30 January 2010

TDU 2010 - Gunner's Version

There's something evocatively engaging about wide-eyed optimism, unbridled enthusiasm and untainted innocence. But that's also the playground of the foolhardy and the unprepared. And that's the field of dreams on which the blue-hued sea of TDU 2010 aspirants came to play.

Several thousand hopefuls riding into the unknown with a banana, a water bottle and the legs to carry them only half the distance mounted saddles that would eventually sear and set off on 160.5km of torture that would make some and break many more.

The pre-dawn heat was the harbinger of things to come as Gunner tried to get his attitude aligned. A 5:45 rendezvous with Depot already had us late for the official smokkelaars' muster on The Parade. The teamS had been diminished with the late withdrawal of Kidd who was rumoured to have scampered with the millions he'd raised in sponsorship and spirited the Sarre clan somewhere on the cote d'azur while the Wilier sat primed but riderless in the back shed.

You can wax lyrical all you like about Gorge Rd, Kangaroo Creek, Lenswood et al and still not adequately capture the cycling beauty of this neck of the woods. Gentle climbing, chattering creeks and rolling orchards that can intoxicate excited legs itching to pump harder - but this temptation is to be spurned for the cost, plus fees, charges and interest is inestimable. And at this point teamS is splintered never to be united again on the ride. Junior & Doc sidled up and were soon lost in the aqua-mass. A brief conversation with G'lover ended and not a word was shared again that day. Depot & Gunner knew that what the ride divides the ride conquers so unlike Krishna & Trishna we chose to remain joined at the wheel.

Drink stop chaos, food station inadequacy and mediocre marshalling were the hallmarks of Events SA efforts. Luckily we carried enough sustenance to feed a small nation and Depot's "cramp, no cramp" tablets were an insurance policy that no cyclist should ignore.

Fox Creek Rd offered little resistance and the run to Woodside was swift and recuperative. Inverbrackie meant nothing to me and came and went without acknowledgement and Nairne's quaint beauty was soon dwarfed by the exponentially growing Mt Barker. Traffic lights - go figure.

Strathalbyn soon emerged and with that Gunner's horrific tale of going solo a couple of years back, getting lost somewhere near Clayton and then bonking when heading forlornly back through Langhorne Creek into a wind so vicious that his weekly sessions with a cycling psychiatrist had only just finished. Surely these demons were totally expunged. Surely.

Out of Strathalbyn and the escape route was clearly signposted - a mere 35kms and we'd be home and hosed; sunning ourselves in Goolwa and smuggly revelling in the afterglow of a 130km spin. But what the heck, another 35kms on top of that wouldn't be an issue. Not to legs that felt so strong and spirits that had been elevated by the verdant beauty of the mid-summer Adelaide Hills.

Langhorne Creek soon beckoned and our exposure and vulnerability to the heat-charged wind that arrogantly scattered the seeds of doubt that took root quickly was a shocking realisation. Dehydration was an altogether too terrifying fate to contemplate and the signs of stressed cyclists around us drove home the gravity of our situation - THE RIDE STARTS HERE.

And then it happened - we hit Lake Alexandrina, a tragic metaphor for a parched peloton that was begging for the threatening skies to shower it with a cooling reprieve. It was a cruel promise that never eventuated. We turned into the teeth of this blast furnace on a road that offered neither protection nor forgiveness. We were spread and like a sniper 'the ride' was picking us off one by one. No one had the acuity to 'ride as one'. It was every man for himself.

Depot showed enormous courage to lead Gunner and a motley assembly of clingers for a couple of kilometres as we pushed on in silent pain. Gunner rebuked himself for his cowardice but isn't this Gunner's usual style? The smokkelaars' maxim that 'you never know how far you can go until you go too far' was about to be realised when two lycra-clad nymphs leading an organised group passed us. Needing no further cue we sucked onto their rear wheels and stuck with them all the way to the god forsaken township of Milang.

Along this stretch lay 'the fallen'. Those men and women who couldn't turn the pedal one more time. Riddled with dehydration, savaged with cramp and void of fuel they had no choice. Depot spoke of having visited the darker corners of his mind to summon the will to continue. Gunner had scoured those same corners while still on The Parade.

The only useful marshall of the day confidently instructed that 3-4kms down the road we'd turn and could then set the spinnaker for a tail wind into Goolwa.

And so it was.

There is plenty of healing to be done - this ride scarred.


Van Dutch said...

That is a fantastic story Gunner. I can feel the pain.

skipper said...

pain is a new black...felt the bitumen biting every key stroke. great words gunner. ...sounds like a recuperative run to the Espy is in order and soon. skip

Punters Club said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
depot said...

brought the day straight back so vividly. I thought I had blocked that pain out. It wasn't that bad, was it ?
great writing as always! Now I can get into Espy runs, my specialty!

Junior said...

Magnificent prose Gunner! Beautifully put - so much so I began to feel that beast of a "breeze" pushing me backwards as I was reading!

Cabana Kidd said...

cyclo-journal gold. Brilliantly written. An absolute page-turner. *****
PS. Kidd will make the ride sometime before summer's out ...

skipper said...

great images...kidd does that mean the smokking jacket is going to the pool room framed and signed...skipper