Monday, April 30, 2012

We Give The Voyeurs Something To Look At.

I wanted to do all my rehab by myself, on my beater, in and around the streets of Thornbury. I had visions of fifteen / twenty / thirty minute rides spent wandering through the lanes, around the industrial estates, along the bike paths, taking photos of backyards, factories, and abandoned buildings. I'd listen to Fugazi through shitty headphones and it would be sunny and I'd be getting to know my neighbourhood. As my rehab progressed I'd take out the road bike, get on the ergo, do some pilates, even race some late-season road. It was a good plan, but also a shy one. I didn't want to head back to the track until I was good to go again. I didn't want my love of the track to be sullied by being unfit and no good at it.

But a friend of mine had seen the Madison at the Trackworlds, and wanted to know how to do it. So I volunteered to show her. She didn't have a track bike, so I made some calls, sauntered into DISC one afternoon, chatted to some folks, and all of a sudden had one of the club Hillbricks in the back of my car. There's that trust again.

She'd never raced track before, so we started off at HSV, just rolling turns, then riding side by side, then bumping each other a bit. She didn't batt an eye - in fact, quite the opposite was true. She was stoked, and her enthusiasm was infectuous. We jumped off for a bit, walked through the slinging process, and before long I was trying to throw her into the Merri Creek. I came into the changes at a stroll, at half pace, at full pace, occasionally a little too hot. She didn't skip a beat. Sure, it's easy to change when there's no traffic around, but I've missed easier changes, freaked out when the speed difference is too great, worried about crashing. She had none of that. She was new to it, so sometimes her bike could've been a little closer to mine, and her hand could've been in a slightly better spot, but I was pretty impressed.

Eventually we pulled up to the stands. I was a bit spent, and I was getting sloppy. We kicked off our shoes and stole a couple of ginger beers from the kiosk. I knew she'd gone well, that she was ready to race, and that with a bit of experience in traffic she'd be fine. But I didn't know if she'd had fun - going around and around in circles can, even I admit, be a little dull sometimes. But she was stoked. She wanted to go again. And she wanted to race. I told her that there's a Women's Madison in Ballarat in February, and the first ever Bendigo Women's Madison in March. And that if she worked hard at it, she'd be ready.

Tonight we're heading down to the track again. It's probably the third or fourth time. I'm not racing, of course, but I'm going to do my 45 minutes beforehand, rolling around above the blue. As I said earlier, I wasn't going to do any of my rehab at the track, but I'd forgotten how much I love it. I mean, I've written a lot lately about how I love the community, and the things that surround the racing, but I haven't thought about how much I love being out there on the track, throwing my bike around, spinning for the win, finding the smoothest, shortest, fastest lines. But rolling around with my friend, watching her realize that she's actually pretty good at it - and then, following immediately from that, watching the seeds of ambition take root within her and begin to grow - well, that resonated with me. I'm in a similar position to her right now, except for me it's not about realizing, it's about remembering. Remembering that I can do what it takes to get back to where I was. Remembering the things that I wanted to achieve. Remembering that I love riding my bike around in circles, and that it doesn't matter how bad you are when you come back. Or when you start. It's what you do with what you have that matters. And she reminded me of that.

To Protect And Serve.

As Brendan mentioned on Friday, I spent the weekend being very un-metal, racing the Tour of South West with a bunch of mates.

It was the first time this tour had been run, but all in all, it was pretty well organised.  It was hard, hard racing.  You could probably hear me howling from Melbourne.

The first stage, a road race, was about ten kilometres out from Warrnambool.  I was in c grade, and thus had to do eighty five kilometres.  The wind was howling.  On the second lap, as the bunch began to literally explode in the cross winds, I did too.  Watching the now much smaller bunch ride away was pretty frustrating.  I put my head down though and, with  bunch of dropped C graders and B graders, we made our way around for the required laps.  About five or so minuted down but, all in all, not too shabby.

Except I was fucked.  And I had to do a time trial in the afternoon!

Sharing battle stories was great fun.  Steve and Adrian had raced really well, with Steve pulling off a second place in a bunch sprint.  Everyone was knackered.  We lay around on the grass, idly thinking about putting time trial bars on our bikes, and hoping the ominous clouds to the west weren't indicative of the weather to come.

I eventually put my stupidly short time trial bars on.  I bought them for fifty bucks off a forum I frequent a few years back.  I'm fairly confident they do nothing in terms of my aero position.

Just a few minutes before my start time, the rain started to come down.  To pour.  I was  drenched, cold, and shivering.

On the start ramp, I resisted the urge to, when the commisaire asked me if I was comfortable, punch him in the face.  Not his fault really but, all things considered, how could I be comfortable?  I'm pretty sure by that point my balls had retreated into my body cavity.

Down the ramp I go, thundering along with a sweet tail wind.  Once I got into the cross winds though, my mornings effort came bak to haunt me, and I crawled along at an embarrassingly slow pace.  Stopped the clock at something outrageously slow, and went to sit down.  Some of the others, most notably Jeremy (who had had a hard morning's race) and Adrian had done really fast times, placing them, for a while, in the lead.

Done for the day, we limped home.  Everyone was rooted.

The next morning crit featured a monster of a hill.  It was a great course but, as with all good things, it was going to come at a price.  The way I was feeling that morning, it looked like it was going to be my life.

Race starts at a cracking pace, in an attempt to shed the weakest links.  First few minutes of the race I saw the upper end of my heart rate almost straight away.  The leaders were destroying the hill and going flat chat, close to 55kmh on the flats.  I held on for as long as I could but couldn't handle the heat.  That distant popping sound you heard on Sunday around 9.30 was me exploding.  The one shortly after that was Gene exploding.

Meanwhile, as I sat in the gutter and sulked, Adrian was going for broke.  He was sitting in fifth on the GC, 36 seconds behind.  And he was trying tog get it back.  All of it.  And he nearly did it.  For a while there, the gap was out to forty seconds.  He was out there, by himself, literally burying himself.  He did hold on for a fantastic, enviable win, but didn't quite hold out for the overall classification.  He went away with second...still a fantastic effort.  Half a minute later, the bunch came round, and Steve mixed it up again in the sprint, coming away with a third.  Hipster domination.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed at my showing on the weekend but, when I think back to all the other fun, and success on behalf of the other guys, I can't help but be stoked.

Great little two day tour, one which I'm sure will carry on, perhaps as part of the National Road Series a little later on.

I'll be back, probably with sweet ENVE wheels, and a better engine.

Here's the song I had stuck in my head all weekend:

Friday, April 27, 2012

You'd Build Infinity, But I'd Build Light.

Friday Roundup time, and even though I still had to work until knockoff today, it's an 'Afternoon Off' theme. Because there's nothing quite like cutting out of work early, leaving those folks at work behind you, the stresses and activity of your place of work still buzzing as you leave the building.

So, onwards and upwards. First mention goes to my friend Jen Jen. She's not doing anything in particular, but she did just tell me that sometimes she goes to the pet store at Northcote Plaza to talk to the bunnies. And there seems to be some disassociation between her perceived internal and external dialogues, because the staff apparently often overhear her saying things like, "Oh, look at you, little munchkin, I'm going to take you home and lovelovelove you!"

Truth be told, there's not a lot going on. It's winter, right? Things are calming down, folks are pairing off, huddling together for warmth and barely leaving the house. Events are pretty slim on the ground. So instead I'll just post a bunch of rad links to blogs that I think are amazing. That way you can still feel part of a community, without even leaving the house.

An exception to this is the Emerging Writers Festival. Pulled together by previously mentioned radcat Lisa Dempster, there's a few cool things going on within the festival parameters, including this event, which I've been invited to. There's a nerd theme, and I get to talk about bike nerds. Expect lots of cracks about sock length. You should totally come.

