Cover photo credit: Tim Bardsley-Smith Words: Greg Chalberg
The sight of 30 or 40 cyclists rolling into your cafe might trigger alarm bells for some, but the staff at A Mother's Milk in Unley didn't even flinch. Maybe it was because the bunch was looking resplendent in our limited edition Green & Gold jerseys, or maybe it was because they're simply good at their jobs. Either way, breakfast and coffee at this place was the start of a very good day.
Rolling out from the cafe, it's a straight shot to the start of the climb to Windy Point and Belair. It's a bitey little number that certainly got the legs warmed up, thanks in part to our friends from Wheelhaus and Two Wheel Tours setting a pace that only bordered on civilised. From Belair we rolled down to a super fun suburban descent through the Coromandel Valley and further along into the historic town of Clarendon.
With the temperature rising, we stopped briefly to regroup, top-up bidons and catch our breath. Then it was onward and upward over Murray's Hill, which of course was followed by another glorious descent (where some ring-ins from Cobra9 and Focus-Attaquer CX simultaneously dropped the hammers). Once we were rolling around the Onkaparinga River National Park and spotting long rows of grape-bearing vines in the valley below, we knew we were close to our first major stop: Adelaide's famed McLaren Vale.
Photo: Tristan Cardew
In the home of some of Australia's best wine producers, there happens to be a really good pizza joint, the hidden gem Pizzateca. The tables were set and cold beers were ready upon our arrival, along with a few Aperol spritzers. Pizzas quickly landed on our tables and disappeared even more quickly. We really couldn't have asked for a better location, food or service. After some of the best pizza we've eaten in the most picturesque of locations, it was time to continue our journey to Willunga.
Photo: Jimmy Wade
Two-thirds of the way up Old Willunga Hill we arrived at what from that point on would be known as "Lachie Morton Corner". It was a hell of a nice set-up that featured our Green & Gold theme cranked up to 11. Camping chairs staked our territory along the hillside (with Coopers ales chilling inside built-in stubby holders - yep!). All manner of Aussie flags were flying. Last but not least, Aussie double-pluggers gave everyone's feet a nice break from the efficiency of carbon-fibre soles. Oh, and Attaquer skull masks, giant Lachlan Morton heads, and fat beats by Billy Ocean topped things off nicely.
Photos: Jimmy Wade
Not long after our arrival the sirens of the lead race vehicles signalled it was time to get our arses in gear. Masks on, volume up, dance moves tight, Morton heads flying high. Then waiting. And waiting. Then more sirens. Finally, a couple of two-man breaks featuring some very talented riders (who somehow looked to have no chance of staying away) rode up and around our corner. The party continued as what was left of the peloton rolled by next, eventually followed the sprinters. Team Attaquer merrily serenaded all the riders, though our main man Lachie seemed to sneak by without much fanfare. That was lap 1 of Old Willunga.
Photo: Harry Carpenter
Maybe it was the beers, or maybe too many hours in the glaring sun was having a similar effect, but lap 2 was quite a bit more exciting. Not sure how exactly many people were on Willunga Hill, but pretty much every cycling fan at the TDU had to have been up there. The volume steadily rose, the dance moves were ramping up in intensity, and then after a few more sirens the human blur called Richie Porte blew by us at a very high rate of speed. It happened so quickly there was no time for anything more witty than "RICHIE!!!" and that was that. Chasers followed, more of a procession really, then we spotted our hero Lachie.
Photos: Richie Tyler (top), Chris Dalton (bottom)
Imagine riding at World Tour pace for nearly four hours in the hot Adelaide sun. You're minutes from the end of a long race, then you see a huge bunch of skulls floating atop 91 Socceroos jerseys holding giant cutouts of your head chanting "Get lit for Lachie!" and other such encouragements at the top of their lungs while running alongside you up Old Willunga Hill. It would have to be confronting. But Lachlan is a legend and we love him and he steadily pedalled away in what looked to be equal parts amusement and bemusement. Legend!
After the buzz of the race is was time to roll out and make our way back to the city. While most of the crowds were heading back down the hill to jump on the freeway, we've learned from years past that battling the bike paths with thousands of other hungry and weary cyclists is best avoided. We made our way over the top of Willunga and onto Range Road to take the lumpier but more lightly travelled route home.
Photo: Tristan Cardew
A steep descent down Mount Wilson and we were back on McLaren Flat Road, just north of McLaren Vale. There'll be no stopping this time as everyone was keen to get back to town to freshen up for a well-earned dinner. Back through Clarendon, up and over Blackwood, finishing off with the magical descent of Windy Point. The day saw us ending up with around 120km in the legs and some fantastic memories shared with friends during Australia's greatest cycling event.