It was the Around the Bay Festival yesterday, and I signed up for the 210km ride, from Melbourne to Queenscliff, riding a ferry across to Sorrento, and then cycling back to the finish line in Melbourne. I’ll say that I was disappointed with the result, but in the end, thinking about the circumstances, the time and speed weren’t terrible. I got up at 4.45am to leave for the start line in the city at 6am having prepared everything the night before. But silly me, I was about to leave and then remembered that I needed my wristband to get lunch, so I was frantically looking around the place for it, after 25 minutes of searching, I decided to forget about it and just get to the start line, I’d worry about lunch later. I arrived at the start line at about 6.25am, and there was still a massive queue to get started what with the starting by waves approach this year (actually I wouldn’t know how they did it previously, this was the first time I did this ride, having done the 100km from Sorrento to Melbourne last year). It took about 30-35 minutes to finally get to the start line and leave. I decided to wear my yellow rain jacket (the famous one) because there were forecast showers, and I didn’t want to risk getting wet and then having to deal with that all day.
Riding through the city was a bit slow, probably no higher than 25-28kph, with quite a bit of traffic, eventually I got to the West Gate Bridge and started making my way through the masses as my climbing legs took over (I don’t want to brag but…), going down the other side of the bridge would indicate that it would be a hard day as I don’t think I even topped 40kph going into the wind, I think there was a rest stop at about 30km, I took that as I needed to go for a nature break, and also to take my jacket off (and tie it around my waist). Moving on from there and getting on to the freeway, Princes Highway I think, and that’s when the torture started, a slog southwest to Geelong (about 50km) that was like swimming in cement. The observations page at the bom says that the wind was a westerly blowing about 30kph in Geelong and Avalon at the time, doesn’t seem like a pure headwind, but there was no one riding out there that would argue that it was anything but a headwind. I wasn’t able to get into a good group that I could stay in touch with, I’d see people up the road, and eventually catch them only to realise that they were going slower than me, and I’d have to go on ahead, there was one point when I’d just left a bunch seeing a group ahead, but the wind started bearing down, and I just could never get even close to them, it seemed possible with no wind, but riding solo in those conditions was always going to hurt. Also, at some point, the forecast showers blew over, and I got wet as I didn’t want to stop to put my jacket on to save whatever rhythm I had.
Eventually I made it to Geelong and had a rest at the designated stop (got a sausage from the sausage sizzle, and a banana as well), and the road changed course and we started toward Queenscliff with the wind where I arrived at about 11.45am, it took about 4hr22min, so a rate of about 25.6kph, picked up my ferry ticket at Queenscliff (the 1pm, missed the 12pm by some twenty minutes), and as it turned out, they didn’t even need to see my wristband, just my bib was sufficient. So I had lunch on the grass while I waited, inhaled the apple, chicken sandwich, and whatever cake it was, and lay on the ground (my back in utter pain and willing me to rest), I’m not sure if I fell asleep or just blacked out, but I remember coming to at 12.45pm and thinking I should go for a toilet break before I get on the ferry. What great timing because they sent out the boarding message just as I got back to my bike.
Cyclists were last to board the ferry, I just put my bike up against the railing hoping it wouldn’t fall over, but there must have been hundreds of bikes in there, the bikes were probably stacked ten deep from the front of the ferry to the back, so my bike was probably the least likely to fall. Went upstairs and found a spare seat and checked up on the all the happenings in the internets world, because you know, the internets don’t stop, it was also at this point that I realised how well I had prepared the previous night, I put my stupid wristband in my shorts pocket and just remember thinking I could’ve been on the damn 12pm ferry had I not lost that 25 minutes at the start of the day.
The ferry started going at about 1.25pm I think, and arrived at Sorrento at about 2.05pm, at which point, I was thinking I would get back to Melbourne at about 5.30pm, based on last years effort, about 3.5 hours. And as I remembered, the departure from Sorrento was quite fast once you clear the big bunches, the roads are smooth and flat, and the wind was almost helpful. Moving along at about 35kph I was feeling pretty good about my chances of arriving in Melbourne as I predicted, and was even able to regain some competitive edge by watching some other cyclists and just thinking, I’m not going to let that guy beat me. All smooth sailing, and then arriving at Mount Martha my recollection was that it wasn’t that difficult, some two kilometres at 4% or something. I’d been climbing pretty well, and had done some practice on the hills of Templestowe in the past couple weeks, I started climbing and it wasn’t long before I was out of the saddle and prancing up passing many others, I think I averaged about 17-18kph going up, and then cruised down the other side. Feeling pretty good after that, I decided that I had a tailwind and that I didn’t need the help of being in a bunch, and so I was going to just get into a rhythm and ride, and if I found a group that was riding at a comfortable rate for me, then I’d take advantage and jump on.
