My first shot at a 600 obviously gave me plenty of time to think and one of the many bits of mental lint that lodged itself in the virtual belly button of my brain was that regarding cycling a non contact sport was not taking into consideration the amount of time ones arse was in contact with ones cactus, I mean saddle. Your hands and feet aren’t exactly swimming in a cloud of down either.
Heading off from Geelong at 6am the weather forecast which had me thinking about pulling out earlier in the week seemed a little askew, in fact I was surprised to even see the sun once it came up.
The route instructions which came in one of Peter Donnan’s (ride organiser) emails during the week was to keep the ocean on your left all the way to Warnambool then on your right all the way back, and an impressive ocean it was, waves I dreamt about when I was a youngster with a surfboard.
I rode most of the first 110km to Apollo bay on my own till I met up with Jim Chant then Frank joined us in Lorne for the rest of the leg to the first control.
A short stop then I was ready to head out with a good mate, George Judkins. From here, things started to get a lot more like the forecast had threatened and scary-strong head and cross winds increased with gusts pushing us from the white line on the shoulder to the middle of the road, praying we would stay upright and that a car was not coming our way. The rain also made things a challenge leaving the road slippery but my new jacket was working a treat in keeping me dry.
The first real climb for the trip came just out of Appollo Bay the next was the longer climb to Lavers Hill where a break and something warm to eat was very welcome.
Unfortunately on the leg to Port Campbell it was difficult to enjoy the great scenery as for a lot of the ride,we spent most of it hanging on just trying to stay upright.
We got into Port Campbell for the first time as the light was fading, however the bleak day was soon put aside by the warm welcome we received from Peter, Eileen and Joan at “base camp” in the backpackers.
Port Campbell was decision time for us as we were doing the sums as to whether it would be wise to head back out into those conditions and six of the eighteen justifiably decided it wasn’t, in fact had this not bee my first shot at a six I probably would have given the thought of pulling out much more consideration.
George and I Joined forces with Ian to ride the 70 ‘ish kilometres to Warnambool in increasing and at times heavy showers, and have I mentioned the wind. At one time we took shelter under a tree just for a bit of respite from a particularly heavy downpour. The glow from the lights of town seemed to taunt us for a long time dancing from our left to right but rarely being out of view indicating that this section of road had lots of turns but was also quite flat.
Warnambool was a particularly welcomed control as it meant coffee and the turn around point at just a bit under half way. The break from the wind was short lived as it swung around to more of a southerly making trip back to PC only slightly less challenging. We were joined by Ken Morgan however as it was mostly impossible to work together through fear of being blown into one another, at times almost being brought to a standstill so a fair gap between bikes was necessary .
At about 350km arriving back at PC meant our longest break and an hour and a half in a warm bed. Not a deep sleep but more of a blissful trance which I only ever seem to have when sneaking a nap on an overnighter.
After the breakfast of Italian champions-lasagne we were back on the bikes at 5am and heading inland to Timboon for a 50km out and back. It was somewhere along here that had me recalling the movie Cujo with the bark of a huge beast as it came thundering towards us seemingly wanting to take us all and bury us in the back yard of the farmhouse from which it came…this was no Kelpie looking for lost sheep, it wanted to eat us. But before it chose first course we seemed to call its bluff and perhaps the sound of four blokes trying to sound threatening and telling it think again (the think words that start with Fu and ends in off) had worked or maybe it was just put off by me crapping myself.
In Port Campbell for the third and last time I was feeling in good shape, knocked off a tin of rice cream and was back on the bike within half an hour. This was the leg I was most concerned about, I was worried about how I would feel making the ascent to Lavers Hill but now, after having ridden about 450K’s and the fierce crosswind which had given us so much grief on the way out. Thankfully we rode well through here and on to Apollo Bay but the dreadful wind did live up to my expectations and seemed to take more out of me than the climbing.
I later heard that one rider had been pushed into the steel railing on the side of the road twice, the first he was able to stick out his leg to stop himself going right into it, the second he wasn’t so luck and his bike hit it but he was still able to stay upright and finish the ride with no real damage.
I hit my only real flat spot for the ride in the last few k’s into Apollo Bay but the ever faithful Gorgeous George helped me to rally and limp into the control for a spell and a good feed and back on track for the last 112km to Geelong.
We rode the last leg strongly stopping in Lorne for a nice feed and a nature break before getting on with it. There were still times we had the wind bouncing of the hills and pushing us across the road toward the sea but we were learning to pick the corners and valleys where this was occurring and braced ourselves for it.
As we turned the corner at Urquharts Bluff we finally got the tail wind which had been teasing us all day and it carried us through Anglesea and to Torquay where we would head south to Geelong where we had to see a bloke about a brevet.
George led the way into town and had us at the Kardinia café to be met by family and great friends.
It hurts to say it but I was wrapped Andy was there to see me come in and great to see Carol and the rest of the crew to welcome us home. Familiar faces after a tough ride are to be treasured.
I quickly made the call to home and let them know I was back in the sheds safe and sound, I know they wait for that call when I’m out doing my thing, and I have to say I kind of like it.
I am yet to have done a ride which has been better organised, especially in terms of support and the warm greeting we had at each control. It was very much like arriving at my mums place in respect to the wonderful food and welcoming folk whenever we rolled up for refuelling and a good place to rest.
Thanks to ride organiser Peter Donnan, the champ Eileen, who looked after us so well and listening to my gibberish at 2am when she could have been tucked away in bed, and the wonderful Joan for all the great support, food and "the recipe".
Thanks a heap too to my mate George for his great company on another ride and to Ian and Jim and Ken whom I also shared parts of this ride with.
I’m writing this four days after the ride and still, my arse is grass, having the biggest saddle sore I have ever had and a much needed ride is completely out of the question, sitting in my lounge is hard enough.
Well done to all the other folk that took part in this ride, especially Andy-congratulations on your' record.
It was great.
I didn't take the camera with me so have relied on other folks happy snaps of the area. Thanks George and the other people on the internet.