January in Australia, for a club cyclist at least, means a pilgrimage to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. I hadn’t been for the last two years, so I was overdue a visit this year and when Stu said he was going down for a half-week, I was in too.
The usual protocol is for our club to ride around 100km per day, stopping at the occasional bakery to refuel and intersecting with the race route to watch the pros in action. Depending on numbers, we usually have more than one bunch, with the fast bunch doing a few more kms (up to 130) and the slower bunch doing 80 or so. Everyone rides the climbs at their own pace - whether that’s all-out to see how fast you can go, or a comfortable effort - and we re-group at the top.
Usually I flit between the two groups, riding at the front of the slow group, or hanging on to the fast group, but this year it became apparent from the first climb that I was the tail-end Charlie on all the climbs, even in the slow bunch! Not enough hard training in the last few months, or really any training at all.
Sure, I’d been riding a few times a week, but not really following anything structured that you could call a training plan, and now my lack of fitness was revealed 😁 Unfortunately there was only one bunch this year as numbers were down, but I managed to find one or two others each day who were around my pace and happy to do a few less kilometers and it all worked out in the end. I’ve ridden those roads enough times to know my way around, so my preference is to let the main bunch do their own thing, rather than me holding them up. Sounds altruistic, but it’s actually me being selfish and not wanting the pressure of trying to keep up! The Adelaide hills are still a great place to ride, even if most of your club-mates are on a different route.
A few days before Christmas, a bushfire broke out in Cudlee Creek, an area we habitually visit, and riding through there this year was eye-opening. The scent of smoke was still in the air, more than three weeks later, as we rode down roads surrounded by burnt trees and slopes, marvelling at how houses had been saved despite being surrounded by burnt-out land and then being reminded of the toll these fires take by the occasional ruin of a house that couldn’t be saved. One thing is certain - the Country Fire Service did a really good job under pretty testing circumstances.