Body image has always dominated the thoughts of man and woman for hundreds of years, ever since Eve slapped on a papyrus reed g-string in the Garden of Eden, and even I’ve managed to keep my legs shaven at the age of 63 for all the wrong reasons.
So when I got a chance to cover the Gold Coast Masters’ Championships at Nerang (Qld) earlier today, I was intrigued as to whether body image had anything to do with why these riders tortured their bodies on a daily basis, squeezing their crown jewels into very tight lycra, and punishing their nether regions on hard little bike saddles.
At an age when most people are contemplating hours in front to televisions, or filling out application forms to enter the local retirement villages, these hardy gladiators have got the Bic razors working overtime, and I guess it is hard to dodge the varicose veins when you are muscular and over the age of seventy.
My assignment was to find out whether veteran bike riders are obsessed with body image, or have other concerns like harboring fears of being unfit, or just coming to grips with the fact they are creatures of habit.
Having ridden for 30 years, they want to continue climbing on a bike for the rest of their four score and ten, even though no-one likes like Robbie McEwen or Anna Meares any more.
I rolled up at Nerang expecting to see a whole lot of Mr Burnses (The Simpsons) gingerly peddling around the Criterium circuit, but ended up getting the shock of my life.
Some of these riders looked more like Rambo (or at least Rambo’s grandfather) and when the peleton moved away at 7am, I’m sure I caught a whiff of out-of-date testosterone, as 40 odd cleats snapped into place (or was the sound of chattering false teeth?).
I wondered if the Anti-Doping agents were going to make a surprise appearance as most of these riders would have been on a bucket load of drugs-like Panadol Osteo, Neurofen, Norvasc and Aspirin, and who’s to say the Tony Ferguson shake consumed for breakfast didn’t contain some banned substances.
There was some serious hardware on display this morning too (and we ‘re not talking wheelie walkers), and despite the occasional pot-belly and large derriere, these older guys certainly looked the part …… although perhaps a little frightening, as all the female masters riders had been scared away bar one.
Quite a few of these racers looked vaguely familiar, and when someone pointed out Bob Panter, I almost had a spiritual come biblical moment, as Panter goes so far back he features in the Old Testament… “Adam begat Seph begat Panter begat Ahab”.
I don’t know what colour Bob had on his back today, but it certainly wasn’t white, but then again, I was feeling a bit worse for wear after last night’s chardonnay hammering, so all the rider colours of white, green, red, purple, yellow and pink, may as well have been orange, indigo, mauve and torquoise.
Today’s Championships were run simultaneously, with the lesser grades able to short-cut before the gnarly big climb at the Nerang Cycle Centre, and stirred on by a faithful throng of spectators (well, not quite a throng…. more like three wives, two vets with gammy legs and a poodle), the riders powered their way around the course, some with smiles, some with grimaces, but all with a determination to reach the finish line , and the comfort of the emergency CPR machine on standby.
I remembered my reasons for being at the Championships, and decided to grab one of the more boistrous spectators on the side of the course who could hardly contain his excitement as the riders powered past.
My in-depth questioning soon produced the responses I needed.
“These guys are still riding to get more longivity into their life” he revealed. “They’ve been doing it all their life, so if they weren’t doing it, they wouldn’t know what to do”.
This was starting to sound so profound, I waited for more pearls of wisdom.
“They take their riding very seriously, and most of them have all the latest gear. They slow down, but they don’t actually stop. They slow down when they start having heart attack and strokes and then they come back again. If they weren’t able to ride, they would probably be lining up to play indoor bowls or slowly dying off.”
At this point I was convinced.
These riders were a hardy bunch of cycling devotees, all hell-bent on having a great social life, and totally committed to peddling their way towards a state of super fitness in old age.
It didn’t matter if a few extra layers of flesh rolled out once the lycra was peeled off, it was all about maintaining a healthy mind and body and having fun.
RESULTS TO FOLLOW
All images copyright Peter Ford (CSN)
The Brisbane Blast – Christmas Criterium on Sunday the 15th of December is racing ahead and we need you!
