I nearly wasn’t going to write about this ride, but in the end figured I’d jot something down! The Opperman Gran Fondo was a 160km loop starting and finishing in Launceston, with 300 riders signing up for the day. The day before the ride, I drove up in the afternoon, beautiful weather, warm, sunny, fantastic. But in the middle of the night it start to rain, and it didn’t stop for the whole ride.
At 160km, it’s the longest non-stop ride I’ve done. I’ve done longer rides but I’ve always had a break half way. In this ride, the only stops were to fix a saddle that came loose (Barry’s saddle) and a pause at the top of the hill climb to regroup. My group (Geoff, Barry, Rob, ‘Skull’ and I, and a couple of others whose names escape me now) started at 8:30 with the ‘fast’ bunch, with the boys from Genesys leading us out for the first 25km. After 25km, the Orange Army had had enough (or perhaps they had better things to do), and they stopped, while we continued to slog on through the rain. It was good to ride in a decent sized bunch. We hit a dirt section which took us under Batman Bridge; I somehow managed to get covered in mud splatters from that; Richie Porte rode past looking rather cleaner than I did…
Just outside Beaconsfield, Barry’s saddle came loose. Geoff, ‘Skull’ and I all stopped to assist, and fortunately I had a multitool which had the right sized allan key to tighten it up. But by the time we got the saddle sorted the bunch was long gone. We rode hard to try and catch up, none of us really aware that the hill climb was just ahead! We hit the hill climb just a little tired from our game of catch-up, but Geoff in particular rode magnificently (finishing 11th in the timed climb) and I was pleased with my effort coming in 30 seconds behind him at 14th place.
After the saddle issue, we had not managed to get back to the front group, and rode in a smaller bunch from the top of the climb, about 10 riders in all. For some time we had Richie Porte and his girlfriend Tiffany Cromwell riding along with us (Richie had a number on his bike but Tiffany seemed not to have one). After they turned, and sometime after Birralee we caught a glimpse of a bunch ahead of us, and inevitably the pace picked up a bit to try to catch them. This was a bit of a mistake because it smashed the group into pieces, and it took us the next 25km to regroup and recover! The bunch ahead of us turned out to be the lead bunch, and they’d shelled quite a few riders and were only about 10 strong themselves.
Just outside Perth, the route went through what the organisers had described as some road works. It wasn’t road works — there wasn’t even a road. It was just mud through construction site where the road had been washed away in a flood earlier in the year. It was a mess. However we managed to survive without punctures (unlike some unhappy souls). Then we caught the lead bunch just after this, surprising me greatly!
After Evandale, we rode a series of painful rolling hills, which again split up the bunch. About 10 riders rode off the front on the first climb, and I didn’t see them again. The last 20km were a hard slog, and I can’t say I enjoyed them very much… Riding through Launceston it was frustrating to have to stop at multiple traffic lights when all I wanted to do was finish. But it was very good to roll over the finish line.
After my debacles in running out of food in long rides, this time I was prepared with lots of food and managed to keep eating for most of the ride. I find it surprisingly difficult to make myself get out some food and eat it; even though I know I need to eat something, I can get some food out of my pocket, but then I’ll hang onto it for several kilometres before I finally pop it into my mouth! I probably should have had a gel or some other food for the last 20km — it would have helped.
At several points during the ride, I really questioned why I was doing this: do I have something to prove? The riding conditions weren’t pleasant and it was hard work and not a whole lot of fun for much of the route. And the only person who really cares about my results is myself! Nevertheless, I was very happy with my result of 5:26:44, 12th overall, about 6 minutes behind the 1st place rider (who was 4 minutes ahead of the 2nd place rider). Geoff again was a powerhouse, finishing 5th or 6th overall in the lead bunch.