I really don’t know where or how to start this post. It will be a monster, so put on your Sunday pants and find a comfy chair.
I set off on Thursday morning. The idea was to drive to Albury and stay the night with the brother in law and then head to Melbourne from there on Friday morning. I loaded the car up with all the stuff I thought I would need for the trip. Plus extra knicks, gloves, socks etc. Driving away from home I was excited to be on my way, but had a strange feeling something wasn’t quite right. About twenty minutes into the trip I looked into the back of the car. Hmm, there seems an awful lot of space in there. “Oh for the love of Lance Armstrong!” I had forgotten my bike. I did a U turn, went back home and put the bike in the car. The strange feeling had no disappeared and I was away. An uneventful trip down to Albury made even more pleasant by a terrific audio book, Reamde (no, not a typo), by Neal Stephenson.
Friday morning I set off for Melbourne, and easy 3.5 hour trip. I was booked into a motel at South Yarra, and I don’t really know Melbourne well enough to find my way, so I used the Navigation program on the phone to guide me there. Hooking a right and heading West on the Ringroad, I kept passing signs to the city. Hmm, something feels wrong here. A closer glance at the Nav app told me my arrival time was 9am the next morning. Huh? I checked the route and it was taking me to Adelaide. Bloody technology. I pulled over and entered the Motel into Google maps and just navigated myself there.
I got to drive over the Westgate Bridge. I knew I was going to ride over it on Sunday, so I gave it more attention than normal. Wow, seems steeper than I remember. It will be a nice start to the ride. Good to get it out of the way early.
I checked in to the hotel. The parking was hopeless. The air conditioner refused to work. The bathroom was not exactly 5 stars.
I then went out and met a terrific photographer friend of mine, Alex Wise. Had a couple of beers and some excellent pizza before I headed off back to the motel.
Saturday morning I went out with a group from the Australian Cycling Forums. A lazy ride was on the cards, but the boy racers decided to up the pace. I hung back with another bloke, Ken, and had a good chat to him. A steady 30kms was just what the doctor ordered to loosen the legs before Sundays big ride. Four of us stopped for a coffee at a snazzy cafe, and then I was off home, well, back to the motel.
I was happily pedaling along Punt Rd, minding my own business, when, just as I was passing a dark blue BMW, the drivers door swung open in front of me and I had no where to go. next thing i knew I was laying in the middle of Punt Rd blocking traffic. As I madly tried to unclip my feet, an elderly lady, all 5 feet of her, started raining down on me with a torrent of abuse I really wasn’t expecting.
“Cyclist think they own the road. You are all a menace. You should be banned. You don’t pay registration.” I finally managed to unclip, threw the bike to the side and stood up. With that, she jumped back in her car and locked the doors. I tapped on the window and enquired if she was going to get out, or if I was going to get in there with her. She refused to look at me. In hindsight, I think she got as big a shock as I did. A concerned motorist stopped and told me he saw the whole thing. I took her rego and his phone number, and after I convinced him i was ok, just a bit of bark off, he left. The bike had a few scratches on it and the bar tape on the left side had sort of slid to one end of the bars. I swung a leg back over the bike and road back to the motel, with a short detour to the Bike Expo at Alexandra Gardens.
Later that afternoon I headed out to Arthurs Seat to have a look at the guys competing in the Jayco Sun Herald Tour. Sadly, the weather closed in and I only got a few fleeting photos of the field as it burned past me in teeming rain. It was a long drive back to Melbourne, but it gave me a look at some more of the course for Sundays ride. I had a big feed of pasta and pizza, a lot of water and early to bed.
I didn’t sleep well Saturday night. I think I was apprehensive of what lay ahead. I was also a bit sore from my fall that morning.
The alarm went off at 4:30am. I was doing the ride with two mates. Wayne “The Duke” Flint and jason “woodsy” Woods. Together, we were Team SuxoBank. Now Duke is some what of an accomplished cyclist. He manages to pump out well over 12,000kms a year. He has raced and finished Melbourne to Warrnambool, The Baw Baw Classic as well as plenty of other races. His job for the day was to drag woodsy and i around the Bay. Woodsy, like me, is a tad heavier than he should be, and like me, is now the good side of 40 years old. He hasn’t been cycling for long, but has been doing some training and crunched out a Century a short while back. He and I both knew we were going to do it hard to make it 210kms around the bay. Both the boys arrived and by about 5:30am we were rolling down Toorak Road towards our start at 6:00am. We arrived at the designated start area to a sea of blinky lights and bleary eyed people in lycra. Duke did some fine tuning to my bike and it was shifting like it was new again. We rolled down to the start line.
