Archives for posts with tag: Victoria

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.


Thanks Marc, thanks Carl for the ride.

The toughest organised group ride that I will do this year was held yesterday – the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo. This was the second time I have done this ride, and it is a glorious event. It’s tough not so much in its distance (109km + 11km descending back to the finish village) but in it’s climbing – over 1800m of vertical. The real tough bit is the 9km ascent of Skenes Creek at an average of over 6%. Even though it is tough, it is glorious. It is the only ride that I do where they actually shut entire road off to car traffic for the cyclists. And more importantly it is run for the first 40km along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road between Lorne and Apollo Bay.

This year my aim was not to blow up with cramping and manage to get to the finish in a semi respectable time. It is also a race, so you are timed along the route with no real opportunity to cheat – as there are no other roads. The top 25% of riders in each category qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships with the opportunity to compete for a Rainbow Jersey. That for me is a pipe dream. The key for me was hydration, hydration, hydration. My physio and sports masseuse have been telling me how dehydrated I have been over the last couple of months. The other thing was to be better organised so that we gave ourselves as much time to prepare for the ride in a relaxed fashion. This meant a few things:

  • Grab accommodation at the event hotel for a couple of nights beforehand and the night after the ride. This meant no hurry to check in or check out while getting ready for the ride.
  • Get a ride in the day before to loosen the legs and blow the cobwebs out.
  • “Carb up” the night before at a restaurant, pasta being the dish.
  •  Leave “The Pok” (AKA our son) behind with his Grandparents so we could get a decent night’s sleep.

My riding partner as usual was my brother Marc, and this year we brought our support crews, our wives. They also prepared well for the ride by promptly finding a Spa to book into and source the best place to grab coffee.

Two of the three usual suspects were also in attendance backing up last year, Big Carl, and “Liberace” Dave. Sadly Dave’s wife Sue, also part of the Melbourne riding crew, has been carrying an injury for much of this year and has been off the saddle. She was not happy, and hopefully will join us again for this ride next year.

The Sunday weather forecast issued on the morning of the ride was for 10 – 18 degrees celsius, and only a little wind. Perfect riding weather, and as one of the volunteers said “A great day to be alive!” The Amy Gillett Foundation put on a great event, and there is a real buzz around the event village and particularly on the start line in Lorne.

AGGF 2013 - Start Line

I must admit that I was a bit nervous before the start of the ride, and in our start group it was only my brother and I. Carl was further ahead and Dave was way back. But it was exciting with all the riders around and all revved up by the guy with the microphone. We had to do the obligatory pre-race poses, as any post race shots would have had us looking a bit disheveled.

Usual Suspect 1 – Me

AGGF 2013 - Me

Usual Suspect 2 – My Bro

AGGF 2013 - Pulus

As we set off, my Garmin went on the blink. It was going crazy picking up all the other speed and cadence sensors and this was not what I needed at the start of a ride. It kept on resetting itself and I had to get my bro to ride 100m ahead of me along with our start group just to get it locked in. It had done this once before on a big group ride, so not happy as we ended up faffing about for the first few kms. But it got sorted and we got in the groove cruising along at a cool 32kph. The first 20km is bumpy, and the first 40km before the Skenes Creek climb already has us climbing 450m. The bumpy coast is awesome, it is the Great Ocean Road and we had nothing but clear skies to the horizon. We even had a slight tailwind.

When we got to Skenes Creek it was not as daunting as last year, this was now the second time I would climb this ride. The key is to get into your cadence zone, put your head down, and pedal. And pedal, and pedal. I was saving myself for the rest of the ride so didn’t ride as hard as I could have. This climb after all comes in just before halfway. I was faster than last year, but not as fast as I wanted to go. We had agreed to meet up at the first hydration station 5km after the top of the climb and my bro had been waiting for me for a few minutes. We were both alright so we set off for the first bit of real fun. The descending to the back country of the Otways allowed me to get up to over 70kph – AWESOME!

The next stop was the town of Forrest which is home to some awesome MTB trails and most tempting of all is a great pub with its own micro-brewery. The locals even tempted us with a sausage sizzle. But we stuck to the carb bars and gels, and sadly the amber fluid would have to wait until after the ride.

AGGF 2013 - Forrest

The final third of the ride is where we rode some long and flat exposed sections in the Colac – Otway farmland. As we passed the final rest stop at Dean’s Marsh, we were both feeling good and the onset of cramping had delayed itself. The final 15km to the finish line is nasty with a whole bunch of uphill climbing again for another 250m of vertical with it sometimes topping out at 12% briefly in parts. My bro took off slowly away from me, and I could still see him when we got to the 1km to go banner. It was at that point that I was umming and ahhing about whether to get out of the saddle and smash it. I did with only 500m left and regret not “dancing on the pedals” as soon as I saw the banner. I ended up finishing only seconds behind my bro and relinquished bragging rights to him for another year.

The return to the event village is an awesome 11km descent back to Lorne where you clock 45-50kph average the whole way. Our wives caught us as we got back to the town and we headed over to the village for a well earned bowl of post riding pasta and some laughs. Carl was already there and caught up with us and we waited for Liberace Dave to join us too. The village was cool, and I chose to indulge in a french crepe.

AGGF 2013 - Village

We even stuck around for the winner presentations. There were some real whippets in the group, and some future stars of Australian cycling. Phil Anderson, the Australian Cycling Legend and also an ambassador to the Amy Gillett Foundation, was also on hand to do the presentations.

AGGF 2013 - Winners

All up it was a great event. My nervousness about a repeat of last year’s cramping blow up was dashed, and while my preparation was interrupted by house moves (life), a wicked chest infection, and a lingering throat infection the hard work on the bike before the ride paid off with an enjoyable Sunday afternoon. Big thanks goes to the Amy Gillett Foundation for the great work they did for this event, but also the work they do as advocates for cycling safety.

Extra special thanks to our able support crew who put up with two sore and very tired cyclists. We had a great time and now I am looking forward to the final big ride of the year – the 250km Around the Bay in a Day. Five weeks to go and counting.

And I am looking forward to telling my boy about the big ride.


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