Before I begin I feel I should clarify something about Team Dave: we don’t really ride as a team per se. We are a bunch of middle-aged guys who like gathering to ride around Port Phillip Bay. We are of varying abilities and speed levels and most of the time are gathered together only on the day before the ride, at the start of the ride, at the end of the ride and on the morning of the day after the ride. All of these meets (except at the start of the ride) involve the consumption of coffee and food, especially pasta, chicken burgers and cooked breakfasts.
Well, my previous comment regarding the Melbourne weather looking good for Around The Bay must have been read by the weather gods who, on such occasions, seem to follow me around and spoil my day. Wind, and lots of it, was on the menu and the previous nights feed at Café Grand Forno in Ashburton had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Despite less than five hours of sleep, a bellyful of pasta, half a pizza and the best part of a bottle of Cab-Sav I found rising at 4.15am for the ride surprisingly easy. With kit prepped the night before it was just a matter of checking the weather forecast, getting dressed, having a couple of slices of toast and something to drink (the remaining Cab-Sav seemed appealing), riding to the Hanger’s Hanger to meet the rest of Team Dave…
…and then riding through the back streets of Ashburton to the cycle path which runs alongside the Monash Freeway in to Melbourne, not forgetting the traditional pit stop after 8km to water the plants at Loys Paddock Reserve in Burnley.
The ride this year would include a first for me (at least) as organisers had stipulated riders, if they wished to have their total riding time recorded, would need to cross the official start line and the timing mats in Queenscliff and Sorrento as well as the finishing line back in Alexandra Gardens. Previously Team Dave have opted to bypass the melee of riders leaving Alexandra Gardens and started opposite, on the northern bank of the Yarra, before riding over the Old Sandridge Rail Bridge, onto Queensbridge Street then picking up with the now not so congested bunches on City Road.
As the only rider in the team who had signed up for the full 250km I should have started with the others riding the same distance; the start for these is at 5.30am. But, as in previous years, I rolled up a bit later than them and made my way to the start line to set off with those leading off the 210km riders. The rest of Team Dave started in their speed groups further back. My plan, as in previous rides was to try and go faster than the rest of the team and attempt to arrive in Queenscliff to be on the same ferry as them.
As the lead group in the 210km set off I joined in and was soon on my way to the Westgate Bridge. In the dark of an early daylight savings dawn in Melbourne and concentrating on avoiding any bunch-riding mishaps I was oblivious to the fact the group I was with had ridden straight ahead at a set of lights instead of turning right (they must have been doing a much shorter ride). But, as soon as I realised this, I peeled off and was soon up and over the Westgate Bridge and on my way to Geelong.
As soon as I was past the RAAF base at Laverton the route follows a steady south-westerly track for the next forty-five kilometres, all bar about ten kilometres of it on the Princes Highway, and this is where the winds started. Unlike last year when I managed to ride thirty kilometres of this stretch with a team from Bendigo Police, this year, I was largely on my own. The south-westerly winds had picked up as the forecasters predicted and kept my speed down in the early stages to the mid-30s average. As I was approaching Little River I could see a rainbow ahead. A shower I expected but not a shower of hail. By the time I got to Geelong I had ridden through a second and decision time was looming. I stopped for a minor bike adjustment at Rippleside Park and then reminded myself I had signed on for the 250 and the 250 it would be!
With a good breeze behind me the ride through the Bellarine Peninsula to Portarlington was a joy. But as anyone who knows this area can attest, after this the south-westerlies are not much fun blowing head-on from St Leonards, then side on as the ride follows a southerly route to the Bellarine Highway. I played “tag” with a couple of riders along this stretch, the others gaining strength as I was losing mine before digging deep and passing them again. The remaining five kilometres into Queenscliff I spent passing many on the 210km ride since both rides follow the same roads at this point. I passed the timing mat 4h 57m 37s after rolling over the start line in Melbourne (average speed for this leg 29.23kph).
Approaching the lines for ferry tags and lunch packs I heard the ride staff indicating riders would be on the 11.30am ferry; less than half an hour to wait! I got to the front of the queue and suddenly realised the man handing out the tags had run out. I had a momentary fear I would be joining the line for the 12 noon ferry before noticing the man grab a handful of tags from another line and then hand one to me. This would be my first time with less than 30 minutes to departing for Sorrento. Last year was the longest wait with one of the main ferries breaking down on the Saturday evening, which meant less transportation available and a wait of over an hour.
I got my lunch and found somewhere to sit and stretch for a short time whilst tucking into the chicken sandwich, Mizone drink and Winners bar. Within ten minutes I and a few hundred others were called to the ferry. I saw none of Team Dave in the park or the queue and assumed they must have been on an earlier ferry.
I sent a message to Grant (he’s the one on the right) to let him know I was getting the 11.30am ferry and received a call whilst underway to let me know he and a couple of others would be on the 12 noon ferry with another two some distance back after the youngest member cramped up on the road to Geelong. I expressed my surprise that they were not on the ferry ahead of or even with me only to discover the ride marshals had not let some of the bunches depart the start until over half an hour after I had departed!
