I know, I know – the Fondo was ages ago (16th September). So why I am only blogging about it now? Got up the Monday morning after the ride, feeling a bit stiff and sore but generally okay until I lent over to pick up my lip balm and blam! Instant back pain. Really intense, haven’t-experienced-it-in-years back pain.
Commence the week off work where I spent four days either lying in bed or lying on the couch (only four because I’d already arranged to have the Monday off). The only time I really went anywhere was to go to the physio. I just find it ironic that I made it through an entire 120km ride feeling reasonably okay – my back was hurting a bit on the first, much more difficult climb – but lean over to pick up a tube of lip balm…
Anyhoo… Amy’s Grand Fondo.
It was great! I originally set myself what I thought was the realistic challenge of completing the ride in five and a half hours. So imagine how happy I was when I finished in under 5hrs (4hr 57mins according to my Garmin). My official ride time was 5hr 36mins but this incorporated all the stops we made including one really long stop at Deans Marsh which was much longer than we intended as the cafe took forever to actually make my fiance’s very uncomplicated espresso.
My overall placing was 3110 (out of how many riders I have no clue) and I was 68th out of 88 riders in my age group (female 40 – 44). I was hoping for a top 25% finish but soon realised that was going to be impossible as I saw or passed very few women in my category which meant they were probably all in the faster groups in front of me. And they were. Still, I didn’t come last in my age group (wasn’t even close to that) so that’s something.
The climb up Skenes Creek was hard – harder than I thought it would be. My back was really talking to me about two-thirds of the way up so I pulled over to have a stretch and admire the view which was stunning. Got a few odd looks because I’d stopped but it was worth it to take in the sight of forest turning into farm land turning into ocean. I managed to get to the top in 47 minutes which is pretty decent for someone who isn’t a great climber. I actually managed to overtake a few people but I have to admit I felt the strongest once we got go into the flat bit between Forest and Deans Marsh. Had to be told to dial it back a bit otherwise I was going to exhaust myself before we even got to the Deans Marsh climb.
This was such different experience from the last time I rode the Great Ocean Road. For one thing I remembered Deans Marsh being a way harder climb than it actually was. Maybe that’s just because I knew what to expect but I really did remember there being a lot more up and a lot less respite. But I suppose this time around I was much better prepared and all those boulie laps paid off 😉
One thing that didn’t go to the plan was the wardrobe malfunction I experienced just as we started. I finally bought myself a pair of Assos bib knicks after swearing vehemently that I never would (waste of money was my usual comment – I have been persuaded otherwise now) and they have a centre strap that runs down your chest and hooks through a little holder at the top of the shorts. I’d be warned that sometimes they become unhooked and that I might like to sew a stitch or two to make the gap narrower but I didn’t have a problem on my first ride with the shorts. Weeeelll… I wasn’t so fortunate this time. We’d just rolled under the start arch and were heading for the timing start line when I felt the strap pop loose. So over to the side of the road I went where I spent a couple of minutes rearranging my clothing. At least it was before the official timing start but we lost contact with the fast riders in our start group and couldn’t catch up. Not that it really mattered as we got overtaken by a whole bunch of other riders from the group behind us.
Riding on closed roads was sensational, especially on a frankly scary road like the Great Ocean Road. I’ve only experienced it once before and that was on open roads and I was pretty much terrified the whole time. But this was great. No cars, no worrying about oncoming traffic because there was none. It made overtaking about a million times easier because there was so much space. I especially enjoyed it on the descents.
Speaking of descents I didn’t find any of them particularly dangerous although the organisers disagreed with me and had put signs out. However, there was one accident that I know of that required an ambulance so maybe I’m wrong about that. I imagine it’s hard for inexperienced riders to not get caught up in the excitement of an event like this which could lead to them taking risks that normally wouldn’t and definitely shouldn’t. Ending up in the back of an ambulance is a pretty stiff price to pay for a misjudgement. I like to descend fast and sometimes I do overstretch myself but I’ve always managed to get things under control when they do go bad. But I have to say I’ve worked pretty hard to get my skills up so that I feel confident on my bike. (I also have my former rally driver Dad to thank for some intensive lessons in the art of cornering when I was learning to drive all those years ago and couldn’t corner properly to save myself. Funny what really sticks in your head.)
It was fun and I’ll definitely be doing it again. Hopefully the next time without the back injury the next day!