Thanks to Dave Simpson for this report and photos.
I signed up for the 2016 edition of Amy’s Gran Fondo after having a very good experience riding the 2015 version. The distance this year was about the same, 120 km.
This year the organisers had reversed the direction of the ride, it would be starting in Lorne but going straight up the 10km climb to the top of Benwerrin, right off the start line. It was claimed that this would spread the field out and distribute the riders over the rest of the route, rather than having huge bunches riding down the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay.
We got underway pretty well on time, I left with my 60-64 age group at about 8:45. I had done the climb a couple of weeks ago on a sneaky reccy ride and it proved no problem to ride this time, although I was a bit annoyed that I didn’t improve my time, I made it to the top in the same 43 minutes. The weather stayed dry until we got to the top of the climb, but it was definitely colder up there so I stopped to put on my rain jacket for the descent to Deans Marsh.
Further around the route the weather alternated between misty rain and periods when the sun was almost breaking through. I made steady progress keeping up an average of around 23 kph. Lots of people were really racing but I was trying to make the most of the day, I’d paid lots of cash to do the ride and I was going to make it last!
I made a couple of stops at the designated rest areas, refilled water bottles and picked up some food. The road onwards from Forrest has some interesting climbs as it goes up towards the Mt Sabine area, including a section at 8.8% for nearly a km. A good place to keep the cadence as high as possible. Then once over the top it was a nice roll down Skenes Creek Rd towards the GOR outside of Apollo Bay. The scenery here is stunning, although the way some people were blasting down the hill I doubt whether they even saw the view. Again, I tried to make the experience last, I didn’t feel I needed to race.
Then it was onto the GOR itself. The section from Apollo Bay to Lorne is not particularly difficult, compared to the Lorne to Anglesea section which has some sustained climbs. The sun came out, there were no cars or trucks to worry about and the surf was up with some nice breakers rolling onto the beaches as I rode along. Definitely the best part of the ride!
It was soon all over, passing under the timing finish kite at about 1.8 km outside of Lorne, leaving a short neutralised section for a warmdown before crossing the finish line. I had a quick check of my official time, it turned out to be a slow 5hr:11min for the 120km, but I didn’t mind that, it had been a great days riding. My GPS showed that I’d done 1543m of climbing and done an average speed of 23kph with an average cadence of 80rpm, so I was pretty happy with that.
I’m not sure I’ll do the event again next year, having now ridden the course in both directions, but who knows!