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One of the weekends I look forward to every year is that of the Australian Rules football grand final. It is one of the highlights of my sporting calendar as I get to immerse myself in an unhindered indulgence of the sport I love, which of course is not football. Grand final weekend is a great time to be a cyclist.
It is hard to explain to someone from another country just how much the Australian state of Victoria is in to its Australian rules football. No sane politician would dare call an election near the grand final weekend and it’s almost mandatory for every kid at primary school to be dressed in the colors of their favourite team. Probably the best indicator of its importance is that this Friday in Victoria we have a public holiday. That’s right, a public holiday for people to go out and watch the parade of the grand final players through the centre of Melbourne on the day before Saturday’s grand final.
So what’s all this got to with bike riding? Well, this game they only really play in Australia where they kick around a funny shaped ball has some pretty neat side-effects even for those of us in its heartland that are prepared to imperil social and business relationships by remaining blissfully unaware of its intricacies. As a Victorian cyclists I’m thankful for the mania surrounding the footy final and here’s why:
1. Roadtrip time!
Thank you, footy, for giving us a public holiday. And what better way to spend a three-day weekend of warm spring weather than far away from the footy madness on a cycling roadtrip? Plus, it didn’t even seem to matter that I forgot to plan months ahead because, as it turns out, not many people are eager to head off to that beautiful hilly forested area where the cycling is superb because the cabins with dodgy television reception and tiny screens may ruin their game viewing.
2. Sleeping in without the guilt of missed training
The public holiday means we get to ride pro-hours on Friday. This means we can catch up on some of that sleep we lost by getting up at three in the morning to watch Lizzie Armistead and Peter Sagan grab the rainbow stripes at the world championships. Ride bikes and sleep in? What more can we ask for?
3. The grand final hours is the next best thing to closed roads
The few hours of the Aussie rules grand final are a dream for road cyclists. It can almost feel like there is a state-wide cycling event road closure in the middle of the afternoon because nearly everyone who isn’t at the footy grand finals has found a nice big screen to sit in front of for the duration. Just make sure you are back from your ride and off the road before the chaos starts after the final siren. One thing is for sure, stay out too long and you won’t need to have watched the game to find out who won. The regular sound of drivers shouting an out of tune rendition of their team song out open windows should give you a pretty good idea.
What you will be doing at grand final time, watching the game or riding your bike?