Starting with a lap of Tasmania

Ready for take off

Ready for take off

The Lap
What’s certain is that the five-week tour will start with a lap of Tasmania.

Clockwise starting at Devonport.

That’s okay, but that’s not really the start. To get to the real start there’s some backtracking to do. Continue reading


The wrong tool for the right job

The wrong tool for the right job. It looks straight up but maybe there's another couple of kinks and more 24% pitches.

The wrong tool for the right job. It looks straight up but maybe there’s another couple of kinks and more 24% pitches.

Sometimes we don’t have the right tools for the job, other times the skill, or the know how, the experience, an instruction booklet, someone to ask or nor do we know what’s on the other side or maybe at the top.

We know that by going forward, we’ll face perils, or we have materials and equipment that are not designed for the task. Continue reading

On the start line

Counting down to the start, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Counting down to the start, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

You’re on the start line ready to roll. You’ve prepared for this day for months. The regular weekly training rides have built you up to a physical and mental peak that you’re quietly comfortable with. Legs are feeling good. You’ve broken out a new kit just for today. You’re the embodiment of splendour as far as you care.

You’re next to one other, five others, maybe one thousand others, or is it 10 thousand? Maybe you feel all by yourself.

On the start line, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

On the start line, Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Someone just stopped the countdown to the start and then removed the clock. The finish line just vanished. There is no race, no competition today. Your number just got ripped off.

What now?

Are you lost, annoyed, frustrated or maybe it’s relief, anticipation, joy. Your heart’s probably racing.

The competition was just annulled, but your adventure took a giant leap forward. Without a race, without fighting to beat another, you’re left to battle yourself.

Will you win?



Ringing Aart Vierhouten’s 2004 Profronde Maastricht Winners (trophy) Bell for the start. Aart was Robbie McEwen’s lead-out man.

Happy lads, rolling out, Gerrie Knetemann Classic, Amsterdam

Happy lads, rolling out, Gerrie Knetemann Classic, Amsterdam

Location: Amsterdam, NL
Event: Gerrie Knetemann Classic

Beyond shiny lights work the brightest stars

Mary Cherry Cupcakes

Mary Cherry Cupcake (Photo Credit: Mary Cherry)

Cupcakes. Sweet morsels determined by a sponge-like base and coifs of cream or a spatular slathering of frosting. A hot topic in Montpellier, France at the moment.

Much like the vision of a glamorous femme fatale sporting 3-inch heels on a bicycle, cupcakes exude a hint of luxury, decadence, quality-time shared with close confidantes. Or a brief escape to another era, someone else’s, or your own moment of fantasy.

It was with great pleasure that I became acquainted with a Montpellier bright star recently. Unbeknownst at the time, but a cupcake shaped star would shine soon enough.

The Stars
Surrounded by bright industry leaders at the DigiWorld IT Summit a few weeks ago, it was only when the lights went down that I found myself walking amongst the stars.

These stars weren’t out to promote a new App, Device, Internet of Everything network communications package. Looking directly they tended to move about, but were always obvious in the periphery.

For another time is the introduction of the other stars Musee Transversal, developed by Didier and Corinne, here and now, it’s all about the cupcakes: Mary Cherry.

Discovering Montpellier
After Summiting DigiWorld over the mountains and valleys of forums, networking opportunities and gala dinners, I had a growing interest in discovering the real Montpellier. Beyond the strong university presence, a growing population, strength in design and animation (film), I wondered what really made it tick. Luckily, Mary Cherry offered to introduce the local’s view of Montpellier. Thank goodness, a real chance to avoid the city ant-trail.

What do you normally see on a city tour? This monument, that historic marker, that guy died there, that lady was born there, that thing was painted 18 times in the 15th century.

Montpellier walking shadows

Walking Shadows

Not that that’s not important but what mesmerised me on Cherry’s Tour de Ville was passion for life.

The tour took place during the period of “Design Tour Montpellier” another summit of sorts for designers across fashion and interiors. (Mary Cherry has a piece on it here). Design is a big influence for Mary Cherry.