My friend Teagan is also pretty rad, and has a blog to match. I very rarely say this about anyone, but Teagan is truly, definitely unique, and writes to match. Sometimes overwhelming, sometimes confrontational, but never uninteresting, you should wander over there and let yourself get swept up. She also has this latenight solo dance procrastination project, which is also worth checking out, and perhaps even submitting to. I haven't seen anything like it since Nat Graf got us all to write loveletters to Daniel Larusso.

Holy shit, I can't believe I found that blog. You try searching "Daniel Larusso" and "Love Letter". That submission from Mel Campbell was amazing. Nattie told me the one from me made him feel like he finally understood what it was like to be my girlfriend. He said it made him feel dirty, which I believe is a pretty accurate representation.

And finally, just in case you do feel like leaving the house, good friends and most excellent band Infinite Void are launching their debut record at the Gasometer tomorrow night. And they're playing with the always amazing Useless Children. That's a hell of a show, and I will totally, absolutely be there. I'd drag FJ along too, but I believe he's spending the whole weekend in the gutter at the Tour of the South-West. So head on down and make sure I don't look like that lonely guy who spends the whole time between bands pretending to be interested in whatever records some former punk is selling at the back of the room.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Never Going To Be Like It Could Have Been.

"... As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment."

-TS Eliot.

I speak to a lot of people in a lot of really messed up situations. As part of my job - for which I have next to no formal qualifications, other than the one year diploma of education - I have to ask questions about whether a kid's parents hit them, how the death of their mother felt, if they are capable of reading, communicating, completing basic tasks, et cetera, et cetera. It's getting so I have a particular tone for these questions, sympathetic but curious, never challenging or confrontational, but never apologetic or pitying either. Actually, those are a bunch of descriptors that paint me as more reflective than I really am. Mostly I just ask, "What happened there?", "What's up with that?" or "How'd you deal with that?" or just say, "Shit dude, that must've really sucked."

Lately I find myself trotting out the same tone in my non-professional life, and keep finding it to be completely inadequate. All of a sudden I'm surrounded by all of these stories of death and dying, or grief and grieving, and am completely without the skills to deal with any of it. I ask the questions, listen when I can, swear in response, and offer up the Roberta Flack record that really helped out last time it was raining hurt in my own neighbourhood. That's all I have.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


You know, I asked Sean The Man to do today's post, and he sent me a bunch of stuff on Facebook, but for some reason he got cut off mid-message. Seriously, the story reads, "This one time we lined up at a toll booth," and then just stops. If anyone out there reading this lives in Shepparton, can you please ring up your local electrical services provider and make sure he's alright? Just ask if Sean The Man is there. They'll figure it out.

All I'm really listening to at the moment is Jawbreaker, but like my friend Rina says, too much Jawbreaker is a sure sign that something is going pretty wrong. So instead I'm going to play some of my favourite rainy day music. Because it's raining. See what I did there?

The first is the opening song from what I think is the best rainy day record ever, The Constantines 'Tournament of Hearts'. When the weather is a bit dreary and I've just knocked off work, there's no other record that I want to listen to.

But when I don't have to go to work, when it's rainy and cold and I don't want to leave the house, I tend to instead lean on my collection of downbeat hiphop. And when it comes to downbeat hiphop, you really can't go past The Roots 'Things Fall Apart', which was the first non-Public Enemy record I ever bought.

While they're generally downplayed by legitimate hiphop fans, perhaps due to their commercial success, I also really rate The Fugees. Lauryn Hill is an excellent rapper, Wyclef is at his quirky brilliance, the layered production is second to none, and I love the million different pop culture references.

And a little bit of Nas doesn't hurt. I only have this record on Vinyl, which is fun to say, but kind of annoying in real life. If anyone can link me to a sweet download, that'd be rad, because I've tried and failed to find one. Here's another one from the early days of Brendan. Jurassic 5 got kinda terrible - too many years on the festival circuit will do that to a band - but this first EP is really very, very good. And, lest you think I stopped listening to hiphop in the 90s, here's a recent, undeniable classic.

Watching The Ships Go By.

Sometime on Monday I decided that I was going to do my 45 minutes of riding on the track. DISC is of course still closed, so this obviously meant Brunswick. I had a bunch of stuff to do after work on Monday, plus the FOA moderators dinner at 7, so I knew that this meant riding after dinner. This in turn meant I would need the lights on.

Three phone calls later and I was heading out to Alf's place in Reservoir. Three phone calls, an hour in traffic and 15 hilarious minutes with Alf later and I had the keys in my hot little hand. By 9.30 the track was lit up like an airport and I was cutting a series of very slow laps, where I was discovered by Rolly on his way home from the same dinner I'd just cut out of early.

I'm a member of the club, sure. I pay my three hundred dollars (or so) per year like everyone else. But the club has over three hundred members, some of whom I wouldn't know to look at. Somewhere along the line my regular appearances at track racing, at road racing, at cyclocross and at the junior clinic has meant that I've gained a level of trust. As well as the the keys to the lights, I currently have a club bike in my end room, the keys to the gates, club pedals inside my car, the keys to the kiosk and unfettered access to the candy inside the kiosk. It's a little weird, in a way, but I guess that's just how it happens. You keep turning up, they give you things to do, and in return you gain some things. The transaction is pretty equal, but it takes place with different currency - you donate something tangible, like your time, and in return get intangible things, like trust, responsibility, status, and again, a sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself.

The other night someone asked me why I do it, and I mumbled some bullshit answer about the club having done so much for me when I was starting out. This is definitely true - the club, and in particular Nath, were totally behind me from the very start - but it's not the reason why I keep turning up. Part of the reason is that the cool things that happen - the junior clinic, cyclocross, Tuesday Track, Thursday track training - need people to turn up in order for them to continue happening. And we all have a vested interest in ensuring that cool things keep happening. It's more than that, though. You don't show up every week out of some sense of obligation. You show up because you like it, because bike racing is cool, because the people you know are there and you can sit down and talk shit with them while the racing happens around you, because being there and part of something is its own reward.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Look Beyond The Colours.

I can't fit in a proper Heavy Metal Monday post this week.  Sorry folks.  Instead, I'll present you with some of the songs from the records I've been listening to for the past week or so. There are some who say that death metal and river dance don't mix.  These people are of course incorrect.  It fucking rules.  Tell me this doesn't make you want to walk the land, brandishing a claymore. While I certainly don't have the xedgex, like Brendan, my experience with hallucinogens  is extremely limited.  That said, I love me some stoner doom.  If staring at a door for five hours and speaking to God is your thing, I can think of no better sound track. If you like walking through the forest with a cape, pretending you are a wizard which, for the record, I do...then Burzum is the sound track to go for. Emperor are probably one of the best bands in the world.  That is all. Sometimes, I don't listen to metal.  Sometimes I pretend I am a jock who wears baseball caps back to front and very baggy shorts.  Then I listen to Bane.

I just had a chat to Brenno who called me a lazy fuck for ripping off the Musique Mercredi on a Monday.  He has a good point.  I might get fired.

But, bear with me here.  I'm currently totally obsessed with trying to make my music match my riding surroundings.  For instance, yesterday I was riding out beyond Belgrave on one of the Melbourne Gravel Grinders.  Gravel roads, huge trees, lush ferns.  Bit of mist.  Man, it's as if that stretch of road was made for some Wolves In The Throne Room (look them up, thank me later).  Certain records can come to define a particular stamping ground.  Because of that, some of your music then takes on a more complex character.  It begins to remind you of all those thousands of km you spent out on the road.  And that's kinda rad.

So, hopefully, you find something to your liking, and can do some musical exploring of your own.  Maybe some of that music will come to define a stretch of road.  If not, then, well, keep listening to Coldplay.  I don't care.

If you need me I'll be riding through Kinglake, blasting Emperor, pretending I am a wizard.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Parking Lot. Movie Screen.

Hey hey, no more of this melancholia, it's time for the Friday Roundup!

