can be heard resonating up the mountain valleys. I now know how to abuse someone in at least 10 languages. Still there is an unsaid bond between grupetto cyclists. Good friends are made riding with familiar faces for extended periods of grovelling. Everyone shares the achievement and temporary relief of crossing the finish line together. Until the next day.
Whether I was battling to stay with grupetto or the front group the vast changes in weather landscape and altitude had my body hurting in so many new ways. Rain that not only made the road slippery and dangerous but made filth form on the road that I have no doubt was for the most part human faeces. This was due to the towns that had third-world plumbing; most of the time the plumbing was sophisticated dirt ditches that flowed pure filth.
This cocktail of excrement and rain covered every part of you. You smelled awful, tasted horrendously bad and the smell was impossible to get out of your clothes. The rain was temporary but the lack of oxygen made the suffering seem permanent. My head felt like I was about to pass out and gave me strange tingling sensations throughout my body. I was gasping for breath like a gold fish out of his tank.
Nine days of suffering with oxygen deprivation is bad enough but the food that caused stomach problems the whole time and two weeks later is worse. I was lucky with the stomach issue as I had only a moderate case compared to others. Some riders raced all day constantly having to stop on the side of the road to battling with the squirts. These riders are easily identified with their bibs already undone so they can pull their paints down without having to take their shirts off first. Speed is of the essence. I also manage to see some brave and sickening sights. I feel I must share this but have to admit it probably will give this story an R18 rating.
On this particular day I was feeling strong and had managed to ride over the top of the mountain in the second group only a minute or so behind the front. Toilet stops are out of the question at the front of the race so the squirts have to be dealt with another way. On the descent I was passed by a rider (who will remain anonymous) with his pants down and spraying out the rear. I made sure I passed the rider as quickly as possible as I didn't want to receive any excrement on my person. Then moments later he came past me again wiping his butt with a feed bag. He then tossed the bag which narrowly missed me. I was too stunned, thankful, and impressed to insult him for nearly receiving evidence of his shameless accomplishments at speeds reaching nearly 100km/hr on a very technical decent.
From this and other experiences I have learnt that being a cyclist you have no room for shame. I do feel sorry for the spectators that have to witness these undignified events as in the excitement they could receive more than even the most crazed fan can tolerate.
If you are in search of crazed fans then China is the place to go. To have over 30,000 spectators at the opening ceremony is unbelievable. A purpose built giant stage that went out into Qinghai Lake for the teams to ride out and parade for the cheering thousands. At the start and finish lines you where swamped by spectators that wanted to touch, take photos, get your autograph and just stare at you. If it wasn't for the police armed with batons things would have escalated into dangerous crowed crushing situations. The teams put on a good show and made many friends with most happy to oblige a few photos and signatures. But the best show was put on by my team-mate Leigh, who with some naked antics when getting changed made hundreds of Chinese faces turn wide eyed and open mouthed.
I can honestly say that cyclist have no shame. I am proud to be a cyclist.
- Cycling News
August 03, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
Hi all, I had a good trip to China at the Tour of Qinghai Lake , although the experience was a bit...
China, August 3, 2006
I had a good trip to China at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, although the experience was a bit of a culture shock. The racing was pretty intense as well. Here's how I went on each of the stages:
Stage 1: Qinghai Lake - Bird Island
After an opening ceremony that was something to behold we headed off for the short and fast stage to Bird Island. This stage last year was run at about 56km/h thanks to a howling tail wind. Fortunately this year the wind was a little slower but the fact that we were already racing at 3500 metres above sea level on day one meant the stage was going to be just as hard. We had to get through the stage as best we could and that is what we did. The field split numerous times and Dean and Alex were close to getting into the main break but missed out when a few riders dropped the wheel.
We set tempo on the front with a few Liquigas riders and Intel to get home. I finished a number of minutes down but it was the best we could do under the circumstances. Weissenger from Skil-Shimano won the stage, benefiting from the two weeks they have already spent at altitude. The stage was still run at 50km/h.
Stage 2: Bird Island - Xihaizen
I awoke in the morning with a bad dose of sunburn, like everybody else. I underestimated the strength of the sun and after spending all day in the sun during the opening ceremony and the stage we all had 'raccoon' eyes. This stage last year was raced in appalling conditions where 40 riders pulled out. This year, however, the sun was out the wind was down so we were looking forward to the day. We were all feeling better than yesterday.
