Ed. Note: This guest post was written by Bec ‘Wombat’ Werner, an Aussie native, who ripped up the NorCal scene last year. She is currently riding for Specialized in Australia and is lining up a team for her 2012 American racing campaign.
With the weather turning to sh*t, and the sun only bothering to show up for a measley 10 hours a day, there’s only one solution this off season. No, it’s not cross (what the bloody hell is that anyway – Cycling or running? Mountain bike or road???). This year, make your off season an Oz season!
Here’s why. Put simply, winter is summer. Apart from bears and other hibernating animals who get to get fat and have a wonderful deep sleep all winter, who actually likes winter more than summer? No one, especially you slightly spoiled, and soft Californians.
So pack your bike you budgie smugglers*, put on your least offensive American accent, and jump aboard ‘the spirit of Australia’ (fingers crossed their workers actually show up), for the journey down under.
The trip isn’t really all that long, it is downhill after all. Plus once you get here you won’t be required to remove your shoes and jackets to get through airport security, though it is summer, and it may be prudent to loose some clothes. Aussies are not racist towards cyclists, so when flying domestically you don’t have to pretend that thing in your cleary labelled bike bag is really miscellaneous ‘business supplies’, leading to suspicions that you’re dealing drugs or trying to import skunks and squirrles.
Christmas is the perfect time to arrive, with a month or so ahead chocka block full of two-wheeled action. Be warned of arriving any earlier, as Spring is enticingly beautiful, but extremely dangerous. Killer magpies stalk cyclists on popular riding routes, leaving only those willing to risk death, or a fate possibly worse … helmet zip ties.
Things kick off on the 26th of December with the start of the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals .Tassie is an island to the south of Australia, and while officially part of the country, no opinions about Australia should be formed by your visit there. It’s a beautiful place, but kind of like that creepy old uncle, who you only acknowledge is part of the family at Christmas time.
These historic track carnivals run for 5 days, finishing on New Years day. This is possibly the most exciting thing to happen in Tassie during the year, so the crowds are big, the racing fast, and and the fields are world class. If you ride well a tidy bit of pocket money can be collected so it’s worth the trip. Being American, and all ‘foreign and exotic’, will win you great celebrity and a legion of fans. Just ask Zak Kovalcik and Giddeon Massie, who have been brave enough to make the journey in the past.
The blue ribbon event at the carnivals is the handicap, more commonly know as the wheelrace. Pretty much, some wise old cycling bloke decides how good you are, and penalises you accordingly. Meaning you could either have a 200m head start on the field or be stuck chasing the lucky bastards ahead.
Also, cycling isn’t all that happens at the carnivals, so don’t fret. If you ate a bit much for Chrissy lunch and the waistline expanded a little, why not have a crack at the woodchopping. Or if riding on the left is a little too confusing you can always ditch the bike for some running spikes … but it is track racing after all, so if riding on the left is a little confusing, maybe you should just stay in Tassie once the carnivals are over, you’ll fit in just fine.
Next on the calendar are the Bay Crits. Another event starting on New Years day. The first and most keenly contested competition will be to see who can ride in a straight line after the antics of the night before. Ride in the support races, or watch the pros battle it out on the roads in and around Geelong, where the 2010 Worlds were held. Alternatively you could … well, umm, sorry there’s probably no alternative here.
Take a day off to eat some meat pies and pavlova and then trundle an hour or 2 down the road to Ballarat where road nationals are being held. Prior to this year foreigners were allowed to race, but things have changed. If you’re really keen to, as one pro recently put it to me, climb a ‘big f#*k of hill a million times’ in 115 degree, then I’m sure there’s a long line of people more than happy to hand off their licence and racing identitiy for the day. To maintain the disguise I suggest you speak as little as possible, but if forced to, call for ‘wata’ in the feed zone, and not ‘waterrrrr’, as this will be a pretty fair clue that you’re not fair dinkum.
After this I’m sure you’ll be happy to spectate for the rest of the month, and there’ll be plenty of spectating to keep you entertained. Swing down to neighbouring city Adelaide (a short 8 hours away) where you can spend the week ‘just hanging’ out the front of the Hilton Hotel, where every rider from every team racing the pro season opener of the Tour Down Under stays. But you didn’t know that right? The Hilton is totally your normal meeting spot for rides. Watch as they cuddle kangaroos and sample local wines, and they do ride their bikes between photo shoots.
If you’re still keen to be on the bike yourself, there are a couple of support crits. Plus if you want to test out the your nerve, why not go on the community challenge ride? There’s nothing better than riding amongst 5,000 hubbards to test the old reflexes and bike handling skills.
Stick around and spend the next week exploring Adelaide, as track nationals are just around the corner. Catch a cricket match, as it will make you appreciate how short a baseball game is, or simply kit up and head to the beach to work on a tanline that will make you the envy of all those suckers riding the trainer in the basement back home.
Track nats are held at the Adelaide Superdrome. How could it not be an exciting event when it’s held at a venue called the Superdrome?! Track racing is full of thrills and spills, and I guarantee you’ll see something exciting like this -
That last guarantee, is not actually guaranteed, but please, please, please come, I’m sick of my parents being the only ones in the stands.
That just about wraps up your Oz season. Don’t forget to pat the mandatory kangaroo and koala, have a photo at the beach, throw some shrimp on the barbie, and greet someone by saying ‘G’day mate’ just like Barrack Obama did. We totally appreciate it as we wouldn’t understand a simple hello.
*you may wanna look this one up in Urban Dictionary
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