Amy’s Gran Fondo 2014
The Amy’s Gran Fondo in 2013 could be regarded as the catalyst event that prompted my entry into my very first road race, and maiden victory, Stratford to Dargo. After a year of racing and training on the bike with Health.com.au-Search2Retain I couldn’t wait to head back to Lorne and ride in this year’s 2014 edition once again with the Peak Cycles team.
Riding along the Great Ocean Road with full road closure accompanied by perfect weather is a really special experience. This might be part of the reason why there were 5,000 other riders taking to the start line to promote cycling safety. This year, new timing rules meant that riders in the age group category could no longer gain time on rivals by starting at the back end of their wave and working their way to the front of the wave. Instead, the timing started for all riders in the wave when the first rider from that wave crossed over the start line. This resulted in a much quicker start and fair times. This year I was heading off in the first wave with the 19-26 age category including 8 African Wildlife Safari riders (AWS).
Right from the start AWS hit it hard and rolled through with solid turns to prevent the following waves from catching up before the start of Skenes Creek Climb (9.5km @ 5%). Having fellow Peak Cycles rider Andrew Stalder starting 3 minutes behind us meant I was more than happy to sit in and allow his group to catch up while watching the AWS guys rolling turns on the front. The quick pace set by AWS caused some havoc for those who weren’t attentive at the very start as splits quickly opened up and before I knew it the bunch was down to about 20 odd riders after the 38km section along the Great Ocean Road.
Photo Credit: Veeral Patel
This year I was looking to hit the climb hard to see if I had improved from last year and potentially take out the KOM. As soon as the road turned upwards I went to the front and set a solid tempo to make it difficult for lots of the guys still in the bunch who would slowly start to drop out the back. A fair way into the climb the group had thinned out but still included a few AWS riders including Jeremy Cameron, Tyler Spurrell and Micheal Crosbie. No one else was wiling to come to the front and pull a hard turn but I wasn’t too keen on letting them ride my wheel to the top, so I continued with the hard tempo trying to drop them. With 1km to go Crosbie was the last rider remaining on my wheel and he waited until about 200m to come around me and give it a kick to the top, beating me in the KOM by 2 seconds with Fergus Sully rolling in third. The climb took me 22 minutes and 16 seconds, 25km/h with an average power of 373 Watts and 189 BPM, and a max of 196 BPM.
With a long way to go and only three of us over the top, we sat up to let more riders catch up so we could roll through to the finish. The select group ended up having 9 riders in it, including the 3 previously mentioned AWS riders plus Shaun O’Callaghan. Shaun immediately attacked off the front, which forced people to pull some turns in order to control his gap while the remaining AWS watched us do the work. Eventually everyone started to chip in and roll turns to ensure our group had the overall quickest time, which meant Shaun was caught with a little way to go as we reached Deans Marsh and started the final few hills to the finish.
I was still feeling really good at this stage and was happy to keep pulling turns, particularly up the hills as most of the guys in our group were either starting to get pretty tired or started to save their legs for the final 1.2km climb @6% to the finish. With the 1km to go sign I hit the front and drove it hard, immediately opening up a gap from the remaining riders with only Crosbie staying on my wheel. I kept riding hard knowing I was at least riding myself into 2nd overall. I was unable to drop Crosbie, and with 100 metres to go he came around me and took out the sprint for first place, 2/10ths of a second ahead of me.
I was happy to come home from the weekend with 2nd KOM, 2nd fastest time overall and 2nd fastest time in my age category. However, I think it’s also important to remember what this Gran Fondo signifies and why we ride it. The event is timed and there is prize money and UCI qualification, so of course there’s lots of incentive to take the event seriously. But spending the weekend away with mates riding some fantastic roads to raise money and awareness for road cycling safety in Australia is what it’s all about!
It was great to see Andrew Stalder take out fastest time in his Age group for the day. It’s really impressive to think this guy works full time, has two kids and still manages to put everyone in the box going up Kinglake on a regular basis. What a legend!
Next up is the 3 day Canberra Tour which kicks off this weekend and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Health.com.au-Search2Retain can achieve up there before we make our way down south for the Tour of Tasmania…
A big thanks to Peak Cycles for having me along this weekend, and congratulations to all those in the bunch who had a good ride! There were plenty of quick times…
Photo Credit (cover photo and AWS photo): Veeral Patel