TDU Roundup

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.

Bushfire aftermath at Cudlee Creek

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.

Thanking the Country Fire Service

Shite Flight

My travel back to Dublin was a bit of a disaster. The Mountain Perks shuttle was great, getting me to the airport in Calgary a half an hour early, so I had checked in and got rid of my bags a full three hours before my flight. Anticipating airline food, I filled up at the marginally less crap airport food court, bought myself some books and settled into the waiting game.

My flight was due to depart at 1755, but nothing much seemed to be happening at the gate. I was engrossed in my book – Heat by George Monbiot, well worth a read – so I didn’t really hear the explanations… something about cleaning the plane I thought. An hour after we were due to take off we were informed that the plane needed to be taken out of service and they were flying in a replacement from Vancouver, so we’d have to wait another four hours for that to arrive. Great!

While waiting, I finished my book and then realised I hadn’t heard any new announcements about when the rescheduled flight was due to depart, so I had to go looking for someone to fill me in. We finally got going only six hours later than scheduled.

On arriving in Heathrow, the Air Canada representative gave me the details of my rebooked flight to Dublin, so I tried texting Dad the updated arrival time. My Canadian SIM wouldn’t work, and both my Australian and Irish ones didn’t have any credit, so I tried getting online via WiFi. Turns out Heathrow doesn’t have any free WiFi hotspots, or at least none where I was at the time. As luck would have it, I tried to make a reverse charge call – which didn’t work – and as I replaced the receiver a pound fell out of the coin return which I was able to use to place a quick call.

Once I’d made it to the required gate I found out that the flight to Dublin was delayed, so I enjoyed another few hours sitting on my arse. I finally got airborne and arrived in Dublin only 29 hours after leaving my house in Fernie, and only 7 hours later than scheduled! The annoying thing was I arrived after dark, so didn’t get to see Dublin from the air on approach, something which always makes me feel like I’m coming home.

Flights Booked

Both myself and Jacqui are using our frequent flyer points to get free1 flights back to Australia, so after Jacqui went to book her flights and discovered she could only fly back via the U.S., I decided I should get organised and try booking mine.

Since I refuse to fly to, through2 or over the U.S. due to their bullshit immigration requirements, I really wanted to fly via Asia. I had a three week window to work with, so I wasn’t too concerned when my preferred London – Sydney direct wasn’t available. Half an hour spent searching through Qantas’s Frequent Flyer booking site got me London – Tokyo with BA, an 8-hour stopover and then Tokyo – Sydney with Qantas.

The combined flight time is no longer than the traditional Bangkok/Singapore stopover route, the Qantas leg is on one of their new Airbus A330s which look flash, and I’ve never been to Japan. Jacqui seems to think that I’ll be able to wander around Tokyo for a few hours, which would be cool.

Anyway, the end result is that I return to Australia as a fully-fledged resident on the morning of Friday, February 22nd. See you then!

1 ‘free’ as in you still pay almost $300 in taxes.

2 You still have to go through immigration even if you’re just in transit.