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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.
I broke my big toe playing Basketball back in 1999. The next day I tried going to work, but given I could barely stand, they sent me home, and I was relegated to lying in bed. I couldn’t do anything and was bored shitless. My Shogun Katana had those stirrup pedals, and I had a crazy thought. Even though my toe was busted, I wouldn’t need to use it on the bike. If I could wear a slipper over my bad foot, in theory could ride my bike with a busted foot.
You would have laughed watching me hop everywhere. I couldn’t put any weight onto my foot. I had to hop out to my bike and was over the moon when I found that I could pedal without discomfort. You beaut! I went for a ride around the block, and was loving it & just kept on riding. I headed for the Schotman’s Creek bike trail. Somehow I ended up riding all the way to the city from Glen Waverley on a busted toe. This is about 50 km return.
This was by far the longest ride I had ever done at that stage.
I rested at the Casino and hobbled around and got some funny looks. Picture that I was in my lycra, wearing a slipper on one foot, and could barely stand. When I was walking I was either using the bike as a crutch or hopping on my good leg. I got home and planned several other trips whilst I was off work, and couldn’t believe that I could bust a bone in my foot. Somehow I actually get fitter during the rehab with a busted foot. Gotta love the bike.
So was riding with a busted foot wise? Well I have never professed to do things normally.
Bicycle Victoria launched the Around the Bay in a Day in 1993. This is Australia’s biggest mass participation events which offers a variety of ride options, with the Queen rides of 210 km & 250 km’s. These require the riders to cross the bay on the Ferry to ride around the bay.
In 2011 I signed up for the 50 km distance. This was a bit fool hardy as I had ridden in a 100 km event just yesterday for a charity race for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. I was pretty nackered from that ride, and my knees were quite sore. With strong Westerly’s forecasted for up to 60 km/h it was going to be a challenging day. I forgot to put on my timing chip, & asked for assistance from a Bicycle Victoria member.
I didn’t think that they put it on right, but I assumed that they would know how to do it.
There were thousands of cyclists lined up to start this years Around the Bay in a Day. It felt good to take part in such a big event. The start seemed to take forever for them to send everyone off, and when I finally got out on the road. Frustrations continued with constant stops at traffic lights.
I lined up to climb the West Gate Bridge for the first time. Driving it in the car I never really realised how steep it was. We were heading into a strong cross wind, and my legs felt like lead and it was a real struggle to get up it! I overtook dozens of riders clawing their way up to the top which felt nice, but I had to work for it. From the top I broke loose from everyone and didn’t see another rider for the entire ride.
So far I was less than impressed with the ATB.
All I had seen was an industrial wasteland, and was expecting something far more glamorous. The wind was insane, and I had to use all of my energy just moving forward, and shut myself down. Riding through Altona was the highlight of the ride, with beautiful coastal views to my left. There were times when I was actually distracted from that gale force wind I was pushing against.
I managed to get to the half way point and I was spent. My knees were aching, and I was demoralised. I got to the event village and was the only one there, and got myself a Sausage with Onions. I polished it off, and still no one else had shown up. So I decided to get back on my bike and keep going.
This was one of those rides that was about to turn magical.
I was horribly inexperienced, and not that fast. When I turned onto Korroit Creek Road I had this incredible tail wind that pushed me along. My exhausted legs were suddenly sitting on over 40 km/h, and coming the other way was a very long line of struggling riders. I can’t begin to describe the euphoria I felt. My knees hurt, and I was struggling physically. Watching riders ride the other way struggle more than me, doing well under 20 km/h & you fly by them the other way going over 40.
I was flying, and got a second wind and fanged it. The k’s flew by, and I was giving it some gas. I still hadn’t seen any riders going my way, and when I hit the other side of the Westgate Bridge gave it everything I had. Coming down the other side I was doing well over 70 km/h & covered my rider number so that I wouldn’t get done for a speeding ticket. I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road when I was slowly overtaking cars. I wish that I could have seen the look on their faces.
Going through Port Melbourne I came upon a Marshall & I asked how many riders were ahead of me, and he told me 2. WTF! I was in third place. My blood boiled and I stood up and gave it everything I had. Rocketing through the city. I guess I had hopes of catching the 2 riders ahead of me to no avail. There was a sense of immense pride finishing this one so well. Vowing to come back the next year and try for the 210 km distance.
