It starts with a 10km climb and the hills just keep coming….
When I entered Amy’s Gran Fondo I hadn’t even looked at the course profile but I knew Amy’s was one of the most popular Gran Fondo’s in Australia so I had to go and check it out. Even after submitting and paying for my entry I didn’t bother to look at the course profile, after all, most Gran Fondo’s courses have a couple of hills and some nice long flat sections, right? Wrong, not this course, when I checked the profile 3 weeks out from the race I knew I was in for a very tough day having not trained in hills almost all year and about to do a race with over 1800m of climbing beginning with a 10km climb right from the start…
Amy’s is located in the tranquil town of Lorne located on the Great Ocean Road in the state of Victoria. Getting to Lorne is roughly a 2hr drive from the city of Melbourne and many riders will drive up the morning of the race. For those who want to a weekend away there’s accommodation within Lorne itself with one of the main Hotels being the Mantra Lorne which is also situated right by the start line. Many riders will also stay in various other towns on the Great Ocean Road just outside of Lorne to cut down the drive time or to get some rest and relaxation away from the hype of the racing (which goes all weekend).
I chose to drive up to Amy’s on the Sunday morning which meant leaving home at 3:30am as we’re located South East of Melbourne which adds another hour to the journey. Arriving at Lorne around 6:30am the town was reasonably quiet, there were the typical road closures taking place so traffic management staff were out and about, and the normal event staff were going about their business getting ready for the thousands of riders who were about to descend on the small town.
I’d completed an online race briefing session the week before and re-confirmed all my details which gave me an electronic version of my race ticket so registration was super easy, I just mentioned my number and the friendly team handed my timing chips.
The morning was wet and cold, I spent about an hour trying to figure out whether or not to wear warmers and a gilet, yes was the final outcome and I am glad I did because it got damn cold through the middle of the course.
I was racing age group so slotted into the start line within the marked area. The first 10km of the race is a climb, we rolled for approx. 500m then were straight into the ascent. It didn’t take long for the heart rate to hit 80% and it was then just a matter of riding as hard as possible to get over the climb without blowing up. Within the first 4km I was off the back of the peloton which was the first (of many) times I wished I done some hill training…
I came over the top of the climb with a scattering of riders who’d also been dropped, I could see the peloton about 500m up the road so decided to try and bridge back on. After chasing for what seemed like hours I got to about 100m off the back then then we hit another climb and I didn’t have the legs to get across and sustain the pace up the next hill. I resigned myself to the fact I would not see that group of riders again.
After 30km of riding a large group came past made up largely of the next age group who’d departed 2 mins after me so I tucked myself in the middle and settled into a rhythm, at least that was the plan. What I didn’t know is that there’s almost no flat sections in the course so it was a repeat of climb – recover, climb – recover. The group I was in eventually split when we hit the next long steep hill and I found myself with around 5 riders who I stayed with for the next 50km, we weren’t helping each other per se we just happened to be climbing and riding at the same pace (or were just as tired as each other). The first 80km of the race is in-land from the cost and very lumpy but once you’ve got through this the course hits the Great Ocean Road so it’s time to pick up the pace and get through 40km of rollers to the finish.
Personally, I felt ok when I got the 80km mark (considering the brutal riding we’d just been through) so started to ‘pull some turns’, that was until I got to the 100km mark when my strength left me and I reverted to ‘steady survival mode’. Thankfully for me a group of about 50 riders came by so I jumped on the back knowing this was my ticket to the finish line. It’s always amazes me how riders start jostling for position and start taking risks 1km out from the finish of a race when there are no podium spots left and they are racing for 50th position… This race was no exception, I drifted back into a safe spot where I could keep an eye on the crazies and I let the chaos ensue. There were a few near misses as riders were cutting each other off and touching wheels but thankfully no one went down.
Crossing the finish line was a relief, I reflected on how stupid it was not to have checked the course profile early on and done some specific hill training which would have produced a much better result. In spite of that it was a great ride and I definitely recommend putting it on the bucket list, I’d also recommend doing some hill training!
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