Well it’s much cooler and quite dark down under here in Australia, yet it is warmer and light in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Autumn in our part of the world and Spring up north. Ok I know you don’t need a geography lesson, but I just want to set the scene as to how some things just happen. The newspaper has just been delivered at 3.30am so I know most Australians are safely tucked up in their bed sound asleep. Not me though!
Each year at this time in May the Giro D’Italia takes place throughout Italy and this year SBS, a free to air television station is covering this cycling event in the middle hours of the night for the first time, straight off the back of their coverage of Eurovision 2014 in Copenhagen. Joy oh joy for someone like me who loves both cycling, singing and dancing and not necessarily all at the same time! Not to forget a love of colourful World flags.
Last weekend a World first happened as a bearded lady, Conchita Wurst from Austria took out the illustrious Eurovision crown with her amazing performance of Rise Like a Phoenix. No matter where you might stand on the idea of someone so beautifully dressed as a woman, yet with the blackest of black hairy beards, you would have to agree that the girl can sing and the lyrics of the song were very apt. The performance of this showstopping tune, reminiscent of a James Bond soundtrack sung by Shirley Bassey was destined to win and Wurst even sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin that Europe is full of “respect and tolerance” in response to Russia’s backlash against her sexuality.
Now back to my geography lesson, if it is day here it must be night up North so depending on your location, Europe is always about 9 hours behind Australia. If you want specific time differences check the World Time app on an iPhone. Therefore while we were asleep last weekend, the Eurovision semi finals and grand final took place. The problem for me was the fact that on Sunday there were no spoiler alerts on the Eurovision Facebook page or the Sunday morning current affair/news shows and so anyone else like me wishing to enjoy the delayed telecast in the Sunday evening prime time spot and be surprised as to who was the winner, already knew Austria’s Conchita came first, followed by The Netherlands and Sweden.
Luckily, unless I fall asleep this won’t happen with the live coverage of the cycling as SBS start their coverage around 11pm and continue till the day’s stage finishes close to 1.30am here in Australia. I have been known to fall asleep with about 20kms to go while watching Le Tour De France, only to wake up watching a taped version of the World Weather whilst listening to some funky European music soundtrack. Quite disconcerting as one minute cyclists are racing through beautiful French countryside, or climbing the Italian or Swiss Alps and in the next blink of an eye the weather in the Greek Isles has taken over the screen. Then once fully conscious I realise it is actually cold, dark and I’m alone at 3am here in my lounge room!
While touring Europe in 2009, the Giro D’Italia was racing into Venice on the day I was there. The city was full of colourful cycling signage and amazingly lots of flat wood covered the famous walking bridges so the cyclists would be able to ride over the canals towards the end of the afternoon. Unfortunately the bus trip I was on would have me driven safely on to Rome as the crowds celebrated the end of the stage in Venice. I’d never heard of this event before that day and now years later I am able to watch it in the comfort of my own lounge room in the middle of the night. This year the race started in Northern Ireland where the typical Irish weather didn’t disappoint – lots of rain and very little sunshine for the first three stages. Once back on Italian soil the race has resumed in Southern Italy and it will make its way up North over the next three weeks. Truly an amazing endurance event where fitness and riding skills are just as important for cyclists and their support crews as safety is. We have already seen some horrific road accidents as the usually dry Italian roads have become wet, greasy and extremely dangerous as rain has fallen. The riders decided to neutralize the race on one day causing the commentators to question this decision. With less than 10 kilometres to go the cyclists’ go slow actions were proven right as a serious wet patch caused a horrific crash and race ending injuries for some riders.
I look forward to more late nights ahead watching the Giro D’Italia and hope that all cyclists continue to ride safely given the road and weather conditions over the next three weeks. It is looking very good with 12 Australian cyclists in this year’s race. Michael Matthews, wearing the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) was first across the finish line today. Cadel Evans came 3rd and by the look on his face he was hoping for better than that as he led a good section of the last part of the race in the small breakaway group after another horrific crash just before a small round about on the wet and greasy road. Cadel’s team member Caruso was seriously injured and as a viewer it seemed ages before medical help and an ambulance came to help him.