Whilst we toured…we talked.

During the tour, Mary shared personal favourite destinations and I could not have been more pleased.
Tour Highlights:
– What must be the perfect template of a cafe mixed with retail operation: L’heure Bleue

– Street art by “BMX

Street Art by BMX Montpellier

Street Art by BMX, Tandem?

– Truly chic interior design using *gasp* Ikea furniture: In the mood for Ikea

In the Mood for Ikea, Montpellier

In the Mood for Ikea, mind-bending metallics

– Cool art and interior design pieces at: Metropolitan

Marlene at Metropolitan Montpellier

Marlene at Metropolitan Montpellier

– Coffee by Fairview Coffee

– And the piece de resistance, the parcours to Parcours (This place blew my doors off. Due to be demolished, it was once a squat-house, now urban artist’s house of design.)

Parcours Montpellier - Illegal

Parcours – Illegal?

– Okay, one more, PapaDoble, driving innovation in cocktails.

Papadoble menu

Papadoble drinks menu

Making your Mark?
But the real stand out was the conversation. The general theme was how does one make their mark in the world? Especially if you don’t subscribe to the ‘normal’ channels or blueprints of what’s on offer. Along the way I also met Manu, a marine biologist who also happens to knit extremely well. She was passing on her expertise (in knitting) to Fredric, a total fashionista keen to extend his capabilities. Talk of living by the sea intervened regularly.

Mary Cherry is a bright star working to create her own path, one that will provide endless satisfaction to the appetites of people from all over. You may think, well cupcakes, it’s simple. It’s not that simple when you’re working at being the premiere cupcake business in Montpellier. France is a conservative place, a grand protector of tradition and artisan style. Cupcakes are not French, they are American (and we all know how popular Lance Armstrong is with the French).

In Your Face
It’s like cycling in the south of France, you’re not just working against gravity up mountains, you’ve also got a 100km/h wind in your face and it’s 5 degrees. You may not think that’s ideal and you’d ordinarily take one of the three variables, but when there’s blue sky and sun shining, why wouldn’t you? And so it is, Mary Cherry’s mountains and wind are the forces of culture and bureaucracy, but the sun of innovation and blue sky of possibilities drive her spirit.

Mary Cherry will find her mountain pass, because she has a spirit that says “I have a duty to my art”. Her art is not an office occupation, a travel agent, a scientist or a teacher, it’s in visual and culinary delights.

The mountain pass lay fraught with hiccups, risks, challenges and a wrestle with the climb, but at the precipice awaits unknown rewards and a fast ride down the other side to the finish.

One’s Own Path
By choosing to create one’s own path, the responsibility for each boundary, each decision, each probe into the unknown, rests with you. There is no deference. Mary Cherry knows this. Making the decision to go it alone and try a different path has not been without its pains, for there is no template, no career ladder, no performance appraisal or structured dossier. It’s whatever you want it to be. Paradox of choice? Perhaps.

In the Mood for Ikea, Montpellier

In the Mood for Ikea, swirling

Once that decision was made by Mary Cherry, those things didn’t matter anymore, because they weren’t relevant to her mission.

Tour of Tours
As we moved through the streets of Montpellier scanning the environment for influences and eye-catchers, the true beauty of the untrodden path began to emerge. I’d somehow managed to convince Mary Cherry and friends to take part of the tour by bicycle, just like Paris’s Velib, this was Montpellier’s Velomagg.

Her acceptance represented the attitude of stepping outside comfort zones and not just eliminating barriers, but ignoring them. Mary Cherry was sporting some serious heels and her friend’s niece was just a smidgen shy of fitting on a bike by herself. No matter, a way was invented to make it all work. All with a ‘can-do’, ‘pourquoi-pas’ flair.

Velomagg on the move Montpellier

The mode, the style, the heel

From what I gleaned during that tour of tours, the core of the cupcake certainly represented that attitude. A melange of singular decisiveness to take an unknown path, the wherewithal to consciously push boundaries outward or ignore them altogether coupled with a knack for accepting and synthesising influences across diverse interests for better outcomes.

