Cycling Southland's Nick Jeffrey is part of a southern deputation along with Stephen Canny and Dale Tye attending the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne to promote the Junior World Championships in Invercargill in August and to shadow event organisers to gain ideas on running large scale events behind-the-scenes.
THURSDAY 5 APRIL
Another one off the bucket list – Thursday morning allowed for a small window to visit the famous old lade of Australian sport, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or as the Aussies affectionately call it, the ‘G.
It also houses the National Sports Museum and I quickly make my first poor decision of the day. You can buy a guided tour ticket or a ticket to the Museum for $20, or buy both for $30. I elect for the combo deal, not realizing the length of time of the tour and that I won’t make it in to the museum before having to leave to head to Hisense. No matter, the $30 I paid, I would readily pay again just for the Tour (plus there’s always tomorrow – and another $20 unfortunately – for the Sports Museum).
Our Tour guide Clive is a champion bloke and he takes us to every corner of this magnificent venue. We go onto the ground (if only one step onto the playing surface), up to the player viewing areas, changing rooms, media area, the famous Long Room, the MCG library, with Clive regaling us with stories every step. He is a wealth of knowledge and great at telling a yarn.
The ‘G is in AFL mode currently, with a couple of big Collingwood games being played over the next four days. I’d love to get to one and watch a game, but that will have to be saved for a return visit. She holds 100,012 spectators, although the biggest crowd ever recorded for a sporting fixture in its current configuration is 100,024 – Clive would not be drawn on who the other 12 were. The largest crowd ever was for Billy Graham the evangelist – they stopped counting at 130,000 apparently.
It’s a glorious day and the ground looks a picture. As a representative cricketer (so what if it was one game for Southland pre-season – I still have my cap!) the MCG is mecca and Boxing Day at the G is yet to be ticked off my list.
There is another major redevelopment going on in Yarra Park, which is a beautiful park belt that surrounds the the MCG. There is a massive water recycling plant which is nearing completion. It will recycle tens of thousands of litres per day to be used back on the playing surface and in cleaning the MCG and in watering the wider park area. The underground construction is all but complete and then it will be covered and re-sown and you won’t know it’s there.
So after an hour and a half (which you could easily double) my mate Clive has us back where we started. I tried to sweet talk my way into swapping the day of my museum ticket and struck out so it was off to Federation Square for lunch where Steve Canny and Ron Cheatley fill us in on their trip to see an incredible personal collection of bikes, which Ray Godkin had taken them to see in Richmond.
You can’t put a price on heritage like that, but the thought is its value is north of $5 million. We are talking every type of bike, spanning centuries. It is owned by a well healed local who does it as his passion.
Kiwis are everywhere and we are constantly bumping in groups of supporters. National selector Graham Hunn arrives as we are tucking in to lunch and he talks up Rhino’s kilo prospects and we discuss the great efforts by the Men’s teams the previous night and the Junior Worlds team for August.
Then it is off to Hisense Arena to do more scouting, meeting and greeting and viewing. We’re pretty excited with Tarsh Hansen first up in Women’s Sprint qualifying.
We are all lucky in that we know Tarsh and know what a good sort she is. I love watching her pre-race, in the zone. She goes from sitting calmly in the seat provided track-side to just unleashing fury out on the track in a matter of seconds.
And yet again, she delivered – recording a new PB and the 13th fastest time to easily qualify for the Round of 24. The competition is crazy close with 15 riders all within a tenth of a second or two – that is until Anna Meares steps out on to the track. No sooner had we commented on how close a competition it was, than Meares blows away the world record to be the fastest qualifier by quarter of a second. The crowd (maybe 1500 during the morning session) got their money’s worth in 10.782 seconds – well maybe not, but only because tickets are so expensive.
Next up is the Women’s Team Pursuit. Not the best ride from the Kiwis but it’s enough to sneak in to fourth spot and to qualify for the bronze medal ride behind Canada.
Remarkably the Women’s qualifying followed the same script as the Men’s the night before – with Great Britain and Australia out on their own in seemingly another class. The Aussie women broke the world record which literally was theirs for five minutes until GB lowered the mark again to qualify fastest. Like the Men, Ali, Jaime and Lauren are going to have to find 4 or 5 seconds between now and London to stand on the top step at the Olympics. That’s a tough ask.