The day was pretty uneventful apart from a brief heart flutter when a few of us missed the split in the cross-wind but after a concerted chase by our group we regained the front and the stage was getting set up for a bunch sprint. Three escapees were reeled in with five kilometres to go and after dodging a few signs and other obstacles I brought Russel to the front for the sprint. I hit the front and pulled the bunch along from three to two kilometres to go and got out of there. Liquigas was next in line with Russ sitting in fifth wheel but could or would not pull the sprint. Unfortunately Russel and Dean got swamped on the wrong side of the road with Russel eventually finishing the day tenth. The yellow jersey won the stage again.
Stage 3: Xihaizen - Qinghai Lake Hotel
First hard day today with a 35-kilometre climb to contend with after 60 kilometres. What made things easier was that the first 50 kilometres were downhill. So once again the first 50 kilometres were covered in under an hour. As we turned right onto the main road up to the lake plateau and 3500m the pace was not letting up.
With approx seven kilometres to climb on this particular climb the road steepens and you must hang on as best as possible. The front did split about 5 kilometres from the top but the leaders did not get too far up the road. I crested the top with the yellow jersey group with Munge just behind.
The front group was soon captured under the impetus of the Skil team, which made a front group of 50 or so riders. Munge was back on and we did our best getting into splits coming into the finish. However, I was not feeling the best and was content with finishing in the group. A split of 15 got away and gained 30 seconds on the rest. I happy to have climbed with the best and glad to get the day out of the way. Later in the day was a great opportunity to buy some cheap trinkets etc at the markets by the lake. There were plenty of riders with cowboy hats and Chinese stall owners with smiles on their faces.
Stage 4 Qinghai Lake Hotel - Guide
Raining. It was bound to happen sooner or later. The race headed out the way we came in the day before and then after descending part of the climb from the day before we turned right and up to the highest point of the tour. If you reached up and strained you could touch the 4000m ceiling. Unfortunately today, after a decent ride previous day, I had a shocker. The rain and cold did not help matters but that is just making excuses. I finished in a group 16 minutes down I think. I was a bit down that evening but there is always another day.
The yellow jersey changed hands but not teams. Maarten Tchaalingi was now in the lead. Kane, Jeremy, and Dean finished in the second group. Some other team news, Wim is the ten-pin bowling champ after a tough fought match at the hotel. Goed bezig jonge.
Stage 5 Guide - Xining
I awoke after a good night's sleep to find a good morning once I peered out the window to see blue skies. Today's stage was something special as the course profile resembles that of a pyramid: 20 kilometres of flat, 40 kilometres of climbing then 40 kilometres of descending and then 20 kilometres of flat to the finish.
On the lower slopes of the climb Dave McCaan from Giant Asia attacked and I took off in pursuit. I joined him and then six others came up. I contributed to the group effort and hung on but had to let go after 15 kilometres in front and 10 kilometre still to climb. The Spaniard in the group was simply ripping my legs off.
An attack group came and went and I clung onto the yellow jersey for a bit but eventually found a group that was me. I got over the top with a few Liquigas riders, Munge and a bunch of South Africans. I drove it home and limited our losses and tried to profit on our gains. I ended up five minutes down on the front. All the guys were still in the race and doing their bit. Tomorrow was going to be a good day for us.
Stage 6 Xining - Minhe - Xining
A long day today at 210 kilometres plus 10 kilometres of neutral on top of that. It was a simple course today as it went out 105 kilometre and turned around and came back. It was slightly downhill going out and uphill coming back. It was a day for our team and we did not disappoint. For the first 50 kilometres whenever there was a break one or two of us were there until a group containing Dean got away. It was flat out for that first 105 kilometre, covering it all in 2hrs and that was despite a slower section when the bunch slowed down due to a crash. Fortunately none of us came down but I did manage to do a bit of body surfing down the back.
At the turn, the group with Dean had eight minutes so things were looking okay. Liquigas got on the front to chase as they missed it, but they did not time things well and came up short. Coming back into Xining it started to rain and it was not long before we were covered in filth and swallowing goodness knows what off the road. In the end Dean placed third after getting worked over a little by the group. An Intel rider broke away and won solo, then the American guy left in the break was interested in racing for second and not the win. A good ride by Dean nonetheless. In the bunch Munge and myself got Russel up to the front for the sprint but again came up a rider or two short and Russ got swamped before the sprint took shape.
