Guest Blog: Steven Hosking on The Friends Life Women’s Tour
My parents are developing a bit of a reputation at the bike races around Europe. More often than not they seem to pop up and try to engage in conversation any cyclist or staff member who hesitates for the slightest moment in front of them.
After the London Olympics I took my Mum to the famous Oakley Safehouse (throughout the Games major sponsors set up ‘houses’ around the city welcoming athletes and their families). We bumped into the Dutch women’s road team, Gold medalist and all (Marianne Vos), who were also taking in the phenomenal Safehouse which had taken over the London Design Museum on the south bank of the Thames River.
While I was busy deliberating over whether I wanted pink or blue Oakley sunglasses Mum managed to strike up a conversation with Marianne Vos.
When I eventually managed to tear Mum away from Marianne – who was more than happy to engage Mum and pose for a photo with her Gold medal – I asked her what she was talking to her about; “Oh I was just telling Marianne how you got into cycling and things.”
Ever since then any race that Mum has been at (and there has been a few!) she’s always said hello to Marianne, and Marianne has said hello back.
Most of the women in the peloton now recognise my parents and often tell me they heard them cheering on the side of the road. At the recent Friends Life Women’s Tour Shara Gillow showed me a photo of her and her Orica-AIS teammates on the presentation podium at the race start in Oundle; Shara was waving to someone in the crowd, “I was waving to your Mum!” she said.
I think it is a law of physics; whenever there is a big women’s cycling event, with a lot of energy and hype, my parents manifest themselves. So naturally they made the somewhat insane journey from Australia to the United Kingdom for one week to watch in the inaugural Friends Life Women’s Tour. It was a sensational week for women’s cycling with Marianne Vos taking out the overall classification and my parents following it all. You can read more about it all here.
I asked my Dad to write a blog about his experience at the Women’s Tour and he was more than happy to oblige. Check out his take on the first ever Women’s Tour of Britain. (I think it’s pretty great!)
The FriendsLife Tour of Britain has been run and won and Sheryn and I are now back home in Canberra slowly recovering from jet lag. Bicycle racing is never far from my mind but the last couple of weeks has seen it elevated right back into the top position it used to occupy amongst my interests.
Sheryn and I had the opportunity to not just watch the Women’s Tour of Britain but we were able to spend time before the race with Chloe and, thanks to Guy Elliot and his organising team, we were able to stay in the same hotels as Chloe throughout the race.
We’ve done that before but this time it was a bit different. This time there was a TV highlights package every night and we weren’t staying in the Ritz Carlton.
That’s not to denigrate the hotel we stayed at, ITV4 simply wasn’t available on the television in our rooms. There was, however, a critical mass of cycling fans in the hotel and so we were able to get the football off the TV in the bar for that crucial hour from 9 to 10pm.
Chloe in her blog “The Grand Depart” has given a good account of the general enthusiasm surrounding the race in the general community. We saw this repeated every day on each stage with massive crowds coming out to support the race. Many of these people were cycling tragics but others we spoke to in the small villages along the route just wanted to show support for women’s sport and a major event coming to their local area. The enthusiasm was infectious.
— British cycling (@VeloUK) May 12, 2014
The ITV4 hour in the bar added another dimension for us. Let’s be honest, road cycling is possibly the worst spectator sport ever. Pick a spot on the side of the road, wait for the vanguard to approach, count the motorbikes at the head of the race – by my count 50 police and tour motorcycles – then the cyclists flash by.
I mean flash, these girls were seriously flying and I think only about half of the time were Sheryn and I able to satisfy ourselves that Chloe and her teammates were safely present in the peloton. No time to analyse this though, as it’s back to the car and on to the finish, or do we take the risk and try to glimpse the peloton one more time? Never a simple choice and one we have a long history of getting wrong.
Back to the ITV4 hour this is where we got to learn the real story of the race. Many of the competitors and the team staff gathered in the bar to watch the race. The comments in the room put some meat on the bones of the race.
The coverage shed new light on what actually occurred and everyone there was able to share the wonder of bike racing and the unpredictable things that happen.
“The organisation was superb, the competition was intense and the people in the room were excited to be a part of it,” Steven Hosking
For example, on the run in to Clacton on Sea when Tiffany Cromwell had a slight gap on the charging peloton did anyone notice the person on the mobility scooter nip across the road in the gap between Tiff and the peloton? Judging by the gasps from the room most of the competitors hadn’t seen it.
Then that’s a cue for people to pull out their phones and show other incidents that never quite made the highlights package. Like the Tour support car that had a coming together with road furniture in the neutral zone and caused some chaos in the peloton.
But what was really shared in the ITV4 hour for me was the sense that the FriendsLife Tour of Britain was not only an important race for Women’s cycling, it was a good race in its own right. The organisation was superb, the competition was intense and the people in the room were excited to be a part of it.
Now we are back in Australia and I blame bike racing for impeding my recovery from jet lag. Michael (Bling) Matthews, a Canberra product, has had an incredible run in pink at the Giro and won an individual stage. It’s hard to change time zones with these sort of temptations.
Bling’s run has now ended and somehow Cadel in pink doesn’t have the same significance for me so my attention is turning to next weekend.
I will be at the Goulburn Junior Cycling Tour with my mate Peter Gough and we will be doing the results for the Tour. It will be stressful, the field has yet to be finalised but there will be racing for Under 9s through to Under 17s with A and B Grades where the numbers require. So with four stages over the two days there will be about 60 separate races.
Two blokes and a computer; why do we do it?
Because Bling raced there, and because still the most memorable moment for me of Chloe’s sprints was stage 3 in the Under 17 Women’s Goulburn Junior Tour when she raced to victory over Megan Dunn and Ashlee Ankudinoff.
Bling, Chloe, Megan and Ashlee have enjoyed success at higher levels and I have enjoyed following them. They were enthused by races like the Goulburn Junior Tour and I hope that from the Tour I can eventually follow new generations of cyclists competing in an environment where the Giro and its Women’s equivalent share the same status and recognition.