There is something almost soothing, strange as it may seem, in the sound of the bugle call “Rouse” as it sounds in the early morning on my iPhone. This may be because, on a workday, I have this innate ability to outstretch my arm and subconsciously silence the alarm either to the snooze function or even turn it off altogether. However, in these circumstances when I am again awoken, sometimes after snoozing for the third or fourth time, it is not so soothing and creates a degree of panic, especially if I was planning to ride in to work that day. If not on a workday, for example a Saturday or Sunday when I have a ride with Duttons planned then it is comforting since I am about to do something I enjoy. Like, ride for a bit then drink coffee at Coffee by Di Bella as well as savour one of their bacon and egg toasties. But when “Rouse” calls to me at 3.30am after four-and-a-half hours sleep I’m not feeling soothed. In fact I’m not really feeling anything. Numb. The inability not to consume half a bottle of Cab Sav and watch TV the night before a long ride is not my forte. And so it started last Sunday…
Wake up. Rub sleep from eyes. Stare at clock in disbelief. Silence alarm before wife wakes as well. Apologise to waking wife. Go to kitchen. Get dressed for ride. Have a bite to eat. Drink some water or electrolyte. Make drink bottles up. Pack snacks. Pump tyres. Unlock and open front door as silently as possible. Apologise to waking wife. Leave with bike. Close and lock front door as silently as possible. Apologise to waking wife. Walk the 30m to the top of the hill as GPS boots-up then clip-in and ride. (The routine is a well-worn path of many a non-competitive MAMIL I suspect).
The Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge which this year, for some unknown reason, I had entered as a 25-30kmh rider, started at 5.45am for the orange group. Most of the Duttons riders had chosen to go to the start by coach, but as I was riding in I left just after 4am, and allowed plenty of time as not only did I not plan on riding my usual 55-60 minutes into Brisbane I wanted to allow enough time to fix a puncture (the previous day it had rained heavily and the local councils don’t keep the breakdown lanes, cycle lanes or gutters as free from debris as us cyclists like). I arrived just after 5.15am as the sponsors groups were leading off then completed a quick pit stop before joining the throng of orange (interspersed with the late reds and the slower ones trying to get away early), sighting two Duttons riders along the way.
I think I made it through the start line sometime between 5.35am and 5.45am and then joined hundreds of others in trying to get through the South Brisbane stretches of the busway on the 100km trip to the Gold Coast. Climbing away from Woolloongabba the packs thin out considerably and faster riders and bunches can make good speed down to Eight Mile Plains. At 6.02am I left the busway and was back with the traffic, albeit well segregated and policed by Queensland’s finest, ably supported by the numerous volunteers who did an amazing job helping us smile and keeping us on the right route. The next few kilometres whizzed by and I arrived at the first rest stop at Eagleby and promptly shunned the supplies on offer, keeping to my plan to ride all the way through. The hardest section for me in previous years has been the section through Alberton and Gilberton due to a less than optimum road surface and, often windy and wet weather. This year, same road surface notwithstanding, it was much better and contributed to a much better second 40km than in previous years. Two of the racing guns from Duttons passed me as I followed the highway to Coomera and a third soon caught up. But we rode together for a bit, with a couple of others tagging along, ignored the second rest stop with 20km to go, and I got the best way along Hope Island Road towards Paradise Point before my club mate, who had ridden most of that section from Upper Coomera on the front, pushed the pace like Stuart O’Grady and left me in his wake. The other two kept up with him for a while, one of them later dropping off and me passing him on Marine Parade at Biggera Waters. I soon realised I was looking at a sub-three hour time and tried hard to keep the pace on, finally crossing the finish line in 2h54m20s, an average speed of 34.5km/h. You can see my ride details (Lap2) at this link.