I told Grant I’d wait at Sorrento until he arrived and then discuss the ride back. This also gave me the opportunity to grab a coffee and check my Twitter messages. Just before crossing the timing mat I detected the distinct aroma of ground beans and brewing coffee emanating from a stall set up at the Sorrento Seafood Tavern. I grabbed a long black and checked my messages.
One tweet that particularly caught my eye was this one from @MelbourneJulie who was attending the finish of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne:
The mischievous type that I am I couldn’t resist replying with something (in)appropriate:
Before too long Grant, Marko and a new member to the team, Ken, arrived. Grant suggested I go on ahead as he and Marko wouldn’t be able to maintain my pace and indicated Ken, a fitness instructor, would ride on with me. So we all clipped in, rolled over the timing mat and that was the last I saw or them, including Ken, until the finish. The ride from Sorrento through Rosebud and Dromana has the benefit of the south-westerlies and knowing they would be buffeting me later on in the afternoon I pushed on as hard as I could, made good time up Mount Martha (avoiding the inexperienced hill climbers on the left) through to Mornington and then Frankston. (Oh, how I love that sweeping hill down the Nepean Highway into Frankston; the Garmin registered 69.7kph this year and I didn’t even pedal!)
From Frankston North the road follows a northerly/north-westerly route and following the coast there is little (if any) respite from the ubiquitous south-westerlies. For some unknown reason the relatively short sixteen kilometre stretch from Frankston to Mordialloc always seems (to me) to take a long time and this time was no different. Crossing the Patterson River I could see the mouth of the river and a large part of the inlet white with foam as the winds, which forecasters assessed as gusting to 45knots (or 80kmh), whipped up big waves. The same winds were funnelled between the numerous beach mansions, blowing through to the highway and at times unwary riders were buffeted and blown across the lane potentially causing havoc for other road users. Thankfully, unlike Brisbane drivers, Melburnians seem aware of these issues and give riders a wide berth. But other riders, like me, had to maintain a high degree of concentration, picking a spot to overtake where the other rider was not alongside a driveway open to the wind or chance riding out in the traffic.
The next section up to Brighton and through to St Kilda was not as intense and provided me the opportunity to dream of a massive mortgage as we passed some very expensive beachside properties, anything to take my mind off the last few kilometres of traffic lights as we got closer to the city.
Turning off Beaconsfield for the last five kilometres sees riders bunching again and at every red traffic light many display the bad habits of overtaking on the left and forcing their way to the front to be in the best position for the final sprint from the back of Southbank, under St Kilda Road and left to the finish in Alexandra Gardens. People…please! It. Is. Not. A. Race. If you were trying to beat your previous best time then you should have worked harder earlier on, not on inner city streets surrounded by fellow cyclists.
I rode over the finish line 8h 26m 57s after rolling over the start line in Melbourne and 3h 29m 19s after leaving Sorrento (average speed for this leg 30.10kph with an average of 29.59kph for the whole ride).
The first rider home was, as usual, Team Dave’s mountain goat mascot “Purvo.” An avid Audax rider, this year he had arrived with a new Giant carbon bike then declared he preferred such long rides on his old steel Giant. This time he missed the chance to do the loop with a ferry ride and had to settle for riding to Queenscliff and back. Consequently he was back earlier than the rest of us thanks to a huge tailwind which, he claims, ensured he remained at 45kph or more all the way to the Westgate Bridge. He even managed to sink a couple of beers and get a massage before I arrived (and was still at the bar when I did). Next home after me was Ken followed by Grant and Marko. Muddy and Son-of-Muddy (“The Cramper”) arrived much later, just in time for a snag and a beer courtesy of Skinny on the south bank of the Yarra (thanks mate!) before heading back to the Hanger’s Hangar where we could dump the bikes and jump in the spa to relieve the weary muscles then finish off with beer and pizza and much needed sleep.
As always, the morning after is spent at a local café re-stocking depleted supplies of protein. This year we went to the Oak Room. Situated on High Street, Ashburton, it serves breakfast until 3pm so is ideal for us late risers. So, rather strangely, I decided on the “Early Birds” meal: roasted capsicum, onion and herb frittata over house-made potato rösti with chorizo, grilled tomato and feta salad. The Nicaraguan single-origin coffee topped it off nicely.
After packing and wishing each other all the best with their training for next year’s ride (which at this stage I am unlikely to be around for as I am planning a trip to London) it was time for the trip to the airport and home. Thankfully the Qantas industrial sagas were placed on hold although it would have been good to sink some more carbs in the Qantas Club before heading home.
I am yet to fathom how the tracking can be so wayward nor figure how Garmin registers my top speed accurately but Ride With GPS has me reaching a maximum speed of 182kph in the inner city streets of south Melbourne.