Friday, 3 February 2017

Tour Down Under 2017 at Marvellous McLaren Vale

Setting up for the race.

An early arrival in McLaren Vale, South Australia for
Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under:

The main street is closed and everyone is setting up
for a great day of bike racing.

Park the car, start heading off,
then realise "I've forgotten the camera!"

Mobile phone to the rescue! The photos in this blog entry will be less about 'sports action' and more about the celebratory 'atmosphere'  in McLaren Vale, the heart of the Southern Vales wine region on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia.

Ellis Park Rotunda, McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale is one of my favourite places, surrounded by vineyards and nestled between the hills and the beach.  I had been wanting to see the Tour Down Under (TDU) at McLaren Vale for years but every time I had a chance to get there, the body and mixed connective tissue disease (mctd) contrived to prevent it.

Corner of Main Road & Field Street, McLaren Vale
Notice the vineyards in the distance.

This year was different. Everything was perfect. Energy, timing, weather … and then I left the camera behind! I berated myself as I ventured down to the track on the Main Road.

Main Road, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Morning of Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under
Saturday, 21 January 2017
The riders will travel from here into the distance!

I know why I forgot the camera–I'm not at my best first thing in the morning. Therefore mornings are usually planned the night before. This morning was no exception. Just about everything necessary was ready to go except last minute things like medicines, fresh food etc. The only thing that wasn't gathered up the night before was the camera because it was stored in someone's bedroom and that someone had already gone to sleep before I could finish packing.  A mental note was made to grab it in the morning.  So much for mental notes!

In the morning, I was so busy baking muffins for the picnic basket (either a late breakfast in the car for sleepyheads or morning tea or both), concerning myself with sunscreen, hats, lunches, and the general flurry of getting a family up and out the door on time, that the camera totally slipped my mind!

There was only one thing to do:  let go of the camera frustration and soak in the atmosphere of South Australia's Festival of Cycling and a most enjoyable day.  I hope these photos give you a sense of the scenery and fun to be had when South Australians come out to play.

I arrived in McLaren Vale with my family to be greeted by a most glorious morning: sunny and crisp with a forecast of  28 degrees Celsius (82°F). There was a beautiful sea breeze all day to keep everyone cool enough when the sun rose higher.

I'm sitting where the riders will be when the start gun fires!

It is nice to arrive early to inspect the accessibility and possible vantage points and photo opportunities. The bike shop was already open (it offers bikes for hire too).  Naturally, the coffee shops were open too. (Where there are cyclists, there will be caffeine.)  The official race media crews had gathered and were planning their day.  Three helicopters  were flying closely together overhead, presumably looking for vantage points of their own. Meanwhile, the clear blue sky was only broken by flocks of white corellas squawking their rowdy good-mornings.

Main Road is decorated with streamers and bicycles.
Barricades line the street while a meeting is takes place under the inflatable Start banner.
Tents for the officials, guests, Master of Ceremonies and sound crew are on the right.

After choosing a preferred spot from which to view the race, I returned to a position near the start line to see the TDU competitors signing in for the day's race and to hear them being interviewed.  It was difficult to get photos of the riders because they were surrounded by so many photographers and officials.

Francois Bidard (#93) of the AG2R La Mondiale team is one of the first riders to sign in.

I sat back and enjoyed watching the Main Road fill up with people and bicycles. So many bicycles! Many cycling clubs and groups were out for early rides with McLaren Vale as THE destination.  Plenty were from interstate and I saw some international jerseys and jackets too.

The television cameras appear as more riders arrive to sign in.
Riders from Team UniSA and Movistar can be seen on the left-hand side of this picture.

The majority of spectators of the Tour Down Under arrived on bicycles.  It was bicycle city!  I've never seen so many bikes in one town!  A cyclist's heaven and a great chance to see all sorts of bikes and gear. Someone described it this week as 'bike porn'! Maybe they meant 'bike envy'.

The crowds build along with their excitement.
Everybody is hoping to glimpse their heroes.
The footpath fills very quickly at this event so that it is standing room only when the race begins.

Where there are cyclists, there will be coffee.
Al Fresco café service in the church garden.
This church is a regular venue for musicians
and known as 'The Singing Gallery.'

Cycling enthusiasts came from far and wide. One fellow rode all the way from Paradise (yes, that's the name of a north-eastern suburb of Adelaide; McLaren Vale is approximately a 45 minute car drive south of Adelaide). Another lovely man (who helped me with my chair, stopping it from faling off a sloping footpath) had ridden from Littlehampton  to Meadows in the Adelaide hills, where he stopped to visit friends, and then to McLaren Flat where he stopped for coffee before continuing south down to McLaren Vale.  What a fabulous ride on a scenic route.