Over the next couple of hours I caught up with the other club members who had ridden and swapped views on the ride. I heard one of the members had already left for Brisbane; he had ridden down on his 48×12 fixie in 2h28m and, I’m told, swapped his 12 for a 14 on the way back so he could “take it easy.” Late morning we went over to our pre-arranged lunch venue at the Southport Yacht Club. The buffet lunch served up was of excellent quality and the sight of so many lovely cold beers being sunk was playing with my resolve to ride all the way back again.
Just after 1pm myself and another set off for home. The break in the journey was designed to replicate the break I will have on this weekend’s Around The Bay (even though that break will only be a maximum of two hours long). It was harder going back as the winds had risen and were mostly against us and not having the benefit of a closed busway meant an alternate route had to be found. But we got there in the end, arriving home about four hours later.
The following day I had booked a massage and I was glad I had. Despite lots of stretching the hammies, quads and calves were suffering but after one hour with Zoe from Entire Health I had forgotten all about the muscle pain and could only remember how good she is at finding pressure points.
I had also put my bike in for a service ready for this weekend and found, to my horror, I had ridden 242km with a stretched chain.
So, with a new chain, tuned transmission, a rejuvenated muscular system and a swag of Honey Shotz and Aussie Butt Cream in the musette I am about to pack my bike for Melbourne where, Qantas staff industrial action permitting, I will land tomorrow afternoon for more Cab Sav and late nights before hearing the gentle sound of “Rouse” very early on Sunday morning…
As mentioned yesterday, I will be completing my fourth Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge tomorrow. I did my first in 2008 (and got paid for it!) returning in 2009 and 2010 to ride with friends made on that first ride in 2008.
The 100km ride departs South Bank and immediately enters the Busway, remaining on it all the way down to Eight Mile Plains, some 16km south of the start. No traffic. No buses. Just 10,000 cyclists enjoying the one day in the year they can ride that road. The route then essentially follows the Pacific Motorway service roads before heading for Southport via Hope Island.
On that first event the sponsor’s peloton with whom I was riding maintained a leisurely pace, overall, of about 27km/h, stopping at both refreshment points for refuelling and for the sponsors to chat without some of them getting out of breath.
Returning in 2009 to ride with sponsors for Team Red, the Heart Foundation, we took off and were making good progress on the Busway, flying at 49km/h when, in front of us, disaster struck. A rider in another bunch just ahead of us lost control and managed to get his bike sideways leaving no escape for two riders in our group. One managed to continue but for the other her race was run as was her triathlon season with a fractured pelvis and abdominal injuries. Myself and another stopped to assist the injured and ensure they were given some room from the thousands of riders still approaching the scene. It was disappointing to receive abuse from some riders for directing them to give the injured some space. We rejoined the ride some forty minutes later after the ambulance arrived and then hammered it south making up some twenty minutes of lost time.
In 2010 the original date for the ride was rescheduled after it was beset by storms. So in November Team Red regrouped and this time proceeded without incident through the Busway. In fact, with the assistance of Sheree Hughes from Activ Cycle Coaching who kept on at me whenever my legs started to spin slower, I managed to complete the course in 3h 0m 30s (this year I hope to go thirty-one seconds quicker).
This year I will be riding with some of the members from Duttons Cycles. For the first time I will be riding from home to the start (28km), completing the course, having a bite to eat at the Southport Yacht Club and then returning with some of those who have chosen not to take the coach back to Brisbane. All told I will have completed somewhere around 240km which should stand me in good stead for Around The Bay in Melbourne next weekend.
The winter months in Queensland, unlike my former home in the UK, are an ideal time to prepare for the longer rides of Spring, Summer and Autumn. In fact, in the southeast of the state with temperatures rarely getting lower than 5C in winter, it is one place where year-round cycling can be achieved without resorting to layering up too much or resorting to rollers.
Having said that, I’m not the sort of cyclist to venture out from home if it’s raining before I am on the road. I have done it once in the past three years (and you can read a bit about it here) but the thought of getting soaked before I am warmed up and having to put up with slippery roads and drivers who don’t care is not high on my priorities. Another exception would be if it was an event I had paid to take part in but, so far, I’ve been lucky in that regard.
