Cycling: How I got an insiders’ view of the Tour Down Under

By Anne Federowytsch

The lift opened at level three and revealed the lively front desk of the South Australian Tourism Commission’s office. It was the first Monday of the New Year and my first shift as a volunteer for Australia’s biggest cycling event, the Tour Down Under.

I arrived on the dot at 9am and proceeded through to a colourful maze of desks and casually dressed workers who were already busy answering phones and typing away on their computers. It was here that I met Emily, the media monitoring supervisor, and two other volunteers.

For the next four hours I sat at my designated computer slowly sifting through a pile marked ‘National Print’, counting and measuring the space of sponsor mentions, entering the details into a pre-papered Excel spreadsheet, photocopying, and finally filing away the original and photocopied cut.

It was a tedious task, one that was repeated only once during my time as a volunteer, but one that was absolutely crucial to the running of the event. If the sponsors, various councils, and most importantly the South Australian Government didn’t know how much money the TDU was earning, somewhere in the tens of millions, then the event would almost be pointless in their eyes.

Later in the week I made my first appearance at the official TDU Media Centre in the Hilton Hotel. The media volunteering had two parts to it and this branch turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Located in the Victory Room, the Media Centre was set up as a hub for journalists and photographers throughout the duration of the event. Long tables lined most of the room, with an area set aside for refreshments and leisure, the public relations team and volunteers, and desktop computers for shared internet access.

During the few earlier shifts, before race week, that I was assigned to I completed more menial tasks including running errands to the temporary TDU office upstairs, printing and laminating signs, stuffing plastic lanyard sleeves, answering phones and keeping the place spick and span.

The first day of racing saw Adelaide’s city streets host the Cancer Classic (staged as a warm-up event and as a means to raise awareness of Cancer). The Media Centre came alive. I began my morning at the Hilton where I received a friendly ‘hello’ from a couple of cyclists, a somewhat invigorating way to start the day, on my way through the lobby to the Media Centre.

By brunch time another volunteer, Erin, and I were given the enjoyable task of jumping into one of the pristine Skoda TDU cars and driving ourselves down to the race circuit to deliver some refreshments to the media areas at the start/finish line. Our excitement grew when we passed security without a hitch and were free to travel around the track albeit at 20 kilometres an hour. Upon our arrival at the start/finish line it was hard not to notice the buzz that was already building for the event. Sound and camera technicians were setting up for the SBS television coverage, Events SA employees were busy ensuring VIP areas were ready to go, and some keen cycling fans had already secured prime viewing positions.

We returned to the Media Centre and were then given the drearier task of collecting the stock for the beverage fridges. Little did we know, though, just what we would discover down in the Hilton basement. So down the staff lift we went and into the grubby undergrounds of the hotel. While I was standing there and listening to our instructions from the PR Manager Erin elbowed me in the side and whispered, ‘That’s Lance Armstrong’. Unbeknown to me we had stumbled across Lance’s secret entry and exit point out of the hotel. He was coolly riding around on his bike in his full kit as he waited for his girlfriend and son to get into their chauffer-driven Skoda. When they shut their doors Lance took off with them following behind.

My only other shift during TDU week fell on Friday mid-afternoon during Stage 4 Norwood to Goolwa. The lobby of the Hilton was considerably more quiet this time around, as was the Media Centre, which was all but vacant; there were only two journalists. The afternoon momentarily picked up when we heard the race conclude on the handset radios. Moments later I was on the receiving end of a phone call from a British journalist in which I had to scribble down as fast as I could (shorthand is not coming up until first semester) a four-para story with quotes from stage winner Andre Greipel. It’s safe to say I spent the next half-hour sporting a sore wrist while waiting for the official results to be sent through via email. Once they arrived it was another wait for 130 copies to print on the photocopier before I handed them out to the journalists when they returned.

One of the first to arrive, and one of the few who I recognised, was a flustered-looking Sam Lane, who, besides writing for The Age, is well known for her work on Channel 10’s Before The Game. With her hair messily covering her face and her hands full with a laptop among other things, I asked whether she would like a copy of race results. She hastily nodded and I popped one politely on top of her pile as she went to find the nearest table to start her reporting.

Later in the evening I had the chance to escort a Channel 7 cameraman through the Tour village, where I was greeted by more ‘hello’s’ from the friendly and mostly European cyclists and support staff, before watching them set up to do a video interview for the six o’clock news with an Australian rider.

As my last shift as a TDU volunteer for 2010 came to close, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience in the most positive manner. It was such an eye-opening experience that introduced me to the real world of journalists and public relations people. To have such an inclusive role as a first time volunteer at the biggest cycling race in the southern hemisphere was so rewarding, an awesome learning experience, and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Comments

  1. OMG!
    Wow you met Sam Lane! thats so cool! shes my idol! :)
    did you talk to her at all?

    on a different topic Anne, have you ever tried to use your ID to get you into the Aussie Open for free? Just cover the rest of your surname after the ‘r’ and say you are part of the Federer camp. :)

    Danni

  2. Anne Fedorowytsch says:

    Nah didn’t get to have a chat to her she was pretty busy!

    Haha haven’t tried that yet or been to the Aus Open for that matter. Would love to go next year though.

Leave a Comment

*