It turned out that they were letting the groups go in waves, four minutes apart. This blew our start time out from 6am to 7am by the time we crossed the timing tape. So there was plenty of time for photos, Tweets and general stuffing about.
The sun was just poking above the city skyline when we took off. We were finally moving. It was a great feeling to be finally away. Southbank, South Mebourne, Port Melbourne were behind us as we swung around and onto the Westgate Bridge. It wasn’t really that bad to be honest. We all just held a steady pace and before I knew it we were at the top. The ride down was terrific. Watching the Police giving motorists grief for doing over 40 was great.
The Westgate behind us, we headed for Hoppers Crossing. We were lucky that we got into a group that were really moving. We just sat on them for quite a while until the urge to void my bladder was to great and we stopped. here is a video of the start, all the way out to Werribee.
We had our first stop at Werribee after getting a shout out from the woodsy fan club. An energy bar and some water were thrown down the gullet and I had a bit of a stretch. It was becoming clear that I had hit the deck a lot harder than I first thought the day before because my left hip was sore.
Duke took off early so he could have a nature break at the service centre. Woodsy and I trundled off after him, but then we both decided to do the same. Whilst I was waiting, I noticed the wind was really blowing, and in a way that it would be a lovely little head wind on the way to Geelong. We hooked up with Duke again and we were off down the Highway.
Now I don’t know what the wind speed was, I have heard everything from 30kph to 80kph, but it was bloody strong, and we could see some pretty dark clouds in front of us as well. Oh joy. We formed the flying wedge, Duke up front, then me, and woodsy at the back. It was working well. When I say well, we were managing about 22kph. Every now and then I would pop out from behind Duke to do a turn, only to be blown back into space behind his wheel. It was getting darker by the minute, and by the time we had gotten to the service centre near point Wilson, the rain had started. We pulled in to put some wet weather gear on. There were quite a few cyclists there with us.
We left the service centre and it was still spitting rain. The wind had picked up it seemed and it was back in to the wedge. It really was a miserable time for the next hour or so. I sat on Duke’s wheel and just hoped the weather would pass. I turned around and woodsy had dropped off the back. We slowed up to let him catch up. He got on the back, Duke put his head down and off we went. Again, after a while I looked around and poor old woodsy had dropped off. This pattern continued and the weather got worse. At about 60kms in, woodsy was a long way back, so I slowed right down. He came along side me and didn’t look real good. Now i have to say, he had been crook with a cold earlier in the week, but it seemed like he had kicked it by Saturday.
“How are you feeling?” I asked. He didn’t reply, just sort of grinned. Now those people who know him, know he isn’t usually short of a word or 50, so i was a little worried. We rode on for a little while and I looked across at him and got the shock of my life. He was white. White as a ghost.
“Mate, you’re #$@#ing white as a ghost, you ok?” I asked again.
“Not really.” was the short reply.
“What do you want to do?”
“Give me some time to see if I come good” or something to that effect was the reply. He was obviously doing it tough.
I gave it a few more minutes, just to see if he came good. The next time I looked he was beetroot red. I was starting to try and remember my CPR training.
“Hey, now you are bright red!” I let him know. “You reckon you can do another 140kms? I am going to send Duke back to see what he thinks.” I pedalled off after Duke. Now I have seen enough House M.D., Scrubs and Quincy to know he was in trouble. Duke dropped back and I was left on my own for a while, bashing into the wind. I stopped and had a quick feed and drink and they came up. Duke informed me that woodsy was going to pull the pin. He looked devastated. There isn’t much you can say at times like this. One of my best mates was being smashed by the weather and his health. I knew he so desperately wanted to continue, but his body just wouldn’t let him. We stopped at a round about and shook hands. I really felt bad. Team SuxoBank was down to 2.
Duke and I headed South to Geelong, the next dedicated rest stop. It was only a short run, but Duke must have wanted to unwind the engine a bit because he set a cracking pace. The wind was blasting across us a lot of the time. It was meant to be more fun than this.
We stopped at North Geelong at the rest area. I had a nature break and realised just how tricky bib knicks can be in the confined space of a Porta-Loo. That and the fact that they dont stock them with 3 ply soft toilet paper.