The Mont
And I can report that the ‘Mont’ in Montpellier is with good reason, indeed the city is built on a hill. No matter for my ardent new pals in 3-inch heels and porting a pint-sized passenger, these ladies literally rode up that hill into a headwind with the poise of the Paris-end. In art as in life.

Glamour on bicycles Montpellier

3-inch heels and a Velomagg. Glamour!

The rewards for a day in Montpellier? Many. Plus a cupcake treat (okay, two).

Enormous thanks to Mary Cherry, her man Alex, her BFF Marine (and Niece) for Le Tour of Tours. Merci Beaucoup.

If you find yourself in Montpellier, be sure to follow the stars.

Follow the stars in Montpellier

Follow the stars in Montpellier

*Thanks to JC for additional inspiration, yet another star not shy of a mountain.

The best time to start: Now or 20 years ago

There’s a saying that goes:

When’s the best time to plant a tree? Now or 20 years ago.

Le Boulou Cyclocross 2012

Languedoc-Roussillon Regional Championships Flyer

This could not have been better exemplified than at Le Boulou, France on the weekend. Sunday saw the simultaneous running of the regional cyclocross championships across France, the filtration process to identify this years best of the best riders.

Apart from the racing, delicious home-baked gateaux, beer and coffee, was the opportunity to see the early fostering of potential that the Le Boulou Cycling Club supports.

Le Boulou CC Drinks

Drinks at cycling club prices

Le Boulou CC Gateaux

Homemade delicious cakes

Over 200 racers hit the track over the course of the day, but it was the presentation ceremony that provided the crescendo to a swathe of elite performances.

Le Boulou CC Cyclocross 2 Dec 2012

Le Boulou CC Regional Championships Race

The bouquets, medallions and prizes signified varying degrees of success, but for me the real success beyond raceday is the support that the club, families, friends and the region quite obviously provide for creating the stars of 20 years time.

Le Boulou CC Medallions

Raceday Medallions

Le Boulou CC Champions

Tomorrow’s future sports champions?

As the applause rang out and the temperature followed the sun, I thought, there’s no better time than now to start pedalling.

Le Boulou Sunset Winter 2012

Gratuitous sunset photo from the return journey. Worth a pause or two.

Le Boulou CC 2012 Ceremony

Plenty of pageantry

Le Boulou CC Podium

Maybe we can talk about that bouquet…?

Le Boulou CC Podium

If not now, when?

Le Boulou CC Team Car

The Club Team Car, including Tour de France style panel damage

Le Boulou CC Finish Kite 2012

The finish line

Morning is when the wick is lit

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Morning Quote by - Cycling Madeloc Port Vendres France
Location: Port Vendres, France

Carpe diem they cry. That the morning is the best time of day is obvious to some.

Pre-dawn and cycling are intertwined in my existence. Darkened shadows, blinking LEDs, the still silence audible rushing by cold ears.

Port Vendres under darkness
Location: Sunrise over Port Vendres, France

Port Vendres under darkness
Location: Sunrise over Port Vendres, France

For days the allure of Tour Madeloc sitting atop Balcon de Madeloc had beckoned, to be taken not by day but by sunrise. The brilliant colours of sunrise in this region have attracted the likes of Matisse, why not a man and a bicycle too.

Banyuls-sur-Mer sunrise from Tour Madeloc
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

In the darkness the mtb-treaded 29er “Gutchi” (as it has been named, pronounced similarly to the luxury brand) crept out through town. It would be an hour of straight up before the tower stood proud and the sun rose. Seeking a paved route, the tower quickly grew further away. With a feebly-flickering white LED leading the way, the alternate route straight up the rocky single-track it would be, by the Moulin and aiming for Fort St Elme where bitumen was a certainty.

Later I would be glad that the route was climbed in darkness, the surface of loose rocks, potentially 7-century old untamed pathway cragged and with ankle-braking unevenness only becoming glaringly obvious later on the descent.

