What an awesome looking team we made!

This was the second year for the Amy’s Gran Fondo, and I vowed after missing the first one, that I would get over to ride the next. I had been following the AGF notifications advising when entries would be open, so that as soon as they announced the dates and confirmed entries were open, I bought our tickets, and we were in.

 

Gran Fondo is the Italian term for Long Distance, and many competitive cyclists use these events to challenge themselves to ride the distance in their best possible times, thereby qualifying them to race in other Fondo’s. Recreational cyclists use these events to challenge themselves, and get a sense of accomplishment just in finishing ahead of the sag wagon! I fall into the latter category, not that I’m lazy, just I tend to lack that whole competitive spirit!

For us, it was the opportunity to ride 120km’s along the Great Ocean Road and through the Otway Ranges, with no other traffic except for 3,998 other cyclists, all of them heading in the same direction. There will always be those who say that events like this are too expensive, and that it is too far to travel for a 120km ride on public roads, but the price really was a bargain for the experience that it was, and some traveled a lot further than we did!

Matthew, Sarah, Harriet and I all drove over on the Saturday, and managed to find the pet friendly cottage that Sarah had booked for us, which was a great little place! With everything unloaded and unpacked, we headed down for our briefing where we also managed to catch up with Carl and Virginia in the queue and chat with them about how they planned to attack the ride! Tim had driven over with Natalie on Friday, and they caught up with us before our briefing to say hello and make plans for dinner that evening, and then plan our ride.

The ride was extremely well organised, from the compulsory pre-race briefings all the way through to the finish. To ensure that all riders attended the briefing, you could only get your race pack and numbers once you had attended your allotted briefing session. A bit like many other events that you enter, this one requested that you estimate your average speed for the event, and a bit like many other events, there are always those who will over-estimate their abilities, but we kept ours conservative, and based our start position on our normal average speeds.

The start was staged according to your average speed, with the fastest starting from the front, down to the slowest at the rear. We were grouped in bunches of 200 cyclists, with each group being allowed through the start line at 90 second intervals. This was an excellent way to start, as there was no mad crush or surge forward that can happen in some events, instead it was a rolling 1.5km from the start line, to the official timing start point.

The roads could only be closed for a limited time of course, so there were to be rolling road openings behind us, especially along the Great Ocean Road, but they did allow about 2.5 hours for riders to travel the first 40km of undulating roads. This got us to Skenes Creek, and that’s where the undulations stopped and the climbing started! The course took us through some spectacular country in the Otway Ranges, spoiling us with rain forests, coastal views, lush farming country, and perfect cycling conditions.

Like all events, it relied heavily on volunteer support, and they were all excellent, all very friendly and helpful from the very start at the pre-race briefings, the road closures, the feed stations and the bike park. The feed stations were great! Hydralite were on board as drinks provider, and Carmans for food, so every station had a swag of food and drinks at it, and helpful people making sure we had everything we needed.

There were some nasty stages in the ride, some pretty harsh climbs that really tested some of the riders, and even forced a few to walk. Proud to say that none of the Cervo Rosso team walked, all of them ground their way to the top of the King of the Mountain, where we then rolled on for another 1.5km to the next feed station. If they thought this climb was nasty, what was ahead was even harsher! At about the 100km mark, the next lot of climbs began, which saw some riders cramping up as they pushed hard all the way up for the last 10km to the finish line. The volunteers here were fantastic too, and they were all waving and cheering the riders in as they crossed the finish line.

The timed event finished here at Benwerrin, which sits about 10km back from Lorne, and high up in the Ranges. We regrouped just before the finish line, and all rode over it together, which was a great way to finish a fantastic ride with awesome friends. We were hoping that the photographer on the finish line would get a picture of all of us together that we could give to Carlyle, but sadly that did not happen. He did however manage to get a great photo of Sarah, Matthew and Tim all riding together!

The race was finished in Benwerrin for safety, as apparently last year there were more crashes in the last 10km than there were in the entire event! You could see how this would be possible, the descents were fantastic, but some of the corners were tight, which meant if you went in hard, you’d be airborne over the edge! To keep us in line on the descent, they gave us a lead vehicle that riders were not allowed to go passed.

It was a fantastic descent, and took us all the way back into Lorne, where we went back to the Village where we could grab some lunch and some drinks, and try and recover some energy! It was like another big cycling reunion here, catching up with friends old and new from all around Australia, and of course we can’t leave out Carlyle who came over from Switzerland to join us in the ride. As we headed out from the start, we caught sight of Denis and Mary Safe who called out and gave us a wave, so it was extra special to catch up with them again in the Village. Of course with the cycling community being so tight, it turned out that one of Carlyle’s mates used to be the CEO of the AGF, and so of course he knew Denis and Mary too!!

Well, you’re famous to us Mary.

It was fantastic to finally catch up with Carlyle after having chatted with him and shopped at Cervo Rosso for so long now. Even though all of us had brought our CR kits over with us, Carlyle presented the four of us with a beautiful long sleeve jersey each to wear in the event. These were amazing! We wore them over our short sleeve jerseys instead of using arm warmers or gillets, and they worked a treat! The new material wicked the sweat away so well, that the normal chill you would get on a descent just did not happen! A special bonus of course, being shiny and new, they looked fantastic in the photos!

Happy at the finish, or happy to be finished?

So, 20 hours of driving for a five hour bike ride, was it worth it? Hell yes!! Would we do it again? No. Next year, we’ll go a week earlier and do some rides along the Great Ocean Road and Otways first, and finish the week off with the Gran Fondo!!

What’s next for the Adelaide Cervo Rosso Team? Well, Amy’s Ride is coming up in November, and we’ll all be doing that of course, and then the big one, the Tour Down Under! Carlyle is back in Switzerland again now, but already making his plans for coming to Adelaide for the TDU, so we’re all looking forward to that, and have much planning for some great adventures during the time he is in town!

Awesome stuff Carlyle, all the way from Switzerland a couple of days earlier, and you still managed a medal finish!! Great work!

 

What a magnificent course, fantastic views, great climbs, and fast descents.

 

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The rolling road closures that we managed to stay ahead of thankfully!