Lastly it’s Shane Archbold in the Men’s Omnium and he makes a great start with second in the Flying Lap in a new PB time just a tick over 13 seconds. Yet, another Pom, Ed Clancy took the top spot.
Off the track I spent a good deal of time with the managers of the event volunteers. It’s a major job with around 150 on duty everyday and a pool of around 400 on their books to manage. As with everyone they have been exceptionally generous with their time and in showing us how they manage their area of responsibility. I even bumped in to an Aussie bloke who is coming over with his wife in August and is keen to lend a hand.
Steve spends the morning alongside the tv production crew to get a sense of how they manage the production for their various tv feeds, web streaming and replay screens. He comes back with an impressive looking box diagram and we throw around ideas for Junior Worlds. Our set-up won’t need to be as intricate (nor as costly) and again, the knowledge you pick up from sitting talking with these guys for 30 minutes is just priceless. Even commercial contractors like the TV production house are keen to help in any way they can.
We are done around 5.30 so then it’s a quick walk in to town to get some fresh air, grab a feed at a great Italian place and head back in to catch the evening session. The waiter is worth a mention – got to love the Euros – they say what they are thinking. He wasn’t afraid to ask us to hurry up with our menu decisions as he had a lot of people to look after. Brilliant!
The UCI has provided us with passes to the UCI longue for the evening. This gets you access into a hospitality lounge where food and beverages are plentiful … even if the people aren’t. I can’t blame them either as there is no way you can see out onto the track from inside, but you are provided with seats about 15 metres short of the start/finish and 10 rows back – a great viewing spot. We watch the Women’s Team Pursuits from there. Canada take bronze over the Kiwis and then Great Britain come from behind to again lower the world record in beating Australia in the ride for gold. It looks as though the locals are going to have a pretty good time of it come the Olympics!
I give the lounge a bit of a work-out – only for educational purposes of course. I’m introduced to a mate of Stu MacDoanld’s, Phil Jones who had a long involvement with Welsh Cycling and is now based in Brisbane. Phil is full of great yarns from Commonwealth Games campaigns (very few of which are fit for print) and we talk about the club scene in Australia and in Brisbane. He has great perspectives on the sport and obviously he’s handed on some pretty good genes to his lad who plays rugby for Norths in Brisbane in the midfield. He heads over to AAMI Park (right across the road from Hisense) to watch the end of the Rebels vs Blues Super rugby match. After watching the Rebels get spanked by the Highlanders the week previous at Rugby Park I am slightly shocked when he tells me the Blues finished second.
Novie just doesn’t get the run he would have been looking for in the Omnium Points Race, losing a lap and taking 16th but that disappointment melts away when Simon van Velthooven smashes his previous best time in the Men’s Kilo by a massive 0.7 seconds to claim world championship bronze! It’s an awesome ride and the big fella was pumped up afterwards. Talk about answering the call! After missing out on the Team Sprint he now has really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons and if (I mean when) he backs it up in the keirin it’s becoming very hard for the selectors not to find a way to take four sprinters to London. Why the kilo is not an Olympic event is beyond me. The crowd was into it, unlike many others it’s a very easy event to understand for the viewing public and it remains the ultimate test of a rider’s power and stamina. I would have thought all of that would fit quite nicely with the Olympic ethos but I don’t get an IOC vote, which is probably just as well.
I am a fan of the Elimination in the Omnium – unlike most cycling purists who hate it with a passion. I enjoy carnage. There isn’t as much as suspected though. Just one fall! I guess these blokes know how to handle a bike. Archbold does one incredible maneuver after slipping a foot in the middle of the race and getting it back in at speed very quickly. He does a good job to finish top 6 with Australia’s Glenn O’Shea jumping to the top of the standings at the half-way point of the Omnium courtesy of his second place.
It’s a long night finishing after 11.30 and it was the smallest evening crowd in terms of ticket sales we’re told. I don’t’ know why – it was another great night of action.
Day three promises plenty. The end of the Womens Sprint including Dale’s woman-crush Anna Meares v Vic Pendleton in the semifinals! How loud is that going to be? The Men Sprint starts including my man-crush Sir Chris Hoy, Sam Webster, Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Matt Archibald. There’s the conclusion of the Men’s Omnium and the Women’s Scratch Race with Gemma Dudley.
I’ll bore you with more stories same time tomorrow.