Fighting away the bracken and bush closer to the Fort, the weary LED emerged to frighten a flock of birds and a couple taking their first cup of tea camped happily in St Elme’s saddle. Stunned and confused might be understatements. “Bonjour” broke the tension as they were confounded by early-morning Australian ‘carpe diem’.

The black carpet swept easily beneath the Gutchi until the spirit of dirt took hold for the short cut by the hommage to the young lad lost in the fires many years earlier. In the darkness, under the cover of trees, kept company only by the crunching of stone and sand underneath, his spirit was not lost on my tingling spine.

A short descent that awakened forearms with hidden gullies, rocks and surface deviations quickly passed and the black carpet returned for the final 5km ascent to the Tour Madeloc. Hints of a new day chimed between breaths and squelching of rubber on bitumen. The last kilometre befriends you with grades of up to 18%, a subtle reminder that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
The road to Madeloc, Port Vendres France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

The air cooled with each rise of 100m and stars began to hide. That unseen beauty began to emerge, metallic blue hues, purple and orange sneaking around wisps of white. The silhouettes gave way to rocks and trees and with one last squelch of the tyre, Tour Madeloc stood proud.

Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer France
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer France
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Out-the-back(!) of Tour Madeloc, France

Towering over the mediterranean, as daylight broke the towns of Collioure, Port Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer emerged from their slumber and warmed to the glow of another fine autumnal day.

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France facing north
Location: Port Vendres, France

Rising in the darkness, tackling unseen single-track, disturbing tea-sipping campers and climbing for an hour in the night was surely rewarded by the view emerging this day. Why we choose to rise so early and tackle unknown pitfalls and rewards in darkness is not to be explained, but that we can is enough for me.

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France looking to Canigou
Location: Collioure, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Strava this ride here.

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Balancing the scoop

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Photo credit: D Sharon PruittToday’s technological society keeps us hyped up on status updates, likes, tweets, tips, tricks, and positive re-enforcement techniques. Really though, all that represents is sprinkles on the cone of an ice-cream.

Sprinkles add a bit of flavour and interest to the real substance below and the supporting structure of the cone beneath. The question is, would you enjoy a cup of sprinkles as much?

Or would a palmful of melting ice-cream dripping through your fingers sate your ice-cream dream?

Likely not, but grasping that cone, turning it in your palm, keeping the scoop from becoming unbalanced, it’s a small ritualised process that keeps us returning to the Ice-creamery time and again for the enjoyment.

Life is like that too (no, not a box of chocolates). You may get a ‘hit’ from life’s version of sprinkles, maybe it’s tweets and likes or even this morning’s latest 7-tips to a better you, 5-tips to reduce your waste line or 9-tips for career success and so on. Lot’s of colour and excitement. Underneath those small sound bites and tidbits hides the real enjoyment of crafting a program, swirling it around to see how it fits, plotting a course and grasping the supporting structures required.

Once that’s achieved then comes the process of keeping on course, turning your thinking, adjusting behaviour, keeping your scoop balanced and catching the drips. The enjoyment develops through working at it and seeing the whole of it in front of you.

Just as quickly as the sprinkles run out and you’re biting into the still cool and textured ice-cream scoop, the sprinkles are no longer a care nor is the fact they’re gone, it’s the substance of the middle, the heart of it. It’s what you were dreaming about when you bought the ice-cream that now drives you. You’re focused fast on keeping the drips from escaping.

Now in the centre of the cone, thoughts of how the moment can be savoured take over, how to make the buzz last.

Similarly the thoughts echo when the realisation that your program for new behaviour change or learning new knowledge is starting to stick. The realisation that a shift has occurred is enough to let you know that you’re actually closer to the end than the beginning. Closer to completing your course.

It’s not that the enjoyment is coming to an end, but that it’s now possible to look forward to the next treat, the next project, the next experience. Perhaps even a different flavour.

Whatever it is, 5-steps, 7-tips or 9-ways may draw you in, but it’s the deeper purpose and experience that will hold the long-lasting meaning. Had enough of sprinkles?

*Photo credit: Ice Cream Cone – D Sharon Pruitt.

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