You know what else it was yesterday? Chaz' birthday. Chaz is genuinely one of the smartest guys I know, but is also one of those folks who is incredibly determined not to let anyone see that. Probably because he thinks I'll call him a wanker when he does. Which I probably would.

Leith emailed me the other day and told me that prior to their record release shows, True Radical Miracle received more hits from The New Timer than they did from Three Thousand. That's awesome. I'm glad my readership has such good taste in music.

Wanna talk dirty for a bit? With the coming rain and colder weather there's a bunch of mud n dust related events coming up. First of all, and most urgently, there's the Women's Skills Sessions that my exgirlfriends over at Dirty Deeds Cyclocross have organized. Run by Australian representative and alleged foot fetishist Lewis Rattray, these are sure to get everyone involved totally psyched on Cyclocross for the winter ahead.

In other Cross related news, my totally wicked awesome friend Molly Hurford has just been commissioned to literally write the book on it. Check out her website and her progress here, and don't forget to check out her rad work with CX Magazine.

And, finally, though I've been a bit of a smartarse about Gravel Grinders - "We just used to call them bike rides" - I am totally stoked on them, because I do legitimately prefer riding on the dirt, and would be out there myself this Sunday if I was in any way able. Say hi to Blakey and Angry from me.

We got a lot of stuff coming up here at The New Timer, including more guest posts, which I like a lot, because it means my fingers get a rest - after the Trackworlds I seriously had bruises. But I've also got an appearance coming up at the Emerging Writer's Fest, a spot on 3CR's bike radio show, and a few other things. Befriend us on twitter to get the inside skinny before anyone else does.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Saw Her Standing On Her Front Lawn.

The first year I lived in Canada I lived half a block away from a park. When winter finally arrived the guys from the local council set up some boards and flooded the whole park, turning it into an ice rink. I bought some skates and a stick and took it upon myself to learn how to play ice hockey. It was pretty rad. Every evening folks would just all congregate at the rink, and skate around aimlessly for a bit. Then someone would throw their stick in the middle of the rink, someone else would do likewise, and all of a sudden there'd be a big pile in the middle. Someone else would go up to these sticks, close their eyes, then throw them one at a time up either end of the rink. That's how the teams were decided. Everyone would be out there, old guys and little kids, girls and guys, and everyone was treated carefully and with respect. Park hockey - or "shinny", as it's colloquially known - is generally non-contact, and lifting the puck is against the rules or frowned upon. Hockey has that reputation for being all violent and thuggish, but I never saw any of that. I just saw folks playing together, as a community, in a local park under the evening sky.

I had forty minutes on the bike to do tonight. I'm staying at Nath's house for a little bit, and he's on Brunswick Road, so I figured I'd just roll down to Harrison St and do a few laps. I forgot that there was training on, of course, but it didn't matter. Cam was on the motorbike and folks were following him. Every five or so laps he'd raise the pace by five ks an hour. I looked at the demographic behind the bike and it was the same as the variety of people who'd turn up to play shinny in the park - kids, dads, mums, girls and guys. Those who couldn't hold the pace took a couple of laps out, then jumped back on. Those who needed to stop and have a drink stopped and had a drink. After the first session Cam stopped the bike and everyone rolled around for a bit. He put on a bigger, warmer jacket, then jumped back on.

I rolled around above the blue and watch the riders joining in, then pulling out. A couple of guys were pretty serious, and were holding on the whole time, but mostly folks were taking it pretty easy. Everyone was real respectful of the kids, and never bitched or moaned when someone dropped the wheel.

It was night and the air was getting cold. The stars were out, even with the track lights on, and when the motorbike stopped you could hear the Merri Creek nearby. Track racing sometimes has a reputation for being thuggish, elitist and full of jerks, but I never saw any of that. I just saw folks playing together, as a community, in a local park under the evening sky.

If you're interested in joining in, check out here for updates.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

You Can't Be What You Were.

Ok, I was kinda wrong yesterday. Every time it's raining shit in your particular neighbourhood, you can always rely on Fugazi for shelter. So today I offer you La Musique Mercredi - the Fugazi version. And further to my own personal crap, it was Ian Mackaye's 50th birthday the other day! Man, he's closer to my dad in age than he is to me. That's weird.

No, I don't care if you think they're preachy.

 Actually, here's the entire Instrument film. It's one of the best band documentaries I've ever seen - up there with the Metallica movie, which was excellent for very different reasons. In Instrument I like how you get to see that the guys in the band are just goofy doofuses like the rest of us. Plus, it's rad fun to call someone an ice-cream eating motherfucker.

Ok, so here's the first Fugazi song I ever heard. I know it seems like an obvious choice, but it wasn't at the time. I was on a bus back from some drama performance in the city, and Petie Hyde commandeered the tape deck. On that tape was No Means No, Shellac, and this song. On our arrival back in Stawell we all went out to some party, and every time we couldn't find each other, we'd shout out the lyrics, like we were playing Marco Polo.

Incidentally, that footage is so well renowned that it even has a glee club mashup.

That same bunch of Portland Hipsters do a version of Where Is My Mind that is highly recommended, but not related to Fugazi, so it doesn't count right here. When I was younger and all about velocity, I was of course attracted to the louder faster yellier songs.

But as I age it become more and more about the slower, more introspective stuff.

I guess that's probably enough Fugazi for today. Rest assured I could go on forever. But you know that bit in that Sage Francis song where he's all like, "When the bomb hits / Whose music will you run to for shelter?" I'm like, "Shit Sage, haven't you ever listened to Fugazi?"

Monday, April 16, 2012

We Had It Once, We Ain't Got It Any More.

As some of you may have deduced, through the unbefore-seen number of twitter posts that read "no blog post today, life got in the way", there's some stuff going on in my life at the moment. It ain't great. And the worst bit, the worst bit of all, is not being able to disappear on my bike for hours in order to clear my head. Scooter once told me that riding a bike is cheaper than therapy, and it's taken until now for me to understand what he was on about. I'd take climbing hills over lying down on a couch and talking about my feelings any day of the week. But right now, compounding everything else, are those doctors orders: only very short rides, no consecutive days. It ain't great.

So go out on your bike on my behalf. Take all those shitty feelings, those good feelings, those uncertain feelings and ride until you can't any more. Climb those hills and know that you've beaten them, that you have one over geography, that there are still simple challenges in life that you can face and defeat with sheer strength and determination.

I'll be back doing the same soon enough, but right now, it's just me, facing it on my own.

Golden Years.

Frankly, given how hard the Baw Baw classic was yesterday, you're all very lucky there is even a Heavy Metal Monday today, albeit a little late. So be grateful. Mediocre, misspelt prose doesn't write itself.

I was going to write a race report but, really, it would just be an elongated version of: got dropped too early, cramped a lot, cried briefly, 3km before the Baw Baw summit.

Instead, I might address the issues of expectations.

I'm not going to lie. I had hoped for a much better result than I got. At first, the thrill of just finishing, of the whole ordeal being over, was enough to satisfy me. But now, the insidious creep of 'what could have been' sneaks in, and begins to alter your opinion of events.

My game plan before the race was to hang on to the main bunch until the foot of the climb, after which I would just climb at my own pace...which is basically your only option on a hill as steep as Baw Baw.

Of course it didn't pan out like that and, as a result, I spent a lot of the race coming to terms with my disappointment. First there's anger, then frustration, then sadness. You spend months preparing for these events (even if you're a muppet like me) and to have it unfold all so wrong from the very start of the race (I knew I was in trouble before the neutral flag was down) is really horrible.

Of course, I could just spit on the ground and mumble something about that being bike racing. Which is true. Sometimes you feel shit, and sometimes you feel awesome. You can't always tell how it's going to pan out.

A long time ago, Brendan advised me that, in training, you have to come to it with the notion that you have untold amounts of hidden potential, waiting to be unlocked. As he said at the time, that may not be the case but, then again, it may indeed be.