Stage 7 Xining - Menyuan
We're heading out of Xining today for a night and the rain is still coming down. Another filthy day on the cards. I awoke this morning with a sore throat. In fact it popped up about 30 minutes after the stage yesterday. Nothing like a bit of dirty Chinese water off a road to bring you down. At least my stomach was still in good shape and not suffering like all the Italians with "male stomach". No need for theatrics guys. You are not playing football now.
The race was 100 kilometres and slightly uphill. Russ did the job and got into the break. It was controlled by Skil and never got more than three minutes. As we approached the climb, I was not happy to see a dirt road. We were really going to get dirty now. After five kilometres of dirt the climb levelled out a little before kicking up again for another 15 kilometres. We caught Russ and with five kilometres to climb I could not hang on anymore and had to let go. I crested the top with a group including Munge and some South Africans and rode strongly to the finish limiting our losses to five minutes or so minutes. I found our hotel after the stage and was not happy to see the worlds smallest bathroom and shower. Not exactly suitable to getting rid of all the dirt accumulated after a long muddy day in the saddle.
Stage 8 Menyuan - Hush
Today's stage was delayed an hour as due to heavy rain. A river broke its banks and had flooded a road under a metre of water. So a hundred or two Chinese men fixed it all with sandbags, buckets and brooms and anything else they could get their hands on and we were off at 11am.
Another day and another 50 kilometres done in the first hour. It was pretty uneventful with two guys getting up the road and being controlled by the bunch. The climb started at 120 kilometre and I did what I could to stay with the big guns but the pace set by the rock spiders was a little too high. I blew a little and had to control my pace until I found a group that agreed with me. That done, I got over the climb with a good group and drove it to the finish. Happy to see Munge return to the group as I was surrounded by Russian and Kazakh riders. Challenge finished the stage and was still in yellow but now by only one second.
I arrived at the finish five minutes down and proceeded to get changed in front of hundreds of fascinated Chinese. They whispered and murmured as I took off my overshoes, shoes, helmet, undershirt and then I retreated into the van. Enough of me shown for the day. A little off putting, especially for a naturally shy person. Leigh on the other hand loved it and was strutting about. Like a fish in a bowl I guess. All the guys finished the last hard day of the tour and all put in some good work today.
Stage 9 Xining Circuit Race
Last stage of the tour and throat was at a point where I could not talk anymore. Only 90 kilometres to go though so should be okay. A bunch sprint was on the cards and Russ was feeling good albeit suffering from a dose of Xining belly. A break formed on the first lap and gained a gap of two minutes with four laps and 40 kilometres to go. Along with Liquigas and Caravello we set about chasing it down. Liquigas did their bit and then we pulled together along with Caravello and a Skil rider or two and with three kilometres to go they were all but caught except for the two riders in front.
Russel was at the front after some excellent work from Dean and then with a kilometre to go I hit the front and rode for as long as I could, until 500 metres to go and got out of there. A little far out but it was all I had. Russ did a good shop in the kick and was ninth on the stage. The two riders were still just in front and Intel won the stage again. Real good effort from all the team. Decent way to end the tour.
All that was left was a bit of lunch (KFC mind you), packing, and a little DVD shopping up in Xining. Everything was done. We had a small presentation dinner that night and then left Xining the next morning. Leaving in the morning allowed us time to get to the famous China Silk Markets for a dose of bargaining, arguing and shopping. Good time had by all. Tchallingi from Skil needed an extra arm or two to carry all his bags. Plenty of happy shop keepers and riders. Left Beijing the next morning and arrived early Wednesday morning after a mix up at Paris airport and our bus being late to pick us up.
Special thanks to all the team, staff (Gil, Wim, Luc, Dom and Raoul) for all the work out in. Could not have been done without you.
Have been enjoying a little break since arriving home and had A couple of days off. Last chance to catch the summer sales here in Belgium so that needed to be done. Back into things now and all attention now focused on the Tour or Britain. Hopefully all my guns will be blazing by then and a good tour will be had by all.
Till next time we meet
Ian Weigh Toyota
Wizard Home Loans
Dr. Peter Reaburn and the School of Health and Human Performance
CQ Crane Hire
Rock Pool Water Park
Tuckers Cycle Inn
Dr. Andrew Russel
Rockhampton Cycling Club
- Cycling News
July 31, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:28 BST
Well it all started with a bus trip to Paris, with the 'Tuff boys' sitting in the back seats and the...