I eagerly looked up the website to see my name in third place.
You know how I mentioned that I thought the BV member didn’t put my timing chip on correctly. He didn’t. My ride didn’t register at all. The first two riders smashed the course in 1 hour 20 minutes, over 30 minutes ahead of me. I was surprised that I was 15 minutes ahead of the next nearest rider. Unofficially I was 3rd out of over 2,000 riders, which I couldn’t have hoped for in my wildest dreams. I was disappointed not to be able to show anyone what I had achieved. But guess ultimately it was my fault for not putting the darn timing chip on myself in the first place. Given all the grief I’ve had at the ATB’s you can question why I keep going back year after year…..
And very much soaked to the skin.
With 10 km to go I had it in the bag.
I had been riding a Road bike for almost 2 months & was really getting addicted. I found this 6 hour Enduro at Sandown Raceway, and really became passionate about doing this one. Having never raced at a racecourse before I was really looking forward to it.
They couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. I was worried that riding round & round in circles would be tedious and maybe even boring. But thankfully this was not the case. I found it easy to get into a rhythm, and sit on the back of groups and work my way through each lap. I gave it everything, and was nowhere near the fastest on the day, but I was happy as I rode better than expected. All up I managed to ride 75 km’s without before stopping when my wife arrived. And had a bit of a chat with her, and a rest. It was nice that my wife could see what I was doing, which was giving me so much enjoyment. I was really enjoying myself, and didn’t notice as the laps flew by. There is one small climb at the back of the course.
As the day wore on got harder, and harder to get up.
I was going to pull the plug at 130 km’s, but started riding with a group that was representing Dengani Coffee. There was some really nice blokes amongst the bunch, and were trying to go for the team victory. I jumped in their group and tried to help them out as best as I could. I was nackered, but I gave everything to support a bunch of strangers, and smashed lap after lap with them. Hey, they didn’t win, but it was sure fun trying to help them to reach gold.
I took a lot from this ride, as I was still pretty inexperienced, and started to see parts of my riding that were improving, though there were still a massive room for improvement. I managed 160km’s which was a record for me at the time, and really helped me believe that I could start riding longer distances. A couple of riders rode over 200km’s on the day, and I started to ask myself the question of what I would need to do to be able to do that.
Always a story for the future.
I was very excited at the time to be doing the Kinglake Ride. This was my third event that I had signed myself up for. As part of your entry fee you were able to join in free Coaching sessions from the Tri-alliance group. Lesson which I learned a lot from. As a bonus you received a cool top & some Briko sunglasses. I trained well, and felt I was in good shape for the ride. I didn’t understand at the time how to use the weather forecast to work out how to plan a ride. This turned out to be one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done.
The Kinglake Ride
It started to rain as we started and just kept picking up. I rode through it, and seemed to be doing well. I was working my way up the field, and ignoring the fact that I was soaked to the skin. The climb up Kinglake was easy. There were so many bikes up there that you couldn’t move, so I sat at a comfortable pace the whole way. Up the top it was tempting to stop. There was a good couple of hundred riders standing around in the rain. I thought it would be better to keep riding.
From Kinglake, the group I was in caned it! I was completely blinded by rain splashing in my eyes at times. My water logged body was starting to feel the cold. The descent all the way down to the Melba Highway was fast and furious. There was a large group of riders that had stopped at the turnoff. Again I didn’t see the point as they were standing out in the rain. We were all completely soaked anyway. Down the Melba we were sitting on speeds over 50kmph. Given the conditions, was madness & I had never ridden at these speeds before. I guess my numbed mind figured the quicker I rode, the quicker this hell would be over.
The Kinglake ride was about to throw a new curve ball with the coldest part of the ride. Descending at such high speeds really hurt me. I didn’t realise at the time but I was developing hypothermia. At Glenburn, we came upon a rest stop, and it was a 50/50 as to whether I would stop. I was really starving, and pulled over. One of the helpers approached me. I couldn’t mouth any words as my teeth started to chatter so hard. I tried to grab an orange, but my hands were shaking so hard that I couldn’t peel it.
Someone grabbed me, and said I was looking bad. I was moved me into a caravan and threw a couple of woollen blankets over me. For the next ¾ hour I shook uncontrollably. And shook so hard that I strained my groin. I heard that they were planning on calling an ambulance at some stage. There were 6 of us in similar states of shock in this little camper.