Race Director Mike said today “the Christmas Crit circuit (Alice Street, George St, Margaret St & Edward St) is likely the only 1km course that will get approval in the city heart. It has the greatest potential to draw a crowd and enlist the Pros, Semi-pros who are all home for Christmas”. Our ambassadors already include Michael Hepburn, Jay McCarthy, Kirsty Broun and many other Pros who will soon confirm their availability.
Organisers have spent a year with the course community, Brisbane Marketing, Police and Council – and now have the three on course Hotels on board for December 15, two as sponsors. So this Blast is going ahead!!
We need every licensed rider from Cairns to Coffs to race! And we need non-licenced riders to grab their mates and form Corporate Teams.
The event will donate to a most worthwhile charity – the Brisbane Hospital and Women’s Hospital Foundation just in time for Christmas.
The Sunday race is just two weeks before Christmas and is the perfect time for families and partners to come to the city heart to do their Christmas shopping. Stamford Plaza has special weekend accommodation packages being launched next week and other inner city hotels are keen for business.
The Christmas Criterium provides racing for Elite A/B/C, Masters A/B/C, juniors under 17 and Women. So organisers are urging all the cyclists to come out and show their support for their sport. As Mike said ‘”So many times, I have lamented about the loss of a great event seven years ago – the Southbank Criterium… Now is the time to get involved and show our fine City how exciting cycle racing can be”.
Image courtesy of JXP Photography www.jxpphotography.com
Cycling Queensland is pleased to announce that Toowoomba has been declared the host venue for the 2014 Cycling Australia Junior Road National Championships to be staged from 12-14 September.
Cycling Queensland received a number of high quality submissions from promoters and council regions vying to stage this very important event on the cycling calendar. In the end the submission of the Toowoomba Cycling Club with the support of neighbouring clubs Bikeline Racing, Highfields Rollers Cycling Club and backing from Toowoomba Regional Council was chosen due to its strong volunteer base, suitable facilities and courses plus a history of staging highly successful and professionally run events.
Australia’s best Under 15 and 17 age riders will compete for Australian Championship Medals over three days incorporating a Time Trial, Road Race and a Criterium, to be staged at the purpose built Toowoomba Criterium Circuit in Glenvale.
Race Director for the event, Toowoomba Cycling Club’s David Silk said, "After years of holding open race events here in Toowoomba, the Toowoomba Cycling Club and I were very pleased to receive the news that we would be hosting this prestigious event. This is not just an honour for our club, but for Queensland, junior cycling and the Toowoomba City. It's not every day the Cycling Australia Junior Road National Championships come to town, In fact I think this is a first!"
Cycling Queensland Chief Executive Officer Geoff Rynne added, “The allocation of the National Junior Road Championships will bring Australia's focus on Queensland and it is fitting that the Toowoomba Cycling Club and the Toowoomba region will receive that attention. The club has a proud history of hosting major events including the Tour of Toowoomba and the Board and staff of Cycling Queensland are very confident that they will host another excellent event and that there will be significant benefits to the local cycling clubs and the region as a whole as a result of hosting this prestigious event".
Cycling Queensland Operations Manager Matthew Gillett pointed out, “prospective national competitors will have a fantastic opportunity to test the courses out as the Total Tools Toowoomba Junior Tour is expected to precede the National event in August. This will provide Queensland riders an extra edge when it comes time to compete against the best that the rest of Australia has to offer.”
Cycling Queensland congratulates Toowoomba Cycling Club on its appointment to host this prestigious event.
ORICA-AIS is proud to present its line up for the 2014 season.
Set to expand by one rider, the Australian outfit welcomes three new signings alongside eight familiar faces. The team retains a distinctly Australian flavour with eight Australians and three international riders.
“We have been very pleased with the team’s performances throughout the past year,” said Technical Director Martin Barras. “Because of this, we were keen to have stability in our line up for 2014. We’ve added an extra rider to our team in order to allow us to transition from the Spring Classics to the summer tours more comfortably.”
