The Basslink Christmas Carnival series is officially over, and I'm now officially adrift at Melbourne International, officially a bit pissed that I'm stuck here for another 6 hours or so. Tried to sit and watch the Aussies and the Indians duke it out in the cricket match at the quiet bar, but inexplicably the bar filled with screaming kids and I was out the door before you could say "wicket."
New Year's was quite the scene. The barbie at the hostel was a massive affair for just 10 people. So much food you couldn't stand without loosening the belt buckle after it was all gone. Turned out to be a great idea, because all the small talk and "what's your name" and "where you from" and "what you doin" were taken care of well before the night began in earnest. Actually there was no jumping off point (no shots, no riotous march into town), just a steady escalation into the kind of party you wish you'd taken pictures of. No dancing, no craziness or destruction. Just 10 people spread out on couches and chairs on a huge second story outdoor balcony on top of the hostel. Beers, poker, music and the endless babble of Manchester cockney, deep western Aussie, eastern Aussie, Scottish, Tasmanian, American and Italian accents. All time Top Five lists were traded, iPod libraries were inspected and critiqued, music cranked over the whole thing and for a couple of hours life was perfect and effortless. Fireworks blasted off. I went to bed at 2 pretty sober but buzzing from something else. Something non-chemical and momentary.
The next day is Burnie. I'm tired but feeling pretty chipper, Kelyn's not showing his loss at Drinking Poker, and overall we're better off than I expected. The 150k drive to Burnie takes a while, and I browse the paper and find the article about us ("Inexperience Is No Handicap") complete with full color photo of me looking sickly and weird, Kelyn looking a bit like a gay superhero, Eugene with the 10 year-old stare and Des in the background looking vaguely unimpressed. My travel partner is
not happy. At least the words are kind. Not sure what I was expecting, but Burnie turns out to be a pretty cool little beach town built on a hill. The track is essentially on the beach, just out of reach of the tide. Lots of noise was made before the Carnival's arrival, as the city of Burnie had just dumped $50,000 on a new track surface for the outdoor 500m oval which had been delayed and delayed to the point where it was still unfinished at Christmas. I see my golden opportunity and claim the new surface for America by rolling out a first lap before anyone else can get their chamois on. Thought about peeing on it as well for good measure, but I was still a bit dehydrated from the previous night.
First words out of my mouth on my first lap: "What the f%@!, am I going uphill?"
Remember how I said that the city was built on a hill? So is the track. It's a slight slope, but pretty noticeable on the bike as you grind through corner 1 and 2 and spin out through the downhill 3 and 4.
I'm finally feeling healed and well, and it all starts coming together for the 1k wheelrace. I start off 55 meters from scratch with the furthest rider at 175m. Gun goes off, I pull a big start and reach the frontmarkers within the first lap. Bell rings at the bottom of the hill, I make a big jump waaaaay too early and take the lead only to get passed on the line. No worries, 3 go through to the final and I end up third with a gap to fourth, so I'm a happy man. Last day and the first final of the series. Kelyn hauls off and wins his heat pretty convincingly and all of a sudden we've gone from sitting on the sidelines in Latrob with our heads smashed in thinking "what the?" after our heats to ending up 2 strong in the final. We both start the final on 55m. Kelyn's been finishing stronger and I've been starting faster, so I lead the first 500m out. BANG the gun goes and we're immediately blowing by the riders off 75, then 110, then through a big group of sketchy traffic off 140, then we're on the back straight, the bell rang 200m ago but I'm too redlined to notice, leading the whole group with Kelyn and everybody else on my wheel with 400m to go. I start to run out of steam, Kelyn panics and goes over the top a hair too early, leads until the final meter and gets pipped by two people on the line. Bastards. Either way, I'm happy. Our race clocked at 1.05 for a kilo. Ouch. We get a podium, some gas and food money and immediately feel better about this week.
As difficult and trying as it's been, we both have improved a tremendous amount. Later in the night, I end up 4th in my feature 3k heat (3 go through) but Kelyn makes it into the big money final. It's a huge hammerfest and he understandably throws in the towel when the group blasts by him with 1 to go and we pack up and get the hell out of Tasmania.
1 year ago