Archives for posts with tag: Racing

Tonight I, along with my father and an old friend from school, had the pleasure of attending a great event at the Alliance Française de Sydney – an evening with Christian Prudhomme, General Director of the Tour de France. The talk was hosted by both the Alliance Française and SBS Television which is the home of cycling on Australian television and they have been broadcasting the Tour de France (TDF) to Australia for the last 17 years. Mike Tomalaris was also in attendance and introduced Prudhomme to us. Both him and Tomalaris are journalists by profession, so there was a common bond that they both shared – particularly since both had spent so much of their work life focused on the TDF. As it turns out, they are also both the same age. I believe Prudhomme was in Australia to talk with the broadcasters vying for the TV rights to broadcast the TDF after the contract with SBS expires in 2017. I only hope that ASO (the organisers of the TDF) realise that there are no other broadcasters aside from SBS in Australia who will show the same passion and do the race justice in their broadcast.

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It was a fascinating talk, and it was amazing to see that man in person. As the General Director of the Tour de France, he is one of the most important people in global sports management and what he says on TV has implications to not only cycling, but France as well. So seeing his persona in real life versus the media conscience presentation that he must provide when formally interviewed was a real surprise. He was genial, honest, and inspiring. Inspiring in that when asked about what are his goals for managing the TDF his response was simple “to make kids dream about being the champion of Le Tour!” This was a grown man talking about his humble goal of inspiring the next generation to achieve something.

He covered a range of other topics with the unavoidable topic of doping in cycling. Prudhomme is a staunch opponent to doping in sport and described the challenges for ASO having to operate within the regulatory framework established by the UCI. He noted that most other sports have chosen not to be as fervent in tackling drugs in sport, to which he was disappointed. Prudhomme was also pragmatic in the ability to completely weed out the drug cheats, noting that in every facet of life there are cheats – so practically cheating will never be completely eradicated. But he reaffirmed his continued commitment to tackling doping, and the need for cooperation from all the sports and international federations to consistently apply the rules.

We got the chance to ask a few questions covering many aspects of his job and the organisation of the TDF. I even got to ask a question regarding the selection of the teams for the wildcard places and pressure in the promotion of the sport globally. When some of the questions regarding the broadcast of the race were asked we got a very interesting perspective from him. He spoke about how the TDF and the last 100 years of French history were inextricably intertwined.

But what was more remarkable for me was his perspective on the social responsibility that the race organisers had in the promotion of France and its regional communities. Prudhomme told one story about how a few years back one of the stages finished in a a little known small town in the centre of the country. In recent years, this small town had suffered a decline in its local economy having relied heavily on the wood industries. With close to 25% unemployment, it was only when the TDF traveled through that it put the town on the map. Since then, the publicity boost that it received has given it a much needed lift and a small turnaround in fortune.

He spoke about how if anyone was serious enough they could put a stop to the race by blocking the route. But such is the passion of the TDF in France that no-one has done this to date (and even if they attempted to there would be just as many locals attempting to stop the potential saboteurs). He told an anecdote of a planned sabotage of the race route by some poor farmers in the Pyrenees. They were having a rough trot with bears marauding their flocks, and the EU had just passed a law protecting the bears. This was to the economic misfortune of the farmers, some of whom were losing up to 100 sheep to the bears. So to make a statement they planned to disrupt the race to gain international exposure to their plight. Solution – send in Bernard Hinault to sort them out. He amicably explained why the tour must go on (being a former 5 time champion and farmer himself), and with the consumption of many a glass of pure Ricard sabotage was averted. Hinault, always the enforcer!

There were many other points discussed and I do not want to misquote Prudhomme in his honest discussions with us. But it was a real breathe of fresh air listening to a progressive and visionary sports administrator who was humble enough to recognise his own role in managing the tour. He recognised that he was merely the holder of the fort during this period in time and bearer great responsibility to the sport, his country, and his role to inspire the next generation. He has inspired me, and I am pumped to ride again tomorrow morning with some wind in my sails.

Merci Christian, and to Mike and SBS as well, for a wonderful evening and may some of your vision rub off on other sports administrators.

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Vive le Tour!

 

Ever since I was a boy I have had a bike on hand to go on adventures. I was lucky to grow up during the BMX revolution where every kid was out on their bikes riding around everywhere. At the time there was no such thing as Playstation or Xbox, and we had plenty of places to explore as the surrounding suburbs had plenty of vacant lots, parks, and tracks connecting them all. I hope that I can instill that same sense of adventure and exploration in my son because… it’s FUN!

I still to this day remember quite vividly my first ride where my Dad took off the training wheels. I can still see my Dad getting out the socket set and removing the bolts that held the training wheels onto the frame. Then he held the bike with one hand on my handlebars as I gripped on, and with his other hand just underneath the rear of the saddle. Dad released me down the gentle slope of our home’s driveway to make it easy to build up momentum, at which point I promptly veered left as I overcompensated for his released grip on the handlebar. So my Dad picked me and my bike up, and we did it all over again – back on the steed. My steed at the time was this metallic yellow Raleigh bike which was single speed and you pressed the brake by pedaling backwards on the crank – locking up the rear. This would allow me to build up speed on the driveway and then lock up the brakes to cause a skid on the concrete. Little did I know that all I was doing was creating flat spots on my tires  though I rarely got a puncture. It was plenty fast enough, for my age, but I longed to join the BMX club.