Emma Johansson returns as the team leader after ending the season ranked as the number one female rider in the world. The Swede earned her ranking with victories at one day races and major tours in France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and the Basque region of Spain. She capped off her consistent season with a silver medal in the road race at the Road World Championships after leading ORICA-AIS to bronze in the team time trial.
“Emma's first season with us was a win-win for everybody,” said Barras. “We found the leadership and performance we wanted, and she was able to improve on her results to eventually move into the world's number one rank. She is a natural fit with the team, and we’re thrilled to have re-signed her for another season.”
Already announced as a returning rider, Loes Gunnewijk shares in the leadership role with Johansson. The Dutchwoman has been with ORICA-AIS since its inception and happily embraces the team’s Aussie spirit. Gunnewijk assumes the role of captain on the road with ease and revels in mentoring her younger, less experienced teammates.
"Loes plays such an important role within our squad,” said Barras. “She is our eyes, ears and brains on the road and shapes our racing style. I was actually ready to offer her a managerial role within the team until we learned that she is nowhere near ready to hang up the bike.”
Australian National Road Champion Gracie Elvin re-upped with ORICA-AIS after her first full season in Europe. The first rider to join us from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) program, Elvin’s grit and tenacity was on constant display as she provided crucial support to her teammates on the world stage. Elvin is quick to tell you that she aspires to classics greatness. Her team hopes to help her hone these ambitions in the upcoming seasons.
“Gracie has fit in so well this year,” said Barras. “It was natural for us to continue on together. We always have to remind ourselves how new she is to the road game. Although she raced as an elite mountain biker previously, this year was her first full season at this level. We have high expectations for Gracie’s ongoing development, particularly in the classics.”
During the past season, Australian National Time Trial Champion Shara Gillow found success against the clock and in the hilly tours. She repeated as time trial national champion for a third time, won the time trial in Thüringen en route to her second place finish, won a road stage at Giro del Trentino and rounded out the podium in three individual time trials (as well as two team time trials).
"Shara replicated her best season this year,” said Barras. “We will look to her to provide us with an alternative in the tours and hillier races during her third season with the team.”
Melissa Hoskins and Nettie Edmondson have both re-signed with the team. The duo split their time between the track and the road. Both medalled at the Track World Championships in Belarus last February before joining their teammates on the road in the spring.
While Hoskins continues to show her prowess in the sprint, Edmondson has begun to show signs of her versatility. Both won the Tour of Chongming Island (Hoskins in 2012; Edmondson in 2013). Edmondson backed up the mid-season win with an exciting victory on the hilly queen stage of the Lotto Belisol Tour.
"We are keen to give Mel more opportunities to earn the sprint leadership within the team,” said Barras. “Despite her track commitments, she will join us earlier in the season. We expect she can confirm the promise she has showed as a developing sprinter."
"Like Mel, Nettie will continue to juggle her track and road commitments,” Barras added. “2014 sees the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, and Nettie is a medal favourite on the track. Her stage win at Lotto Belisol Tour this year has really shown her promise as a roadie. We are happy to be patient and allow her time to fullfil her track ambitions whilst she develops into a world leading road rider."
Former Australian National Road Champion Amanda Spratt returns as part of the team’s core group of returning riders. The consummate teammate, Spratt is always willing to spend the day in the break, on the front of the bunch or hauling water bottles from car to peloton. Spratt’s loyalty, consistency and determination epitomize the team’s values.
“Spratty has formed part of our core group since the team’s inception,” said Barras. “We rely heavily on her professionalism and consistency to set the tone we strive to meet every day. I am keen for her to take more chances next season and help us broaden our tactical options.”
Jessie MacLean has re-signed for a third season with ORICA-AIS. The Australian plays an important role in the team’s sprint train in addition to fulfilling domestique duties. MacLean’s cheerful disposition and quick wit have made her a fan favourite.
"Jessie has had a difficult year with illness and crashes galore,” said Barras. “Despite her personal difficulties, she has remained one of the pillars on which our races are built. We are really pleased to have her for one more year."
Our eight returning riders are happy to welcome three new teammates into their fold. The trio is expected to strengthen the team’s performances in the Spring Classics and World Cups.
