This weekend I participated in the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo in and around Lorne. It was 120kms (110kms of which was under timed 'race' conditions) on closed roads that included 40kms along the Great Ocean Road as well as a total of about 20kms of solid mountain climbs - including one straight 10km climb that was timed for KOM (King of the Mountain) honours.
In training I had done only two 100km rides with not nearly as much climbing involved. This was to be my furthest and highest ride ever.
The day started at 4:30am to my alarm - appropriately I woke to the track 'Chase The Feeling' - and I bounced out of bed knowing I had to be moving from the get go to be in Lorne for the 6:00am safety briefing at The Mantra in Lorne. The briefing settles some nerves and gave me a slightly better understanding of what would happen and what was expected of me to contribute to my own safety and that of my fellow cyclists.
After the briefing it was back to the car to kit up, make my last checks of my bike, and make sure I had enough nutrition packed in my rear pockets. I took with me 10 energy gels, a Mars bar, a Power Ride bar, as well as the ubiquitous water and Staminade in two bottles on my bike. Two post coffee wees and two nervous wees later I was in Lorne's main street with about 2600 others waiting for the first wave of 200 riders to set off.
Riders were assembled in these groups of 200 according to the estimated average speed they nominated when they registered for the ride; I was in the second last wave having estimated a time of 20-25km/h. So 15 minutes after the first wave left I set off for 120kms of the unknown...
It was a privelidge to ride 40kms of Ocean Road without the worry of vehicles; it meant I could enjoy the ride and take in the scenery. Turning off at Skenes Creek I headed over the timing pads for the KOM section and began the 600 metre climb. It was hard and fun. Yes, fun! Having crossed the line at the top it meant a descent for a while, this was fast and cold. In the shade and travelling speeds up to 65 km/h meant being chilled to the core. Despite this it was heaps of fun. This took me to about the half way mark of the ride and by now most riders had settled into a steady speed and pelatons formed. I really loved these many kilometres of turning the pedals at a steady rate with the unspoken comraderie that seemed in the air as we trundled along at a comfortable 30km/h.
At the 100km mark I passed the '10km to finish' sign that indicated 10km to the finish line of the timed event and 20km to the actual finish in Lorne. Soon after that happy sign the final climb began. The next 45 minutes were to be heartbreaking, painful, challenging and slow (as low as 9 km/h in some parts!). At times I couldn't believe there were no more gears underneath me to help make pedalling easier, my legs burned and they hinted at cramp, but eventually I made it. I crossed the timing pad with a little satisfaction but not celebration. Many riders stopped after the finish line to rest, talk and enjoy what they'd just acheieved but I set out to do 120kms without stopping so I was committed to getting the last 10kms into Lorne over and done with. Fortunately and surprisingly, these 10kms were all downhill with an average speed of about 45km/h.
Finally, I rolled into Lorne tired, spent and satisfied. I finished 1223 of about 2600 riders and 123rd in my age group (30-34).
I learnt a few things on Sunday;
- I love my bike, but in the scheme of things, it is crap. I saw only a handful of bikes as inexpensive as mine,
- It's the motor turning the pedals that matter, not the carbon frame, $7000 gears etc; almost every person I outrode on the day had a bike worth several times as much as mine.
- Climbing big hills hurt bad!
- Coming down the other side of the hills is ace fun!
- The power of the pack! Riding in a group is incredibly easy compared to going it alone.
- $170 is a reasonable price to pay for a great experience and a great cause.
- I'm going to struggle to get Around The Bay In a Day in a month (but more about that another time).
- I'm proud of how far I've come.