As I said on my own blog the other day (I'm in the whining mood), I've kind of been in a bit of a rut, in terms of inspiration. I still love riding my bike more than anything on the planet (except perhaps X files) but I am finding it increasingly difficult to convince myself that I have this hidden potential to unlock. Largely because all the evidence points to the contrary.

I've stupidly allowed myself to become so involved in bike racing that, slowly, it's begun to mean a lot to me. Once upon a time, I could have shrugged off this kind of lack of success. Now, with the passing of time, it has begun to eat at me.

Which, given my current level, and the relatively short amount of time I have been racing bikes, is ridiculous.

But there it is.

Of course, Bruce Dickinson would have no time for this self indulgent bullshit. He would tell me to get my head out of my ass, to realise I'm living in my golden years.

And he would be right.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Got Your Confront Face On Your Flickr Page.

Welcome all to another edition of "Brendan and FJ talk Pro Cycling". After the shenanigans of the Track World Champs, the rollercoaster of FJ's training regime and the melancholia of Brendan's return to his hometown, the two have finally decided to cast their critical and dubiously analytical eye upon the comings and goings in the pro peloton.

B: So hey FJ, how's it going? Were you really "out"?

FJ: OATH I was.  First i was at work.  Then I rode the Tour De Burbs loop in forty five minutes. That was partly due to Matty Gray being on the front.  Then i went to the Tramway hotel for a delicious vegan burger.  That said, considering I already ate three feet of Afghani flat bread at work, it was probably overkill.

But yeh, feeling pretty good for Baw Baw.  How are you?

B: I'm pretty good. Been hanging out with my parents for a week, which, after hanging out with world-class athletes all week, is a bit of a comedown. I keep wanting to ask them how much they squat, or what music they listen to, or about their sweet training regimes. But I already know their answers: nothing at all; neil diamond; my dad plays golf. So, before we get on to the Pro Cyclists, tell us, what have you been doing in preparation for Baw Baw?

FJ: Well, other than shitting my pants, I've spent the last month during strength endurance stuff, in an attempt to make up for having stopped going to the gym.  So there was a lot of Humevale and similar climbs in the 53/12 kinda gearing.  I raced the last lot of crits, tried to get in breakaways and stuff. Just worked my ass off for a month basically.

This week I've kept it pretty simple.  Quick ride to Mordi yesterday with Duggan with a few efforts, TDB today with mates, nothing tomorrow, then an easy roll on Saturday, ready for Sunday.  

I mean, it is me we're talking about, so at best i might hold on through the neutral section.  I'd consider that a small victory.

I'm still scared, but I have a 27 tooth sprocket now, so maybe I will survive.

B: Well, fingers crossed. As a delightful segue, who in the pro peloton do you think your style is most similar to?

FJ: Well, of course I'd like to say Boonen, but I never win, and I can't breakaway, and I've never done cocaine.

Probably someone like Hincapie.  Plugs it out, all the time.  Never wins, but helps people to do so, and sometimes his fork steerer snaps.

Then, one day, he wins, and it's awesome.  Fingers crossed.

Who do you think you're most similar too?

B: I like to think I'm a bit like Eddie Boassen-Hagen, in that I can get to the end of hard races and then win the sprint. But like Eddie B-H, there's some suggestion that I won't ever live up to my potential.

Anyways, on the topic of Boonen, Hincapie and stuff that breaks, did you watch the Roubaix?

FJ: The cobbly one?

B: Yeah

FJ: Nah I was asleep, cos I was off to suss out the Baw Baw course the next day (very hilly and cold and raining btw).  As well as that, everyone told me that Boonen was going to win, so I couldn't see much point in watching it.

I'm told he broke away with something like 560km to go and soloed to the finish.  Who the fuck wants to watch a time trial anyway?  What a ripoff!

That said, I'm very happy for Boonen.  He kinda disappeared for a while, and it's great to see him back in his full handsome glory.  He first won Roubaix when he was like 23-4.  That's incredible.  I can't imagine having achieved that at my age.

I'd like to say something like "It's good for the sport" but, frankly, I have no idea if it is, or what that phrase means, so I'll conclude with BOOYAH, BOONEN.

B: Yeah, it's funny, such a dominant victory doesn't leave us with much to talk about - you know, aside from making jokes about Boonen celebrating his victory by doing blow with ladies of uncertain maturity. It certainly wasn't one for the ages - pun intended! But that just makes me all the more excited for the Ardennes classics. Folks have been suggesting that Pokemon Gilbert has been foxing all this time, and is secretly hiding his scintillating form for these races. What do you reckon, FJ?
FJ: Well, for a start, I had no idea Gilbert was a pokemon.  Things you learn, etc.

In terms of hidden form, I suppose that's possible, but it sounds more like fanboys looking for excuses.  I mean, if you were in form, surely you would have a crack at Flanders or Roubaix.  These races are legendary.  Would you sacrifice them for the Ardennes?  

Maybe you would, I honestly have no idea, but I know I wouldn't.  If it was me, I would put three or four of those nose tapes that open your nostrils on my nose, wear the highest socks imaginable (while sticking it to the UCI man with their sock height rules) offer Boonen some dodgy blow to disorient him before the race, then lay some smack down over the steeper cobbly bits (here I'm assuming I have Gilbert's talent) and win that shit.

But I mean, what would I know.  I don't have any of those nose things.

For me, I don't care about the winning.  It's all about the atmosphere of those early races.  The fog, the hilarious pre-race beanies, the full length knicks, the tendency for Hincapie's fork steerer to break.  It's all part of the ambience: it says spring is coming, and summer is just around the corner.

That kinda helps while I'm stuck over here racing Northern Combine, being shelled from the back in the crosswinds.

B: Dave Hogan told me he had those nose things when he was sick as a kid, and they really helped him sleep. I'd be up for that.

So, speaking of summer, cast your eyes ahead to the Grand Tours for us. Who can you see firing this year?

FJ: Given that I am a Grand Tour oracle, write this shit down, so you remember it for the bookies.

These are my predicted winners for the three Tours and my reasons:

Giro: Ivan Basso.  He is Italian so will have the home ground advantage.  Like when Carlton used to play at Optus Oval.  

Tour: Cadel by a whisker, with Bradely Wiggins snapping at his heels.  Schlecks too busy crashing while descending, and being about as aero as a badger.

Vuelta: Assuming the Basque separatist revolution that will no doubt be created when one of the Euskatel riders manages to not come last doesn't spill out into the surrounding Spanish country side, I will hazard a guess at Valverde.  Dude is back riding, which is all i know.  He is also Spanish, which means he probably can take the heat better.  Also, I don't know any other riders.

As an aside, and given I am a patriot, I will briefly mention GreenEdge.  I think they will win a stage, probably on Bastille Day, just to piss the french off.  It will be like when McEwan won his first Tour stage on the last day of the Tour in 99: "Anyone who said I couldn't do it can stick it up their ass!".

B: Consider it written down! Speaking of GreenEDGE, what do you think of the new wave of former track cyclists who are now making their way into the team? Cam Meyer has just announced that he's going to concentrate on the road from now on, Leigh Howard is likely to do the same, and Jack Bobridge will definitely do likewise after the London Olympics. What do you reckon about these superstars from the track finally giving their all to road racing?

FJ: Well look at all the old trackies that turned into awesome roadies! Mcgee, OGrady, to name but a few. It makes sense. All the money and glory is on the road. Track gives you great form and hipster cred. But the real legends are born on the road. Which basically means there is fuckloads more money to make, and the quality of the podium champagne is probably better.

What I'm excited about is the GreenEDGE womens team. I was reading a Bicycling Australia (who still dedicate their publication to the glory of God. Guys, he doesn't give a fuck about the new Bianchi. He's try to propagate hate in the East) magazine while on the toilet today, and I was learning about the squad. They look like a really solid team, and have apparently been given a great deal of support. I'm as guilty as any other guy of failing to support women's racing as much as I should, so i'll be looking out for them, seeing what they can do on the world stage.

