Select Page

Conversation starters: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Conversation starters: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Let’s consider the second round of the WorldTour for 2018 after a moment to reflect on an adventure to Geelong for what’s become known as ‘Cadel’s Race’.

The day after the day after the race, it seems a fitting time to look back and figure out what left an impression and what didn’t. This is the Tuesday after the second WorldTour race of the season and I’m back in the office chair early in the morning after having had a day to reflect on what was seen in Geelong.

It’s at this time that memories of the race filter through your mind and you begin to ponder what the likely impact of an event is – or could be. At the same time last week, I put together a little summary of some thoughts that lingered after returning from the Santos Tour Down Under. This is far from a complete list and it’s certainly not a race review but it is a little chance to hark back to what was, and to compile a little commentary about a few things left an impact.

These are talking points that extend beyond the competition itself and although it could be a much longer list, it’s good to just jot a few things down and put the weekend into context.

Podium girls seem to be a thing of the past… okay, there were some in Geelong but Cadel also answered the call to present the winners with their trophies.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

Our sport has evolved a lot in the last little while and international racing now starts in the heat of an Australian summer and there’s the potential to make the pro cycling something that is no longer just what you watch late at night in the middle of the year.

The ‘Summer of Cycling’ is a very real, tangible concept. It has been happening for years and there is a rhythm to how it all comes together. The Bay Series criteriums were missing in 2018 but, for many involved, that provided almost a sense of relief.

Racing got underway early in January and it’s been a month packed with competitions.

Only a slight reshuffle of dates can have an impact though, and both the TDU and CEGORR were contested earlier in 2018 than they have been since the inception of ‘Cadel’s Race’ in 2015. Back then, the one-day event (or, rather, the weekend event that has always included a women’s race on the Saturday, men’s race on the Sunday) was in February.

At the inaugural CEGORR, most kids had been back at school in the days leading up to the race and the holiday glow was starting to fade. This year, it came a day after Australia Day, and on the final weekend of the school holidays. These little details do have an impact.

It takes planning to consider going to a bike race that may not be just around the corner in your home town. It takes much more planning if you’re going to go and watch… and also ride. The Victorian event has also always included a people’s ride: a ‘gran fondo’, if you like – a mass participation prelude that utilises the course and allows people to socialise while they exercise.

This helps provide an additional catalyst for the trip but also gives cyclists the opportunity to become more familiar with the route and, of course, compare their efforts when the racers themselves blitz over the same terrain. The aim is to entice people to make a true holiday out of the adventure while also challenging themselves on the bike.

There are similar concepts attached to other events in the Summer of Cycling, only both mass participation rides for the nationals and Tour Down Under were cancelled because of extreme heat and dangerous conditions.

If it’s a family adventure that lures you to visit South Australia or Victoria for a bike race, then the position on the calendar matters.

The Victorian event is now extended to include races for men and women in Melbourne on the preceding Thursday (but we don’t reference these in this report which is about the weekend events in Geelong)..

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

In my case, the original plan was to attend the CEGORR with my eldest son, do the people’s ride on the Saturday, watch the racing… and return home in time for the new school year. It didn’t work out that way. (Wish it did, the two of us did the first two editions together and it was a blast – some of the more enjoyable times I’ve had at a bike race… but there’s always next year.)

There’s also the weather to consider. When visiting Geelong, be prepared for anything.

There’s been rain and wind in the past, but it was the (brutal) opposite in 2018.

It’s difficult to describe just how still it was on the Saturday; rarely have I been on any waterfront anywhere in the world when there was so little wind. In the evening, the yachts on Corio Bay did seem to be moving but it was surprising because on the shoreline there wasn’t even a breath of breeze.

The absence of wind was like a novelty act for Geelong. See, the town seemed to be saying, we can turn it off once in a while. Ta dah! Cool, huh?

For the people’s ride, it was ideal conditions: cool in the morning, warming rapidly and, by midday, hot! (But it would get hotter yet. Sunday was brutal! And humid. And very still. Wind? Where are you?)

If you finished early, you could start to feel a little refreshed by 11.30 when the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race began. Drag your ride out, however, and have a few stops along the way to capture that moment for Insta and you may have arrived back in town feeling kinda burnt… and wishing for a breeze, just a little one please.