Eventually I arrived at the rest stop just before Frankston (hitting my top speed for the day of 61kph going down Olivers Hill, I’ve heard of others going much faster than that, but I didn’t have the energy to burn) and filled up my drink bottle with water and took a short break before taking off for the last quarter of my ride. It was just after riding through Frankston that I managed to get onto the wheels of a couple of guys that were pushing pretty hard, and we were going about 33kph on what looked like constant uphill for about 5km or so (probably up to Carrum or Bonbeach), it had to be a tailwind cos the legs were going so smoothly, I didn’t do any work cos I thought I’d probably slow them down (and also because throughout the day, whenever I thought I’d skip to the front to do some work, the group seemed to drop away as if thinking, that guy’s not in our group, he’s not working for us, just let him go). Eventually those guys got tired of me and turned off somewhere and I was left on my lonesome again, I tried to maintain the pace, but before I knew it, I’d pretty much blown up. I remember seeing Chelsea station as I was on the wheels of a group of three going about 25kph and absolutely fighting to stay on. Eventually I gave that up as it seemed to be wasting too much energy, this tied in with (or probably was because of) the massive crosswind that was blowing (about 35kph), I was finished and just thinking I should stop and take a break, but I didn’t want to break whatever measly rhythm I had going (about 20kph) and my right knee started feeling iffy. I don’t even remember going past Black Rock, I do remember going through Sandringham, trying to latch onto any groups, eventually I managed to work my way onto the back of a group probably in Elwood or so, and stayed there until the right turn to take us to the finish line at Alexandra Gardens.
The tailwind that sent us to the finish line must have felt like a 200kph cyclone because as bad as my legs felt 5km earlier, they had renewed energy with nothing holding me back any more. A big bunch of riders formed and it was pretty much a free for all (despite the traffic and traffic lights) heading to the finish. It was a massive feeling of relief to cross the finish line and get off the bike, and better yet, know that I had a lift home waiting for me (too bad I had to push the bike back to Southbank where the car was parked :D). I actually found that overall, my body didn’t feel that bad, certainly not as bad as I thought it would when I was waiting for the ferry in Queenscliff, I mean, I was sore and tired all over (my neck was aching from the position I was sitting all day), my back was (and still is) a bit stiff, but nothing else really. Right now, I have a dull ache in my shoulder, but I don’t seem to have any real muscle aches or cramps (despite feeling some tightness during the ride in my hamstrings and oddly enough my triceps), my knee is still a bit tender. From Sorrento to Melbourne it took about 3hr44min so averaged about 26.8kph, here is the full map of my route around the bay, I probably wouldn’t trust the speeds that that page has (I never got up to 70kph and didn’t climb Mount Martha that quickly as much as I wished), and it also includes the ferry ride in the speed so don’t trust that either, the map is accurate though I think. So for about 150km, I was in hell, but for the climbs and the stretches of road that were going in a direction where the wind wasn’t like a brick wall trying to crush me face on, I felt great. I don’t know if I’ll do the 210km option again, maybe if I get some team mates, as it seems even if they slow me down (which I think they would :p), at least there is someone to help block the wind (hah!) when the going is tough, and I do really like climbing Mount Martha and feeling like Alberto Contador (armed only with muesli bars) cruising past others if only for those two or three climbs around Mount Martha. That’s it, I have no pictures, and because I had my jacket on most of the day, I don’t know if I will appear in any taken for bv. I will leave you with this video of me crossing the finish line (in my famous yellow jacket) and the knowledge that I played about 20 minutes of basketball that night as well (we lost :().
Me at the start, I appear briefly (at about 10s) in my yellow jacket (with reddish helmet) on the left of screen.