Cycling, CSG and the Brick with Brains

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Lachlan Barker commends rugby league great and newly independent Senator Glenn Lazarus for taking it up against the gas companies, while cycling tours continue in the United States and Europe.

AS I WAS going about my sport observation activities this week, I came across an interesting new battle that crosses over from sport to politics and the environment.

Former rugby league player, Glenn Lazarus, the now independent senator for Queensland, has moved strongly to oppose the CSG industry. While the gas industry has drawn from the same well and employed their own former rugby league player, Darren Lockyer, to front their spin campaign.

The rather odd headline may confuse those who have not been followers of sport, but it stems from the nickname given Lazarus by sport satirists HG Nelson and Roy Slaven. HG and Roy are possibly most famous in recent times for their Olympics 2000 sports wrap show, The Dream. However, before that they were well known for their simulcasts of the footy grand finals – both Aussie Rules and rugby league – and also giving the same verbal treatment to the State of Origin rugby league matches between Queensland and NSW.

Among the many highlights of these simulcasts were the nicknames given to the players and Glenn Lazarus was known as "The Brick With Eyes", due to his large solid physique.

Cynics have criticised Lazarus for his anti-CSG stance, indicating that he is simply trying to make political capital from this politically contentious issue. Yet if there is any cynicism going on here, it is surely the gas companies and Lockyer that should be feeling the heat.

Lazarus is a duly elected senator for Queensland fighting on an issue of concern to his constituents, while Lockyer, clearly, has no scientific knowledge of the appalling risks that CSG involves and is simply taking money to spruik the glossy publicity line for the gas companies.

While the odds seem to favour the gas companies, with their seemingly boundless publicity budget winning, one would do well to remember the recent events of Anglesea in Victoria. There, a small group of determined community members stopped a giant, sprawling global corporate machine, Alcoa, worth multi-billions of dollars. They did this with sustained pressure using grass roots political activism and were able to finally get the redundant, grossly polluting, Anglesea Power station and companion coal mine shut down.

The final point for the gas companies to consider is that here in Australia we love the underdog. In this argument, we have one side with pockets full of money trying to enforce a dangerous industry on local communities. While on the other we have Lazarus and the tiny under-resourced community groups that oppose this industry, whom he is representing here.

I think we can all see who the underdogs are.

So moving on to less controversial sporting matters, there have been two bike races going on at the moment, giving me some time-planning issues to figure out. The Tour of California completed this weekend in the United States, while across the Atlantic, the Giro D’Italia has been rolling around the mountains and coasts of Italy.

The Giro came on our screens on SBS from around 11 at night, and ran through till 1.30am, while the California race appeared onscreen from 7-9am. So it was a case of setting the record function and getting my times and dates right, then getting to bed, and watching 2-4 hours of cycling the next day at my leisure.

Took some doing, but I got it done. And please note, I’m not complaining here, I have finally achieved the dream of so many Australian men of watching sport for a living.

The Tour of California was won by Slovakian sprint champ, Peter Sagan for team Tinkoff-Saxo. He did really well to achieve this, as he is a sprinter in the main and the eight stage race involved some hellish mountains. Notable among these was the second last stage up the vertiginous Mt Baldy. Sagan had to hold his place in the lineup to put himself in position to win the whole event on the largely flat, sprinters, final stage.

He rode with courage up Mt Baldy and got the job done, and then won enough of the sprint points on the last day to come home a winner.

Young French rising star Julian Alaphilippe for Etixx Quick-Step was second and his emergence has excited the French. A Frenchman has not won the Tour de France (TDF) since Bernard Hinault in 1985, so the Gallic contingent have high hopes that 22-year-old Alaphilippe may give them a TDF Yellow Jersey once more.

Colombian Sergio Luis Henao Montoya for Team Sky mounted the podium in third. Like all Colombians, Henao is a great climber and big things are likewise expected of him in the Alps and Pyrenees of the French race.

Alaphilippe won the White Jersey for Best Young Rider, BMC’s Daniel Oss won the King of the Mountains event while Britain’s Mark Cavendish, for Etixx Quick-Step, won the sprinter’s Green Jersey. Incidentally, Sagan was second, so that sprint match up in the TDF promises much.

In the Giro D’Italia, the race is currently being led by Spaniard Alberto Contador for Tinkoff Saxo and thus wears the leader’s Pink Jersey. Italy’s Fabio Aru for Astana is lying second, four seconds behind, while Australia’s Richie Porte, riding for Team Sky is currently third, 22 seconds adrift of Contador.

Elia Viviani for Sky leads the sprint competition and so wears the Red Jersey, while the Blue Jersey for King of the Mountains currently adorns the shoulders of Germany’s Simon Geschke of Giant-Alpacen.

Aru leads the Best Young Rider category, while his team, Astana, leads the teams’ category.

And to close with further inspiration for those of us who are feeling the physical pinch of ageing. The most recent stage completed, the ninth, was won by the oldest man in the race, Italy’s Paolo Tiralongo for Astana, who is 37 years old.

This stage took Tiralongo 5 hr and 50 min to complete and included another set of mind melting Italian peaks to get over, so hearty "well dones" to him.

SBS’s coverage of this event has been, as usual, excellent, with commentators Dave McKenzie and Matthew Keenan doing a great job with live commentary, while Mike Tomalaris and Henk Vogels anchor the studio.

SBS, again as usual, take time from the race itself to show the history and culture of the Italian landscape the riders are racing through and so it’s the sort of coverage that gives sport a good name.

Channels Seven, Nine and Ten: please take note.

Lachlan Barker blogs at You can follow him on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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