“mumma always told me that there would be days like this!”
I’ve been riding since 2011 and things haven’t always gone to plan. The number #1 rule of cycling has to be “never trust the weatherman!”. I’ve lost count of how many times I planned rides, just to get to a road to find that it was gravel. Then there’s the times that I’ve been guilty of underestimating the degree of difficulty of many, many, many rides. I’ve ad my fair share of mechanicals at inappropriate times. Getting lost here and there, and having unfortunate accidents
I’m humble enough to say that in discovering riding, I’ve made many mistakes along the way.
I felt that it’s good to look back and laugh and to dish some shit out on myself.
Here are a selection of some very forgettable rides. Click on the links to be directed to the write-up. Oh and in the comments section I encourage you to dish out some shite at me 🙂
I planned on riding the 3 Peaks course with Sam Poole & Chris Cox last November 2013. Just the three of us. In the background Hells 500 were offering invites to next year’s Hells epic. You had to do 5,000 vertical in a single ride. The plan was to do the 3 Peaks course, and then a little bit more to get to the 5,000. I had a winter from hell & didn’t have great preparation leading up to the day. I felt that I was in shape but was several weeks off peaking for a ride like this. On the day, there was a potential issue with road works on the Great Alpine Road. Which we really didn’t have a contingency plan for it. We left Falls Creek late at around 6:30 am, and it was already starting to heat-up.
I’m one of the worlds slowest descenders, and I knew the boys would drop me.
And knew that I was in trouble.
I experienced 21 km’s of pain & agony crawling up Mount Buffalo on empty.
I pointed at the guy who was racing to catch up to me, and told them that this guy tried to give me a climbing lesson, so I just gave him one instead…….
If I wasn’t fit enough to do that, then I wasn’t fit enough for the huge ride that they did.
The boys didn’t get back till after 11:00 pm.
Here is how my Strava Activity should have looked like:
Shortly after learning that I was going to be a daddy, I set upon one of the most ambitious months I’ve ever planned. 4 rides totalling 1,200 km, including an Everest & a 400 km ride. The 200 km Gippsland Gold which included over 130 km of gravel was the beginning of this craziness.
I love to explore Gippsland and really looked forward to this event. I wanted to develop my writing skills and hoped to move more towards being able to write for a professional organisation & focused on doing a blog write-up that I was hoping could be used by the organisers in future editions.
It was little over 3 degrees when we set-off and we were treated to some stunning views. There was a low hanging mist and an incredible sunrise. Looking over my shoulder I did a head check to see if anyone was behind me and pulled over to get some photos. I got the phone out & took my glove off and then “BANG”. Suddenly I went flying and was suddenly lying on the ground with two bikes on top of me. This rider apologised and told me that he was looking at his Garmin and simply crashed into the back of me. I was ferrel. My hip ached a little and my right wrist was banged up a little & bleeding. My bike was ok which was the main thing. There was no point in me venting my frustration at the guy who just nailed me.
The accident shouldn’t have happened but it did.
Not the best of days so far, but it could only get better………..
The rest was my own stupidity.
For a short while things were looking good.
My ride ended in the SAG Wagon
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.
We were touring Litchfield National Park. Which is a National Park in the Northern Territory which is about 1,500 square km in distance. We had rented 4WD which was spotless when we got it with only 6km on the clock. Part of the fine print stated that the vehicle wouldn’t be insured if it were taken off road. Which I cheekily did to visit the Lost city, and amazing rock formation at Litchfield.
We saw the most impressive waterfalls throughout the park, and when we stopped at the Wangi Falls the skies opened up. The Wangi Falls have an impressive 50 metre waterfall. When we saw a walking track to the top even though it was raining couldn’t help ourselves.
Serena brought her umbrella and I just got soaked.
Of the hikes I’ve done, this is probably the one that I regret most. The first half went well, but as we neared the top the rain hit monsoon type rain. It was a warm day so there was no dramas about being cold. But I had never been so saturated and my clothes were weighing me down. We got to the top and there was no view which was a bit of a letdown. The rain got worse and as we hit the descent the path was all wet & muddy. I had no problems negotiating the track, but my poor wife is a little more delicate than me.
