Last month I cycled in the 115 km Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) Gran Fondo. The Foundation runs numerous cycling events. It is a
charity born out of tragedy with the death of Amy Gillett a world-class cyclist who was hit and killed by a car in 2005. The Gran Fondo exists to champion the cause of cycling safety and 'sharing the road'.
This is the second year the Gran Fondo has been held in Victoria. This year the Gran Fondo had 4200 participants. Some people had trained specifically for the event, while others treated it simply as part of their regular riding. I hadn't trained specifically for the event, but was well prepared from lots of cycling. The race is a timed semi-competitive event on closed roads.
At 8am on the Great Ocean Rd in Lorne, throngs of chatting cyclists were separated into groups. The countdown began for the start of the first group who are the fastest riders. I made my way towards my designated group further back. My group started, rolling over the timing mat, and gradually we picked up speed as the crowd thinned out. The town of Lorne disappeared behind me and in the early morning sunshine I was riding between the cliffs and the sparkling sea on the Great Ocean Road. The 100 minutes of riding along the coast was time to be savoured.
Then it was hurting time! Skenes Creek Road, a steady 10 km climb into the forest, was one which many cyclists had spoken of with nervous anticipation. Not considering myself to be a competitive cyclist, but having had prior experience of long climbs, I simply plugged away.
Long stretches of rolling hills followed, through forests and farmed landscapes. We passed through the towns of Barramunga, Forrest, Barwon Downs and Deans Marsh. The road was closed to regular traffic and so it felt safe and exhilarating going fast down hills. After Deans Marsh it was another 12 kilometres of a mostly uphill ride, the finishing line was near, but only after 500 metres of the steepest hill of the whole ride. Cramping legs emphasised for me that I had climbed a lot of hills over the past few hours!
Across the finish line
I achieved my goal of making it before the timing cut off. It was not quite the end of the ride though as a scary 10 kilometres descent in the rain remained. Finally I rolled into Lorne, tired and cold, but inwardly glowing from a successful challenge.