Crash the Tour Down Under bike race

Lead pack ascend the Willunga Hill in Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under 2017 in South Australia. (photo: ulrike.ca)

I wore a skimpy dress, a floppy hat, sunglasses and a big grin.

With one hand I guided the handlebars of Ruth’s sidewalk bicycle. A sunflower perched cheerfully in a faux wicker basket hanging off it.

With the other hand I balanced a blue wine glass. It contained a mimosa cocktail of sparkling wine and orange juice—until I used that same hand to shift into a higher gear.

Thousands of spectators lined either side of the McLaren Vale Main Road. They waited for the team riders of 2017’s Tour Down Under to wheel past in a mass of muscle, metal, and resin.

In the meantime, they had me. They hooted and then cheered when I tucked in for an attack.

I pedalled past Michelle’s gang who drank bottles of Moondog’s White Feather Fizz and twirled painted umbrellas every time the peloton of athletes blew past.

Spectators twirl painted umbrellas at the Tour Down Under 2017 in Willunga, South Australia.
Painted umbrellas at the Tour Down Under 2017 in Willunga, South Australia.

Hundreds of roadies

Once I got onto the High Street, things got a little technical.

I had to practice my slow-speed pedal as hundreds of Lycra-clad road riders suddenly joined then passed me on the road. They were regular road cyclists, on the course to glide in the slipstream of the greats—Ewan, Porte, Chaves. They looked fast and wealthy in team-style jerseys and ultra-light bikes.

Some laughed when they passed me and I raised a glass to them. One scowled and swerved when he passed me after I signalled a left turn. Just like a roadie, I thought. Too busy watching his front wheel to see a few metres ahead of him.

I started pedalling up the Willunga Hill with the rest of the cyclists, still holding my wine glass. “Why, this isn’t so hard!” I remarked to a man on a Trek. He grinned and kept pedalling. He would join the other cyclists on the shoulders of the winding, 3.7-kilometre hill. It would mark the Tour’s Stage 5 finish.

I’ve staffed a bike shop, worked for a bicycle designer, written about cycling culture, presented slideshows, been a sponsored rider, and solo-cycled several countries.

I’ve also ridden a bicycle all my life. When people ask me when I started riding, I tell them, “I never stopped.” When they ask if I ride for the environment, or for fitness, or to save money, I say no. I ride for fun.

Road riding is great, but I think it’s all just so earnest and serious. And expensive. And corporate.

Me, I raise a toast to the people of South Australia who add a little fizz and ridiculousness to cycling’s Tour Down Under.

Ulrike and Mémé glammed up for the Tour Down Under 2017 in South Australia.
Ulrike and Meme raise a toast to the Tour Down Under 2017 in South Australia.

 

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