The Amy Gillet Foundation is famous for their advocacy for riders safety. Having done so much for the cycling community. When I heard that there was a 125 km ride around the Bellarine Peninsula. Which was on the 3rd January 2012 leaving from Geelong. I begged & pleaded with the missus to be allowed to sign up.
At the start of the week, the weather forecast was for 37 degrees. This didn’t bother me too much as love riding in the heat. Two days before the event the forecast raised to 40 degrees. The organisers sent out an email stating that they would not be cancelling the 125 km event. But recommended that riders compete in the 75 km event instead due to the heat.
Guess if you give a gun to a Chimpanzee, & the chimp shoots someone. Do you blame the Chimp, or the one who gave it the gun?
On the day, the forecast rose to 43 degrees and I was a bit aprehensive. Common sense should have prevailed. With contingency plans put into place. The Amy Gillet foundation decided in their wisdom of advocating cycling safety to continue with the event. I went through one of the most hellish experiences I’ve ever endured. I hadn’t ridden around the Peninsula before. If I knew how exposed the roads were I may have pulled out.
Phil Ligget was riding out with us, and in the morning was doing the MC. This was mega kool to hear the voice of cycling being there. I lead out with the lead group, and there was a hellish pace to start the day. Guess the thought was that if you ride fast enough you could beat the heat…..
Once we hit the main climb for the day in Leopold which was 1.2 km’s @ 4%. The pace was relentless.
Riders were being spit out on both sides of the Peleton.
This would have been the start of hell for them. I have only ever ridden around the Bellarine Peninsula a handful of times. There is very little shade, and is very open to the winds. Boy have I experienced a world of pain in there. I guess I was one of the fortunate ones to be at the front. Still pushing a good pace. But at 9:00 am it was already 36 degrees and the heat was rising. We looped around the bay past Portarlington around to Queenscliffe. I stopped at Queenscliffe, and doused myself in water. Sculling a tonne of water. It was 38 degrees, and 65 km’s knocked off. I was feeling ok, or so I thought, and ploughed on.
Amy Gillet fiasco
The next 60 km’s was pure Hell. We bypassed three towns, and there was not a single shop that we passed. It hit 43 degrees. The heat coming off the road was insane. It was like I was in a Sauna. There was no shade, and a hot Southerly coming in. I finished most of my water, but what was left was really hot, was hard to drink. This section was undulating, and every hill felt like a mountain. At the time I was riding solo, and anyone I passed looked like they were dying.
I went delirious, and don’t know how I survived to the drink stop. It was so relieved to get there and filled up my bottles. Pouring several over my head. I went into the shop and bought several drinks, and drank about 2 Litres of fluid pretty quickly. With only a short distance remaining, and two cold bottles of drink. Even though I was in bad shape I thought that I would prevail. The best laid plans of mice and men.
The hottest part of the day hit, and within 10 minutes of leaving the drink stop. My two drink bottles were extremely hot (I would haphazard to say over 50 – 60 degrees). I was so dehydrated, and could only take tiny sips of the hot water at a time. If there was a tree to the side of the road, I would see a few riders pulled over hide under the shade. I have never ever been so dehydrated in my life, . There was nowhere to get shade or water.
I had 15 km’s to ride to the next place I could buy a drink. All I could do was to keep telling myself I would be fine. After about 20 minutes I knew I wasn’t feeling good. Deciding to stop to take a quick break the next time I saw some shade. 5 minutes later I went dizzy, & pulled over and threw up half a dozen times. The Schram Van passed me at this point. They pulled over & threw my bike in the back. I got in the front & was given some cold water which was heaven. The van was heading the other way, but I was no longer in shape to move.
The Amy Gillet hell
Over the next half an hour, we passed over 50 riders collapsed at the side of the road. The road temperature must have been close to 50. The day had turned to pure hell. We passed out bottles of water and food, helping all we could. The event was a disaster, and should never have been run in the first place. There were 8 riders in the van too ill to move. More space was needed for riders suffering heat stroke. Several of us decided that we were healthier than those needing assistance. Deciding to ride back, to allow them to pick up riders who were more in desperate need.
Not happy Jan!
The day just got worse for us as we now had to ride an extra 10 km’s in the heat. A group of 5 of us headed out, and we all kept together helping one another out. I honestly can’t remember much of how we got back, but we did.
I have never been so dehydrated in my life It was like walking across a desert without any water. The next day I saw a photo of the event in the local paper. The caption underneath saying “it was hot and tough conditions for the riders to ride in, but everyone had a good day!”. I was fuming, as I saw a tonne of riders in extreme difficulty. They were lucky no one had a heart attack.
I sent the organisers an email asking why they didn’t either cancel the long distance ride. Or schedule it for an earlier time. I pointed out that there was a 60 km section where there was no drinks. We bypassed three towns that given the conditions could have been fateful Suggesting that signs could have been placed at strategic points indication drinks could be purchased that way. Here is the reply I received:
Thank you for your email and detailed feedback. I’m glad to hear that you coped okay with the extreme weather conditions on the day. As you can imagine, we all learnt a lot from that day. It is always helpful for us to gain a participant’s view of events and practical tips such as those provided by yourself. After every event, we do a thorough post-event evaluation and collate all the emails/tips and feedback received in order to improve for the following year. Please be assured that yours will be included in this summary and read by the Operations Manager. We certainly hope to see you at the next Amy’s Ride and appreciate your constructive feedback.
Yet another mass participation event, where you’re considered a number, not a rider. I told them that I threw up half a dozen times from heat stroke. They write that they’re glad to hear that I coped okay with the extreme weather conditions….. Amy Gillet also released several press releases stating what a success the day was. Given how Amy Gillet is such a strong advocate for rider safety. I found the whole experience a joke. If I was up amongst the front lot of riders. With most of the riders behind me ending up pulling the plug. What they must have gone through.
It was lucky no one died that day.
Even to this day I am left with a sense of disbelief. Nothing will ever compare to this ride. I learnt from the experience. No matter how hot your water is you need to drink it. To force yourself as hot water staves off dehydration. As to Amy Gillet, I know that they do so much for rider safety. And understand that it would have been difficult to make changes to such a large massed event at short notice. But the email they sent me and crap that they published was pure propaganda. Yes it would be necessary on their part to continue to run events like these in the future. I was really let down that I would send them an email, hoping to help them out. And was sent back an automated email which doesn’t even recognise whether they’ve read my email. Amy Gillet Foundation not happy jan!
On a lighter note. The Bay classic was run that day and I rocked up shortly after it finished. I started chatting with a couple of young riders hiding in the shade. The conversation was going well until I asked who won the race. They looked at each other and gave that motion that I was a moron. The short kid said, “uh it was me….”. Pretty much the end of conversation. Nice to have met a 15 year old Caleb Ewan though.
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
The really disturbing thing about the day was the Bay classic was shortened due to extreme temperatures. Its really rare when professional sport races are reduced or cancelled due to weather. Why the rec ride was put together in such conditions is still a sense of disbelief. Everyone has such respect for the Amy Gillet foundation. I want this out there that I don’t want the experience that I went through to change this perception. I don’t think they ran this event again so at least something good came out of this fiasco.