Friday, May 05, 2017

Sporting heroes and legends

(WARNING: This post is a long meaningless blithering of over 1,000 words. It contains nothing of any particular interest to cycling fans or students of fine literature. Just a shameful attempt to take a short and self gratifying stroll through memory lane peppered with the bitter residue of regret.)

I have just finished reading Cadel Evan's book 'The Art of Cycling', which is essentially a journey through his career as a professional cyclist with a few personal episodes along the way. If you're into cycling. Read it! The book I gives a pretty good sense of what it took for Cadel to go from an eager kid on a bike to an elite sportsman. He was fairly candid about difficulties he had within the the world of professional cycling however there was an element of restraint which I think allowed him to remain diplomatic in his treatment of some fairly contentious issues.

The cycling story was interesting but it wasn't what really got me in. Like any (auto)biography I wanted to get to know 'the man' (Or woman if it were a woman's autobiography... which it wasn't). The final chapter really endeared me to Cadel. His attitude and humanity make him a truly inspiring role model.

I'm no cycling expert so will leave all the technical analysis and sporting commentary to those who know that business... What I want to talk about is closer to home. Why Cadel Evans, is an elite cyclist and why I am not!

As I read I noticed convergences between the author's story and events in my own life. I doubt I'll have enough time to treat this topic effectively since I've just written only a few paragraphs and I'm already becoming weary of my own voice. (In drawing comparisons between the great sporting hero and I, this story could end here... I'm a lazy hack, he is a living legend!enough said!)

My new favorite bike parked beside a gully crossing

So I'm reading about the author's early life and I discover that although he was born in Katherine NT (as NT News liked to brag about while he was racing) he left the NT when he was quite young and moved to Plenty, Victoria! I have lived in the NT for 20 years now but where I grew up was in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne, Plenty was my neck of the woods! I was surprised to learn that the fella who had become a national bicycle racing hero, had actually grown up in the very same neighborhood as I. Even though I'd probably heard it via the media, reading Cadel's account of growing up in my very own stomping (well to be precise stumbling ) grounds, brought it home to me, that as youths we shared some similar experiences, knew some of the same people, inhabited the same familiar spaces, but with a 7 year age gap... and a monumental psychic gap!

In hindsight when all is said and done, and the trophies have been (in Cadel's) case won, we can look back and say He was destined for greatness. But for me NO this is not the label they'll Dyno tape to my shoebox tomb when I have passed! 

I am sure as young people we look to the future and wonder if we might some day do something great with our lives... My Grandfather was a great athlete, a runner, I have his genes and may have had the potential but fast forward 30 odd years and you will see that potential equates to nothing. One must take action. By some twist of fate coupled with a bad attitude I dragged my arse bitterly and reluctantly through the minefield of lost opportunity and wasted potential only to arrive at middle age to discover greatness was not my path. 

My bike again (These are the only photos I have on hand)

 It can be exciting and somewhat confronting to read the story of someone who made the effort and achieved success. Reading Cadel's detailed explanation of how he did it was just a little confronting with regard to short cuts I'd taken to nowhere. The opening pages of the book lead me to wonder about the proximity to opportunities, chance of success, is there a formula for greatness or was I predestined to failure?

Some interesting similarities or paths crossed between but never intersecting: 

  • Cadel mentions buying his first mountain bike from the bike shop in Greensborough 
I bought my first mountain bike from the bike shop in Greensborough... mine was the cheapest possible a Malvern Star, really heavy bike, lasted about 2 months before it was stolen from outside Andre's SSW, in Watsonia, where I worked at the time. I accidentally left my bike hanging from the rack over night on pay day. I distinctly remember walking to the bottleshop down the road, drinking at the abandoned house next to the supermarket.... waking up at home late for work without my bike and having no idea where it had gone... took me a week before I remembered! Thus severely hindering my asperations to become a long distance rider of that particular mountain bike.

  • Cadel used to ride around Hurstbridge, nutfield Plenty and along Plenty Road

I too rode my mountain bike through Hurstbridge and Nutfield all the way to the Mernda cattle yards and home when I first acquired my mountain bike... Had a few too many at the Mernda pub and nearly forfeit my life by the side of Plenty road when swerving uncontrollably into the middle of the lane while cattle trucks were attempting to pass... Plenty Road is not known for it's wide verges!

  • Cadel used to ride with proprietor of Walker of Walker's Wheels bicycle shop in Montmorency
Well I am proud to say that after several long years hiatus from regular cycling I finally got a job at Australia Post and became the bicycle postman (postie) on Montmorency round 14. Monty posties had to peddle the toughest hills in the region! Others rode motorbikes but we were committed to bicycle delivery. Of course I was in it for the fitness but I suspect others were unable to ride a motorbike for fear of having to remain below .05 blood alcohol content. Anyway I digress. One of my favourite places to stop for a mid delivery tea break was in fact the establishment of Mr Marcus 'Wheels' Walker! Yes! There were always a bunch of apprentices hanging around the shop and Marcus was always up for a yarn or to give some advice on maintenance. (He thought our clap-trap postie bikes were hilarious!) I didn't hang around the store for too long because I felt it was unprofessional to drink beer from a paper bag in front of impressionable young people. But if I had hung around long enough I may have actually gotten to meet the young Mr Cadel Evans! Could have even gone for a ride with him, if I'd taken Marcus up on the offer of a decent bike.

Finally and I think this is the one which probably pronounces the major differences in life trajectory between Mr Evans and my slovenly self.

  • Cadel mentions riding single tracks through the Plenty River Gorge area, specifically around Blue Lake and I think Janefield. 
I practically lived in that gorge! I spent most weekends walking, hunting, fishing, drinking and even riding in that exact same area! At times when the river was up, and I had access to an old bike, my mates and I would attempt to ford the river at pebbles crossing and stay on our bikes as we were washed down stream. This is probably the most likely place I would have bumped into Cadel while he was engaged in his exhaustive mountain bike training regimens! It is possible we were there at the same time and I missed him. Unfortunately on the rare occasion while rambling in the Plenty River Gorge I did find myself overcome by a severe case of dipsomania compounded by symptoms similar to unconsciousness or as some would say passed out cold in a gutter! I do recall rousing in some of the most picturesque gullies in the catchment of the glorious Plenty Gorge. It is absolutely plausible that Cadel could have actually bunny hopped his bike right over the top of me as l lay paralyzed in a gutter beneath him.

Gutter drunk... Face down in a ditch... This was the ditch.
Hence I propose to you the reader that I too could have been classed as a cycling legend! 
IF ONLY: I had been more adequately prepared, If bad fortune had not deprived me of my wheels or the capacity to stand upright after a heavy session, I may have met and joined with the young Master Cadel Evans and possibly even bested him at his beloved cycling sport. Further it was only through my predisposition to the dropsy juice and possibly a less than obsessive interest in physical training, that I did not in fact also become a bicycle racing legend!


(Apologies to those whose names I have used in this gratuitous piece of drivel. I hope I have not defamed them in any way. The purpose of my writing this is as a means of showing appreciation for the effort and dedication made by some while lamenting my own wasted opportunities. But in truth I have No regrets and total respect for those who put in the effort it takes to be a sporting legend!)

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