I was picturing the scenery in my mind as he described his ride and felt envious.  I miss the ability to ride a bike so much!  The nice thing about being surrounded by cyclists is that people appreciate why I might feel that way.

View from Ellis Park Rotunda
When the start line became too crowded for me, I made my way towards my preferred vantage point further up the road.

Horns and sirens heralded the arrival of the Tour Parade–a fleet of cars sporting models of the winners' jerseys etc. followed by sponsors' cars. They all stop, open their hatches and promote their businesses with giveaways and merchandise.

The parade is led by the Race Leader's Ochre Jersey and the spotty King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey.

The second row of cars sports jerseys for the Best Young Rider (white), Winning Team (white with red cuffs) and Sprint Leader (red).  There is also a blue jersey for Most Competitive Rider. I wonder if that is the one in the back with a mortarboard hat (perhaps it is being sponsored by the university?).
I think this is my favourite!

The car boots are open and visitors can wander through and inspect the sponsors' merchandise and receive freebies.

The rear of the TDU fleet as people step off the footpaths to have a closer look.

Some of the merchandise given out at the parade.
Clockwise from top left: Subaru King of the Mountain (KOM) hat; Santos blue cowbell; map of McLaren Vale with vouchers for McLaren Vale traders from the McLaren Vale Business Association; Bike Exchange caps; waterproof zip lock pockets for mobile phones etc.; Motor Accident Commission reflective strips for bikes etc. which look like rulers but flick them over your wrist or around your bike handles and they curl up tightly; Fruchocs sample (confectionery); Hansgrohe green jellybeans, various discount vouchers and special offers; wristband torch; Singapore Airlines drawstring bag like the blue one in a previous post (8 Oct 2015).

One of the many cycling groups arriving just in time for the start of the race.

Meanwhile, food trucks and amusements had set up in the local park and if you forgot to apply sunscreen, the Cancer Council had a tent where people could make sure they were protected.

Food trucks setting up near the park.
The white tent belongs to Popsicool which makes vegan, gluten-free and organic 'artisan ice popsicles handcrafted in Adelaide.'
We were taken with the flavours listed: watermelon lime, pineapple coconut, raspberry basil, classic strawberry, orange and lemon, mango smoothie and roasted peach.
My children observed that the happy face on the popsicle logo looked like it had bunny ears.
The 'bunny ears' are actually lines defining the contours of the popsicle shape.

I love how everyone gets into the spirit of the race. 
The friendly people at the smoothie stand have creatively named their smoothies after cycling teams!
All of these little touches of fun add up to create a fabulous atmosphere right through the town.
Giant Berry: berries, vanilla yoghurt & apple juice
Orica Green Edge: cucumber, apple, pear, baby spinach, ginger & mint
BMC: banana, mango and coconut milk.

The Supermarket in McLaren Vale
has a dedicated Cheese Room
to keep the cheese
at optimum conditions.

South Australia prides itself on its 'foodie' culture. McLaren Vale is a major Australian winemaking region on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I'm sure it is no coincidence that whenever I taste a wine that I really like, it turns out to have come from McLaren Vale. Naturally, wine, bread, cheese and gourmet foods are specialties in the area.

I popped into the supermarket to get some fruit and snacks for morning tea and we were delighted at the quality of the produce and the variety of cheeses on offer.  There was a large delicatessen counter with cheeses on display and beyond that, a 'Cheese Room'.  I love any supermarket that takes its cheese seriously!

Who's the 'Big Cheese' now?
A selection of specialty cheeses found in the supermarket Cheese Room.

You can even have a Wedding Cake made of cheese!
The note on the little blackboard reads:
"If you and your partner are getting married, why not have a 'cheese wedding cake'!
"Talk to our cheese bar staff about the endless options and a tasting to help you make your cheese selections.
"This is a display piece only. Please look and not touch. Thank you!!!"

The Tour Down Under has a 'Best Dressed Town' award for each stage of the race. McLaren Vale was bedecked with arrangements of painted bicycles, wheels, flowers, streamers and bunting.

Café bunting

View from the welcome shade of the Ellis Park rotunda.

