So while the state of NSW was under the threat of burning down, I headed to Victoria for my fourth go at the Around the Bay ride. This time round my Brother, our riding buddies Carl, Pete, “Liberace” Dave and myself set out to take on the 250km in the anti-clockwise loop. The challenge was to ride from Melbourne via Geelong to Queenscliff, then across the ferry to Sorrento, then back to Melbourne via Frankston – all in a day. This would turn out to be the longest ride that I have ever done, and boy do I feel it in the legs at the moment.

But this year was not as fun as previous years and there were a number of hiccups along the way. We set off from my Brother’s place at 5:30am to meet up with the crew that we were to ride with. The crew was 20 strong, but only 5 of us were planning to ride the longest circuit. But the crew were late and when they did meet up with us we had to motor to get on the back. But we all climbed the West Gate Bridge together, only problem was that the windy conditions did not offer us the fun of a rapid (70+kph) descent off the bridge. By the time we hit the M1 out to Geelong, those of us doing the 250km decided to breakaway so that we could all meet together for the ferry crossing – after all we had to put down an extra 40km to meet at Queenscliff.

Hiccup #1

We set off but this is where the first hiccup fell on my shoulders. Riding at pace (35-40kph) on the freeway and incurring several bumps from debris littering the road shoulder caused a minor mechanical. I didn’t realise it at first, but I started feeling very sluggish and felt my legs deaden pushing the pedals. I went from riding at pace to struggling to ride above 20kph. My lungs were heaving and I pulled over to check my gear. Sure enough the bumps had caused my rear brake caliper to budge with the pad rubbing on the rim. I was riding with the rear brake half on. Quick mechanical adjustment, back to normal and back with the group. The five of us rotated through taking turns till we got to the hilly stuff. That is when Pete and ‘Liberace’ Dave started cracking. Dave no longer had his old bike, the Candelabra, but was riding a newfangled Focus Izalco carbon beast (in his own words “I can’t keep up with you guys when I am riding a bike made out of wrought iron!”). At this point I ended up pulling some big turns on the front and felt surprisingly strong going up the bumpy bits. This was surprising because the week previous I was on a week’s worth of anti-biotics to shake my lingering chest infection (or were those horse pills disguised for humans?).

The worst of the bumpy bits over, we stuck together through some beautiful beach side towns. It was at that point that Dave caught whiff of some brewing coffee beans which prompted us to stop at Portalington. A few brews and a couple of sausage rolls consumed by Carl, Pete, and Dave and we were rolling again onto the ferry stop at Queenscliff. This is where we were to cop…

Hiccup #2

As we rocked into Queenscliff at the same time as a whole bunch of the 210km riders we got to the ferry stop at just after 11:30 only to be informed that we would not be able to get on a ferry till 2pm. From a ride organisation point of view, this was crap. The ride organisers are normally pretty good, but to make the riders wait for what would be close to 3 hours (if you included the ferry transit time) was just not fair. We had another 110km to go on the other side and I had a plane to catch back to Sydney to get home. So the conundrum was do we wait or ride back into what would inevitably be a strong headwind on some crappy roads? My brother Marc made the call and I had to agree with him, scoff lunch down and ride back on the West side. It was here that we parted ways with Pete and Dave, with Carl choosing to ride with us. The three of us did not want to seize up and we had ridden some tough rides together as a trio before. So our choice was not to loop the bay. This is where I contributed to…

Hiccup #3

I don’t like Powerade – full stop! It is a sugar drink and that is all. I had discovered Hydralyte sports drink mix over a year ago and it has all the essential electrolyte chemicals. Plus, I can’t consume a drink that is blue (why is it always a blue fluid that is used to demonstrate the absorption characteristics of female hygiene products?). But my mistake was that while I discarded the Powerade, I did not drink anything else. I was dehydrated! As we headed back to Geelong from Queenscliff I hit the wall. Instead of riding at or near 30kph I was struggling to get over 24kph. That was coupled with the bad combination of rough roads, temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius and what I later found out was headwinds of 40kph. My bro and Carl were struggling too, but they were plugged in and pushed on. They hauled me along pulling at the front, and for that I am so grateful. I was craving fluid and then I thought back to watching pro cycling races where sometimes in the musette bag there is a can of Coke. We stopped in a service station at North Geelong and I grabbed a bottle of ice cold water and a can of Coke. My bro did the same. After a few minutes the magic dark fluid felt like someone plugged me back into the wall socket – power on!

The Freeway Run Back

From this point the cards started falling back in our favour. The wind died down a bit, and we saw a group of about 10 other riders in front of us. We hauled butt to get on the back of these guys and take advantage of the train. This lasted maybe half an hour at most, but they were too slow for us now and we had a target in mind – get to the finish line. We managed to squeeze past this crew and started hammering again at 32+kph, and I was back contributing to taking turns again at the front. We had one more drink stop before we made the final 30km dash. Mentally this is where I got a boost, because I was doing the calculations in my head… just over an hour worth of riding at the average pace we were pulling. With all the hiccups we just missed out on the cut-off for returning back over the West Gate Bridge and were relegated to crossing the Yarra River by ferry. At Port Melbourne we parted ways with Carl who rode home along Beach Road and ended up doing an extra 15km more than we did. My bro and I headed for the finish line, and we wanted to finish strong so we hammered in at 36kph. My bro’s wife Sal and her mother Di cheered us on as we came into the finish (as they have done every year for the past 4 years).

We set out 12 hours earlier that day and ended up riding 265km, the longest ride I have ever done. We averaged 27.8kph (17.3mph) for the whole ride, not bad considering the return conditions and marginally faster than last year too. My legs, feet, hands, wrists, butt, and back were aching, but we finished the ride with all its challenges. Did I enjoy it? Not sure. Am I proud of what I trained for and achieved? Definitely. And I got to share the experience with my brother and Carl along with a Pete and Dave for half of the way. Next year will be a different set of riding challenges.

Unusually I didn’t take any photos of the day, but here is my GPS trail of our ride, including the wrong turn for a few kms coming out of North Geelong on the A10.

ATB_2013

Thanks Marc, thanks Carl for the ride.