Also one of them (sorry i can't remember her name) has amazing legs.

B: Oh, FJ, you were doing so well...

So, it's late and I'm tired... Anything you wanna add before we call it a night?

FJ: Yeh, I know, I'm sorry. I tried to say that without sounding like a sexist bastard, but clearly I failed. I'd just like to say thanks again for the World Cup reports, they were great. If cycling could ever put me on the edge of my seat, it would be your reports that did it.

Finally, if I perish on the Baw Baw climb, you can have my record collection. It's mainly metal, but there is a Refused one you probably already have, But you can sell it if you like.

Thanks for the chat, X files would have been boring without it. Totally a filler episode!

B: S'all good brother! Good luck this weekend!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There's Nothing Quite As Harmful As The Slow Moving Day.

It's lazy writing Wednesday, or 'La Musique Mercredi', the name I gave Wednesdays when I was in a more enthusiastic mood. I'm still up at my parent's house, recuperating from the track world champs. It's strange, though, being in the place where you grew up. It's like constantly switching between present and past tense in the one sentence. History is present and present is past. For example, I was just sitting in a cafe drinking a surprisingly not horrible coffee when I ran into a girl I 'went out with' in primary school. Not high school, primary school. After we'd said hello and agreed to catch up later she sat back down at her table outside. I wondered just how much of her opinion of me still came from that interaction, when we'd 'dated' for a month or so. At the end of the month she went to Somer's Camp and I went on the school camp to Warnambool. Apparently I'd flirted with some other girl while we were apart and on her return she dumped me. I was pretty bummed out about it, and distinctly remember sitting alone in my bedroom, listening to this song, and trying my best to cry, which I knew you were supposed to do when you get dumped. I wrote about this better in my zine, but in my zine I couldn't provide you with the song.

 Later today my old man came in to where I was laying on the bed typing, and tells me he has something for me. He hands me an old tent bag full of things going clink clink clink. "Is it money," I ask him. He tells me to look inside.

I do, and it's not money. It's all my old running medals. "Your mother pulled them out of the skip. You must've thrown them in there when we were moving house. They've been up in the top cupboard ever since then."

Here's a song I used to listen to a lot when I was being a runner. Note that one of those medals is for a state championships. I've never won one of them as a cyclist. Perhaps I should start listening to Beck again.

Like I've said before, being back here is a matter of constantly crossing the bridge from then to now.

However, even with all this moving backwards, I'm also moving forward. You can now follow The New Timer (xthenewtimerx) on Instagram. I haven't quite figured out how to use it just yet, but I'm getting there. Finally moving into the early 2000s.

Let Youth Be Your Drug.

The day after the Track Worlds finished I drove the three hours up to my parent's house in the country. It wasn't a great drive. I was tired, the phone kept ringing, and it was alternately raining and windy or bright and glary. When I eventually arrived home I slept for the next 13 hours. And my folks were foolish enough to think I'd come to visit them.

With nothing else to do up here I've had the whole day to think about the Worlds, and am now perfectly posited to give out my awards. For your viewing pleasure, and because I'm a big Eastwood fan, I'll divide them into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good.

The Freeman award for proving Brendan wrong (see what I did there, friends?) goes to Anna Meares, who, after surprising herself with a new world record in the flying 200, lined up for the 500m time trial, an event she'd barely ridden over the past twelve months. The temperature was lower than it'd been all week, and I mentioned in passing that it was too cool for a world record. A little over half a minute later and I was proven incorrect. A close second goes to Cam Meyer, but I dunno, I don't feel as bad as that one. I'm pretty sure no one thought he could take a lap in the points race with only ten laps remaining.

The Sesame Snaps award for conversations about things other than cycling was a close fought affair. Germany's Kristina Vogel was always good for chats about music, dancing, the German countryside and the dubious sexual advances of Melbourne men ("They just kept trying to grab me, you know!"). But I'm going to give this one to Victoria Pendleton. I kicked off by asking her about her tattoo - an obvious opener, given my own permanent scarring, but the conversation quickly turned to the Sesame Snaps I was taking to Nath. "Oh, they look tasty!" She said, "And healthy, too!" I laughed and said she was being generous, but she went on, "It's dark chocolate, so there's antioxidants, and they're sesame seeds, and they're full of good stuff." I also caught her later on showing pictures of her dogs to Shuang Guo.

The Bull In A China Shop award goes to Chris Hoy for that ride in the Keirin. Later on Twitter he admitted to have never tried to go up the inside in a serious race before. In the days after he seemed to be buzzing. As were we!

The Red Pen award goes to Monique Hanley, for constantly correcting my 'facts'.

The Lucas From Neighbours award for most friendly mechanic award is also a close fought affair. Working for the Dutch was local boy Casey Munro, who was the only one to tell me what gears riders were generally racing on, and who also didn't hesitate to point out other interesting stuff he thought blog readers would be interested in. But I'm going to give this one to the mechanic from the USA who I think - or hope - was named Woody. He laughed when I said he looked like every other bike mechanic I've ever seen, he told me when he was going to get drunk, he answered my questions about Sarah 'MC' Hammer and - better than anything else - knew about my blog. Hot damn.

The Chumbawamba award for getting knocked down, then getting up again goes to Glenn O'Shea. Two years ago, after continual bouts of Glandular Fever, the guy was ready to give up cycling altogether. This week he won the Omnium. I'm sure some thanks for this should go to Tim Decker, who took O'Shea under his wing over in Adelaide, but the strength of mind that O'Shea must have makes me overlook his occasionally brisk answers to annoying questions.

The Jane's Addiction Were Wrong award for best expression goes to Anna Meares for her face when she broke the flying 200 record, because apparently there are some things that are still shocking. And surprising! Actually, I've gotta say, I was already a Meares fan before this weekend, but now I'm even a bigger fan. The way she races, the way she plays tough for hours before the race but wears her heart on her sleeve immediately afterwards, the way she said, when I asked for a photo, "Well, you're not supposed to, but nobody's looking."

And, finally, the Crabcore award for continually attacking (Attack! Attack!) goes to Canada's Zach Bell, who rides like he only knows how to go off the front. He's also quite easy on the eye. Monique mentioned, however, that he can be a little absent-minded - apparently he won silver in the omnium a while back, and was consequently given a medal. He put this medal in a bag he thought was his and flew home. When he arrived home he couldn't find the medal, he started ringing around. His bag apparently looked a lot like a bag belonging to the Cubans. Six months and a minor diplomatic incident later he finally had his medal. 

The Bad.

The Mulder and Scully award for paranoia goes to Team Australia, who were the only team who wouldn't let me take photos of their bikes. Or their riders. Or their food. While I know there are trade secrets and all that, but the other team mechanics are all here, and a short walk over to the Australian pit would reveal all. It was a little bit pointless.

The O Brother Where Art Thou award goes to the folks who worked out how much of the infield should be dedicated to the riders, who were constantly in a tight spot, and how much should be dedicated to the media. While I didn't mind that I was always guaranteed a seat, an entire table to myself and an ethernet cable, no matter what time of day I arrived, I felt a little guilty that the riders had to work under such cramped conditions. Hell, I even took some time to steal chairs from the media centre to give to the Canadian team. Apparently venue management were asked to move the barriers between the two back a little bit, but simply stated that this was impossible.

The Inflatable Student Who Took A Drawing Pin To The Inflatable School award goes to Twitter, who totally let me down when I hit their "too many Tweets per hour" limit. I did, however, resolve to mellow out a little on Twitter thereafter, despite it being my number one source of Madonna and MC Hammer references.

The Destination Anywhere award goes to Melbourne's public transport system. I quite like Myki, especially when it doesn't work, but waiting thirty minutes for a train at Jolimont, when I'm desperate to get to the Fyxo hub and watch the end of the Paris-Roubaix made me wish like hell that I was still able to ride my bike.

