Tag Archives: Tour de France

Vive Le Grand Boucle

My colleagues thought I was a bit (more) pathetic (than usual) last week when I downed tools and headed into the city to join the Cadel-ebration in Federation Square. It was a spontaneous decision to attend (many apologies to the interviewer who I inadvertently and absent-mindedly stood up by making that choice) but here’s the gist of my rationale:

1. My cycling mates and I got truckloads of pleasure watching Cadel win the Tour De France. What a race he rode!
2. What if the turn-out was poor? I’d hate it Oprah Winfrey could pull a bigger crowd in sports-mad Melbourne than a local hero.
3. I rarely take a lunch break. Time to smash that tradition.

So I turned up, joined the throng and found myself more than 300 metres from the stage. Even the Premier looked tiny at that range.

What made it all worthwhile was the look on Cadel’s face when he took the stage. I don’t know him personally – only from reading his blog, book and various media appearances. He strikes me as a humble, honest and thoughtful bloke who would prefer to avoid the spotlight – and has struggled in its glare in the past. On Friday, he couldn’t stop smiling.

When the ever impressive ABC radio journalist Gerard Whateley asked Cadel if he’d “had a moment of true satisfaction that you’ve achieved what you set out … to do?”, Cadel’s answer was: “Yeah, right now.” That made joining the yellow crush meaningful.

I’ve written before about how the Tour De France serves up a soap opera every stage. There are daily subplots, adding drama to the main story. I could write many a paragraph on the epic narrative of the 2011 race and the characters involved.

I won’t. Instead I’ll finish with a quote from Cadel that should have wider application, especially to authors. Gerard Whateley asked Cadel about a 1998 prediction he could be the first Australian to win the Tour de France – and how long it took to believe it. Cadel answered thus:

“Let’s say at first I hoped. And then I worked. And then I started to believe. And then I was convinced. And then finally I could prove myself.”

You can read the whole interview here.

Flash Fiction

As noted in my previous post, writing time has been rare for me this year. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attracted to the flash fiction site, Melbourne by Dusk.

That and I’ve always liked looking for the unspoken stories in photographs and images. MbD feels like a place where those stories are whispered for the first time.

It’s also a place where anyone can submit a story or photograph and potentially be published. Those opportunities aren’t as common as they should be.

Here’s another of my submissions.

And here are some of the combinations I’ve particularly enjoyed since the site launched.

He kissed me…

It’s probably just the angle…

The wind fell oddly still.

One of the things I notice from authors I follow on Twitter is how important it is to be ‘writing fit’. Just as you can’t expect to get on a bike for the first time in months and ride at your best, I can’t expect to cut myself off from creative writing and then just fall back into it when the moment arises. I need to keep practising, even if only in short bursts. I need to be trying things. Letting ideas emerge to see how resilient they are. Flash fiction is a great way to flex the creative muscles.

As to other stuff going down,

– As we had to cancel our planned Japan trip, my mob is heading to the Top End soonish instead. Bring on the sun and fun.
– Not many sleeps to the Tour de France. Kind of wish I hadn’t read this book on the eve of my favourite sporting event. For those of you who may consider reading it, the writing/translation/editing is lack lustre. But the contents are mind-boggling.
– I now have a window beside my desk at work. OK, it mostly overlooks air conditioning units and a massive Ikea sign but it’s still a window onto the world. It’s through watching the world that we find the stories we want to tell.
– Speaking of which, if you didn’t catch Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS last week, please check it out online. Many stories. Many tears. Great TV.
– Last but not least, I’m aware that this blog is broken – randomly vanishing and reappearing. Maybe it’s a metaphor for my year. Either way, we’re looking into it.

Cycling is like writing

Like many other bleary-eyed fans, I’m suffering from Tour Fatigue (throw in a head cold, too). The riders have covered more than 3500 km in the past three weeks and I feel a bit like I’ve ridden with them. That’s the price to pay for the best soap opera on television.

The Tour de France delivers new twists every single day. Key characters plot and conquer or toil without reward. Fates conspire. New heroes and villains emerge. You share the ecstasies of dreams attained and agonies of dreams combusting. It’s well worth sacrificing a few week’s sleep.

Two weekends ago I jumped back on the road bike for my first serious ride in almost two months. It was very cold. My expectations were very low.

Much to my surprise, I had a great morning in the saddle. I led our bunch for at last half the 70km training ride and outpaced blokes usually much fitter than me. It was a ride to remember.

However, I won’t be making any assumptions about the next hit-out. Cycling is a a sport where, in spite of all your preparation, you can have a bad day and suffer, big time. Indeed, we witness it in the Tour annually when tough athletes are betrayed by their own bodies (or minds) and ambitions swoop away for another season.

Just as I’ve had terrible days in the saddle when the wind was in my face and every pedal stroke hurt, I’ve had days at the computer when the words won’t sing and every key stroke is a struggle. When, for all my determination, I’m pretty sure what I’m writing is rubbish.

I might pause for a cuppa but, just as I need to keep pedalling into a headwind, I have to toil on. You don’t get fit talking about exercise. And, as the uber-successful Jodi Picoult says, you can’t edit a blank page.

Going for gold

After burning the midnight oil to watch the Tour de France way too many nights (Go Cadel, Simon, Stuart, et. al.), I have made an easy switch to being an Olympic spectator. Sporting competition generates a wealth of comedies, tragedies and other stories and I regularly find myself wondering things such as, “How many times has that gymnast had to fall to learn to do that?” and, “How does it feel to be an Olympian who never makes it beyond the heats”? Or, “What happens to an athlete whose post-Olympic life never lives up to the thrill of winning gold?”

There aren’t many sporting trophies in my cabinet so I can only admire those with the drive to keep on competing. However, I was reminded recently of my results in writing competitions in years gone by. As a student, I entered the Moonee Valley Regional Libraries open short story competition and was judged to have come second. Almost 20 years later, I entered the same competition older and wiser – and came second again.

My advice to any writer is not to judge yourself by the results you may or may not receive in these types of competitions. Plaudits and encouragement are fantastic and can really recharge your creative energy to keep on writing. On the other hand, if you take the results to heart and fail to meet your own expectations you can scupper your efforts to succeed. The best bet is to do what you do because you enjoy it and avoid comparisons with other artists’ achievements. As the marvellous Michael Leunig says, “Paint as you like and die happy”.