China, July 31, 2006
Well it all started with a bus trip to Paris, with the 'Tuff boys' sitting in the back seats and the staff at the front. After the long flight to Beijing we had another two hour flight to Xining.. We had a bit of a wait in Beijing so some of the boys thought they would hit the famous Chinese 'Silk Markets' early. On there return after a few hours we asked them how it was and what they bought. Their reply: "Oh, we got lost and didn't find it!!!" Not a good start...
We got a warm welcome at Xining airport, then it was time for the 30 minute bus drive to the hotel, which gave us a chance to take in the different landscape and traditional towns on the side of the mountains.
The first couple of days gave us a good chance to get used to the high altitude and the mad Chinese drivers on the road. They love to use the horns over here, even if there is a fly on the windscreen they beep!!! We were staying at 2300 metres, but most of the race was at 3300 - 3900 metres around the Qinghai Lake area.
The first stage was a shock to the system!!! After a huge opening show to the tour and the introduction of the teams by riding on this floating stage in the lake, we were breathing through a straw, single file in the gutter ten kilometres into the race!!! Not nice. We all hurt a bit today.
Around the Qinghai Lake are mountains covered in green and the air was clean compared to down in Xining city. Our fans for the race were the families, who had come down from the mountains dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes and caring for their Yaks. It was a great sight. I hadn't seen anything like this before.
After a couple of days we started to get used to the air and conditions. We had about three or four stages that just went straight up and down, but the stage was still 140 kilometres long. So, some of the climbs where 20 - 40 kilometres long. It was a good idea for me to not look at the stage on paper too much, it was just a head crack!!!
On one mountain stage (3900m) we started in cool wet conditions (not nice getting a mouth full of dirty water off the roads in these parts). At the top of the first climb we could only see 10 metres in front of us, so there were some very dodgy moments. Coming into the start of the big 'HC' climb, things warmed up a bit - both the weather and the pace. Riders where throwing jackets off everywhere. This climb was hard and I was puffing and panting like a fish out of water, trying to push my non climbers body over the top, while little jockey-sized riders beside me where doing it a little easier. With all the puffing and panting I managed to climb over the top in the second group, which is good for me. From the green mountain top we dropped down into a hot valley; it look like we where riding through the Grand Canyon. It was amazing!
For me, most of the mountain stages were the same. I made a lot of noise puffing and panting riding over in the second group. There were some very hard climbs with long switch backs, but also some nice descending on the other side.
As a whole, the team performed very well. The Downing boys had some great sprints and breakaways. Worm was going strong as usual and Casper, Tank and Dag worked hard every day putting me in a good position for the climb and doing much needed work at the front! I can't fault the boys. For me it was a good tour and a 'change of shoes', as I didn't have to be the worker for the team, which was nice for a change! I finished 32nd on the GC, which I was happy with. Worm finished strongly in 42nd place.
The altitude and change of food took the toll on some of the riders, zapping them of much needed energy to ride this tough tour.
There are so many things that I could tell you about the tour and the experience of riding through this country. The lives of the local people made me feel lucky.
Overall, it was a good tour for the team, we all performed well and other teams saw what we can do with our results. Nice work.
Thanks very much to our staff, we couldn't have done it without you!!!
Also, we found the markets on the way home. Good shopping by all!!!
For most of us now it will be a couple of days easy rest. It will be very nice doing this in the great weather Belgium is having now. Good coffee, and rides - that's what it is all about!!!Till next time, bye bye for now.
Kane "Munge" Oakley
Riders - Cam (Worm), Dean (DayOff), Russell (Fonzy), Jeremy (Dag), Leigh (Tank), Alex (Casper) and me (Munge).
Staff - Gil, Raoul, Wimm, Luc and Dom.
- Team DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed 06
Cameron Jennings and some of the 2005 Team Cyclingnews riders made the move to the new DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed Continental team. Based in Belgium, they'll teach us about Belgian weather, beer and bike racing in 2006. Check out the adventures of Cam and the crew - a group of Aussies, Brits (English, Welsh, Scottish), the odd New Zealander and remarkably, even a Belgian - as they tackle a hectic race schedule on three continents this year. For further reading about the team, visit the To check out Team Cyclingnews during 2005 and earlier, visit the 2005 site. Australia UK USA