The Ugly.

The Nelly award goes to whoever was in charge of the thermostat over the weekend. Look, I know that a hot track equals hot times, but cranking up the heat meant that most of the folks inside were cranky, sweaty and dehydrated. It was simply too hot.

And, finally, because not much was ugly, really, is the McDonalds award for terrible, terrible food. Of course, the difference is that McDonalds is cheap. Five dollars for a tiny box of half-cooked chips? Sure. A vegeburger that contains both beef and bacon? Why not (if that had been presented to me I would've thrown it in their faces, but Monique apparently just gave it to her husband, who labelled it 'the best vegeburger I've ever eaten.').

And that's about it. Stay tuned for another edition of "Brendan and FJ talk pro-cycling" on Thursday. And thanks to everyone who replied to tweets or emails or messageboard questions, who offered support, encouragement and/or food, who read the blog, who got the jokes, who played along. You guys are the best. Thanks too to Chris Boardman, who, as I was leaving, asked if he'd see me at the Olympics. What a guy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Black Wizards.

Before we hurl ourselves into another Heavy Metal Monday, can we take some time to stand and applaud Brendan's efforts at the track world cup. I've never read a better account of the more human aspect of bike racing before. Not only that, even someone as track illiterate as me could tell what was going on. Some people won, some lost, and Victoria Pendleton likes sesame snaps. Well, don't we all. Anyway, to business.

The other day, I woke up, and I didn't want to ride my bike. Which, given my current obsession, is pretty odd. I lay there a bit, vaguely aware that my whole body hurt, and thought about my total unwillingness to go ride. Luckily for me, it was my day off, so it didn't really matter, but the sentiment definitely took me by surprise. The next day, yesterday, I felt exactly the same. Walking up stairs really hurt, and beyond about 1pm, I found myself falling asleep despite having had a solid ten hours rest.

Lethargy, soreness, lack of desire are some of the first symptoms of over training. Anyone who knows me knows I have kind of been smashing it the past six months or so (the kilometres part, not the winning part). With the Baw Baw classic only a week away, I figure the best thing I can do is just to rest, and not do anything to hard.

So I did. On Saturday I took the tram for the first time in ages, instead of the bike, to get to my Mum's house. I read my book (I'm halfway through David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest which, despite Brendan's dismissal, is very good), listened to music, and watched Melbourne get about its business. I helped Mum pick the olive tree we have in the back garden which, after about ten years of nothing, has finally started to bear olives.

Sunday I woke up and ate myself into a chocolate coma, only rising to seek out coffee when I felt I would die without it. Then I watched about ten episodes of X Files (the really fun bit is pinpointing the exact moment the producers worked out Scully could be a nerdy science type and a total fox at the same's about halfway through season two).

It's so easy to get caught up in the 'cult' of cycling. With the blinders of goal oriented training, you can go weeks, or months, without really having what I will call a 'cycling day off'. That doesn't mean necessarily a day where you don't ride your bike (because those days are still defined and shaped by bikes... namely not riding them), but a day where cycling doesn't even come into the equation. Not a rest day but just a day where I didn't happen to ride my bike. A day undefined by physical structure.

That's what I did this weekend, and it was really enjoyable. As comforting as it is to go to sleep totally wrecked after a solid five hours on the bike, it's also quite nice to be able to sit in bed and read without nodding off within two minutes. You can get a lot of shit done when you aren't tired all the time.

Today I went out with mates to ride the Baw Baw race course. I was still sore and tired, which has me a little worried, but it was so cold and rainy, it might just have been that weather that had my legs cramping up within 10km. Afterwards we found a pub that I swear to god was the same pub from Lord of the Rings, where the four hobbits meet Aragorn. Normally that would freak me out, but given how cold it was outside, and how warm it was inside, I was happy to roll with the hobbits.

How is this related to metal you ask? Well it isn't really, but Jeremy and I did blast Emperor, as we drove through the forest, the rain and fog rolling in from the hills.

Days off, olive picking, not bike riding, Emperor, chilling the fuck out. Good Easter break.

Run To Paradise!

The Nexus

Day Five – Evening Session.

Apparently I’m the young hipster here – folks keep approaching me, asking me where is good to go out in Melbourne. I have no idea – I’m a schoolteacher in my thirties, for god’s sake. This is the price I pay for having bodgy tattoos and turning up in a Tribe Called Quest t-shirt. I mostly tell them to go to 161, because I remember having some good times there in the early 2000s. I hope it’s still the same.

There’s a patch of grass just outside the loading bay doors that Nath has started referring to as The Nexus. I don’t think it’s an allusion to the magazine – nothing conspiratorial is going on here. It just tends to be where we end up between sessions, sipping on free coffee and talking shit about the session previous. When I finish filing my article for the day I head out there, and true to form, there’s everyone else. Again, we sit around and talk shit until the sun goes down and it’s time to go back inside.

These guys think I'm a doofus, and they may have a point.

The guys at the entrance to the media centre have been giving me shit all week, mostly due to my inability to scan my pass without assistance. They, like everyone else, are a bit more relaxed by this session, and just wave me through without scanning. Once in, I check my computer, post on Twitter, admire some photos that the photographers insist on showing me, then leave again. Wandering around the infield the volunteers are lounging around on the steps, talking amongst themselves. Even though this coming session is probably the biggest of the whole weekend, folks have started to turn off. The German team are seen signing autographs in their pit. I want to ask for one, but am scared that one of the officials will materialize out of nowhere and frog march me out of the venue. 

Volunteers lounging.

This is generally how the photographers roll. The one on the left used to be a pretty good bike rider too. 

Gene and I stop to admire a bike belonging to one of Team USA’s mechanics. He points out the couplings and I ask if I can take a photo “for my mate Blakey, who loves that kind of shit.” For once I do the right thing and introduce myself, but he stops me, and says, “Yeah, I know who you are. You can have a photo if you put it up on the blog.” “Done and done,” I tell him. We talk a bit about the lies we’ve told customs, but I’m so freaking stoked that someone has recognized me from the blog that I can barely speak. 

Ok Blakey, this one is for you. Steel with couplings - cable couplings too.

With no omnium tonight I have no idea when I’m going to be able to go to the toilet. The venue is filling quickly, and there’s about a million people I know here. Even the teams with no participants left are lingering around to watch. Everyone loves a madison, and those who don’t definitely love keirins. Sure, there’s a few timed events thrown in – Women’s 500m Time Trial is absolutely code for ‘toilet break’ – but for the most part tonight is going to be pretty intense. Last night it took me a good two hours to calm down after racing had finished, and when I finally lay down to bed, my heart was still thumping away in E3. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug.

The women’s pursuit finals are up first, which is kind of nice. Nath has given me explicit instructions to talk to Amy Cure if I get the chance – apparently you can take the girl out of Tasmania, but you can’t take the Tasmania out of the girl. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance – I’ll have to ask the Australian staff, and asking permission isn’t really my style. Ash Ankudinoff leads for the whole race, and Cure starts coming back at her in the last 3 laps, but she just doesn’t have enough track. Ankudinoff takes the bronze. In the final is New Zealand’s Alison Shanks V Team GB’s Wendy Houvenaghel. The crowd has definitely sided with Shanks, as when there’s no Australian in the race, Australians will always barrack for our siblings across the Tasman. And Shanks has it in the bag from lap one – Houvenaghel starts from behind and stays there, the lead blowing out so much it almost looks like Shanks is going for the catch. It’s NZ’s first medal for the meet, and the crowd gives her a standing ovation. 

