By Michelle Laforest
There’s a knight sitting opposite me scoffing hot chips and pumpkin pizza, washing it all down with diet coke.
This tall and charming knight is wearing Lycra as armour and his trusty steed is a white Fondriest bike with Di2 running gear.
The head of Welcome to Yorkshire tourism authority Sir Gary Verity, has just finished the Bupa Challenge Tour with more than 5,900 other amateur riders.
Riding the final 36km from Goowla to Victor Harbor, Sir Gary experienced all there is at the 2016 Santos Tour Down Under on a fact finding mission for this year’s Tour de Yorkshire at the end of April.
It’s the world’s second most popular cycling event behind the Tour de France attracting 1.5 million visitors across three days in 2015, its inaugural year.
He proudly ignored the escape route sign on the ride, which tempts participants to shortcut the 5km climb to Crows Nest in 35Cheat and proudly tells me “my second half was much better than the first”.
“Well I didn’t die,” Sir Gary can be heard explaining to someone on the phone.
A day in the saddle on the Santos Tour Down Under
After a day in the saddle, my first phone call was to my husband. Sir Gary’s first call is to Gerry Ryan, the owner of Australia’s Orica-GreenEdge team.
Ryan has nothing but Australian encouragement for the British knight.
“It’s all about preservation mate,” is his response.
I’ve ridden almost 150km from Adelaide, taking in the early climb of Norton’s Summit, cheered on by spectators along the route while enjoying the historic towns of Stirling and Strathalbyn.
“You really feel like you’ve achieved something,” Sir Gary says of the ride.
“It’s not like the Sportives in the UK where they can be too challenging or just a doddle.”
I feel for Sir Gary. His Giant road bike has sat idle at home for two months due to the weather.
When he does ride he tells me he goes with his friend Raymond on a Sunday morning, taking in a 35-mile loop from a small village near Leeds in Yorkshire.
“We stop for toast and coffee halfway round,” Sir Gary says.
“Sometimes we take three hours and sometimes we take two.”
I can’t follow Sir Gary on Strava because he doesn’t use the GPS tracking and training app so popular with cyclists the world over and he hasn’t worked out how to set up his Garmin.
Surely someone in his circles could help him out with that? He is after all best friends with the Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme.
“Why do I need something to remind me about how slow I’m going?” he says.
“I don’t need to know that 49 people have passed me in the past 10 minutes.”
Fair enough. Why do any of us? Sometimes it’s better off not knowing any of that and just enjoying the ride.
The Santos Tour Down Under is a major cycling event held in South Australia every January.