This weekend knocks on the head my first organised ride for the year – the Ride Around the Lake 2013. This is my favourite ride of the year because of several things:

  1. It is a great community organised ride to help a local charity – the My Place youth housing supported by the Lighthouse church that helps get disadvantaged youths in the area on their own two feet.
  2. The location is great! Riding around Lake Illawarra for the majority of the route and at the perfect time of the year as well.
  3. It has some cool segments on the route; The Koonawarra descent (downhill bombing), The Macquarie Rivulet run (closest thing to single track I have experienced on a road bike), The Mount Warrigal bike track (hilly and windy with a great view of the lake).
  4. It is not an easy ride. While it is only 40km, it is technical with plenty of turns and there are some steep uphills. There are also some “cyclocross” style negotiations requiring you to hop on and off the bike do a bit of gravel riding.
  5. It is the best signposted ride I have done, with awesome volunteers along all parts of the route, and
  6. It is a chance for my wife and I to ride with my Aunt who lives down in Wollongong.

It is not a race, but the serious riders get the chance once clear of the recreational riders to have a real go. This was the fourth time that I had participated in this ride and I decided that I was going to try and hammer it! My Aunt had a nasty off a few weeks back colliding with another rider who moved off his line, so unfortunately it was the first time in 4 years that she had to opt out. So with the blessing of my wife (thank you, thank you, thank you) we agreed to ride each at our own pace.

Ride Around the Lake Ride Route 2013

I set off on the 7:15am start, but was near the back of the group as we got there just after 7:00am (try getting ready for a ride when you are trying to take care of a two year old). I was caught up behind quite a few of the recreational riders who were having a good time, but not the kind of riders you want to be next to in a group – if you know what I mean. So when I finally got clear of these guys and gals after the first 3km riding away from the bay, I was able to get in the groove and settle in to a 33kph (20mph) pace. By that point, all the other serious riders had long got the jump on me but I didn’t know how many. What was strange was that there was no-one in front of me bar one guy on a road steed a few hundred metres up the road. I chased him down and overtook him. He jumped on my rear wheel and kept up with me for the next 5km or so, but when we turned back towards the bay crossing over the freeway he dropped off.

I saw the next rider ahead and chased him down too. He was an older guy who was turning over the big chainring with quite a bit of power. I didn’t catch him until we got to the steep suburb climbing at Kanahooka. After I passed him there was no-one in front my sights. This was not a surprise as this is where we were constantly turning left – right and going up and down over the undulating hills. Some of these pinches were up around 7-8% gradient, and it is weird because you cannot get into a groove. The big climb comes at about 17km in, but having ridden this ride 3 times before I knew what the reward was – downhill bombing at close to 70kph (43mph). You could possibly bomb it down quicker on the descent if it were not for the nasty gutter about 20cm deep at the end of the run. It was at that peak of that climb that I saw the next two guys in front of me. I chased the first guy down and passed him and then caught up with the next as we hit the Macquarie Rivulet. I didn’t realise until I uploaded the ride to Strava that I ended up riding the 9th fastest time ever along this segment at 36.5kph (22.5mph) – and the quickest on the day. It was when I got to the end of this bike track that I saw my next and what would end up being my last target, one of the local girls from the Illawarra triathlon club. She was riding on an awesome new Trek Speed Concept 9.8 WSD, which is an $8,000 bike here in Australia. Here is where my pig-headed bloke attitude came in as I thought to myself “I can’t let this chic on the cool bike kick my butt!” So I put my head down and started churning over the pedals at 95-100rpm. As I passed her on one of the straight roads through Oak Flats at around the 20km mark, little was I to know that this was the last rider that I would pass for the rest of the ride. I got on it and tried to keep the pace up and she was right on my tail. It wasn’t until we had to cross the bridge (unclip, ride, unclip again, gravel, climb, skinny 23mm rear wheel shanking all over the place on gravel – FUN!) over the creek at Koona Bay that I was able to get away from her and just ride.

The rest stop was 23km in and I just blew through this, after all I had enough water and electrolyte to sort me out for the ride. Then it was the bizarre sensation of riding by myself for the final 15km or so. Now I know a little what it feels like in a breakway when I am watching the races on TV. You are riding by yourself, trying to keep the hammer on tap and constantly checking your trip computer for speed and cadence. My average speed was nudging up to 28kph for the whole ride and I was keeping over 85rpm. As I neared the finish of the ride a couple of the volunteer “cheerleaders” who were dressed as Supergirls didn’t realise that I was coming in to finish and rushed to usher me to the line. I think I was the first to cross the line,  as I didn’t see any other riders at the Illawarra Yacht Club finish line.

It was a perfect day for riding, and the ride organisers had a band at the finish as well as a stall for coffee, bacon and egg rolls, and play areas for the kids. All the guys I passed came in over the next 10-15 minutes after me. I was able to keep 27.8kph for the entire 42km which given that I rode in no-one’s draft for the entire ride, I had to stop at two traffic lights, the many switch backs, and the clip out and ins – not bad really. I ended up doing the 5th fastest time ever for the ride circuit, but I was a bit miffed that there were two others who recorded faster times on the day (with a further two ahead of me from 2011). They must have got cleaner runs at the start than I did as there was two other start times after I took off. But all up pretty chuffed and I am finally getting my legs in. My wife came in at just over 2 hours for the 42km and had a pretty good ride herself. She got the chance to ride with a couple of others who kept her pace and enjoyed it – even if her regular ride buddy (my Aunt) was laid up on the recovery bench.

I didn’t stop and take any pics, but my wife shot off two on her phone from the rest stop. Magic spot for a ride.



The more serious rides are coming later in the year in September, October, and November. I am working on building my base now and might even plan an overnighter with a couple of mates. That is to come, but first the Hawaii trip!