So all the cracks had gathered to the fray...
Well there’s not much in the way of moleskins, Stetsons or saddlebags, but we reckon POK would make a very good Harrison, plus there is no shortage of riders talking up their skills, and there are a few people who probably fancy themselves in Cuban heels.
It’s Day Zero, and there is actually a real sense of gathering here in Canberra. There are riders flooding in from different directions, dragging their bikes behind in kit bags, and catching up with the old friends and training buddies as they go. We are staying at the Novotel in Northbourne Avenue in Canberra and we’ve pretty much taken over the car park out the back. JJ the Mechanic, Adam, Lorian and Pete have been helping people put their bikes back together, whilst Big Paul Wilson has been packing bags into the truck for punters (provided, of course, they can get themselves organised before the Broncos/Cowboys game starts at 7.30!)
We’ll stay here the night and then ride off first thing tomorrow morning. Up to Parliament House for a photo opportunity (not sure how you do a security check on a 57-strong Queensland peloton...) and then out through the suburbs and into the hills, heading for Melbourne.
There’s a bunch of nervous energy coursing through the group. Tomorrow is a relatively gentle ride – 130 km long, 1800 metres in elevation – but it gets seriously tough thereafter when we hit the Snowy Mountains and the Victorian Alps. Seems like a whole lot of heartache before we can slide into a cheeky little wine bar in Bourke Street! You can hear the riders wondering out loud if they’ve done enough training and worried they might have indulged a little too much in the new year. To be fair, some of the jersey sizings that people nominated might have seemed a little “aspirational” back in November 2018 but the riders are actually looking in good shape. That’s a credit to the trainers, but also to the fabulous nutrition people at Apple to Zucchini who have taught us the secret benefits of sour dough, avocados, salt tablets etc.
If you’re a partner to a rider, and you’re worried that your special friend is going to bore you silly from now on, talking about the respective benefits of protein and carbohydrate, fear not. This blogger went to dinner with the Hutchinsons team and a large part of the conversation was concerned with which body parts the fellas had waxed in preparation for the ride. Frankly, its hard to see how some of those areas would even be affected by the wind or an accident, but the boys seemed happy. We were dining at a place called the Tipsy Bull, and drinking gin made from green ants, so the whole situation was a little unprecedented, but its all good.
The bloggers like to tell you each year about the places we visit, but its a hard to say much about Canberra. If you take out the Parliament and the High Court, it doesn’t have a long or exotic history compared to an equivalent town in Queensland like, say, Townsvile. To be fair, it was a sheep paddock until 1913 when the Commonwealth decided to have a compromise capital between Sydney and Melbourne that would be designed from scratch by architects, as had happened with Brasilia and Washington. (Quick pop quiz – which five capital cities in the world bear the same name as their countries...) So they had a competition which was won by a couple of architects from the Prairie School based in Chicago, namely Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Marion didn’t seem to get the credit she deserved, and then the project was a little problematic. Not unusual problems. Architect had big ideas. Client wanted to reduce scope because of unexpected financial constraints (I.e. World War 1). Architect concerned that vision being compromised. Architect leaves project. Work not finished until the 1920’s. It is kind of cool, though, to be in a city where there is a coherent plan and the different parts seem to talk to each other.
That’s about as much as can be written on a ride that hasn’t started. We are really thrilled at the level of support we have already received for AEIOU and Ronald McDonald House, and for the support we have received personally from family and friends. Sleep long, rest well.
- Damien Atkinson