Now spring is here (we are already into the second month – where does the time go?) the state cycling bodies start holding their key events.
Here in Queensland Bicycle Queensland have their nine-day Cycle Queensland event in mid-September with about 800 riders from around Australia taking part in a tour of a particular region which changes every year. A month later this is followed by the biggest event on their calendar, the Brisbane to Gold Coast Challenge, with close to 10,000 riders expected. This ride is on this coming Sunday and will be the fourth time I have taken part.
In Victoria the state cycling organisation, Bicycle Network Victoria, hold their first event of spring a week after the ride to the Gold Coast. Australia’s premier mass participation ride Around The Bay, now in its eighteenth year, attracts 18,000 riders from around Australia and some from overseas to ride around all or part of Port Phillip Bay, with those undertaking the longer 210km or 250km options taking most of the day to complete it. This year will be my third ride with Team Dave.
After that it will be back to Queensland and, willing in-laws permitting, I will drop the boys off for a sleepover in early November before riding in the second Brisbane BMW Ride For Life Challenge. Last year’s was great fun, being able to ride with members of the Fly V Australia and Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans Pro-cycling teams and raise funds for the Variety Queensland Children’s Charity. This years will be just as good with the participation of Team Jayco-2XU Pro-Cycling and Australian cycling legend Robbie McEwen.
Bring it on…
First of all I must say I didn’t expect it to be almost three months before I wrote part 2 of my search for a good bunch to ride with. I could put it down to the pressures of balancing work and home life or that I can be a lazy git, preferring to sit with a glass of red and watching the crap that is on TV. Truth be told, it is a combination of both. I’ll leave you to guess the which carries more weight.
For a woman with an innate inability to master the use of gears on a bike my wife (bless her) struck gold in her recommendation I check out “the bunch in North Lakes.”
Dutton Cycles Racing & Recreation Club has been around since 2007. Founded by the Dutton family behind the Dutton Cycles shop at North Lakes, the club held its first bunch ride in March 2008; four members turned up. It was almost two years later that I joined, but in the intervening period the numbers had swollen proportionately with the growth of the North Lakes and Mango Hill developments and through word of mouth. The profile of the club was also noticed by the Sizzler restaurant chain in 2009 when they used club members to participate in a series of advertisments for the chain which were shown, primarily, during the 2009 Tour de France.
The Dutton Cycles club ethos was explained to me as joining a family. No riders would be left behind. Riders were encouraged by ride leaders to ride within the Road Rules. The attitudes were the complete antithesis of the Zupps Ride. This sounded like the bunch for me! I turned up one hot Saturday morning in early January 2010 and joined an easy bunch for my first ride (club rules) and completed the circuit to Woody Point and back via Scarborough. I expected a longer and harder ride and often during the morning felt I should join the next group up as I spent a lot of the ride easing off and letting the rest play “catch-up.” Nevertheless we all returned as a bunch to the Coffee by Di Bella shop at North Lakes.
Since then I have had great fun riding with the faster groups (mostly “Group 2″), joining in the sprints and suffering on the final bump up Mango Hill to North lakes after smashing it earlier in the loops. I’ve enjoyed also the climbs (23mins) of Mt Mee and, even more so, the descents (6mins). In addition I’ve enjoyed the frequent interaction with car drivers, many of whom have absolutely no understanding of traffic regulations pertaining to them, let alone those that govern the use of bicycles, and some who abuse then stop at the next red light seem quite surprised to be accosted by a cyclist brandishing police ID then given a dressing down. Other than club rides I take part in a number of organised rides through Bicycle Queensland and Bicycle Victoria as well as other rides that take my fancy. But, like many recreational cyclists, I am drawn to the consumption of fresh coffee and cakes. In fact no ride is really complete without it!