Soon the Tour Parade moved off, the police escorts moved through and the race was underway. Stage 5 brings the competitors through McLaren Vale 5 times as the riders take 3 circuits around Willunga and beachside town of Aldinga; then to the hinterland for 1 circuit, up and over Willunga Hill, then around once more to finish on top of Willunga Hill.

The BMC team come through on one of their laps of McLaren Vale.
From front to back: Francisco Ventoso of Spain (#25), Miles Scotson of Australia (#26), Damiano Caruso of Italy (#27) and I think that is Amael Moinard or France (#24) behind them.

The Tour Down Under has kept these children busy!
I love the creativity of the sign on the right.

For some, the focus is not on the race but on attention-seeking instead.
These guys were quite successful in getting themselves on television briefly.
Whether it is the cricket, public holidays or other events, there will always be
Australians who'll use any excuse to dress up for fun.

When we weren't lining the Main Street to cheer on the riders, we picnicked in Ellis Park and watched the race on a big screen.  Everybody cheered together and gasped in unison as the riders reached speeds of over 80 kilometres per hour on their descent from Willunga Hill.

People watched the Tour Down Under on the big video screen in Ellis Park.

The atmosphere in Ellis Park was relaxed and friendly as families picnicked.

When Richie Porte made his sudden move to breakaway for the final climb, the peaceful atmosphere in the park was broken just as suddenly by sharp screeching as the nearby flock of corellas simultaneously burst forth from its quiet roost in a stand of adjacent trees to fill the sky above the park with white flapping wings!  It was as if they too were appreciating Richie Porte's efforts.

Even the birds enjoyed the Tour Down Under!

Stage 5 Results

1. Richie Porte (Australia),  BMC Racing Team (USA)
2. Nathan Haas (Australia), Team Dimension Data (South Africa)
3. Johan Estaban Chaves (Columbia), Orica-Scott (Australia)

Related Posts on Lupey Loops

"Tour Down Under 2017 People's Choice Classic", 17 January 2017:

"Ready, Get Set for Victor Harbor & Tour Down Under 2017", 20 January 2017:

"International Visitors", 8 January 2019:

"Tour Down Under 2018 Photos (Part 1)", 9 January 2019: 

"How to Turn a Drawstring Bag into a Backpack", 8 October 2015:


  1. What a joy to visit today and share an event with you that I would not normally see. It was a great pleasure to visit.

    1. It was lovely to have you come along Lorraine! ;-)
      The sharing of local scenery and events is a service I like to provide even though it is not the 'main brief' of 'crochet adventures on the lupus end of the spectrum'!

      I love seeing and learning about the regions where you and my other blog-friends live; the differences and similarities are fascinating. Sometimes the simplest details that you might take for granted become interesting for a foreigner like me. I figured: if I like seeing your part of the world, you will like seeing mine too. (I'll show you mine if you show me yours! hehehe)

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. xx

  2. What a wonderful event, it looks so exciting. I am so glad you were able to attend and have so much fun.

    1. The Tour Down Under gets bigger and better every year. I get excited just to be out and about and not stuck in bed, so when that is put together with cycling, which was an enjoyable part of my lifestyle once upon a time, it's a recipe for a good time.

      The racing itself is amazing and there are so many aspects to hold one's interest. Apart from the skill and daring of the riders, there are 'mini-races' within the main race with different teams and riders trying to achieve various goals. One can follow individual riders by team or by the country they represent. There are lots of different jerseys to be won depending on the rider's specialty and the team strategies and formations within the peloton are fascinating.

      This first major tour of the season is now recognised as part of the UCI world tour series which makes the Tour Down Under useful for rider and team development, and can contribute to annual point tallies for the season to come.

      If all else fails and you are not au fait with the technicalities, it's a colourful spectacle to be enjoyed with fellow spectators with wonderful views of the changing scenery on the television.

      I'm so happy to have had the chance to go out and enjoy life these summer holidays - lots of blogging to catch up on soon (when I am home long enough!) :-)

      Cheers, Meredith! xx

  3. What a lovely full day! I never learn that those mental notes just don't stay there either. I always think, yeah, I'll remember that, but never do!! Xx

    1. I hear you, Sharon! I am very much a list-maker most of the time - how about you? The trick is to actually *write the list down*! Usually I keep notes and lists in my diary which is my lifeline to sanity.

      You wrote on your blog that you would like to establish some new organisational habits to achieve some goals this year. I'm a bit like you in that I make plans but they don't always come to fruition.

      That's life though, isn't it? Especially a creative life.
      There are always so many ideas, not enough time! Happy planning and crafting!:-)