Two days out from L’Etape Australia’s Saturday event, the weather forecast looked apocalyptic at best. The event team monitored the situation closely and sought advice from local authorities, the police and the Bureau of Meteorology. They were faced with deciding whether to hold the event as planned, to cancel it, or to run it on a modified course. On Friday night they announced they would do the latter option, about 100kms instead of the 126km and 157km options initially on the menu.
The initial descent from Bullocks Flat remained, then riders headed out on a modified loop around Jindabyne. The final climb up the Col du Kosciuszko was also removed. The threat of 200mm rain plus high winds up there was as much of a worry as the risk of hypothermia to riders waiting to travel back down the mountain once they reached the top.
On occasions like this, a lot of riders wait for the event team to make a decision about whether or not it’s safe to ride. But whether or not you ride is also your choice.
Cyclists are quick to joke about how others just need to harden up when it comes to riding in the rain. “You’re not made of sugar, you’re not going to melt.”
This blog is for those who chose not to ride. It’s important that there are voices in the community that support these riders too. You also made the right choice. And it’s a choice that, in a lot of ways, is just as tough.
In a situation like this one, it will be different things that determine whether someone rides or not: The money they’ve already spent on entry, transport and accommodation. The money they anticipate they’ll need to spend on bike repairs. Their confidence riding in the rain, and how that’s affected by the terrain, the number of riders around them and their equipment, like carbon rims.
Whether or not someone chooses to ride could be more about the experience they signed up for and where the line is that stops that experience being memorable, in a positive way, or fun. Sometimes it’s about how much a particular event ‘matters’ in terms of personal feelings, goals, or where it sits in a year of other big events on the bike and off it. We enter events with one lot of expectations, hopes or ideals and we reevaluate these when circumstances change.
For me, the decision was a simple one. I’ve been away from the event scene for three years healing a couple of major injuries. I’m just not ready yet to ride in conditions that could exacerbate the one I’m still healing and mean missing out on a few more.
Because of this, I found it was much easier to make the decision to watch it from the sidelines. Certainly much easier than a couple of decades ago when I first began riding in organised events. Having said that, I’ve appreciated every minute of being strong enough to train for L’Etape and enjoyed the motivation and experiences that have come with having such a challenging goal.
Whether you rode, watched or decided early to follow this one from home, my view is that all three options were the right choice. The weather gods smiled and provided a light drizzle instead of the predicted 150mm downpour for the first three to four hours of L’Etape. The sidelines were fun too, with a whole community of people out there cheering and lots of friendly faces to catch up with at the finish line. I’m pretty sure everyone who stayed at home or followed the sunshine had a good weekend too.