A water top up, another half an energy bar and we were off again. Geelong to Queenscliff was to come before our lunch break. It is a lumpy old ride, but we had a slight tail wind, so it was a lot easier than the previous hour or so. It was a 34km trip and we made it in just under 1.5 hours. We did have a stop along the way for our fan club. Woodsy’s parents live at Point lonsdale and they were waiting out the front to say hello.
Long story short, a long time ago, one of my mates mums said of me “He isn’t a handsome man, but he has got a happy head.” It has stuck apparently. A bottle of cold water and offers to take me back to Melbourne were made before we set of for Queenscliff, lunch and the ferry. The ride organisers seem to have found every hill in Queenscliff, but we rolled into the lunch stop just in time for a short lie down and the last ferry of the day for the riders.
We didn’t have long, well not long enough for me, before the call for the ferry was bellowed over the PA system. I could have laid around and listened to some more Roy orbison and Bob marley for a while, but Duke wouldn’t have it.
We got onto the ferry and it pulled out, with god know how many thousands of dollars worth of push bikes on board. Knowing that I was probably less than halfway around the Bay, I did what any sane person does.
Luckily, whilst I was sleeping a very deep and satisfying sleep, Duke was taking photos, and not just of me.
Back onto the bikes at Sorrento and it was the first real tail wind of the day. We cranked out a bit over 21kms in 42 minutes. We were passing so many people it was silly. Another stop at Dromana for a nature break and some Banana gel. I think I have only got to mention Banana gel now and Duke will have a chuckle. Don’t ask, it was a filthy disgusting joke.
At some time in the past week or so, Duke mentioned there is an alternate route to the official route along the Nepean Highway. A some what more picturesque route to. I am sure I heard him call it the Italian Rivieria route.
“Well, sounds good, many hills Duke?” I asked.
“Just a few rollers norbs” was his reply.
I committed. “Yep, lets do it.”
So we detoured off the main drag and down towards the Rivieria. I could see this big hill in front of us that seemed to be getting closer and bigger. I had 145kms in my legs at this point, and there was a reasonable sort of bump in the road ahead. I will let StreetView tell the story.
Just as we are about to start going up, Duke drops a clanger.
“It’s hard for the first kilometre, then is flattens out a bit.” and pedals off.
About 200m later, my computer is saying 11% incline, and, had i had any breath, I would have been giving it to that bastard in front of me. I closed my eyes and grit my teeth. Heart rate was approaching 180. Legs were screaming at me. I kept going. It did start to flatten out. I could see Duke stopped up ahead. I wanted to slap him, but didn’t have the energy. He managed another of his perfectly timed photos at the top.
Duke was smiling away, telling me I had done the right thing. He then pulled out a packet of Snakes. Oh sweet Snakes. They tasted superb. I composed myself and we hit the road. The Duke was right, it was a superb view over the bay, and little coves and inlets. The sun was out and if the wind wasn’t strong enough to blow the freckles off a redhead, it would have been nearly idilic. But the wind was strong enough to blow the freckles and smile off a redhead, and there were still lots of little hills to keep the pain in my legs. We headed back towards the highway and away from paradise on a nicer day. Another stop at a servo to top up water bottles. Then it was back to grinding away on the highway. there were some fantastic down hill runs on the trip to Frankston. I actually started to feel the fatigue hitting me. Unclipping the pedals became harder. I was having troubles concentrating on the bike in front. I had done 16o odd kilometres and i was getting tired, both physically and mentally.
Duke picked me up by saying we were approaching Olivers Hill, and just after that we could stop at Frankston Macca’s for a break. It is a long gradual pull up the back of Olivers Hill, but a short sharp drop down to Frankston. We hit the top and I got into the drops and went like a cheetah with its bum on fire. I looked up and couldn’t see Duke. I pedaled harder. I was passing cars. I found out after the ride I was doing nearly 70kph down there but Duke had cleared out. He was no where to be seen. I pedaled hard on the flat but still couldn’t see him. I was getting upset and worried that he had left me behind when I heard a voice behind me say “Gee norbs, you in a hurry?” I looked over my right shoulder and there was Duke. He was behind me the whole time. I can’t imagine the look on my face. Confusion reigned. It really was time for a break.