Next up are the Keirin semis, and with no Perko this parochial Melbourne crowd is confused about who they should barrack for. In the first heat I recommend Malaysia’s Azizul Awang. Hell, he lives in Parkville, trains in Thornbury, is coached by John Beazley – he’s as good as local. It’s a tough heat, though, with Japan’s Watanabe firing, and Germany’s Levy always difficult to get around. In the first twenty metres NZ’s Van Velthoven is forced onto the apron, however, and slips off, so there’s a restart. When they get rolling SVV doesn’t fool around again – he goes straight on to the bike. Azi moves up by his side and starts a rush. It’s an interesting plan by the little guy – usually he waits, then finds his way through the bunch – and it doesn’t come off, Levy hitting it with a lap to go, then pulling away with ease. Australia’s Sunderland is in the next heat, but he has his work cut out – only the top three go through, and he has Sir Chris and Jason Kenny in his heat, as well as Matt Crampton – that’s three Brits in one heat. Sunderland settles into the front position – he’s also a kilo rider, so won’t be afraid to launch from afar. He lets the Spaniard Mazquiaran in front of him, however, and he’s forced out the back as Sir Chris comes flying through, dragging France’s Bourgain and Kenny with him. With no Australians in the final, I get the impression that Sir Chris will be the sentimental favourite. 

Big Max Levy on the rollers.

Next up are the women’s 500m time trials. Both Meares and McCulloch are in this despite the fact that it’s not an Olympic event. There seems to be a sense of “it’s the last day, so what the hell,” but this doesn’t mean that they won’t be super competitive. With the cooler weather the track isn’t super fast, so no one expects to see any world records tumbling down, but there will definitely be twenty three women going very, very fast.

The sprinters, however, are generally done for the day, and some very bulky individuals are making their way to the exit. The enduros, however, are on their way in. The enduros seem to ride their bikes everywhere, even through the infield, which is so tightly packed that it’s difficult to even walk through. The sprinters, however, don’t even throw a leg over their bikes unless they totally, definitely have to. It’s a very different mentality – specialization to this extent is a strange thing.

I stop to talk to Bethany Keats from the bike radio show out of Geelong. We’re making chit chat, not really paying attention until Meares steps up. Then we, like everyone else, fall silent. As soon as the starting beeps finish the crowd is electric. Sixteen seconds in Meares is up. I say to Bethany that it’s too cold for a world record tonight, but Meares isn’t slowing down. The splits look pretty good, but when she finishes she’s once again lowered the mark. Two world records in five days. It’s time for capslock again. YEAH! I feel pretty good about all of my predictions being wrong. 

Meares wording up the venue commentator. 

Rider after rider come through, but none of them can take Meares’ time. I go for a little wander and try to catch up with everyone I know. I’m psyched to see that some of the folks who were in the ACMC events earlier today have come down to watch – I love it when worlds collide like that. They’ve all arrived in time to see Meares set the new mark, and then to see her be named the victor. Two rainbow jerseys over one long weekend. She’s not as surprised by this one, but she’s still stoked, you can tell. She rides along the top of the track, high fiving spectators and generally being rad. I was already a bit of a fan of her before this weekend, but now I’m even more. From the world record in the flying 200, to the disappointment in the sprints, to the exhilaration of her keirin win, to this, the icing on the cake, she’s been nothing but a decent human being. I like her, I like her a lot. 

Jelmer, fresh from the Australian Cycle Messenger Champs, reppin' MDMA - that's Melbourne District Messenger Association, not the party drug. 

The keirin finals are up next, but we have to wait for the adbreak, or something. I go talk to Nath. We mostly talk about the heat in here. This afternoon it was relatively cool, but right now it’s pretty warm – I even have some sweatpatches going on. “You watch,” he says, “now that the timed events are done, they’ll turn the aircon back on.” Hot track equals hot times, after all.

The first keirin final is for places 7-12. Scott Sunderland has made it through, and once again leads it out. This time he hits it as Crampton comes around, however. It’s a damn good move – not only does he burn off Crampton, the pace is now too hot for Azi. But next is the battle for the Keirin rainbow jersey. The smart money is on Hoy, but keirin racing is notoriously unpredictable. Indeed, with the motorbike on he’s all the way at the back. He moves up with three to go, but Kenny ups the pace a little bit and holds him off. With two to go Max Levy is off the front, and he’s got the big kiwi Simon Van Velthooven with him. They’re starting to look like they might stay away. With one to go Hoy looks like he’s going to launch an attack around the outside, but coming into turn four he swings back down to the bottom of the track. What the hell is he doing? He’s going to get boxed, for sure. But some how he doesn’t. He splits the New Zealander and the German like a surgeon splitting conjoined twins, precise, smooth, opening that gap up like it’s his daily routine. Then he has it, and is pumping the air and screaming for the angry pressure-release joy of it.

The Madison is up next, and after a race like that, I’m not sure if I can handle it. If the madison is too exciting I may start ranting like a madman. Fortunately, the start is a pretty sedate affair, and I get a chance to calm down a little. Sure, there’s a few attacks here and there, but generally speaking the first forty laps go by without too much trouble. GB are changing a half a lap before Australia, perhaps trying to put themselves in a better position to win sprints from the possibly slower but definitely stronger Australians. By no means is this a two horse race though – the Germans are currently in front, with 130 laps to go. It’s been pretty relaxed. The Kazakhstan team crash while changing and lose a lap down. With 118 to go the Czech Republic have a crack, but the ruddy Dutch and Australia work to bring it back. Whoever is in front is generally riding in the sphinx position, with the exception of team GB, who refuse to pick up trends when everyone else is doing it. With 111 to go the Australians try for their first lap. They have the ruddy Dutch with them, and Italy working hard to bridge. It looks like Ciccone again, who has the benefit of youth, and he eventually latches on. But the field are turning themselves inside out to bring it back, and eventually Geraint Thomas does the job.

They have another crack with 87 to go, but again it’s Geraint Thomas chasing them down. He better get used to bringing back breakaways, as that’s probably the job he’ll have to do for Mark Cavendish all year. I know we said this last night, but time is running out. They start contesting some sprints, putting some points in the bank. Germany have obviously spent too many biscuits in the sprints and drop a lap. With 68 to go Belgium launches and Meyer decides to chase, taking Switzerland with him. It’s Swift chasing for GB this time, and he brings back team Australia just as they change. GB’s Thomas seems to be tiring a little though, and finally goes into the sphinx to save some energy. Team Australia change on the line and open a huge gap on GB and Spain. The crowd roars and they’re on top of Belgium in no time. Belgium is popping though, so they go it alone. Dutch, Czech and GB teams chase as Belgium and Australia bring it together. GB sit up. The break is now Dutch, Belgian, Czech and Australian. The break takes a lap and now it’s down to points, Australia v Belgium. But the boys go again and Belgium isn’t with them. The Dutch, however, bring it back again. I take a break from typing – there’s only 39 to go. There’s a pause and team GB take their lap back. In another few laps the Dutch team goes off the front, and though they’re not in the running, it’s enough to take the necessary points away from the Australians and condemn them to third.

It’s been a hell of a night. Paris-Roubaix is underway and there promises to be rain. Already there has been a crash that split the group. I’m keen to go see Royal Headache, however, with the likelihood of ending up where I’d promised – Andy’s Roubaix party – getting thinner as the night goes on. This being said, I have just had my “afternoon” cold and flu tablet, and the banned substances will no doubt keep me buzzing for some time yet. 

It is, however, the last one. I'm going to regret handing in my pass, walking out that final time. In the next couple of days I'll write a best and worst, but for now, well, this is it. Thanks.

Perhaps these guys need some cold n flu tablets too.

You're The Same Kind Of Bad As Me.

Day Five – Afternoon Session.

My heart still hurts from last night. Tonight looks like more of the same.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little emotional today. It’s coming to an end, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s been as fun as all hell, sure, but it’s also been tiring. Most of the officials, the volunteers, the riders and coaches all look a little shattered. But tonight is the night I’ve picked as the best night of the meet. There’s men’s keirins, women’s pursuits, women’s TTs, then a madison to cap it all off. That covers pretty much everyone, sprinters and enduros of both genders.

