Last year, Sarah, Matt and I drove over to Lorne for the Gran Fondo, and caught up with Tim over there so that we could all ride the event together. We loved the event. It was so well organised and supported, and went through some very stunning areas including the Great Ocean Road and part of the Otways, that we knew we wanted to do it again this year.
Our first thought was that we would all drive to Lorne, set up a base there, and spend a week out on our bikes exploring the area. Somehow though, we got a little distracted from that original plan, and settled on riding from Adelaide to Lorne instead! This was going to take some organisation, and a great team to ride with, as anyone who has ridden multiple day tours over a considerable distance, know that you need to work together to make it easier for everyone.
We spread the word amongst our friends, and instantly we had the numbers we needed to make it work. We couldn’t believe that other people could be so nuts as to want to ride 850km to do a 120km bike ride/race! Riding with us would be Mark Reidy, Tim Dibden, Chris Cuthbert and Robert Rau.
Now we needed a support vehicle! As luck would have it, Reidy’s company had supplied him with an excellent Toyota twin cab ute, with an awning and a towbar. This was the biz! Fitted to the vehicle already was a cb radio, and Engels fridge, and some great slide out drawer solutions. Reidy also came complete with a coffee machine that could be carried in the back of the ute. How awesome is that?
So now we had six riders planning on riding over, a support vehicle, but no-one to drive it! We have done rides previously where we had taken turns in doing the driving, but all of us wanted to ride this one. So enter Gary, Sarah’s stepdad. Gary being an ex cyclist who loved doing long rides was keen straight away to help us out as driver! This was awesome, because being an experienced cyclist, he knew already that it was going to be a long slow ride!
Now the issue was with six riders, a twin cab ute that already has a heap of gear in it, we needed space for spares and baggage! I Googled bicycle trailers, and immediately I came up with Cooks Trailers, and a positive reference for their service and price. So I dropped by and had a look. What I was after was a fully enclosed trailer that would open at the front and the rear, so that we could access spares and baggage easily. Amazingly, they had just the trailer we needed, and at an awesome rate.
Now we had to work out our route, and where we could find suitable accommodation along the way. I’ve ridden from Melbourne to Adelaide before along the coast route, so I knew roughly where we could break our ride up to make it manageable, and so the route was decided;
Adelaide to Meningie 152km
Meningie to Kingston SE 145km
Kingston SE to Mt Gambier 170km
Mt Gambier to Pt Fairy 154km
Pt Fairy to Lavers Hill 144km
Lavers Hill to Lorne 91km
So there we have it, 856km to get to do a 120km bike ride. Seems reasonable doesn’t it?
We packed spare wheels and all sorts of spare parts, just in case we had a mechanical issue on the road, but we didn’t think it was going to happen about 5km into our ride! We were climbing the path heading to the bollards when Chris blew a spoke! We didn’t have any spare spokes, so we swapped wheels instead, and we were soon on our way again. Fortunately we had a number of wheels with us, but still wanted to get this one fixed in case it was needed again later. We dropped on to Cycle On in Strathalbyn, and they fixed it for us free!
The ride to Meningie was a great opening day, which included winds of up to 37km/h whilst we were still riding! Within half an hour of us setting up at Meningie though, the winds lifted to 50+km/h, and the rain came bucketing in! By morning though, it had all pretty much cleared up for our ride to Kingston SE.
We still had the winds to battle, but thankfully it wasn’t raining! To battle the winds, it ended up that Robert, Tim and I would ride in patterns that meant each of us would be riding 6km at the front of the peleton, but surrounding Chris and Sarah, so that they could be protected from the wind.
The Mt Gambier stage was fantastic. We finished the day by climbing up the massive hills taking you out of the City and up to the Blue Lake area, mainly as that’s where the GPS’s were taking us for the Big 4 caravan park. Turns out that the caravan park I had booked us into for the night was about 4km away from where we were, which was some 4km too far away, so we checked into that one instead!
Leaving Mt Gambier we had to do a stop off. Apres Velo wanted to send us some jackets to keep us warm, so we stopped by a courier yard to collect a box full of awesome Apres Velo jackets, that were very warm, and very welcome indeed! Sadly on our way to Pt fairy though, after riding some 125kms, Sarah clipped my rear wheel with her front and went down pretty hard. We were lucky that she only lost some skin, and didn’t suffer any major injuries. She had to travel the last 30km of this day in the van, which was a huge loss for the team.
Rolling out of Pt Fairy and heading to Lavers, Sarah thought it would be best to start the day off in the car. When we reached Pt Campbell though, with some 50kms to go, the temptation to ride, or the constant flow of bad jokes, was too great, so she jumped out of the ute and onto the bike. Lavers is a big hill, but it was a fantastic ride! We’d booked in to the Lavers Motel. Hmm, interesting rooms to say the least, but they had beds and a shower I guess.
We had dinner that night at the Lavers Roadhouse as Sarah had found some great reviews on the food there. We weren’t let down either! The food was fantastic, but the entertainment provided by the owner/bartender and a couple of the locals was awesome. The owner was just full of laughs! Chewie asked what was his biggest steak after being disappointed by his meal the night before, and he was told it was their porterhouse. Chewie asked if they had t-bone, and was quickly informed that no, they had porterhouse! Chewie then asked if the schnitzel was bigger than the steak, and was told no mate, the porterhouse is bigger!
They were right! The porterhouse was massive, easily the biggest any of us have ever seen, and funnily enough, big enough that it even filled Chewie up! The owner kept us laughing all night, including right up to when we left when we said we enjoyed it so much we would be back again, and were told that’s ok, just don’t bring anyone else with you!
Simon Gillett had picked up from Twitter that we were riding over, so he rang me for a chat about our ride so far, and when we would be arriving. He also gave us some awesome advice, being instead of turning right out of Lavers, go straight ahead, and it will take you through some spectacular rainforests. He was right! It was a narrow road/track, sealed all the way, and we were surrounded by rainforest! It was mindblowing. The tree ferns were huge, the trees were massive, the sounds were spectacular, and everyone was grinning from ear to ear!
The track took us to Skenes Creek, and as soon as we got to the bottom, we bumped into the Bike Station/Watermark team! Funny that the first group of cyclists we met were mates from Adelaide! We found out that Simon had been talking about us at all of the rider briefings, which was really nice. On our ride in to Lorne, most of the cyclists we saw knew who we were, and was calling out to us, or riding up for a chat. When we got in to Lorne, it got even crazier! With more people calling out and chatting to us. It really hit home just how big a ride we had just completed, and how much of an impact it has on other cyclists!
Sadly Matt couldn’t join us on our ride to Lorne, but he did drive over on Saturday, so that he could join us on Sunday for the Fondo. This was awesome, as it meant the four of us who rode it together last year, were all back to do it again.
Heading in to our designated briefing, we caught up with the amazing Carl and V, so had a quick chat and some laughs with them before heading in, organising to catch up later. In the briefing Simon spotted us straight away. Would not have been too difficult I guess, we were in the front row in our orange tshirts! He called us up on stage for a quick chat, and a huge applause from the crowd in the briefing. That was really humbling for us.
We had a great dinner with Carl and V at the Hotel, before heading back up to the house Sarah had booked for us, and got our bikes ready for the Fondo before we crashed out. I think each night we were all in bed before 10:00pm, as we were all pretty smashed from the conditions we were riding in!
We really dodged a bullet the whole trip. No matter what the weather forecasts, we had pretty good weather, windy, but not wet. There were forecasts of 20 – 40mm of rain one day, and all we had was blue skies! We were really very lucky, but as one local at Lavers described it, “Fortune favours the righteous.”