young Aussie sensation Adam Semple is back, guest writing on the ‘punk about a ride that sounds like a lot of fun, the Old Papas Boxing Day hammerfest – enjoy!
On September 24, 1984, The Royal South Beach Cycling Association (RSBCA), started by a man named Ian Pauly, initiated the first Old Papas bunch ride, from Fremantle, Western Australia. It was a training ride for Alan Bond’s yachtsmen preparing for the America’s Cup and at the time they couldn’t attract anyone else to join the ride because they were a bunch of newbies who couldn’t ride in a straight line. I’m not going to mention any other names in case I miss out one or two, but as my correspondent from the 80’s, Peter Fitzsimmons, recalled to me; “They were the first guys to ride around the Swan River, and everyone else thought they were just a bit odd. They were slow and messy and just a pain to ride with.”
Since that day the Old Papas ride has shifted from Old Papas cafe (upon its dismemberment) to Gino’s cafe, and remained their ever since, as the ride has built up a cult participation ranging through the two Thursday morning group rides (the fast group and then the slow group, which ironically serves as the training vessel for a lot of the original riders), and the Saturday and Sunday morning Papas’ rides. The loop always remains consistent heading from Fremantle over to Canning Bridge, down through Mt. Henry Bridge, through Shelly which wasn’t on the original route, then from the city down through Nedlands and via the coast back to Fremantle for hours of coffee. The ride is 60km long unless it’s a Public Holiday, when Kings Park and Oceanic Drive are added to increase a certain lactic factor, and the ride becomes about 75km long.
Public Holiday Papas rides generally attract a huge group, but everyone knows that Boxing Day is the ride to be at – mainly because we usually have 5+ pros out flashing their gear and their outputs to the awe-inspired tifosi. Yesterday [Boxing Day -. cp] the ride commenced with no less than 300 people, consuming the road and all its counterparts like a plague of locust, charging along not without its casualties.
Jack Bobridge averaged 302 watts and 44kph for the group. Cameron Meyer, Luke Durbridge and Graeme Brown also took it upon each other to associate themselves with the Art of Train Driving as they dropped the proverbial hammer over and over again. Many more showed their hands on the front at one time or another, but pro riders race World Tour events for a reason…
At the start in Fremantle both lanes were blocked with loitering cyclists and meandering professional photographers. I counted 4 at the start line and one fluoro moto-photographer led the bunch 30 meters in front all day for safety.
It was truly on from the go today as Brownie punctured on the startline and the rest of the bunch laughed out of sheer luck and gratitude. Less suffering, at least until he catches up. It took his 10km which is a mighty effort as we weren’t ‘hanging around’. The straight flats of Shelly disemboweled the group for the first time, then the 60kmh Mounts Bay Rd soften many a leg. The 1km climb of Kings Park saw the submission of many a cyclist out the proverbial arsehole of the diminishing gruppo, but as usual a fortunate red-light allowed a mass regrouping. The group was down to no more than 50 by the time the final sprint arrived in Port Beach and Anthony Giacoppo flashed too soon leaving Cameron Meyer the climber to show up the sprinters in their domain, arriving first to a crowd of 50 strong iPhone-filming fans… even if the finishing line sometimes can’t be spotted until you’ve passed it.
As usual the day saw some hilarious road-rage from unexpecting locals and a couple of ridiculously unnecessary crashes, but all in all the Old Papas Society achieved yet another record breaking Boxing day ride World Champs. Cameron Meyer, You are World Champion. For the rest of us their is surely no better way to spend a boxing day than hitting out with some of the best in the world, in beautiful weather, on beautiful roads, and through beautiful scenery.
Next year I’d love to see a police escort – Melbourne’s Hell Ride style – and if some safety can be assured we hope for many a year more of summer-slog-fest Old Papas events, including the World Championships themselves. Philippe said he was disappointed to not be able to make it… oh well.
* photography courtesy of Tony Lendrum