Riders on boards, and koalas up trees

Team presentations ahead of big races are often quite dull affairs, but the organisers of the Tour D

Team presentations ahead of big races are often quite dull affairs, but the organisers of the Tour D
By Ellis Bacon in Adelaide

Team presentations ahead of big races are often quite dull affairs, but the organisers of the Tour Down Under here in Adelaide decided to make an evening of it on Monday. Normally the domain of a weary but obliged press, the Aussies decided to allow the public in on the pre-race line-up of their heroes, and build a track event around it all, too.

The city's Superdome velodrome hosted the Night of Stars, featuring top Australian trackies such as Shane Kelly, Ryan Bayley and Anna and Kerrie Meares, followed by the presentation of the teams, with the Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen double-act doing their thing on the microphone.

The large crowd's biggest cheers were saved for sprint king Robbie McEwen and local hero Stuart O'Grady, but then McEwen was called up onto the stage again once the show was seemingly over. Hamming it up, Liggett and Sherwen wondered how track sprinter Bayley might fare against McEwen, and, sure enough, the two went head-to-head on the boards, with Bayley coming out on top, as McEwen thought ahead to the bigger fish he's got to fry out on the road this week. It was a great way to end the evening, and thrilled the crowds. And the journalists, although they'd never admit it.

Earlier in the day, the Tour Down Under entourage was able to meet a pair of koalas and a python (which were kept a safe distance apart), and have their photo taken with them as a souvenir. One of the koalas, though, decided to climb to the top of the tree in the Tour village, and refused to come down. In the end, the fire brigade was called out, crowds gathered, and the stupid thing was eventually retrieved. The rest of the world gets cats caught up trees; here it's koalas...

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