The Tour Down Under is the best cycling event in all of Australia. It brings in loads of spectators from interstate and overseas, and provides a great atmosphere, all centered around the city of Adelaide. As a local cycling fan, there is no better time of year to be on a bike. It’s summer, the days are long and warm, the roads are low on traffic, and there are other cyclists out everywhere. So like a lot of people, I took the whole week off to ride. This year I had no other rides I needed to be involved with, so I set up a series of daily bunch rides on behalf of the Hells 500 crew.
Reflecting on what it was like to ride during the whole week, there are 5 main highlights:
This year I led a daily bunch ride for the Hells 500. Hells 500 are the team behind Everesting, and as a crew, they are centred around two principles: 1. Challenge your own boundaries, by extending yourself physically. 2. Inclusion and support, crew support crew.
So with this, the rides were long and steep, but manageable. What made it was the attitude. All riders were happy to go as fast as they could, but there was never an issue to stop and wait for the slower guys. There were days we did over 200 kilometres, and days where we did 80. The best part of rides like this was that people weren’t there to take themselves seriously. There was always a good laugh to be had at the pub mid-ride, though we would generally charge in to the pub at full gas, pouring out sweat, and panting our guts out whilst ordering a beer.
It is a fact, the roads in the Adelaide Hills are glorious. There are long climbs, short ones, steep sections and gradual gradients. Almost always are there beautiful views to be had, and the traffic is limited even at peak times. Even better is that all roads actually lead somewhere, so there is usually a pub to stop at along the way (cafe if you are desperate), and linking the roads together is like painting a masterpiece. The routes are limitless, with so many climbs able to be linked together in so many ways. ESPECIALLY so if you aren’t afraid of gravel. As soon as you hop onto the Strada Bianca, some of which is within 10km of the CBD, you open yourself up to a whole new frontier.
There are so many roads, that even us locals discovered new climbs and cut-throughs, nearly every day that we were out. Some so great you wonder how you never knew of this before!
Sure, the rides could have been pleasant little affairs, with a couple of hours of riding, and cheery smile at the finish, but with so much reward that comes from extending yourself physically and mentally, why not go all in? Day 1 was steep and hot, it was over 39 degrees at one point, and I thought the radiated heat from the tarmac would melt my face off. Days 2-4 continued to be bloody hot, and my legs were protesting loudly. I got dropped on a lot of climbs. The rest of the days my legs were fairly numb to the pain. Every morning, the first 2 hours would be a struggle, like trying to pick up a car, you will your legs to work, but nothing really happens except you are out of breath. After this ‘warm up’ it is all gravy. You are still tired, sweating profusely, and out of breath, but you can largely still roll with everyone else. Most afternoons I couldn’t really talk with much more than a grunt, and I got told I looked like shite, but I set some great personal bests on Strava for climbs and descents. The struggle was real, but pushing through the haze to still ride hard was enriching for the soul.
Other than the glorious ups and downs of the climbs, the ‘Hops Based Sports Drink’ stops became the stuff of legend on our rolls. One of the great highlights was rocking into the Gumeracha Hotel on the first day of the race at 10:30 am. The place was shut, so we resigned ourselves to having to go to the cafe up the street. A little lady stuck her head out, and said she’d open for us, and into the most front-bariest-front bar we’d ever seen, we went. 20 blokes then knocked back over 50 pints of SA’s best, before belting up and over Checkers Hill to watch the pros roll past! The Echunga Pub the following day served up the same treat, and even chucked on $10 counter lunches for us half an hour early.
Our pub stops became so quickly appreciated by our interstate cousins, that the term ‘Adelaide Coffee’ was coined, in reference to how we like to replace the typical mid-ride coffee for a beer.
Even with all of the rides and pub stops, the racing is never a side note. It is just so accessible, especially so on a bike. You will only get pulled off of the road a couple of minutes before the pros come through, so rolling around before finding a prime spot for viewing is easy. We watched live as they sailed up Corkscrew, rolled into Lyndoch, sprinted at Stirling, and laid each other to waste on Willunga. All of this from 2 metres away. The rest of the time, we’d catch a section on TV whilst on a mid ride pub stop.
So if you haven’t been before, next January, get yourself to Radelaide. The rolls, the people, the beer and the race are worth the trip.
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