Leanne Cole drops some more photos from last night on me, which means that I don’t have to take any sneaky smartphone photos myself. That’s a bit of a relief – for the past few days I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that if I get busted doing so I’m going to have my media pass ripped off my neck.

The riders are milling around, looking pretty relaxed. On twitter the banter has a lighter tone than in days past – Geraint Thomas tells the world that he’s riding a madison for the first time in four years, and as such will be getting his partner, Ben Swift, to do all the work. Anna Meares is, surprisingly, going to ride her pet event, the 500m Time Trial, despite it no longer being an Olympic event. Riders not involved tonight are milling around in jeans, sipping from cans of coke and recovering from what seems to have been a big night before. They support their teammates, yell out, fetch them drinks.

I’m pretty excited about tonight though. As well as the racing Royal Headache are playing with Straightjacket Nation for free at the Gasometer, and I get the impression that the racing will be done and the story filed well before they go on. And then there’s Andy’s Roubaix partying, which I’ve been telling riders and officials about all week. I’m starting to feel like I’m not going to be home until dawn. That makes me nervous. It’s been some time.

I settle in and watch one of the German men trying to get into his skinsuit. The whole ‘marginal gains’ thing has really taken off, and skinsuits are now very serious business. I don’t have the language to ask them about the tech, but even I can see it’s tight – it takes three people, the rider included, to get it on.

Hurley has asked me to see if the British team are selling any of their stuff, but I figure they’re probably jack of me after the whole “what gear is Victoria running?” debacle, so I handball it to Paulie. He doesn’t say he’ll do it, but mentions that another friend of his is selling a bunch of gear. It turns out the friend is a bloke called Max, who I also used to train with. “He was a cop, right?” I ask Paul. “More than that!” Paul answers, his emphasis indicating respect. “He was in the bomb disposal squad! He used to dismantle bombs all over the world. He’d always say, if in doubt, cut the red wire.” It’s good advice, both for bombs and for life.

There’s probably a fair bit of cutting the red wire in the keirins, which are up next. The first heat involves Perkins and ‘local’ boy Josiah Ng. Josiah has been speaking at length in the media about how important this race is for him, and I can’t help but really, really want him to do well. He gets second and goes straight through, but Perko can only muster a fourth, and will have to go through the repechage. Sir Chris is in the next one, does it easy, and I consider putting some money on him. Dave Hogan mentioned there was a tote for the sprinters, but I haven’t checked the odds or anything. In the next heat Germany’s Max Levy gets boxed and the humungous New Zealander Simon Van Velthooven goes through, each slam of the pedals rocking the bike back and forth. In the next the Christian Glaetzer hits the deck courtesy of a fair bump from GB’s Matt Crampton and Azi Awang monos over the line for the win. It’s great to see Awang back after the splinter incident – despite not being a big guy, he’s a classic keirin rider, always pushing the rules and splitting the tiniest of gaps. Blakey highlights the irony of a serious Christian hitting the deck on a day when their main man rose again. The Japanese Watanabe rolls Jason Kenny on the line. The last heat of the day is an old fashioned argy-bargy affair. Australia’s Sunderland gives France’s Pervis a huge bump, but it sends him up the track, from where he’s able to gain a huge roll off the banks. He comes back at Sunderland and they cross the line leaning on each other. Pervis throws a headbutt after the line and Sunderland finally lets him go. It’s all good though, and they shake hands on the cooldown lap.

After the keirin is finished, everyone watches it on the inhouse video.

There’s a pause before the Women’s pursuit qualifying. Folks from the keirins are huddled in their respective pit areas, crowded around computers, watching the replays. They miss Australia’s Ashlee Ankudinoff set a new all-comers record for the fastest time on Australian soil. I nearly do too – Gene is telling me the gossip from last night’s ACMC parties, and I’m distracted by the stories. But next to us her coaches are yelling, and their voices grow more and more insistent until finally I’m watching Ankudinoff set the new hot time. 

Yellin in my ear!

Not heaps excited by the Pursuits, I go talk to Munners for a bit. He tells me all about the Pascoe Vale Cycling Club, which apparently has six members, all of whom were forced to undergo an individual initiation. Some of them were allowed in by virtue of failing to finish an important stage race in France. Some of them he won’t tell me about. He tells me to google it, and I do, but it doesn’t help.

The bike in front of where we are sitting is kind of odd, so I ask him about it. It has forward facing front drop outs, which I’m told is for changing the handling of the bike. Apparently the Koga TT bikes are road time trial bikes with the rear drops swapped out, so they still have a bunch of features usually reserved for the road. They’re also running Dugast tyres that are stamped as Vredesteins, but I don’t ask him about that. I’ve already offended enough mechanics this weekend.

The weird Koga

In the meantime, Amy Cure sets a new fastest time in the Pursuit. I don’t want to speak to soon, especially when Sarah Hammer - who is so tough that people are always asking her not to hurt them -is still to come, but there’s a pretty strong chance that there will be another all-Australian final again tonight.

I mention this on twitter, and am disappointed to be informed that not only is Hammer not riding – which means that all of my MC Hammer jokes will go unreleased - but that Wendy Houvenagel and New Zealand’s Alison Shanks have proven me wrong. The Australians will be riding off for third.

Wandering around as the keirin repechage rounds take place, I have another chat to the US mechanic. As I’ve said earlier, he seems like a kindred spirit, and is the only other bloke around here with really obvious tattoos. I ask him about bikes for the Madison. He tells me that some teams run different bikes (I’ve already noted the British Team’s Pinarellos), but generally they just put different bars and a higher stem on, to help with the handling, then wrap the bars all the way to the top. They’re packing up – Team USA has no one in contention tonight – and he’s looking forward to sitting in the stands this evening and getting drunk. Like I said before, exactly the same as every other bike mechanic I’ve ever met. I hand him a flyer to the Fyxo party and he seems keen.

Turning my attention back to the Keirin repechage rounds, I’m saddened to see Josiah not make it through. I’ve just spent a couple of minutes talking about how rad he is, and even showed one of my peers in the media centre the YouTube vid of him racing Emily Hughes on the rollers. He was in contention, but was outgunned in the final straight. He’s a pretty upbeat guy in general, but I figure I’ll give him a little time today before going over for a chat.

There’s a few more rounds to go. It’s interesting to hear the British coaches yell not, “Go!” or “Up!”, but rather, “Pull!”. And they yell so damn loud you can hear them throughout the arena. It seems to work – their man Matt Crampton goes through. In the next heat Glaetzer and Perkins are there, Glaetzer seeming to have been resurrected after his fall. Jason Kenny is also there – this is the toughest repechage round by far. Perko goes early, Glaetzer chases him, but eventually Jason Kenny takes the high line on the track and dispatches both of them, chopping Perko on the line for good measure. Then Max Levy leads from the front and no one is able to come around him, despite Eddie Dawkin’s best efforts. And that’s it for the afternoon session. It’s finishing pretty early – we have nearly two and a half hours for dinner. I wonder what Gene wants to do.

Anna Meares climbing into the stands after winning the Keirin last night. Pic C/o Leanne Cole.

You try this in cleats. Apparently that's her husband giving her a hand. Rumour has it he has been racing Cyclocross in Adelaide - can anyone confirm? C/o Leanne again

You never close your eyes, any more, when I kiss your lips... C/o Leanne
Apparently these two are roommates, both here and in Europe when they're both riding for GreenEdge. It's nice of them to share. I bet they also have a roster saying whose turn it is to do the dishes. C/o Leanne Cole.

A good shot of the weird helmet Cam Meyer rode to victory in the points race last night. It looked like he'd stolen it off some little kid. Apparently Meyer was also fined for the rainbow stickers on his bike. C/o Leanne Cole.

Baby face, you've got the cutest little baby face. C/o Leanne Cole.

Where the New Zealanders warm up.

This Ukrainian rider agreed that his Kalavinka was wicked hot.

But had no idea what the words on the top tube meant. Or didn't want to tell me.