Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Retaliation

In Australia, it's not uncommon for cars to drive as close as they can to you, beep their horn at you, cut you off or shout obscenities at you as they go by. Some cyclists may retaliate by shouting back, flipping the bird, riding even slower or giving a sarcastic friendly wave. This generally results in a mutual hatred for each other before driver and cyclist continue on their separate ways. 

Here in America, things are a little different. Cars still hate cyclists and drivers still shout out obscenities. But there is a big reason why, as a cyclist, you should not retaliate. 

The driver could be carrying a gun. America's gun laws mean that any driver could have a gun with them and you do not want to aggravate that person. 


You don't want to take this risk and annoy the wrong person because you could get a surprise. 

During a ride, I have already seen one driver get as close to us as possible while pretending to shoot us by using his fingers as a pistol. 

So we just look straight ahead and keep pedalling. (Of course, retaliating to bad drivers is not something that we do anyway as that is just wrong)


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Forced courtesy

Road rage is quite common in Australia and I suspect, occurs frequently in other countries as well. It seems we have little patience for those that don't follow the rules, whether it's on purpose on accidental.  


Australia has rules for absolutely everything and there is pretty much no situation out on the road where you wouldn't know what to do 'according to the book'. This has caused people to be very intolerant to anyone that steps outside of the rules. There is no consideration for those that don't follow the guidelines. 


Merging is a good example of this attitude. Try to jump ahead of a few cars in a traffic jam or do anything that gives you an unfair advantage over others and they will let you know about it! I have seen this several times in the constant Atlanta traffic congestion. 

Despite this, there is a particular situation here in America that simply baffles me. At intersections with no traffic lights, it seems like absolute chaos. There are no round-abouts. There are no guidelines such as the give way to your left rule or don't turn across the path of another car guide back in Australia. 

 
At most intersections here, everyone must stop at a stop sign, from all directions. Then it is simply a 'first in - best dressed' policy. If you get to the intersection first, you get to go first. 

Consequently, half the time people don't know what to do when they get to an intersection and they end up waving people through and stopping for extended periods of time while they let 5 other cars go first.
 
I can't understand how it works?! It's like forcing people that are normally inconsiderate sticklers for the rules to be courteous to other drivers. One thing is for certain; it does back A LOT of traffic up during peak hour.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Wise Words

In stage 1 of the Tour of Gila, there was two sprint bonuses along the 160km route that finished with a long, steep climb. In most stage races, the first stage finishes with a sprint, so the stage winner usually takes the sprint jersey but with the KOM at the end of stage 1, whoever took the bonus sprints would take the first green jersey. 
With this in mind, my aim was to get into a break away and attempt to take some bonus points. After 20km, the peloton allowed 4 riders, including myself, to escape off the front. They eased the pace and we gained an advantage of over 12 minutes. At the first bonus sprint, I went for the points and surprisingly, no one responded. At the 2nd bonus sprint, the break allowed me to roll over the line at the front, securing the sprint jersey. 
 

For the rest of the stage, I worked as best I could with the break before being caught at the base of the climb with 10km to go. I crept up the climb and finished well behind the eventual winner. 
If you win a local race back in Australia and you simply see the commissaire to collect your prize or at most, stand up in front of a small group of people for applause. No fanfare, no national anthem and no podium girls. 
At the Tour of Gila, winning the green jersey meant that I had to get up on the podium and pose with podium girls. I had no idea what I was doing. 
 
As I stood on the podium, the podium girls came up to my side for the standard kiss on the cheek podium photo. Problem was, I was taller then the podium girls and standing on the highest step of the podium. This is the result...
Back home in Australia, my wife heard the news and saw the photo. Her first words were not, 'congratulations' or 'well done'. Her first words were simply, 'Get a tighter grip on the jersey and less grip on the podium girls'.
Wise words.
 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tour of a Desert

Most local races back home are in the middle of nowhere.  Due to police permits and road closures, races are usually held on purpose built circuits or in remote areas that see very little traffic. This is not ideal for creating a very supporter-friendly atmosphere. 

For larger, international races, one would expect a more extravagant affair in more exotic places. This is what I was expecting for the UCI race, Tour of the Gila, in New Mexico. 
 
 
The race was based in Silver City and going by the name, I was expecting just that; a city. My expectations began to lower as the aeroplane turned up for the flight to Silver City. 
 
 
Apparently, large planes don't go to Silver City and you have to fly in a tin can with propellers that carries up to 17 people. The plane is so small that a passenger had to be left behind because it was too heavy for the windy conditions. 

 
As we flew into Silver City, my body was fighting the need to go to the bathroom (which the plane lacked) and travel sickness as the plane bounced around in the wind. I was quite happy to touch down. 
Driving into Silver 'City', I couldn't help but feel like I had arrived on the set of a Quintin Tarantino film. It was a desert surrounded by mountains with a old-time Western feel. The locals didn't appear to be the cycling type and as I watched a tumbleweed roll across the road, I wondered how many people would make the trip for the race and where they all planned on staying as accommodation options was low. 
 

As it turns out, the Tour of the Gila is a heavily anticipated event. The high altitude, large climbs and randomly changing weather conditions make for a tough event. 
 
Droves of people had made their way to Silver City for this year's 27th edition of the race. At first glance, I was surprised that a race was held here, but the entire community gets behind the event and it is a huge one on the cycling calendar. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Retirement Home

In Australia, there are very few gated communities and those that do exist are generally there for the elderly or for those that require regular care. Moving into a gated community in Australia signals retirement and most people, including my parents, refuse to entertain such an idea. It’s like saying that you cannot function out in the open world and need to be cared for and waited on by others behind closed gates. On the other hand, some people would love that.

Here in Atlanta, there appears to be gated communities everywhere. In Alpharetta, where I am living, there is no proper town centre and the entire area seems to be made up of gated communities spattered with sections of strip malls. Consequently, I have moved into a retirement home. Or at least it feels like it. Another Aussie, a Kiwi and I have moved into an apartment on the lower level of one of the complexes. Consequently, it is now known as the ‘Down Under Dungeon’.


Our new residence is in, ‘The Preserve’, a gated community consisting of 636 apartments. First impressions are that living in a gated community is a pretty sweet deal. We don’t have to do anything to maintain the outside and all facilities are provided. When we moved in, a fridge, washing machine and dryer are provided and since the walls are re-painted when we leave, we can stick all the blu-tac we want on the walls. We don’t have to take out the rubbish or put the wheelie bins out. Simply leave your garbage bag outside the door and someone comes to collect it. The grounds are kept immaculate by an army of grounds men and there is a gym, 2 pools and a car wash available for us to use. 
 

I don’t know what my parents are so afraid of. Living in a retirement home would be sweet, especially if someone is doing the cooking and cleaning for you as well. Embrace it, that’s what I say.