Tales from the Peloton, August 19, 2004
The term 'fat cat' and 'corporate' are often used together, particularly in the expression 'corporate fat cat'. At Sydney's Ride for Life corporate race, however, there weren't too many fat cats to be found, only lean, sleek cats on bikes going very fast. So fast, in fact, that your faithful (and honest) Cyclingnews correspondent couldn't keep up with them, but enjoyed the entire experience nevertheless.
Organised by Sydney's Prince of Wales Oncology Unit director, Professor Michael Friedlander, and a committee including Cycling Australia board member Phill Bates, the Ride for Life is a day-long festival of cycling for a good cause - raising money for and awareness of the work done in fighting cancer at the Prince of Wales Hospital. With an Elite men's race, State Junior Championships, a recreational ride and of course our corporate race on the programme, it's an event not often seen in Sydney - lots of bike racing away from the bustle of crazy Saturday Sydney drivers.
As usual, the Elite men made the course look easy - and they did a 70km race - ours was only 30km, so it couldn't be that bad. And we were probably going to be up against a few hacks rolling their dusty pushies around, barely making it up the hill, so a podium finish was on the cards. And with a Team Cyclingnews.com jersey on my back, anything was possible. Ahhh, how wrong I was!
Having taped the race number to my trusty steed (the organisation of this and registration was excellent, with very little fuss) I felt like I was ready to put on a show. Injured AIS Women's team member Katie Nichols signalled the start and injured Olympian Steven Wooldridge rode the first lap (what's going on with Australian cyclists and sustaining injuries?) adding some prestige to the race - hopefully these riders will be actually competing at the Ride for Life in 2006.
Not long after the start the selection was made - those cruising on a Saturday afternoon were separated from the racer boys and girls - and soon after that the selection between the lead group and our second group was made. It wasn't long before the leaders were out of sight, and the group of eight riders - my group - were taking turns and sharing the great weather and excellent criterium course.
From there it was a matter of minimising the hurt, considering my training regimen leading up to the event was far from ideal - the short sharp climb every lap didn't make life easier, either! Even though I saw little of the frontrunners, including noted local A-Grade racer Stuart Campbell (who won the race), the atmosphere was brilliant, and the support from fellow racers and spectators was a treat to those of us not accustomed to acually being watched while racing.
With all the trimmings of a significant race meet, entering the start/finish area each lap was a pleasure - mixed with a bit of pain for good measure. What appeared to be a simple bit of road suddenly became a stage for great cycling feats to be watched by adoring fans...or so it felt. This is testament to the professional nature of the event, with plenty of barriers clearly outlining the course, and medical staff on hand to treat those unfortunate enough to take a tumble.
There was a mountain of support staff, particularly from the Rural Bush Fire Brigade (who organised crowd control) and those volunteers who made the day a great charity event. It was this, and a day of solidarity after a year which has so far been difficult for all those involved with cycling in Australia. There are so many people that made it possible, and their enthusiasm for the cause was infectious. And thanks must go to corporate sponsors Trust, St George Bank, Allens Arthur Robinson and Double A Paper (among others), proving that 'fat cat' and 'corporate' don't always belong together. Watch this space for a Team Cyclingnews victory in 2006 - time to start training!