 

We could talk about the weather for a while yet for it was extraordinary but let’s move on to some other conversation starters. There’s more to do that talk about the heat in the middle of summer…

 

* * * * *

Sign-on doubled as team presentation.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• The road in the title seems arbitrary…

It is a great road that runs alongside the ocean. It is a spectacular piece of bitumen that does entice tourists to visit the area. The Great Ocean Road is something to behold and it’s fantastic that it is part of a cycling/tourism initiative… but, in context with the actual races, it is largely irrelevant.

The opening stanza of both the men’s and women’s races provided little more than what we’ve come to expect: The Early Break. There were some crashes and other incidents along the road, but it didn’t really add much to the sporting element. (It did showcase the scenery and there were certainly plenty of choppers on hand to ensure that it was captured professionally and presented beautifully.)

Still, it’s once the peloton is back in Geelong for the circuit(s) that the action heats up.

Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt were back… and in the thick of the action.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• Heat and live TV diminishes the crowd

So far in 2018 there has been bike racing on the TV every weekend. If it wasn’t the nationals, it was the Peoples’ Choice Classic, or the Old Willunga Hill stage of the TDU, or the circuit race on the Sunday in Adelaide, or the men and women racing in and around Geelong on the same day that the finals for the Australian Open tennis were decided.

It’s a good thing for cycling. If you can’t make it, you can watch it…! But that is also a downfall of the promotion. If it’s too hot, stay at home and watch it on the box. That seemed to be the case in 2018. The crowds were down. (And we wait to see how the ratings were.)

Cadel hands Jay McCarthy his winner’s trophy.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• The Cadel star still shines (it’s just not quite so bright)

You see him here, you see him there… you see Cadel pretty much everywhere. There are pictures of him around town – on posters, on flags, and on little hand-outs of his face which people used as masks after pushing out his perforated eyes. And he was there in person.

Cadel was in the pits talking to riders, on the street signing autographs, on the podium presenting trophies, on the tellie talking about ‘his’ race.

He was repeatedly introduced as “Australia’s only Tour de France winner”, which is true but it seemed odd that there was such a need to reiterate it so often. We know it. We recognise it. We appreciate it… but we also realise that his legacy comes from more than that alone.

Curiously, when he spoke with the riders before the race, his commentary made him seem more like a weatherman than race ambassador… but that’s another story for another time.

 

 

• A perfect podium setting

In the past, Corio Bay had been hidden a little for the post-race formalities. It was there, but out of view because of a giant structure to protect the podium from the weather. (I think it was exposed last year… but I’m not too sure as the third edition is the only one I’ve not attended.)

Anyway, the purpose of this bullet-point is to state something obvious: the setting for the stage that became the centre of attention after the race (and the giant screen just beside it) was fantastic! Geelong can indeed be beautiful, and it will certainly be remembered as a stunning place if the podium photos are indicative of the 2018 races.

Challambra Crescent: up and over… once for the women, four times for the men.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• Challambra Crescent makes the race…

Okay, it wouldn’t have the same ring to it if it was called the ‘Cadel Evans Challambra Crescent Road Race’ but the reality is, this steep road that was such a pivotal part of the 2010 world championship circuit helps make the WorldTour races special. The women raced it for the first time this year and the men climbed up four times after doing their out-and-back routine along the Great Ocean Road.

It’s here that Katrin Garfoot and Annemiek van Vleuten broke free and earned some commentary for their efforts (even if they weren’t at the top of the result sheet a few minutes later). It was here that Chloe Hosking managed her energy and later surprised a few simply by her presence… and then her speed.

And it was here that Pete Kennaugh – the winner in 2016 – again sparked some action in 2018. It was here that Daniel Oss proved he was more than a Classics man. It was here that George Bennett flew his team’s colours on a climb. It was here that Jay McCarthy cleverly hid in the shadows and took some deep breaths before he considered the sprint…

It is on the climb up Challambra Crescent that the event becomes a little more than “just another race for the sprinters”…

Jay… about to throw his victory salute.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• Hosking and McCarthy are much more than ‘just sprinters’

The respective winners of the main events proved that they are versatile. It would be remiss to talk about the race and ignore the efforts of Chloe Hosking and Jay McCarthy but we did cover their conquests on the day of their wins. Not only are they fine riders but they have become good ambassadors for the sport.