Valentina Scandolara joins ORICA-AIS from MCipollini-Giordana. The talented 23-year-old has shown promise in the hills and from small breaks. Last July, she took her first professional win on stage six of Thüringen Rundfahrt from a late race solo move.
“In a departure from our established policy to recruit only experienced non-Australians who can guide our younger riders, we are happy to welcome Valentina Scandolara to our team,” said Barras. “Her exuberant racing style is a natural fit for our squad. Also, she has spent so much time with Spratty in breakaways this year that we thought it simpler to have both on the same team: they will probably end up rooming together on the road!"
Carlee Taylor joins her Australian teammates from Lotto Belisol following her second full season of racing in Europe. The 24-year-old has developed into a crafty climber with the ability to support her team leaders in the hills. Taylor played a significant role in Tiffany Cromwell’s top ten result at the Road World Championships.
"Carlee is a product of the AIS program,” said Barras. “As such, we have kept a keen eye on her and her maturation this year. Her continued developed coupled with our desire to get more climbing support made Carlee a great choice for us."
Grace Sulzberger rounds out the 11-rider squad. The youngest of the three children from a remarkably talented cycling family in Tasmania, Sulzberger follows the path paved by her brothers Bernie and Wesley in her leap up to the elite level. The 24-year-old has spent the past two seasons racing for the AIS.
“We are pleased to welcome Grace Sulzberger into our fold,” said Barras. “Although her season was cut short with a nasty injury when she fractured her femur shortly before Worlds, she demonstrated the know how and consistency we crave in a developing rider. I foresee a very fruitful future for her in the sport.”
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, Barras has reason to believe that his team will continue to build upon the success they’ve achieved during their first two seasons. With options for the cobbled classics, flat finishes and hilly terrain, he expects the 11 riders that make up the 2014 ORICA-AIS squad to earn results in a variety of scenarios.
“Next year, we will look to maintain our performance standard in the stage races while improving our performance in the classics and one day events,” said Barras. “We’re very motivated to challenge for the world title in the team time trial as well. The squad we’ve assembled is more than capable of meeting these goals."
ORICA-AIS for 2014: Amanda Spratt (AUS) Annette Edmondson (AUS) Carlee Taylor (AUS) Emma Johansson (SWE) Gracie Elvin (AUS) Grace Sulzberger (AUS) Jessie MacLean (AUS) Loes Gunnewijk (NED) Melissa Hoskins (AUS) Shara Gillow (AUS) Valentina Scandolara (ITA)
Garfoot, the National road series champion, produced an explosion of speed to just edged out fellow Australians Peta Mullens and Kimberley Wells.
It was a confidence boosting win for the Queenslander in the 30minute circuit race watched by 20,000 crowd. “It gives me some self-confidence. It is good to win in such a big race and in front of so many people. It was so good,” said a delighted Garfoot who lives on the Gold Coast. Garfoot was aggressive from the start but eased off during the middle stages allowing rivals to share in the workload. The 32-year-old then kept her cool in the final lap, timing her finish to perfection. “I was definitely working hard at the end. I guess that was good for me that she took the last turn of pace otherwise I would have had to do it,” said Garfoot “It is such a great end of the season and I am really happy it ended the way it did. I wasn’t sure at the beginning of the race because there are so many great girls here so I am glad that I took this one.” Veteran Robbie McEwen pedalled briefly out of retirement to claim the men’s honours for the second year at the Subaru Australian Open Criterium. McEwen edged out rising sprint star Leigh Howard for the win with Jonathan Cantwell third. Slovakian sprint sensation Peter Sagan paid the price for a suspected case of heat stroke to unexpectedly finish off the podium in seventh position. But the two time Tour de France sprint jersey winner still proved a crowd favourite with a spectacular one handed wheelie after the race. “To be fair, the boys are all towards the end of their off season, they’ve had about a month off the bike and their about as unfit as they get.” McEwen said. “I’m still riding around the Gold Coast and keeping fit. “I’m retired and I am going to go back into retirement again tomorrow. But I can’t promise I want pop out of it for another day again next year.
Image courtesy of Lisa Pringle/Cycling Qld
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