Phil's Blog

Phil regularly posts here with his opinion on current races, cycling politics, and updates from the ground at Le Tour de France, La Vuelta a Espana, and other major races.

Phil's 2016 End of Year Musings

Posted on: Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas.

As Christmas approaches and the holiday mood starts to prevail my thoughts have turned to the year that has passed before I start to log events into my diary for 2017.

This time last year our world was starting to hot up, storms had started a bushfire and we were yet to know what lay in store. This season we are bushfire ready, our evacuation packs by the front door.

2017 will start with some great holiday rides, local races to watch and the Tour down Under. The invitations are in the mail and I am honing my fitness for the rides. Each day I post my rides on facebook and head out to the course. There might be a #cannondale shop ride to so stay tuned and of course foremost is the SA Police Ride like Crazy, which is a family friendly event encapsulating the back-roads of the Adelaide Hills and a wonderful introduction to what is Australia’s celebration of cycling at the Tour Down Under.

In March 2016 PAC delivered the 2nd edition of the Tour de Transplant a 5 day charity ride from Warrnambool to Melbourne raising over $200,000 toward housing rural transplant patients during the critical post-op weeks.

April 2016 and there was a quick trip as a guest to the Tour of Flanders. You know it was an event I wanted to win but to be fair it is a whole lot of fun from the other side of the fence. A relaxed mass participation ride held the day prior on the parcours with an old adversary #seankelly was indeed a highlight.

For the Amstel Gold Race I was again invited by organiser & old racing colleague Leo Van Vleit as a VIP rider in the Cauberg(final hill the the Amstel)Sprint. This is a bit of a novelty event where reasonably qualified ex pro’s line up against the speed skaters. I made it to the final but as usual the skaters smoked the 850m uphill sprint.

I did the Amstel Sportif. These events are huge(15,000 to 25,000), very well organised, and cost about 12eu to ride. When you think about it, its almost cheaper to go to Europe for the spring for some great event riding rather than considering the cost of participation events in Australia.

This year the weather wasn’t favourable but it was thoroughly enjoyable with high spirits out on the roads. In the Amstel Gold, the 2012 winner Enrico Gasparotto attacked mid-way up the Cauberg, a distant outsider riding for the smallest team (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). Matthews rode credibly passing the line in fifth, the grumblings in the OGE team loud and clear early in the season.

The Cycling River Cruise

I hadn’t done the river cruise style of traveling before this epic trip. 18 months of research and ride planning is not the same as making it happen. Avalon were brilliant, I had super experienced staff and it worked. Travel Associates and Phil Anderson Cycling delivered a remarkable experience and I can’t wait to deliver our next.

My Tours, my business.

For 2017 I am looking at only a Giro and what a trip I have planned. For the rest, a quiet contemplation of retirement, not the one I did from racing but the real one is well and truly on the cards.

The 2016 Tour de France was a fait accompli. Sky dominated, Froome the victor. My 2016 tour a little different:

Le Tour is a different animal now, hungry to be considered the only race with a marketing program to match. For a rider it is such a dream to even be riding in. Selected to the team such an honor. To win a stage, huge, to win Le Tour, it’s the pinnacle of Grand Tours but there is so much more to riding. So many more races to win. So many riding styles and riders to celebrate. The greatness of Peter Sagan, who is not likely to ever win a TdF is simply that he is such a great racer.

Catching LeTour on Tour and in the mountains is always wonderful, watching the pros under pressure after we have done our best just hours before them.

For 2017, I will watch from the couch and may up my usual array of little races and events.

I will start the year with my usual ride at the Otway Odyssey, a mountain bike race with about 50% on single track. I missed the start this year having lingered over my coffee and chased all day catching a few but not the front runners of my age group.

Returning from the European Spring Classics in April I joined the Noosa Smiddy Challenge weekend for 4 days into the Noosa hinterland. It’s wonderful returning to the coast each day for relaxing beach time and without a Tour de France on the cards for PAC, the Noosa Strada Bianche beckons.

In 2015 I did the fun-themed Melburn-Roobaix but due to commitments back in Europe I missed the June 2016 edition. Hopefully I’ll be there in 2017.

I don’t want to over promote a bike but I am so loving the #cannondaleslate. A new addition to the shed in 2016 I bought a second for Annie and we went road tripping. The perfect bike for a nomad and just about anything else.

A few gravel-grind events under my belt for 2016 including the Dirty Fondos, I expect to line up again in 2017. I’m rarely seen on the road-bike in my neighbourhood. Because of the Slate I am riding more and have rediscovered the solitude of the pro, miles and miles to ride on the forest backroads my new passion.

Retirement looming I now have more time to ride.

Chase the Dog celebrates the gravel in the back of the Otways and despite the horrendous conditions for 2016 I will be back in 2017 and invite you all to ride.

A few weeks later was the Forrest Festival which is a 5 stage mtb event where the weather was much kinder and where for the first time I started to think about this age group stuff. As a pro you were either good enough or not, age was irrelevant. Age is catching up with me and a couple of minutes off the pace I wondered about those years I was carrying.

The Amy’s Gran Fondo & the Share the Road Tour continue to be major highlights and a huge passion. The safety of cyclists in Australia is not ideal, the AGF are working hard to change that and the Amy’s Gran Fondo, on my doorstep is the best ride in Australia. Amy’s annual Share the Road Tour is a sensational week and worth adding to every riders bucket list.

A friend invited us down to Inverloch in November for the Bass Coast Challange. She didn’t ride but the undulating 120km course was fantastic and I have invited myself back.

As far as international results this year, I see Peter Sagan as a true stand-out. He certainly didn’t have the striped monkey on his rainbow back with back to back wins. He had some huge victories, taking Flanders, no less than 3 stages at LeTour and again the Worlds this year held in Qatar. I'd like to think he was at least influenced by my Haircut.

For Aussies, Michael Matthews is maturing into one of our most solid international riders and the OGE constantly changing name team has matured to have their best season to date with a possible future focus on Grand Tours. So exciting!

That is about it for a great year of biking. I look forward to seeing you out on the roads soon, maybe even on the dirt variety.

Written by
Photos, Graham Watson and me.