We arrived early in the Adelaide Hills suburb of Stirling and set about looking for a spot to watch stage 3 of the Tour Down Under. It didn’t take long for us to settle on the perfect place. The front of the Stirling Hotel was a grassed area, roadside with tables, umbrellas and easy access to beer and toilets. It was like a corporate set up without the steep prices. We claimed a table while others were still finishing breakfast and waited for the race to make its first circuit through town.
This was the second year that we had watched this stage of the Tour Down Under. It’s a perfect stage for those not familiar with the sport of cycling or even those who know what its all about but want to see plenty of the action. Six laps are made through the town, the finish is on an incline into the main street and the jersey presentations are made on the Stirling oval at the end of the race. The town is ‘dressed up’ for the event with elaborately painted bikes on rooftops, decorating roundabouts and in shop window displays. Most of the cafés and restaurants set up outdoors and there is a festival atmosphere about the place.
Our spot at the Stirling Hotel was almost directly across from the ‘feed zone’ where riders collect bags of food and drinks. From where we set up for the day we could hear the commentary and follow what was going on in the race as well as have enough warning when riders would be riding by so we could leave our seats, hang over the barriers, cheer them on and hopefully spot a Schleck. (That last bit is just me, Ben couldn’t care less about Schlecks. He’s all about Green Edge these days)
We could also sneak inside and watch some of the coverage on the big screens commentated by the voice of cycling, the one and only, Phil Ligget. I’ve squandered many a July night listening to Phil describe cycling tactics, team dynamics and the odd French château for the SBS coverage of the Tour de France. (Well to be honest it’s the workday that follows that is truly squandered) To many Australian cycling fans and myself that noble English accent is the sound of cycling.
At the conclusion of the race we went to the Stirling oval to watch the presentations and see Geraint Thomas, the Welsh rider from Team Sky presented with the leader’s ochre jersey.
On a lap around the oval we spotted the team from Wide World of Sports doing their pieces to camera of which Phil was a part. One thing that I did learn from watching them was that they don’t have superhuman memories and know everything about every sportsperson, as it appears when you watch the polished crosses that are put to air. They had to redo their pieces a number of times, at one point because they had gotten a rider’s birthdate and therefore age wrong. Ah ha they are fallible!
But the best thing about our day in Stirling… we got our photo taken with the man himself. Phil turned out to be as hospitable and genial as I expected him to be. I told him that we’d be in France this year for the 100th Tour de France and he said to say hello. We will Phil, and next time I’m asking you, as an honorary Australian, to sign my blow up kangaroo.