With the dust still settling on Buninyong, Al Hinds reflects on what was a thrilling exhibition of Australian racing.
Heat of the moment
Could Caleb Ewan have won the national championship, could the race have played out differently? Probably. Ewan rode a race of a rider far beyond his years, keeping a lid on his efforts throughout the first 17 laps of the Mount Buninyong course, and looked in control, and poised to take the victory heading into the final loop. But after parrying the last ditch efforts of first Darren Lapthorne, then Campbell Flakemore to get away, Ewan himself curiously let loose. Maybe he was lured by the grandeur of a solo victory, maybe he was simply feeling particularly good and thought he could go it alone. Whatever his motivation, it was a ballsy display, and stirred the race in a dramatic fashion. But it was also unnecessary, and ultimately costly. Ewan was the fastest of the front group, and while it may have been dull, the most bankable route to victory for the 20 year old would have been simply to wait and watch Heinrich Haussler and Neil van der Ploeg.
Contrast that to Haussler, whose presence in the final selection was a performance of tenacity, and determined suffering. Twice he yoyo’d, and twice he clawed his way back. He did sparing work in the finale, and critically, muscled Neil van der Ploeg off Ewan’s wheel in the final kilometre. He did what he needed to. A professional performance, from a guy that’s been a pro a decade longer than Ewan.
Bicycle riders in NSW are obliged to abide by a number of special road rules when riding, but the seemingly arbitrary enforcement of several makes one wonder why they’re worth retaining.
Recently, an old friend of mine told me how they’d been caught running a red on their bike. There was no cars on the road, it was the crack of dawn, and, she was heading down the street to grab some milk. A red light on what’s normally a pedestrian crossing, but not a traffic intersection stopped her progress a hundred metres from her quarry. She slowed, then decided to creep through. A flash or red and blue, a single siren, and a look behind confirmed, a police car indicating for her to stop.
My friend is a middle-aged woman with, or so she tells me, an unblemished traffic record. She’s never been pulled over by police, save the odd random breath test, until this incident very recently. She was fined too. Perhaps, all fair enough, she broke the law. But it's the kind of law that police often don't enforce. In her experience, police have regularly turned a blind eye to bicycle traffic offences in the spirit of common sense.
There were five key moments that defined the 2014 road cycling scene for Al Hinds. You may or may not agree.
For those that have followed cycling this past decade, the love affair, borne in naive adulation has certainly been strained. Many fair weather fans will have turned off their televisions long by now, pulled down their L.A. posters, clipped off their Livestrong bracelets, and packed up, gone home.
But like a good marriage; read robust; others have kept on. Braving the tension of simultaneously trying to suspend, and retain our disbelief, in a sport that’s looked no less broken than ever. The railed-on have had to come to terms with the idea that the object of our affections is not what we thought, and it is, and it wasn’t; a polemic peace. Evidenced by the news of the last week, and the drips and drabs from throughout this year, nobody could rightly say the sport has truly turned a corner, or detached itself from crisis. Maybe it never will.
As the cycling world falls into its umpteenth doping crisis this year, month, day, err, hour, fuelled by fresh allegations over the advice that banned doctor Michele Ferrari did or didn’t give to nearly 40 cyclists a few moons ago, Michael Clarke, Australia’s cricket captain was injected with, well who knows what exactly, “legally” to miraculously recover from a innings-ending back injury, score a hundred, and be an all-out hero.
'Course, old Clarkey was doing all he could do, under the rules governing cricket to be fit. But, as pointed out by Garmin-Sharp professional Nathan Haas on twitter; there’s a bizarre hypocrisy inherent in sport when legal injections that quite literally bring people back from the dead (okay, more figuratively), are allowed, and lauded, and others, oh, let’s say Ben Hill, are read the riot act for mistakenly taking a low-grade supplement.. @NathanPeterHaas was thinking the same thing.
— Al Hinds (@al_hinds) December 11, 2014Which isn’t to say that the revelations coming out of Padua aren’t shocking - they are - but to bring attention to the way, as a society, we just blindly accept some performance enhancers as legitimate aids, and deny others. If you ask me, it can, and often does, seem a little arbitrary. Why do we draw a line in the sand in our minds, that differentiates between where legitimate performance enhancement ends, and cheating begins, and how?
The root of Sydney's attitude problem with cyclists is in forgetting that cyclists are people too, writes Al Hinds.
Back in March, on an otherwise forgettable day in Sydney, Thomas Kerr drove his Nissan SUV into a bunch of cyclists from the Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club. The impact, which came from behind and at speed, ploughed so heavily into the cyclists that the trail of bike debris left behind stretched more than a hundred metres. Seven cyclists, out on what had been a pleasant Sunday morning ride, were left with serious injuries. One is facing two years of rehabilitation. The only stroke of fortune was that none lost their lives.
The incident hit me hard at the time. Shaking me up enough to write a piece that resounded with many of you; Spooked. It could’ve been me. It could’ve been people I knew.