So I get this call last Wednesday…

…from my LBS (local bike shop) – City Bike Depot: “How would you like to go on a training ride with the Liquigas-Cannondale ProTour team?”

“Uhm, OK. What’s the catch?” I said.

“You need to get yourself down to Adelaide by Sunday and the training ride is on Monday morning.”

“OK – i’m in!”

I mean how often do you get a chance to go on a training ride with some of the world’s best cyclists and just chat away for a couple of hours? This was just too good an opportunity to miss and of course it had to be documented! I had been eyeing off a little GoPro HD Hero waterproof still & video camera for quite some time and this was just the excuse I needed to finally purchase one!

So I put in my leave form, booked myself on the jetstar redeye flight to Adelaide and my accommodation in the Hilton where all the riders are staying, put my bike in for a service to be packed in to a bike box and away I went!

Arrived 8am Sunday morning, straight to the hotel and unable to check-in so I used one of their conference rooms to assemble my bike, do a quick outfit change into my lycra and went for a 50-60km ride up to the Adelaide hills.

This was my first time to Adelaide and so I didn’t know what to expect but it really is a beautiful city – my impression of it was a smaller version of Melbourne – think very flat topography, funky laneways and small bars & restaurants, well laid out roads and similar architecture. The Adelaide CBD is very small and once 3-4km out you are straight in to suburbia. 10km out and you start hitting the hills – either via Gorge Rd up past Kangaroo Creek Reservoir or in the other direction toward Mt Barker.

I watched the Cancer Council Classic on Sunday evening – kind of like an exhibition race with all the teams around a short street circuit in Adelaide. This was the first time i’d seen the ProTour teams ride and can I just say that on TV you do not get a sense for just how fast the riders are going – it is amazing – I will definitely be back to see the entire Tour Down Under next year.

Monday morning comes around, I don my Cannondale lycra , mount the GoPro to my helmet and meet outside of the Hilton @ 8:30am for an easy training ride. Here is the series from the helmet cam. The team in Adelaide for the Tour Down under was:

121. CIMOLAI Davide ITA
122. KOREN Kristijan SLO
123. MARANGONI Alan ITA
124. SABATINI Fabio ITA
125. PONZI Simone ITA
126. VIVIANI Elia ITA
127. WURF Cameron AUS

The team car pulls up alongside and off we go for a couple of hours at an easy pace. We rotate around and chat to the guys – the Italians don’t speak a lot of English and well my Italian isn’t the best but we converse nonetheless. Cameron Wurf on the other hand, the first Aussie in the team, a tassie lad and former Olympic rower who only recently moved across to cycling, has picked up Italian quite quickly and acts as a translator for the rest of us. By the end of the ride 15-20 stragglers had tagged along at the back and no one seemed to mind. That’s one of the great things while the TDU is on – there are so many cyclists on the roads and so many professional teams that just riding around the CBD you are likely to run in to someone famous and can just join in for a few km. If you are staying at the Hilton you’ll likely run in to pretty much all the teams as well as occasionally Phil Liggett in the lifts!

Chatting to the guys it is refreshing to see how down to earth they all are – they took the time to answer all my mundane questions that they’ve probably been asked a million times before and also spoke about some of their funnier moments – Cameron was saying how because he hadn’t grown up with a bike he wasn’t very good with them mechanically and when he got a flat out on the road while training one day with Simon Gerrans, it took him a long time to fix it and so when they got back to the house, Cameron had to step out of the room for a couple of minutes and when he came back in Simon had taken his bike apart for him to put back together so he could learn the ins and outs – haha! It’s little things like that which made going down there all the more worthwhile – as well as getting a memorable group shot:

NL-&-the-TeamBW

Some other things that I picked up are around their training regime – they hit the gym most days for 1 1/2 hours focusing mainly on core-stability and also throughout a normal training week, two of their rides will generally be at a very relaxed, easy pace. I had for some reason always thought that when they were on the road it was high-intensity.

Most of them are tall – i’m about 5’11 and am pretty much the shortest in that group shot (4th from the right) and are very very lean as you can imagine. Cameron said he is 183cm (6’) and weighs 70kg.

Then it was all over just as quickly as it had started – the guys had Stage 1 to prepare for the following day and I had to dismantle and pack the bike ready for the flight back to Sydney! Got back in about 10:30pm last night. Good times!

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