Saturday, January 31, 2015

A ride to remember

This weekend sees thousands of cyclists once again take to the streets and roads around Geelong, this time in the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The elite men's race will take place tomorrow (Sunday) around a course in part based on the route used during the 2010 UCI World Championships.
This morning however, it was the turn of the citizens when at 7am, almost 4,000 riders left the Geelong Waterfront on a community ride over a distance of either 65km or 111km. All riders head first to Barwon Heads, with the short course riders heading back to Geelong whilst those on the long course followed a similar route to be taken by the elite riders, heading next to Torquay and Bells Beach before returning via an inland route through Moriac to Geelong to take on the seriously nasty hill-climbs of Challambra Crescent, Melville Ave and "Cementies Hill" on the way back to the Waterfront.
Whilst I wasn't up early enough to watch the riders depart, I did come across the tail end of the bunch making their way across the Barwon at Queen's Park before heading up Melville Ave.
Riders in the Momentum Energy Community Ride crossing the Queen's Park Bridge
Some were making harder work of it than others this late in the ride, but spirits still seemed generally high.
Riders heading up "Joey's Hill" to Melville Ave

Meanwhile, things got a little more serious with the start of the elite women's race at 11:30am. I grabbed a spot on the Breakwater Bridge, settled in and waited for the fun to start - and it didn't take long. Within 10 minutes of the race start, I could see the media helicopters overhead and then the support vehicles and media bikes began appearing, accompanied by a sizeable squad of Geelong's finest flashing their reds and blues.
One of four media helicopters covering the race
In a matter of seconds, the peloton appeared around the corner...
The peloton sweeping around the corner over the bridge
...and then just as quickly, they were gone..
The rear of the peloton crossing the Breakwater Bridge
Meanwhile above the river, one of the local White-faced Herons was forced to share airspace with a much larger type of bird:
There were several birds in the sky today.
Then, while the peloton headed off to take in the sights of Barwon Heads and the Great Ocean Road, I headed for "Cementies" (Hyland Rd in Fyansford which runs up beside the cement works). I arrived (via bike) in time to take up pole position on the seat half way up. There were a couple of other amateur snappers already waiting a little further up the hill and as we waited...and waited...well past the expected time of arrival, several more of the locals wandered down for a look.

One of Cadel's boys sussing out the course
At one point, a couple of the men's teams headed past - no doubt checking out the route for tomorrow's race - then we were treated to the spectacle of local Geelong West legend Sebastian Flaccavento slogging his way up the hill on one of his tiny bikes. He had his seat up nice and high today as he does for long rides, so I can only assume that he was the last rider through in the earlier community ride (the long course...of course).

Sebastian making his way up "Cementies"
After Sebastian came and went, we continued to wait. By now I had become quite well-acquainted with the lady standing to my left who then introduced me to a friend who also arrived. And still we waited. I know that the riders had expressed concern about the high winds forecast leading up to the race and I suspect their concerns were justified.

Not long to wait now...
It was not until about 2:30pm that the lead rider appeared around the corner and headed up the final hill. This as it turned out, was South Australian rider Rachel Neylan from the Building Champions Squad who made her move up Melville Ave and managed to hold off Valentina Scandolara from Orica - AIS and Tessa Fabry from High5 Dream Team to take the win.
Orica - AIS rider Amanda Spratt climbing the hill
After the lead riders passed, we waited in vain for any sight of a peloton. It seems the hills had taken their toll and the group pictured below was the largest remaining.
The remains of the peloton heading up
The tight bunch which had crossed the Barwon at Breakwater, had been torn to shreds by the time the riders climbed the hill above the Moorabool and somehow I doubt they had time to appreciate the view!
Looking past the riders to the Ring Road and the Lewis Bandt Bridge over the
Moorabool River