Sunday, January 16, 2005

The International Journo Junket

South Australia definitely got more interesting for me today after I got an invite to the International Journo's Junket, proudly sponsored by Jacob's Creek Fine Australian Table Wines. In true Harry Hardnose style, most of the hard core journo crew bundled into a minibus at 11:30 bound for Tanunda, home of Jacob's Creek.

First we went up to this funny little vineyard perched on the side of a very steep hill with our bus fishtailing it all the way up on the dirt road. Once there, we were treated to a rather spiffing entree of Thai prawns and smoked salmon with marscapone and asparagus. And some nice dry 2002 Riesling from that same vineyard. Forgotten the name. It had "stein" in it and it wasn't Wolfenstein. Must be the wine.

We were also introduced to our hosts and hostesses, called Bruce, and the lovely Carmen and Danielle. And probably Michael or Steve. Must be the wine. They explained a lot about the wine and the vineyard while we were scoffing Thai prawns and smoked salmon.

After this, we were driven down to the Jacob's Creek Visitor Centre, which is located - incredibly - near Jacob's Creek. After meinhost Steve/Michael introduced us to the wines we were to drink with lunch, I realised why we had four glasses - one for each flavour of wine. Cool, huh? Lunch was rather good, especially as I was sitting next to Carmen. She is about to open a spa and massage centre in Rundle Street Adelaide, and I think she has already found a few clients i.e. Wives of Cycling Journos.

Wines alluded to earlier: 2002 limited release Chardonnay, which tasted exactly like the Riesling; 1997 Shiraz, which was bloody good; and 2004 Shiraz Rose, which was also good with the raspberry and marscapone dessert. Mains: rare beef, lamb, fish, spatchcock and vege bits, all with their own bottled factory sauces.

After that we were pretty well sloshed, but we were each given a momento of (or perhaps for) our trip: a limited release 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. That certainly eased our dry throats in the thirsty minibus trip back home. Next time I'll bring a corkscrew. Nah, just kidding - I'll cellar it in the fridge for two weeks before cracking it open.

Beat the record!

I had an hour spare between finishing off news this morning and the Junket, so, despite feeling very ordinary, I headed up to the hills to try and beat my Norton Summit record. This time, helped by a bit of a tailwind, I did it and managed 13'35, which is the fourth best time up there on the cycle2max website (I'm not going to beat Brett Aitken's 12'39...).

It must have been all those hard training rides with Phil Liggett. We rode back from Echunga (about 40 km) each day after the Aussie road titles. We also got lost each day - well, we didn't end up going the way we intended. Phil was constantly complaining that his Colnago was too short and that's why he was so slow. But the rides were good and quite peaceful.

As for the road races themselves, the women's race was a bit negative at the start, and when it got going no-one could really establish a break for long. I felt sorry for Oenone, who had to chase everything, but full marks to the Queenslanders who used their strength to clean up in the end.

The men's race was excellent. I was afraid that they'd pootle around for a few laps before getting going, but no, it was on from lap 1. They averaged 45 km/h for the first few laps and that was savage for that course. I walked around it (and got sunburned) and there was very little flat. Full marks also to McEwen, who was climbing as well as anyone there and was the strongest guy on the day. The last 50 km was interesting with four being chased by six at about 15-20 seconds. Amazing that the gap couldn't be closed. But McLachlan, Evans and Crake are all pretty strong and I think they wanted to stay away and at least have a shot at the title. McLachlan is a horse.

Nick (editor of Bicycling Australia) and I hard at work at the top of the
hill in the Aussie road championships.
©Mark Gunter

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