Ask RIDE…Tour Down Under: Stage 3
The stage to Stirling is always a highlight of the Tour Down Under. Like Stage 5 will on Saturday, the course today offered the chance for cyclists to ride to the start and then make their way to Stirling and see the peloton pass through the town twice before tackling the uphill sprint for the line. It also helps that Unley and Stirling are very nice places to watch the race and both have plenty to offer to eat and drink.
Once again, the weather was perfect, and the main street of Unley – last night filled with hundreds of people for the Gourmet Gala – had a great festival atmosphere. All the cafes were full, and every bit of space on the fence lining the road was filled – bikes were clogging the sidewalks and there very well could have been more people in lycra than not. How good is that?
I took to the road in Shimano Neutral Service 1. Glenn Vigar and Rob Hadley from NSW kindly let me squeeze between the wheels and join them for the day. These guys do an awful lot and have a wealth of experience that means they can deal with anything that happens on the road and keep the riders safe and, importantly, in contention if a mechanical occurs. Look for an account of the role Neutral Service plays in races in the next issue of RIDE.
What about that finish? Sitting in the Shimano car the last 10km was filled with radio traffic, as riders flatted, crashed, attacked…all the unpredictable elements of racing that make it so great to watch! I could hardly see the riders as they came across the line, but there was no mistaking who won. Michael Matthews, winning his first World Tour event, had time to have a look – as he did in Geelong – and then bust some dance moves out. When he got back to the Tour Village, Matthews was pumped – as you would be right?
I mentioned the Unley Gourmet Gala above and if you didn’t make it down this year, it is an absolute must the next time you are here for the Tour. I have never been to a street festival that has the same feel – grab a drink from a stall, wander through hundreds of people (at times difficult) until some food leaps out at you and repeat. I walked up and down the street no less than five times perusing everything – it is such a great night.