It could have been game over. If I was thinking clearly I would have pulled the plug and caught the SAG wagon. It was still raining outside, and I still had 50km’s left to ride. I didn’t know what to do. I got back on the bike, and kept riding. It was only drizzling at that stage, and it only rained a little bit after that. After 3 & a half hours of riding in freezing rain took their toll. I was riding amongst the back markers. On a normal day would have flown by them. Instead I had to be a pest and sit on riders wheels the whole way.
I got back in 5 & ½ hours, and collapsed in a heap. The last 50km’s were a nightmare. Being who I am, I took it all with a grain of salt. I invested in some wet weather kit, and resolved to return the next year with avengence.
Like many Aussies. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch Cadel Evans win the 2011 Tour De France. At the time I was riding a Mountain Bike, and enjoyed my riding. But always felt I was missing something, and still hadn’t found my niche. Back in 2000, I had ridden a Road bike for about 7 months and loved it. I hadn’t used cleats so was still a bit unsure about how I would go with wearing them. It was tempting to buy a Road bike, but was worried that if I bought one and didn’t enjoy riding it. Felt I could waste a bit of money.
During one of the many commercial breaks an ad popped up for bikeexchange.com.au
I thought that if I could find a bike for around $400 second hand, I could justify it. If it doesn’t work out, I wouldn’t be losing that much. If I love it can easily ride the bike till it drops and then upgrade it. Like karma the first bike I looked at I got. My old Road bike was a Shogun Katana, and I found a newer version a Shogun Ninja for $550. I called the guy up that morning, & was able to pick it up several days later.
My Ninja I rode for 6,500 km’s, and almost overnight gave up Mountain Biking. Shortly after discovered climbing and have never looked back.
When I got back into cycling in 2011 I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was recovering from a torn Achilles and had to battle injury much of the first year. My family had bought bikes and equipment from the HASA store in Dandenong. I chanced upon an advertisement on the Website looking for riders to represent them in a 6 hour Enduro Victorian State XC series up in Woodonga. You needed to have a HASA bike. And they offered you free merchandise in the way of reimbursement and paid for your entry fee. I could borrow my brother in laws bike, and applied. Pinching myself thinking this was too good to be true. My first (and last) sponsorship!
Here’s the thing. I loved riding, and had some fitness to go fast for short periods. But I was no Mountain Biker, and had no idea what exactly they did on an XC series. I trained hard for it, but when I drove up to Woodonga and got to the course. Straight away I thought “you’re fucked!”.
I looked at all the rocks that you had to ride over. Technical turns, jumps, and the crazy climbs. I was blown away. Having never done anything apart from ride the fire trails at Lysterfield Lake on a Mountain bike. I didn’t even own a pair of cleats back then and rode with runners. My attempt to ride the circuit was nothing short of embarrassing. I was constantly getting off the bike to walk over obstacles, and was struggling to breath. The course was broken into 3 sections. First up was a mega technical and I had no hope of riding large parts of it. The second part was a ridiculously steep climb. I would haphazard close to 15%, and I wasn’t a hill climber back then and had to get off it and walk it.
This followed a mad capped descent through this tiny single trail that was bumpy as all bat shit. My bike didn’t have any suspension. It felt like I was being ripped apart and in pain on the descent. The last section wasn’t so technical. About the only part that I could ride a bit before getting to walk several technical section. I was concerned in this section as there were 4 jumps about a meter high close to one another. As you landed, you hit the next, and this caused you to pick up speed and so on. I was pretty nervous going through these.
Ultimately one lap destroyed me. I had signed myself up for a 6 hour Enduro racing for the HASA team. There was only one other member of my team Daniel Wayenberg, and we were to take alternating turns. Unfortunately as I was in a team I had nowhere to hide.
On the day I was a fish out of water. Everyone looked so strong and had such great bikes & kits. I just sucked. My first lap I spent the whole time getting off and walking my bike over rock gardens. Technical corners and steep hills. I was looking over my shoulder and getting off the path a lot of times whenever someone came up behind. My fitness was lacking for something this intense and really struggled. I was embarrassed with how bad I was riding. Constantly riding into bushes and trees and had a lot of skin ripped off on the first lap. You could guess that I really wasn’t having the best time of it.
