THERE will likely be a wry smile on Mark Foley's face each time he tackles a climb in the gruelling new SPUD100 ride next week.
Foley cannot help but look over his shoulder on the ascent, waiting for the barrage of heckling that would usually come from long-time cycling mate Danny Frawley.
He suspects there will be a few blokes with similar feelings on the 160-kilometre (100-mile) ride named in Frawley's honour at Ballarat Cycle Classic. Frawley, who died in September, had passionately supported the Classic since its first ride in 2008.
The climbs was where a smaller, lighter Foley tended to have the better of Frawley. They were like the odd-couple out riding, the burly retired footballer and Foley, who was about half Frawley's size.
But Foley always made sure to keep fit to ensure he could keep up with Frawley on the bike.
If someone fell off the back of the peloton, Danny would laugh the whole time. And there was no going back to get him. Danny would say 'let's go faster'.Mark Foley
"If (Frawley) would find we were slightly off - if you were late or didn't have the right gear - he wasn't backward in telling you," Foley said. "I was talking with (footballer and fellow cyclist) Michael Roberts about how we always turned up for a ride with Danny because we knew the consequences would be a disaster.
"After a ride we'd go to a coffee shop and talk about who rode well. If someone fell off the back of the peloton, Danny would laugh the whole time. 'Cannonballed out', he'd say. And there was no going back to get him. Danny would say 'let's go faster'."
To ask if Frawley was competitive on the bike earns a hearty laugh from Foley, who said the whole footy white-line fever had never worn off.
The SPUD100 is an endurance test, taking riders up the notorious Mount Buninyong nationals climb, through the potato farms of Danny "Spud" Frawley's home district Bungaree and through the picturesque Mollonghip and Dean back to Lake Wendouree.
This is a tribute to Frawley, an event ambassador since the inaugural ride in 2008 for Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute.
This is not a ride for the faint hearted, nor those unaccustomed to plenty of kilometres on the bike in their legs. And for those who have enjoyed the 100km ride at past Cycle Classics this new route has a few surprises in store; the climb out of the Moorabool valley at Bungal; a short steep pinch and another one up from Police Camp and that's still with the ride only two thirds over!
Foley said it would be a fair effort to get to the end. He liked to think Frawley would seize the challenge and enjoy getting to the finish by Lake Wendouree to say he had done it.
Riding is how Foley and Frawley became great friends. They live close-by and their children went to school together. Foley knew Frawley loved the bike as a way to stay fit post his football career.
Frawley would often ring up to check if Foley had a couple hours' spare to ride. Paul Tuddenham and Frawley's former St Kilda teammate Michael Roberts would often ride with them. Sometimes they would ride in a bigger group.
Many have tested their game in the Cycle Classic, a participatory event, at Frawley's suggestion.
Many will travel from Melbourne next week to ride in his honour across varied distances. It is a chance to remember, tell stories and contribute to a cause close to Frawley's heart - 100 per cent of all entry fees goes to FECRI's cancer research.
As much as Frawley loved to find and expose his mates' weakness on the bike, Foley said he was always spurring them on and making it fun on the ride.
He's left a big hole in the cycling fraternity. He's certainly a character and larger than life character.Mark Foley
"I still ride with a regular group on weekends and I still ride with a lot of guys who used to ride with him. Danny's name often crops up in funny stories we tell," Foley said. "He's left a big hole in the cycling fraternity. He's certainly a character and larger than life character."
Foley also misses Danny, the tactician. Ever the football coach and captain, Frawley would often round-up a group of Southern Veterans cyclists to race at Sandown with a game plan to win and each teammate with a role to play.
The team would look to him after a couple of laps for a cue to make their move - Frawley would say no, tell them to wait. This play out again and again after each lap.
"He'd end up saying 'nup, I'm stuffed, go and make your own race," Foley said. "All of a sudden he'd have worn himself out. This happened again and again, he'd have a plan and we'd never win.
"That sort of described him in a way. He was super competitive and went in to win, he'd give his all every time.
"We would always laugh about it after each race and he's say 'we'll save the plan for next time'."
No matter how hard it gets out on course in the SPUD100, Foley was certain there would be laughs, especially after the ride with a coffee or quick beer and stories.
Ballarat Cycle Classic is on February 16. Events include road rides, mountain biking and a pet-friendly family walk and run.
To register: ballaratcycleclassic.com.au.