Paranoid about slipping and was going at a snails pace which meant that the idiot with no umbrella was getting drowned.
Normally I’d be happy to wait around to make sure that she was safe, but she had the umbrella and I was standing around for long minutes. Stopping every 50 metres or so to stop to help her descend a tricky section of track. I was drowned, tired, hungry and wishing I had never ever attempted this walk.
It was a major relief to get back to the car to get a change of clothes. We probably ruined the interior being as soaked as we were. It had been raining for an hour at that stage, and we had two options to get back. 200 km’s to backtrack down the road we came. Or there was a dirt road that was only 130 km’s.
For the second time that day I made a decision that I wished I hadn’t.
The 4WD was not insured when we hit the dirt road and it was raining quite heavily. Thankfull I’m really good at driving in the wet. Visibility was poor and I could barely see in front of the 4WD but I had no dramas. The road started to fill with potholes from the crazy rain we were driving in. I had to start dodging and weaving these holes and parts of the road were under water. About 25 km there was a river in the middle of the road.
It was about 5 metres wide and not overly deep, and I did have a 4WD after all. But the funny thing was this was the first time that I had ever driven a 4WD so had no idea what the hell they could do. I had two options to drive back what now would have to be 225 km or I could ford the river and keep going.
How I wish I could go back in time & tell my idiotic self to turn that 4WD around.
We got across the river ok, but the rain crazily enough picked up worse than before. More & more of the road was underwater. I was getting alarm bells when I noticed signs to the side of the road to measure flood levels with most of the signs going to 3 metres in height.
I couldn’t avoid several deep potholes and the 4WD would suddenly crash a foot or so and I hoped not to bog the car in. There was no option to turn back now and we were screwed. I realised that we were in the middle of a flood, and also in Crocodile territory. Silently I was crapping myself and I didn’t want to worry Serena. Casually mentioning that maybe she should write in our diary which she did. It took her eyes off the road, and thankfully couldn’t see the dangers. It was incredibly dark outside and I could barely see anything over the front of the bonnet.
Since I could barely see, in the conditions I should have been driving at 20 km/h, but had to get out of this hell and was pushing 60.
Water and mud were flying everywhere and this brand new 4WD was not so new anymore.
I was wondering how I was going to come up with the money to pay for the damages that I was surely doing to this 4WD. I forded two more rivers, and on either side of the road was seeing a river appear. We were f@#d if we couldn’t get out of here. If we got trapped we could be stuck here for quite awhile (with Crocodiles around). I knew that a number of drivers die up here in floods every year.
I had been driving ¾ hour into this hell when we came to a small metal bridge. The water was probably 10 cm from the base of the bridge and the river was about to burst its banks. I had a vision of flood waters washing us over as we tried to cross, and really just sucked it up. If we had come to this bridge minutes later I would have haphazard that it would have been underwater.
We would have been trapped on the wrong side.
It was a relief to get over the bridge, and as suddenly as the storm started the storm stopped. We kept driving for awhile till we were out of the danger zone, and notice that the road dried up pretty quickly. We got out of the 4WD and I was freaked to see it covered from head to toe in mud. Worse was that we had to drop it off overnight so couldn’t do a change-over. Clearly we had taken it off road and wouldn’t know if the company was going to penalise me. We found a Safeway car wash on the way back and sprayed off the car as best as we could. Which calmed me down a little, but it still had a layer of dirt on it. I had a really restless night that night.
I was really expecting to get a call over the next couple of days.
The day could have gotten worse as when I went to fill up the 4WD without thinking I put Unleaded into it. Thankfully Serena yelled out “it takes Diesel doesn’t it?”. Luckily only about half a litre went in. I’ve done some classic things with rental cars but this took the cake. I’ve had my sense of adventures over the years, and we did some amazing things today, but I’ve never been so thankful that nothing went wrong.