Hosking speaks her mind, tells a good story, races with panache and conviction… and wins.

McCarthy is a little more reserved and, frankly, that’s a good thing at times… often an overt ego can take away appeal from a good athlete. We spoke regularly in January and it was clear that the time for him to win (again) would come. When it happened he was grateful and humble.

“There’s more to it than the win alone,” he told me on the evening of his victory.

“It’s satisfying in a way that I can’t explain. A lot goes into this and it’s great to be able to throw the arms in the air…”

For him to have his wife and extended family at the finish in Geelong make it even more special.

Elia Viviani, Jay McCarthy and Daryl Impey… second, first and third in the 2018 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Ronco

• VIP viewing was a priority

The VIP viewing platform is a stroke of genius by the organisers. It’s an obvious thing to do and the CEGORR is far from the only event to arrange an area near the finish which allows very important people to do what very important people do – in the comfort of air-con and with the help of a little elixir (or two or three…) – but it did mean other spectators had to be creative with their viewing.

Many fans just stayed on the field in front of the big screen (beside the podium) and watched the race that way. Plenty also ventured up Challambra Crescent to see the action.

Meanwhile, on the finishing straight, the dignitaries sipped beer and bubbly with Cadel (and others) while talking about business, cycling, tourism and, surely, a few other matters.

Cycling, in Victoria at least, seems big business. It certainly seemed that the investment by the government was appreciated and enabled the organisers to attract even more sponsors to an event that is beginning to get a strong foothold in cycling.

Hosting something like this requires political maneuvering and the Victorian government seems intent on riding on the coattails of Cadel’s legacy… and building a concept that is prosperous for much longer than the short-term afterglow of a career that introduced many to cycling. We tip our hat at the efforts of the organisers to eke out the most from the support it receives. (And, as a resident of NSW, ask our state government: can you please pay attention to this?!)

Simon Jones… he may be a good coach but his people skills leave a lot to be desired.

Photo: Rob Arnold

• One final discussion with Simon Jones

Amongst the VIPs were a smattering of sport administrators including Cycling Australia’s CEO Nick Green and the HPU director Simon Jones. They wandered around in Geelong taking note of what was going on and were on hand to answer any questions about… well, cycling in Australia.

I didn’t speak with Green on the day, he was busy. I did speak with Jones but was told it would be our last conversation. “I’m not talking to you again…”

He has taken exception to an article RIDE published about team selection for the upcoming track world championships and he’s sulking. He was offended at my closing line, “How embarrassing.”

His attitude and the way he conveyed his stance is not surprising. He’s one of the more awkward people in our sport and I’m not alone with my appraisal, only the expressions used by others to describe him have not been… ah, as tame as mine.

I stand by my comment about an embarrassing selection policy and now extend the final line to take on board Jones’ final discussion with me: how embarrassing for a person who is meant to be guiding cycling in our country.

But we move on and remain free to comment on cycling in Australia without further input from the HPU director. (Frankly, it’s a little bit of a relief. There are many other people in cycling who I’d prefer to talk to.)

 

 

• A one-day race… ah, comes and goes in a day

Okay, there’s more to the event that the CEGORR alone. We’ve covered the people’s ride and the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race and we recognise that there are the criteriums in Melbourne on the preceding Thursday but it all seems to be over just as it’s beginning.

There is a major difference between a stage race and a one-day race. (Duh!)

Aside from stating the obvious, it’s worth noting just how complex and difficult staging a world-class bike race is. And to put in all that effort for it to end so quickly seems a little bit of a shame.

It’s a great event and there’s so much infrastructure required… but there are only so many days in summer and a limited time to hold the attention span of sport fans. Cycling has the capacity to become bigger in Australia and, with thanks to events like the TDU and CEGORR, it’s continuing to prosper.

 

 

– By Rob Arnold

Sign up for RIDE News

RIDE Insta: @ridemediaHQ

  • #teambike #specialedition @lukamezgec @mitchelton_scott #discbrakes
  • #Heffron @kom_financial_advice #Sydney #cycling @michael_pott3r

Follow RIDE on Instagram

Month by Month (archives)

Keep up to date with RIDE

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from the world of RIDE.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This