Losing another life
When I hit the 4 jumps in the last section, the first 2 went well. Unfortunately I got a little overconfident on the third jump. This tiny voice whisper something negative in my ear which caused me to crap myself. I accidentally pulled on the front brake as I hit the last jump. This caused my rear wheel to flip over my head. I realized pretty quickly what I had done. And knew that if I couldn’t right the bike I’d brake a lot of bones. My first thought was that I was going to destroy the bike and would be apologizing majorly to Chris for destroying my bike. Figured if I broke my neck may not even be able to do that.
I instinctively leaned the bike to my right. I was now in a position where I was going to drop the bike flat on its side. A horrible image of my collarbone snapping again popped into my mind. I pulled the bike back under me and as I was heading towards the ground I was expecting a major crash. How I didn’t kill myself, and had to pinch myself when I landed squarely on both wheels and kept going. I don’t know how I stopped the bike from flipping over my head. Thankfully no one was around to see that I had almost killed myself. This was a total nightmare.
I got back to the start and sent Daniel off. Having about 40 minutes to wait for him to get back and went and did a lot of soul searching. I wanted to throw in the towel. This was a humiliation, but ceded that I put a fair bit into this and needed to do at least another lap.
Lap 2 came, and the field had slowed down. I wasn’t passed as many times which meant I rode longer sections. And was able to get a little bit more confidence. I was out of my depth, and exhausted but no one seemed to care that I was going so slow. As I was so courteous to get the hell out of everyone’s way.
Lap 3 came, and hardly anyone was moving. I enjoyed this lap the most, and felt I was getting it. But at the same time was completely wrecked. On the third section I heard some riders fly up behind me. This was a narrow section where it was impossible to overtake. I saw a tiny section I could pull off and did so, planting my left foot to the ground. Which gave way under me and slid a couple of meters down an embankment. I copped only a few bruises. But knew the rider who was flying past me which added to my embarrassment for the day. I got back on and finished the lap. My last for the Enduro.
Well I learned that I was not a Mountain Biker. Amazingly I didn’t have the slowest lap for the day. There were quite a few riders below me. All I can say is they must really suck at Mountain biking. I came out covered in scrapes and bruises. And majorly relieved not to have a major injury. I guess I’ve never ever had the confidence on a Mountain bike to hit the single trails since this event. Maybe I could become a decent Mountain biker if I put the effort in, but it was not for me. Thankfully I discovered the Road bike a few months later, and my destiny followed a different path.
I wish I could forget this ride. It was truly regrettable. I believe that you can get some good out of bad, and I did move on and find my niche thankfully.
Special note: Fortunately HASA wasn’t there to see what an embarrassment I was.
In my early days of riding, I took a day of Annual Leave to do some Mountain biking in the Nong’s. I drove up to Sherbrooke Road & the plan was to do a loop around Sherbrooke Forest………
I didn’t know the Dandy’s well, and thought I was near the car. Somehow I came off the trails onto a main road that turned out to be at the top of Belgrave Fernee Creek Road (Terry’s Avenue). I honestly thought that the car was parked down the hill so rolled down Terry’s. When I stopped at the base of Terry’s, and looked down upon Belgrave (which I didn’t recognise at the time), and wondered where the hell I was. I didn’t have a mobile, or wallet so it was useless going down into the town. I had no idea where I was, but knew if I backtracked that I could find my way back (I hoped). So I turned around, and went up Terry’s Avenue, and of course it started to pour rain.
I got soaked, and being inexperienced and going up the monster all I could do was walk my bike up the hill, and boy did that hurt!
My back was screaming in pain the whole way. This was the start of a hate, hate relationship I have with Terry’s Avenue. That walk back up was hell and seemed to take forever. Quite a few cars passed me. They must of thought me the biggest idiot walking up the ridiculous steep hill in the rain.
With a 50/50 choice and of course I got it wrong.
I turned left and went down the Tourist Road, and within a k, realised that I was going the wrong way. The Petrol station turned out to be shut down, and my back-up plan was ruined. I was now further away from my car, on dead legs with no money and no phone. Of course it started to rain harder. What had I gotten myself in for?
$25 later I was back in my car, and could only shake my head at what a disaster the day turned out to be. It would be nice to lock this one away in the vault, but it’s good to look back and laugh at where you come from.