I can’t remember which birthday it was, but one year my parents bought me a brand spanking new chrome BMX machine. It was beautiful and had everything I wanted on it! It was quite big for me when I first got it, and I can remember it was quite highly geared. This made acceleration a fair bit harder than what I was used to, but once I got up to speed it hammered. It wasn’t light, but then again I wasn’t that strong at the time either. Like a lot of the BMX bikes at the time it had “pads” – which were coverings over the headset, top tube, and handlebar cross bar. I still have no idea what purpose these served, but all the kids thought they were cool. The frame was covered all over in highly reflective chrome alloy coating that gave it a lustrous look. And it had a cool set of grips on the bar ends, and I had for the first time a brake lever for my front brakes (cool!) but still had the rear pedal backward lock up. Sure I had bike envy back then – every kid wanted a Mongoose, and they were priced with that in mind. I can’t even remember what brand my bike was. I remember looking at the kids who had the fat plastic bladed spokes (usually between 3-6 spokes) and would think “will they help me go faster?”. And maybe I would have put a set of cobra grips on it, but that didn’t really matter. All I knew was that it was my bike and it gave me the opportunity to go adventuring – I was part of the BMX club.

A lot of my memories from that point on were are of “stacks” (i.e. crashes) or “getting up to no good” on wheels. But the strongest memory I have is of a race against my brother that we held around Werrington Lake to settle a score. The score was an interesting one, because when my Bro got his BMX bike it was lighter, smaller, and a bit more lower geared. It felt more responsive in the steering, which was probably a reflection on the width of the bars. More importantly, it was easier to do jumps with over the dirt mounds in the bush behind the park. My Bro was my riding buddy, but we always wanted to know how was faster. So the challenge was set, and the competitive Yardin family had another trophy up for grabs.

The Race

The race was for 1 lap of Werrington Lake, and the winner was first past the post. Werrington Lake has a track that completely surrounds it with a bit of an incline  around a U-shaped bend (the big down arrow) and a bridge over a cascade with few stairs (that have now been removed) that required a dismount / remount a-la Cyclo style (the big left arrow). It isn’t a particularly long circuit, so in effect it was a sprint. The finish line was right before a bridge which crossed the point where Werrington Creek crossed joined the lake (the four pointed star).

Werrington Lake race trackMy Mum and Grand-mère were with us that day, and they walked with us to the lake. We notified them of the planned duel and as soon as we got there we were off. My Bro established an early lead by accelerating quicker than me, at which point I duly slotted in behind him. At this age I didn’t have a clue about drafting, but I remember that just to catch up with my Bro and had to pedal my ar$e off. We hammered along in a counter clockwise direction around the lake as he kept on looking back behind at me and my bike on his tail. As we rushed through the windy tree bit, we had to avoid a couple of pedestrians, which limited my opportunities to overtake. Approaching the bridge we were line astern as we dismounted. I tried to be cheeky and get out ahead of him by running into the remount. But he had my measure and quickly rode across my line to dash any chances of that. Riding on the long straight path approaching the U-shape path that went up the hill, I made an attempt to pass off the track on the dirt – quickly finding I had less grip and no advantage. So the last spot I had to make my move was on the descent from the hill in the final straight. I plotted my move and built up speed and momentum which my bro quickly matched. We hit the apex of the U and that is when I hammered it, passing him and building up plenty of speed. He tried his cut off move again (just like a certain Michael Schumacher – boo hiss boo), but I had already passed him. That was the last straw for him – but to his credit he put in all he had. The positions reversed, and with 100m to go, I kept up the momentum to cruise to the finish. We were line astern with me in front, set to take the palmares. But my Bro was not finished and in the last 20m he pulled out from behind me, put his head down for the final push. I didn’t know, what was going to happen next because I was to busy concentrating on avoiding the looming pylon, and finish line, splitting the path into left and right traffic. I crossed the line only to hear behind me a massive…

Crash!

My Bro had run straight into the pylon with his front wheel at full speed. The bike bounced off it like the ball in a pinball machine and he went flying over the bars ahead. When I retold the story as a kid I would say that he went flying past me, but truth was that he hit the ground pretty hard and the gravelly track decided to give him a bit of a massage. At that point my Mum and Grand-mère were waiting close to the finish line and watched it all in horror. I had mixed emotions. I was elated that I had tactically executed my move in the race, and won. On the other, my Bro had just wiped himself out before crossing the line. He was banged up, in pain, and in no mood for any post-race assessment. We walked him and his bike back home where the Tour Doctor fixed him up. My opportunity for gloating was gone, instead we both got a talking to from our Mum about the dangers of racing. My Dad, competitive as he is, of course provided no such counsel. My Bro stayed off his steed for a while, battered in both body and confidence – and we never had a rematch. But this ride was now forever burnt into my memory.

Thanks to another blogger “women.cyclists” who inspired this blog with her post about the “Best Ride of My Childhood“. Both her and her partner get up to some pretty good two wheel adventuring.

In writing this post, I was trying to find a photo of my old BMX bike and discovered this awesome site BMX Museum. It is a treasure trove of old bikes. I still could not find my bike in there – but a cool trip down memory lane nonetheless.

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