Almanac Cycling: Le Tour de Arthur Siege

Chris Froome dominates the climb

Chris Froome dominates the climb

Setting out today for the final stage in the Sun-Herald Tour at Arthurs Seat from North Yarra, I felt an immediate discord, a cultural revolution of sorts. The cars on Eastlink appeared larger, there were many oversized recreational vehicles heading towards the mecca of weekend getaways and the usually quiet M3 was raking in the funds for the privatised road keepers.

Many of these cars were sporting the cycling accessory, roof rack with bike(s) attached.

I always believed that if you were travelling to a stage of a road race the decent thing to do if you were a cyclist was to ride the journey. I consider this a technical breach, a power assisted bicycle if you like. Haven’t recent events this past week told them anything?

I am not a lycra clad road warrior but I do ride a bike in my old t-shirt and baggy pants that allow me to throw a leg over the seat and there was no way I could ride the distance to Arthurs Seat, I barely made it across the Chandler Hwy yesterday in my attempt to improve fitness levels.

There were many cyclists that did the respectable thing and rode, I passed most of them and gave them a meter distance (I try to be good). I do have respect for those that not only managed to ride to Arthurs Seat but climb it.

I had to do the non-cycling route. Take the back road, park close to the Summit and then walk to my destination. Arriving at a road block still several kilometres from the Start Finish line (ok about 3km), I found a nice shady spot for Big Blue, parked, took out my camera gear, hiked it on my back and commenced the trek to Factor Bike Corner in a direction that I hoped would lead me to the action.

After the first 15 minutes I was starting to dread my decision, a bike on the roof would have been a good idea.

A further 15 minutes walk and I reached the summit, sweat dripping down from top to toe, there were no feeding stations on my trek and I had to take on more water and consume an energy bar before I could go any further.

There was colour, there was noise and there was also Phil Legget sitting in a makeshift portable chatting into his microphone with Scott McGrory. I passed Matt Keenan on my descent; he was acting as domestique for Phil and Scott juggling coffees for the team up ahead. One km down and I found another feeding station, I was in major need of something, a warm Solo would do (no ice at feeding station, note to organisers), the downhill was working in my favour, I was picking up pace and actually passing a few fellow pedestrians, momentum can do that and finally I reached my spot, what is normally known as Franklin Lookout today was Factor Bike Corner. Beautifully positioned as most lookouts are, the corner captured the moment when Herald Sun riders were being punished from the climb and then had to encounter a rowdy bunch egging them on. There was one fellow who had a chain saw and started it up when the riders came through. Supposedly this was to encourage them to climb a bit harder.

A Tour rider entertains the rowdy mob with a wheelie

A Tour rider entertains the rowdy mob with a wheelie

The final stage on Arthurs Seat sees the riders tackle the tight and steep corners a total of three times with the finish line at the Summit. L’Alpe d’Huez, the famous climb in the Tour De France it is not, however this would not prevent stories of courage and determination being forged among the riders today.

Two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome from Team Sky showed his dominance toying with Arthur Siege. He is a noted climber and for his sake we should have made him tackle the climb 4 times while the others did it 3, but this event is not a handicap.

Upon completion of the final stage, Froome collected his circular trophy, did the obligatory photo shoot with the stunning Peninsula backdrop and then mounted his bike and rode back to Melbourne.

Spectators with two wheels began streaming down from the summit while the slower tour riders crawled back to the top.

I looked up the hill and with a resigned acceptance commenced the climb back to the top. With an average gradient of 8.1% the climb was beginning to hurt, my physically tender calf muscle was holding up but the chafing between the thighs was beginning to have a dramatic impact.

With 1 km to the Summit, I passed a sign that told me this fact, I started to go delirious. Kate Bush entered my head taunting me with her song Running up that Hill;

“If I only could, I’d be running up that hill,

It doesn’t hurt me.

Do you want to feel how it feels?

Do you want to know that it doesn’t hurt me?”

No Kate, keep it to yourself, it bloody hurts me.

Reaching the Summit for the second time today was a major accomplishment; it’s all downhill from here. Except it was another 30 minutes walk, saddle rash like you wouldn’t believe, the final 100 metres I was resembling a penguin, walking or waddling due to the major rash and inferno taking place between my thighs.

Having safely reached the car and connecting with new disciples who shared the pilgrimage Le Arthur Siege, the drive home would be less painful and safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to move my legs for another hour or so.

About David Parker

A keen observer of all things sport and a Swans tragic, David likes to dabble in sporting documentaries including the Max Bailey doco for Fox Footy. David is currently filming a documentary on the Australian Cycling Men's Team Pursuit squad as they prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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