Adam shares his ride at the 2013 Amy's Gran Fondo
Amy’s Gran Fondo was my official foray into a road riding event, and boy was it official. The race is one of 14 global UCI events on the 2013 UCWT calendar and finishing in the the top 25% of your age group means qualification for next year's world champs in Slovenia. None of my past MTB events ever had such high recognition.
Not only was it a UCI sanctioned event, it was huge. At 8am, 4000 riders lined up on the main street of Lorne, all facing west ready to charge down the Great Ocean Road. Lorne turned on a great morning for us, 13 degrees, sun shining with a very light nor-easter; near perfect riding conditions.
As part of team Swear Words, which included a few A-Grade riders, the 7 of us placed ourselves optimistically in the first wave of 200. Amongst this bunch, there were lots very expensive carbon wheels, frames and kit belonging to cyclists who were actually there for the winning.
My goal was to grit the teeth and stick in the lead group for 40kms, till we got to the base of the 9km Skenes Creek climb, from there we would see what happened.
This was an awesome tactic, I felt very “pro” heading down the Great Ocean Road with full road closure in the bunch at 40+kph - for my first road racing experience, it was awesome to start at this level. All the stories of the peloton sucking you along are all true. About 10kms before Skenes Creek, a small bunch of us lost touch with the quickening peloton, but with some hard work by a guy willing to tow us, we rejoined the riders just before the climb.
The Skenes Creek climb was when reality set in - the front group charged up, and under the instruction of our experienced team member Tommy P, I hung back and soft pedalled up knowing that I had another 70kms to go, including another 12km climb.
As we got over the top, I got stuck in no-mans land with two teammates. So we did what the pros do and sensibly waited for the next group. The next herd of lycra and carbon was a little more realistic - they didn't charge over every bump and hill but were still nice and quick. I tucked behind a wheel and we powered on the downwardly biased flats for another 50-60kms.
Again, amongst this group, there were more moments of road cycling awesomeness, with support cars, police bikes, avoiding crashes, photographers on back of bikes (the famous Tour De France photographer O'Nev aka Veeral Patel), closed roads and fans cheering us on. The group never let up, and again I lost contact just as I reached Deans Marsh - the start of the final climb.
With the long climb to go, I was back to preservation mode. I had nothing left in the legs. I was spinning up the hill (singing and repeating "just keep swimming" from Finding Nemo), getting passed by quite a few peeps going up the hill. But when I finally saw the 5km banner I was able to lift my tempo, finding a little something to give an extra push for the final kms and pass back some cyclists who had gone too hard too early.
After 110km, about 2000 metres of vert and 3 hours 23 minutes, I managed to qualify for Slovenia, so yes I am pretty stoked. Naturally if I’d done longer rides and some more kms in preparation, then I would have been even better prepared, but I’ll aim for top 10% next year.