Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cremorne to Bondi Junction

As reporters covering the ultimate cycling job, we won't just be expected to take some decent photos of the tour - although we think we've got that covered. We won't just have to find interesting and unusual ways to light up the internet with eye-catching information about our rides either - although we think we've got that covered too.

We want to be able to paint the word-pictures which will leave you informed and entertained - and maybe a little bit jealous - as we wind our way through the beautiful regions of France.

Since we aren't in France, however, we've decided to make do with what we have here and tell you about Mark's commute to and from work.

By way of background, Mark lives in the beautiful, leafy suburb of Cremorne. Newly married, Mark lives with his lovely wife Anna, and travels by scooter (Vespa, no less ... très européenne!), from his home in Cremorne to his work in an office in Bondi Junction.

Mark and his beautiful wife on their wedding day. Mark has promised not to wear his kilt while riding in France.
The last few weeks in Sydney have been unseasonably mild, allowing the local rural fire brigades to conduct hazard reduction burns - a fine sheen of smoke haze has settled over much of Sydney most mornings, leading to some stunning colours as the sun rises, and making the evenings quite spectacular as well.

Mark's ride to work takes him across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge is no less impressive up close than it appears in all the tourist brochures, with the intricacy of the metal work similar to that on the Eiffel Tower, although on very much more of a monumental scale (sorry Paris).

For all of you trivia buffs out there, you might like to know that those four pylons at the ends of the main arch of the bridge...they're there for purely aesthetic purposes. They don't actually help hold the bridge up at all. They were added to the original design to hide the fact that the entire bridge rests on just 4 load bearing pins, each of which is just over 4 metres long and just over 36 centimeters (yes, centimeters) wide. But it's ok - each of the pins has a maximum load bearing thrust of around 20,000 tonnes.

Sydney Harbour in the evening
Once over the bridge, the daily slog through traffic starts. Although Mark believes in the adage that you aren't stuck in traffic, you are the traffic, his trusty Vespa allows him to zip around the edges (using legal methods only, of course) of those stuck in their steel cages. Thankfully, he works away from the central business district of Sydney, and the traffic soon eases. Riding past the large Centennial Park that dominates Sydney's Eastern Suburbs and heading for the beach-side suburb of Bondi isn't really that bad a way to start the working day. It's a leisurely 30 minute trip to work, mostly against the traffic flow, and to his desk where one of his first tasks is to check what's been happening in the world of cycling.

As nice as Mark's daily commute is, he'd be willing to trade it all in a flash for a trip around France reporting for CyclingTips. We hope we'll get the chance to make that dream a reality.

Keep pedalling.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Now we play the waiting game...

On Friday we submitted our application for the ultimate job reporting from the Tour de France for CyclingTips. We reckon our entry was pretty good and we hope the judges think so as well.

According to the CyclingTips website, the process for selecting the winning team will be as follows:
Once entries are closed we’ll go through all the applications we've received and narrow it down to a shortlist. Then we’ll call up everyone on the shortlist for an informal interview. And finally, late next week hopefully, we’ll announce our winners.
So today we're waiting by the phone like an angsty teenager after a first date, or a newly-recruited pro cyclist hoping to get on a team for their first grand tour. It's a nervous time indeed...

"Why won't you ring already?"
Of course we must be patient, but hopefully the rainy weather in Melbourne yesterday gave the judging panel a good opportunity to sit inside and review all the entries. Time will tell whether we have made the cut.

We'll keep you posted on our progress, but in the meantime, keep pedaling.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Cycling, TV and Australia: a happy combination.

As we explained in our blog post the other day, watching a major event like the Tour de France on television is really not the same as being there. And whilst we hope to be given the opportunity to report from Le Tour this year, and provide a taste of what it's like to be in France during the largest annual sporting event in the world, we also want to acknowledge and celebrate some of the high quality cycling coverage we already enjoy here in Australia.

Naturally we include the coverage from CyclingTips in this category, but since shameless flattery is not really our modus operandi we will refrain from gushing and fawning over their fine publication. Instead, our focus today will be on another media outlet, one whose commitment to cycling over the years has taken many of us on the journey from recreational cyclist to sleep-deprived francophile over the course of three weeks in July. The organisation we are referring to is of course SBS, who for the past 24 years have been broadcasting the Tour de France to Australian television audiences.

Over the years, SBS has added other major cycling events to their coverage, such as Paris Roubaix and the World Championships, but in 2014, for the first time ever they broadcast every single stage of the Giro d'Italia live, both on TV and over the internet. I'm sure we're not alone in thinking that's a pretty awesome thing for Australian cycling.

SBS Giro d'Italia commentators Matt Keenan and Dave McKenzie
We're also pretty pleased to see that the Australian contingent of the Giro peloton this year have stepped up to impress their home audience. Here's a brief summary of some of the results that Aussies have produced over the past few weeks in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Italy:
Stage 1: Won by Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE
Stage 2: Australian Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) moves into the overall race lead, whilst his team leads the teams classification.
Stages 3 & 4: Matthews and his team maintain their lead in the overall and teams classifications
Stage 5: Matthews still in the Maglia Rosa, fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) finishes 2nd on the stage.
Stage 6: Matthews wins the stage with Evans coming in 3rd. As well as the pink and white jerseys, Matthews also moves into the lead on the King of the Mountains classification.
Stage 7: Matthews retains his lead in the pink, blue and white jerseys.
Stage 8: Matthews relinquishes the overall lead to fellow Australian, Evans.
Stages 9 & 10: Evans retains the overall lead
Stage 11: Australian Michael Rogers (Tinkoff Bank - Saxo Bank) wins his first ever Grand Tour stage, whilst Evans retains the overall lead.
Stage 20: Rogers wins his second Grand Tour stage.
For more than half the stages in the race this year, either an Australian was wearing the Maglia Rosa at the end of the day or an Australian won the stage. Or both.

Now of course we're not saying that SBS's decision to televise the Giro this year caused the Australian athletes to perform so well, but we're willing to bet that the race results have given their ratings a decent boost.

We also want to take this opportunity to strongly encourage the bigwigs at SBS to screen the Vuelta a España this year too. Sure, it probably won't be good for national productivity if Aussie cycling fans now go without sleep in May, July and September, but the long-term benefits of more people watching cycling, and then ultimately participating in cycling for sport, recreation and transport, will be immeasurable. Let's make it happen!

Keep pedalling.