Thanks to Dave Simpson for this report.
Now THAT was a wind!
Doug Merritt and I rode the 210km Around The Bay this year but we certainly didn’t expect that it was going to be that tough.
I stayed Saturday night at a friend’s place in Essendon so had a very early 4am wake-up and an interesting ride down Mt Alexandra Rd, Flemington Rd, Elizabeth St, and Flinders St to the start at Alexandra Gardens. I managed to meet up with Doug on the start line and we got underway at about 5:45am. It was a very slow crawl along on the roads out of the city to get to the Westgate bridge. We seemed to spend more time stopped at traffic lights and shuffling along in a single lane than actually riding. But once we got to the entrance to the bridge it was smooth going and we got to the summit just as the sun was rising behind us.
It was a great ride down to Geelong via the freeway with the wind just over our right shoulder helping us to maintain a good speed. We were soon in familiar territory and made a quick toilet break just off the official route at North Shore, it always helps to have some local knowledge! It was then on to the official Geelong rest stop at Rippleside for some food and water and a brief rest. We got going again and were soon following the same route as I took last year when I did the 135km from the Eastern Beach start. We said hello to our fellow Cycling Geelong members who were doing marshaling duties at the Garden St/Ryrie St traffic lights and then at the top of the Leopold hill.
We then had a push to get to Queenscliff as soon as possible. We thought that we could make it to get the 11:00 ferry but that slipped by and we had to settle for a ticket for the 12 noon trip. We picked up lunch, got a coffee and had a nice rest on the grass while we waited for a call to the ferry. The wind coming off the sea at the ferry terminal was worryingly strong and there were some pretty serious waves crashing in and causing those waiting in the queue to get a soaking! Doug had looked at the BOM website and had seen that the wind speed in the bay was up around 70km/hr. We were in for a fun crossing. But as it turned out the ferry journey was fine, we even managed to get a seat, and we were soon collecting our bikes and getting back on the road at Sorrento.
Here the fun began. The crosswind really picked up and we were getting sandblasted as we rode, trying to keep the bike upright. It was extremely hard going, with the wind gusts almost blowing us into the right hand lane. There was lots of traffic, unfortunately this event was not being run on closed roads, and I must say there was not a lot of sympathy from cars that passed me, lots of times there was a clear lane to the right but drivers passed me very closely, when they could have easily moved over and given me space.
We rode on, struggling with the wind which varied from cross to head, never giving much chance to relax. It was a shame that the wind was so bad, the new 17km section on this ride that went along the coast rather than on the highway was very scenic and would have been a great ride in better conditions. Even the section down the hill into Frankston was a battle, I needed to pedal to keep going!
We finally got to the rest stop in Mordialloc, the lunch stop for me on last year’s 135km ride. Unfortunately it was late by then and there was no food on offer so it was just a top up with water and press on. Doug decided that he needed a rest and told me to ride on without him so I ended up doing the last 30km solo. I managed to ride at the back of a couple of groups which helped pull me along and I made it across the finish line in Alexandra Gardens at 7pm. I was very happy to see later that Doug had also managed to make it to the finish line about 25 minutes after me.
I had a brief rest then headed back up the 10km to Essendon and then on home. It was certainly the hardest riding I have done on the road bike, even beating this year’s BAD ride!
Editor’s note: We now hear that up to 50% of all participants in the full ATB were forced to retire due to these dangerous conditions. Congratulations to Dave and Doug for making it. The time says it all – over 6 hours for the 100km from Sorrento to Melbourne. Better luck next year!