After a splendid afternoon taking photos of the women cyclist’s race on Hyland Street on Saturday, I was looking forward to a great turn up of riders for the Cycling Geelong Spectator’s Ride and Picnic to celebrate Cadel’s final road racing competition on Sunday.
Early morning rain – usually means it will stop by 11, doesn’t it? Not the day of the race! I set off in cold rain, discovered my expensive rain top wasn’t even beginning to cope, and returned for the heavy duty winter affair. At 11:30 Zillah Crawcour Park was deserted! A couple of cars in the car park – not a soul in sight. Two cyclists appeared. Trish and Shane were there for the ‘picnic’ but had decided not to partake of the ride to Barrabool Road. There was wisdom in that. We parted company at Fyansford, they to rive the river circuit – beautiful in any conditions – I to ride to Barrabool Road. The wind was a strong southerly with a hint of westerly. Concerned about missing the cyclists, and with heavy camera gear (and picnic) in the pannier, the route was modified to leave out Pollocksford Road. It was mainly dryish! Merrawarp Road (a gentle incline) seemed to go on for ever, and it was with relief that I finally turned right onto the steeper hill up Barrabool Road.
Finding a comfortable patch of grass (pretty dry considering), I parked Rosie the Bike Friday against a tree, and sat down to wait. Time for a snack and drink. There was no one to share the brownies – who’s sorry now? A couple of recreational riders came up the hill strongly. An SUV parked a bit further down the road. Another, much less fit cyclist sighed as he reached the top. Finally, a few official looking vehicles arrived, and the first of the motor bikes. So did the rain. Some locals from the farm opposite drove down in their ute and set up bunting, a hand-made sign and decorated the roadside posts with helmets. A couple more cars pulled up to watch. The rain continued as more official vehicles passed – lights flashing. A helicopter could be heard, but not seen in the rain. Finally, it became visible as the Commissaire’s car heralded the first cyclists.
After the cyclists had gone, I packed up the wet Canon, jumped back on the bike and cycled back down the wet road to Merrawarp Road. Merrawarp was a doddle with a very strong tail wind – Rosie wound up to 40kph!
Back on the almost deserted river path at Fyansford (lots of spectators on the turn into Hyland Street) I made my way to Zillah Crawcour Park. At 2:30 Zillah Crawcour Park was deserted! Plenty of people on the bridge, and spectators all along the Aphrasia and up the extra steep pinch of Melville Avenue. I decided to take up a position to take a few more photos before going home to watch the end on TV. It was too crowded to ride (that’s my story anyway) so I started pushing Rosie up the footpath – only to hear calls from the picnickers of Cycling Geelong – strategically placed next to the Bridge. It was wonderful to see such friendly faces! The racers had completed two crossings of the bridge and were just about to ascent Scenic Road for the third time. I took up position with the camera – in what was almost sunlight. Cadel came through in a bunch near the front.
These riders are phenomenal – 180km with 1679 metres of climbing – on 11 categorised hills. Challambra – 22%, Melville -20+% and all the rest!
Congratulations to all riders – it’s an extraordinary effort just to finish. Thanks and congratulations to Cadel for making this ride possible and for sharing a truly amazing career. His ride in the Cadel Evans Classic goes down in history with the rides that made him famous.