This past week i have had the apsolut honor and privilige of meeting and spending some time with our mens national soccer team captain Lucas Neill. Lucas decided to spend a week at the Aussie Training Centre here in my little home away from home gavirate to kickstart his engine for the new european soccer season. I was initially asked to take him for a 2hr bike ride early in the week to show him the rds so he could use the bike as part of his programme. When he turned up wearing boardies, a t shirt, sandshoes and aboard a mountain bike i felt like a bit of donkey all dressed up in my usual work cloaths and equipment that goes with professional cycling. It became evident very quickly that lucas did not usually use the bike for exercise and fortunately the rain arrived so i directed him in the direction of the bike path where i was confident he would be safe and retreated to the warmth of my home and left him to enjoy the rain. Not really what i was expecting for our organised training session. That we caught up again for dinner along with the physio's from the training centre, Emidio and Vince and i realised that Lucas was pretty interested in learning more about cycling and how it all works. Luckily i had a spare cannondale race bike form the team at home and offered to lend it to him for his stay so he could get the feel for what cycling is like aboard a top line machine. I kitted him out in the full liquigas-cannondale team outfit including team issue shoes, it was quite fortunate that we happened to be exactly the same hight and cloathing size so all fitted him like a glove. Not surprizingly he quickly became hooked and was up at 630 each morning cutting hot laps around the lake getting pumped up for our next outing together scheduled for friday which i hoped would be a much more constructive couple of hrs compared to the non event of our first cycling date.
So with much anticipation for me we met up friday morning and as i had hoped had a very enjoyable 2hr 30min spin. I kept it as scenic as possible to show him the sights of the varese area and not to dis similar to Darrel Kerrigan of the Castle, lucas repeated on numerous occasion, "just look at the view" so i was pleased he was happy with my chosen route. Guess was a bit like me with rowing where you get a little borad about seeing the same thing all the time which i am sure is the same for him on soccer pitch day in day out. As for the ride itself it was very relaxed but i must point out he does ride like a soccer player. Firstly he had no problems bumbing into you occasionaly and also he would do these sudden bursts of speeding lasting about 6second before slowing back to a traquile pace. When i asked him why on earth the violent accellerations where neccessary he simply said he was trying to gain some momentum!!! if only cycling was that simple, unfortunately to go fast you has to keep going hard, i am pretty sure it was just the ingrown soccer player in him with all the constant bursts of speed. Rowers on the other hand ride like rowers, they hate it when you pump into them and go as hard as they can untill they cant turn the peddals anymore so quite he opposite. Certainly never go riding with a rower if you want a nice leasurely spin because rest assured it will be flat bannana until they run out of juice.
Along our journey we had a great chat about all things sport and i made sure i took the opportunity to inform him it is not only cycling that i have had a passion for on a sporting front. I informed him in great detail that i was not to shaby on the soccer pitch aswell and had even reached the summit in 1995 winning the 12C premiership with the Kariong soccer club on the central coast of new south wales. I remember the day like it was yesterday, my step father richard had painted the back of my neck in the team colours, red, yellow and blue and also around my eyes with the same colours to add some intimidation on our opposition. After scoring the goal that sent us through from the central midfield possition in the semi final i moved back to centre back for the final and loved. At the end of the day it was a 2nill victory for us and what i remember well is how much i enjoyed being that last line of defence and the satisfaction you got from shutting down the dangorous attacks on our goal. Sure your not up front taking all the glory scoring goals but i took just as much satisfaction from stopping them and chipping in that way to help the team out. Interesting that at 12 i already developed this trait and it took me another 14years to find a job in cycling that fits this mentality perfectly. I also remember it pissing with rain all day so the paint richard had so meticulously plastered all over my face turn me into somthing out of a horror show completely oblivious to me but i am sure it had an effect on my opposition, great tactic richard!! Anyway the reason i brng this up was that lucas being centre back i could explain why i loved it so much back in the day and the reasons for it which he obviously on quite a different level but i think was nice to know other people understand the crucial role he plays in a team, even if he does not score that many goals like his great mate and superstar harry kewell. Also this mentality i guess gave us common ground to discuss our jobs as they both require a mindset of self sacrifice and dedication to the success of the team so was nice to not only meet him but also have a conversation and interaction with some substance. Like i said to him when we were climbing the final climb before the decent back to the base in gavirate and i am sure he wont mind me saying but he was starting to show signs that it was actually the first time he had even done a climb on rd bike, sport is a great leveler. Here was our national captain and a man i admire highly along with the rest of the nation and i was encouraging him to the top of the climb, seeing him suffer a little and enjoying the experience with him you can see a side of people you cant replicate in a restaurant and for this is the beauty of the sport and the great bonds form as a result of it. It surely was a day in my sporting life i wont forget in hurry.
So that was my experience of meeting the grat lucas neill. We has some phots taken to comemerate the great occassion which i will post to my blog asap. I sent a photo to my Mum and with Lucas Neill being her favourite aussie sports star alongside Rick Charlesworth it certainly made her day and i am sure the photo will take pride of place in her lounge room over on Lord Howe Island. Its great when you can make your mum's day with somthing so simple, gotta love Mum's hey.