Amy’s Gran Fondo is easily one of the most popular recreational events in the Victorian calendar. This year they were expecting close to 6,000 riders to participate. What sets this event apart is the fact that riders have the opportunity to qualify for the UCI Amateur Road Cycling Championships being held in Perth in 2016. This attracts riders of all abilities. It’s the only cycling event in Australia which offers fully closed off roads.
I’ve wanted to do this event for a number of years. It offers the only opportunity for a safe passage down the Great Ocean Road. I’ve only had limited opportunities to ride small sections of this amazing road in the past. Usually Lorne is well over a 2 hour drive for me. With up to 6,000 cyclists merging on Lorne I had to leave extra early. This week there were quite a few days in a row where I had to get up really early and was feeling it. I also did a ride yesterday which left me a little worse for the wear.
When I woke up at 5:00 am I certainly had a bike hangover.
My legs ached & all I wanted to do was go back to bed. It was a long drive down to Lorne & I made it with 5 minutes to spare. We set-off & unfortunately emotions got the better of me & started to smash myself. Everyone seemed to be climbing quickly so I had to just go that bit quicker. Some of the climbs I was pushing upwards of 40 km/h & was overtaking riders left right & centre. The Great Ocean Road sure is a playground. Having access to both sides of the road you could freely dart all over the place to maximise your power. After 10 km I was averaging close to 39 km/h & knew I couldn’t sustain that so dropped the pace down a little.
After 20 km that had dropped to 38 km/h. My legs were aching like hell but I kept on pushing. All I wanted was to find a group to sit on but just kept overtaking. I would find a group, which would help to slow me down a little. As soon as we hit the next hill I was off like a rocket. I was getting alarm bells when the closer to Apollo Bay we got the windier it became. I knew we’d be pushing into a head wind onto Skenes Creek Road but had no idea what the climb was like. We were descending this really sharp pinch of 12%. Buffeted by such strong winds that I had to push really hard just to keep the bike moving at 30 km/h.
It was relentless & I was tiring.
When we turned onto Skenes Creek as mentioned I had no idea what the climb was like, just that it was long. I expected the worse & really went slow. The funny thing was I was passing groups easily. The road was full & I had to keep to the far right side of the road to continuously pass people. I passed hundreds on the way up & knew I was set for an excellent time for the day.
The wind made the climb quite hard & I wish I could have jumped onto someone’s wheel but couldn’t find one & kept on overtaking. About 6 km later I noticed that I wasn’t passing riders as quickly. Having to work a lot harder and had to take the foot off the accelerator. Alarm bells were ringing, but I’m a pretty experienced climber & focused on my breathing & pedaling technique. The headwind which I had pretty much ignored for much of the climb realised that it was strong & sapping a lot of energy.
So I went into damage control & every corner I was hoping was going to be the last but the climb just kept going & going.
It was such a welcome relief to get over the top. I wanted to make up for lost time but just couldn’t seem to move. Riders were flying by my with ease, & for awhile I felt the back wheel really heavy. Wondering if it was still damaged from yesterday. I pulled over & it was fine. Figured I had just bonked. Out of energy & thankfully there was a food stop a few km down the road.
I stuffed my face with food, but to no avail. From here I rode solo & was in damage control. All those hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of riders that I had passed before all started to pass me & big peleton’s wheeled on by me. There was 50 km left to drag myself back to Lorne. I wanted to go into my pain cave & remembered the quote from Fight Club:
Tyler Durden: This is your pain. This is your burning hand. It’s right there look at it.
Edward Norton: I’m going to my cave. I’m going to my cave
Tyler Durden: No! Don’t deal with this the way those dead people do. Deal with it the way a living person does
Over the past two days I had ridden 200 km & climbed 3,500 vertical. I was clearly not in shape to do this as a warm-up to such an event like Amy’s. You can imagine how much I was cursing myself. I sucked it up & just kept on pushing. It was getting hot, & my body was screaming but I ignored it & kept on riding. That’s all I could do & watch as the k’s slowly ticked on by. Stopping at the last rest stop which was 13 km from the end. I collapsed on the ground, and was suffering dehydration. My quads had completely seized up & I had no energy left.
I had to question how it was going to be possible for me to get back in one piece?
I heard several riders make comment about how the last 8 km was all climbing. Part of me groaned. Did I have the strength?
The funny thing was I was exhausted. But even exhausted I climb faster than most. A tonne of riders that had passed me at my lowest ebb I was now cruising past on the climb. I was exhausted but I got spirit from this & pushed myself harder. The last 8 km was quite undulating. When most of the riders reached the top of a climb would die & not push on the descent.
I was inspired to atone for my bad day & pushed upwards & downwards. The k’s ticked down & the 1 km to go was a welcome relief to see. I rounded the bend & then saw the 8% pinch & knew that the organisers had one last surprise in store for us. The last km was nasty & I knew I could still do it and pushed quite hard. More & more riders I passed & un-lapped myself. With 200 metres to go there were about two dozen riders in front of me.
I got out of my seat & danced my way at close to 30 km/h as I slammed it past all of them.
It was over & I was spent.
I hung around for a few minutes before descending Deans Marsh Road. Boy that was a delight. I threw what little energy I had left into the descent & smashed my way down overtaking dozens of riders. I’m world renown amongst my friends as being the slowest descender. So to weave and glide around riders into corners felt special.
My last dance is coming soon.
I only have a little less before I have to pull back on the riding before my baby boy comes along. Its a little bit of a shame that the two events I’ve done recently haven’t gone so well, but today clearly I was tired going into today & I’ve got no one to blame for that except for myself.
I bumped into a number of great people that I know & had a great chat with a few of them. I’ve got the Dirty Dozen on next Sunday. I do believe I’ll learn from today’s experience & come into it a bit fresher.