31 January, 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

28 January, 2015

Gone Fishing

One of the most common recreational uses of rivers is fishing and in this, the Barwon and its tributaries are no different to most. What is caught and where varies from river to river and location to location and there are multiple websites which give detailed descriptions of what fish can be caught where and when, such as the Department of Environment and Primary Industries site which includes the Barwon and more.
Fisherman at Barwon Heads
During my meanderings up and down the Barwon I've come across several species of fish which call the river home and come across all sorts of people fishing along its length, from families fishing off the William Buckley footbridge at Barwon Heads or on the banks amongst the mangroves to the retirees fishing off the platforms through Geelong.
On a recent paddle up from Baum's Weir we met a guy paddling a fully-equipped Hobie Cat upriver to spend the day fishing for redfin (aka English perch) in the quiet section of river above Merrawarp Road. He claimed to have caught over fifty of the fish in the river over the past two weeks, which is good news for the Barwon as they are an introduced species which impacts native fish populations. Fortunately, they also make good eating (the reason they were introduced by settlers in the 1860s). Whilst they have been declared a noxious species in New South Wales, this is not as far as I can tell, yet the case in Victoria, however anglers are strongly encouraged not to return redfin to the water once caught.
Other problem exotic species I have come across in the Barwon are mosquito fish and of course carp, all of which I mentioned in an earlier post. It has been noted that since the introduced carp population took hold in the 1960s, that stocks of redfin have reduced, however the carp themselves cause serious damage to native fish populations and our waterways.

Carp in the Barwon at Breakwater
On the other hand however, I did come across a native species on a recent fishing excursion to the Moorabool River. We took the kids (along with the rods they received for Christmas) to a relative's property where we used to fish as kids too. I can't say that the haul was huge however, there were several good bites which resulted in a catch of one short-finned eel and a redfin fingerling, which had the misfortune of catching its tail on the hook.
Short-finned eel taken from the Moorabool
Like redfin, short-finned eel make good eating and are particularly popular as an export to Japan. They are found in many of our waterways, extending from the South Australian border along the east coast. They are also found in New Zealand and almost as far north as Fiji. Their ability to draw up to 50% of their oxygen through their skin, means young eels are able to move short distances between bodies of water such as lakes, river pools, swamps and dams over moist ground, where they stake a territory of around 400m. Males are somewhat smaller than females, reaching maturity at around 14 years as opposed to females maturing between 18 and 24 years.
Short-finned eels were also an important source of food for the local Wathaurong tribes who used the rocky parts of the riverbed - such as the anabranch at Fyansford - to create traps to catch the eels as they swam downstream.
Anabranch, Fyansford
Whilst there are a number of other species of native fish common to the Barwon and associated waterways, I have yet to spot them.