Duke managed another cracking shot of me. This time with a huge piece of banana bread in my mouth.
We spent nearly 40 minutes on this break, and I really needed it. I was starting to come apart at the seams. I was sore and obviously my mental state wasn’t exactly great. I was starting to have some doubts. How badly did i want this? Duke was great. He offered support when I looked down and just kept up front stomping out a great pace that made it heaps easier for me. In fact, as can be seen from the table near the end of this post, we managed to average 28.8kph from Frankston to Mordiallic. In hindsight, I think that was where I broke physically. When we stopped at Mordiallic, Duke pulled up and suggested that I might like a lie down. he hadn’t even turned around and I was flat on my back, completely stuffed. he took some photos of the local marina to show just how bad the wind still was.
Gingerly I mounted the saddle for the last blast to the finish. 30kms to go and the further we went, the more into the wind we would be. I could feel the speed dropping. The distance riden was moving so, so slowly. We could see the city, but it seemed so far away. I was spent. My legs were pedaling from memory. I got cold. Then I was hot. I kept pedaling. We made it to St Kilda. Nearly there. Going along Beaconsfield Parade, the sun was low in the western sky. The sand was been blown up off the beach and across the road. For one bizzare moment I thought I was Lawrence of Arabia. I then caught myself saying in my mind. “Your name isn’t Lawrence. You aren’t on a horse and you aren’t in Arabia”. Not only did have a stupid story in my head, I was on the wrong bloody animal in it. Coming up to a set of lights to take us back into the city, I damn near ran into another cyclist. We headed into the city. My mood was going up and down. It really was a strange thing. Seeing those massive calves of Duke in front of me going up and down sort of dragged me back to some reality.
“4 ks to go norbs” I heard the big fellow say. I wont repeat what I said, something about another 4 kms. We snaked our way through the city, approached the gardens and I could see the finish. We rolled around a left hand corner and I could see the finish banner. We rolled down the hill. Duke slapped me on the back and said well done. I shook his hand as best I could. We crossed the line. I have to admit, I was getting a bit misty in the eyes at this point. A lovely young lady walked over and hung a medal around both our necks. I said “Thank you” and rode around the corner to where the other finishers were. I composed myself and looked around me. I wasn’t the only one suffering. I felt better.
Duke called some people, I know not who, and then we took each others photo.
Duke, being the good bloke he is, then made me ride the 4kms home. Not the easy way either, he managed to find a lovely steep ramp to ride up. A lady pushing a pram beat me to the top.
So that dear reader is that. It was a hell of a ride in more ways than one. I want to thank all the people on forums, Twitter and email who sent me support. To all the volunteers who gave their time to organise and support the race, thanks. I want to say thanks Jason (woodsy) for the invite. Without which I would have never have done something like this. And a huge thanks to Wayne (Duke) for dragging my fat arse around Port Phillip Bay in a day. A bloody long day, but one I could have never finished with out your fantastic support.
A break down of the ride.
Melbourne to Werribee : 37.11kms 1:39:35 @ 22.49kph
Werribee Service centre to Highway Service centre : 15.95kms 0:43:33 @ 22.26kph
Highway SC to Outer Geelong (Where woodsy left us) : 12.26kms 0:42:22 @ 17.51kph
Outer Geelong to Geelong Stop : 8.31kms 0:20:19 @24.93kph (Jesus that felt like longer than 20 minutes to me)
Geelong to Queenscliff : 34.17kms 1:26:10 @ 23.84kph (That includes a few minutes with woodsy’s mum and dad at Point Lonsdale)
Sorrento to Dromana : 20.93kms 0:42:15 @ 29.9kph (Wind up the date time)
Dromana to Mount Martha : 5.92kms 0:14:04 @ 25.37kph (That photo of me with my head in my hands was at this stop. Flinty broke out the Snakes too!)
Mount martha to Mornington Servo : 15.98kms 0:33:24 @ 29.05kph
Mornington Servo to Frankston Maccas : 12.09kms 0:27:17 @26.87kph (When we left we thought we had a 20 minute break. It was over 40 minutes)
Frankston Maccas to Mordiallic : 15.87kms 0:33:53 @28.85kph (I am pretty sure that is when I broke physically)
Mordiallic to Finish : 30.55kms 1:24:07 @ 23.91kph (It was that leg that broke me mentally)
Rough totals: 210kms in 8h 46m 59s @23.91kph