I was woken up by a ray of sunlight right into my face through a little gap in the curtains. I was still very sleepy. The sun felt very hot in my face and I was wondering what time it was. It had been late the night before. Alberto stirred in his sleep. He was waking up slowly, too.
Curiosity finally made me lift my head and pull the curtains back just enough to get a glimpse of the outside. The brightness of the sun hurt my eyes and I quickly let go of the curtain and retreated back into the dimness of our temporary home on wheels.
After searching for a vacant camp ground in vain the night before, we had driven the camper into a pitch dark empty side path amongst paddocks, just one block back from the beach, had finished off the wine and gone straight to sleep. A deep dreamless exhausted sleep.
To my surprise it was still very early, not even seven, yet. It was going to be another beautiful day with a different kind of heat to what we are used to in Queensland, a lot less humid. We got moving straight away once we were awake, down to the very close-by ocean, to Maslin Beach, only one beach up from were the race was going to start in a few hours time.
It was magic. We hadn’t been to the beach in ages and I couldn’t help myself but run up a little sand dune hill, bare feet and excited, careless and free. Alberto had coffee and muesli ready by the time I got back. We had breakfast by the beach and afterwards we run into the freezing cold ocean. I’ve gotten soft in all those years living in Queensland. It took some courage to brave the cold waves, when some nine years ago it would have been the most pleasurable experience. Once in, the water felt warm and we couldn’t get enough of body surfing and fighting the surge, and invigorated and fresh, we finally headed for the start of stage five of the Tour Downunder.
When we parked the Camper in a small residential street, just some 800 meters from the start area, we immediately spotted Lampre and Ag2r riders cruising up and down the little beach side village streets, just like you and I would when warming up for a local race. The place was buzzing, people everywhere, and the voice of the announcer carried across from the loudspeakers. I recognised Lance Armstrong’s voice, being interviewed before the race start.
It was a good opportunity to see riders close up and to take photographs of Lance rolling back to his team bus after the interview and having a chat with Oscar Pereiro. I still can’t believe I had forgotten completely about big Jens. Kudos to a charismatic rider! This would have been the perfect opportunity to say G’day but I would have probably said “Guten Tag”
Once the peloton was sent off I got ready to get on my bike as well. A phone call from Danny, a Brisbane friend, and I decided to wait and ride out to Willunga with him as he told me that they were only a few kilometres away.
Danny never arrived but I was glad that I had hung around for an hour soaking up the atmosphere as the time went quickly and the intermediate sprint was awesome to watch.
I decided to just join one of the hundreds of groups of riders all heading for the same destination: Willunga Hill. A friendly and experienced looking rider in stylish Italian jersey was dodging his way through pedestrians in search of open roads and I started chatting.
“Of course you can tag along. Where are you from?”
“Yes, but where is that accent from?”
“I’m originally from Germany. How about you?”
“I’m from Bright, Victoria.” he said.
“I know Bright very well …” He cut me off, noticeably excited, looking at me curiously: “Did you ride the Tour of Bright last year? Did you write about Mt Hotham climb? Yes, of course it’s you. A German, in Brisbane! I read your report on the internet. It’s beautifully written.”
I was embarrassed and proud at the same time. He introduced me to his friends and I was relieved that they didn’t make a big fuss and that we started rolling towards Willunga straight away. I was so keen to push the pedals, elated and happy as Larry.
Later that day, after I had caught up with Danny and had raced (and beaten) him up Willunga Hill, and had watched the Pro’s go pass twice and had reunited with Alberto and had laughed and joked and had been surprised and thrilled to see our good friend Aaron on the slopes of the climb, I joint up again with Ross and Gary and the group from the morning and rode with them the 50 km back to Adelaide. It was a fast ride, down the Expess Way, forbidden for cyclists any other day but police drove pass without a word (hello critical mass), and only the fading energy made me aware that it was approaching late afternoon and that I hadn’t eaten anything since that breakfast by the beach.
And that had really only been the beginning of the day …