Sunday, April 3, 2011

Great Ocean & Otway Classic Ride 2011

Riding the Great Ocean Road
There are few more iconic places to ride a bike in Victoria than along the Great Ocean Road and each of the last five years has seen SuperSprint Events run one of the most popular events on the calendar, attracting 3500 people to the famed course. This was my third time around, having done the first two rides in 2007 and 2008, and I would line up with my mate Dave (pictured above) as we tackled the 145km course.

It was an early rise on Saturday morning as we made our way down the Geelong Road in time for the 7.30am start in Torquay. By the time we reached the venue traffic was fairly busy and getting a good park would be difficult so we parked up the top of a nearby hill and rolled down to the line after a quick (compulsory) pit-stop for me.

The early groups had begun their rollout by the time we arrived and so we moseyed up to get as near to the front as possible. With a headwind and rain showers predicted for the early part of the ride it would be important to try to get into a good group and take cover for as long as we could. After the compulsory gag from the event organiser we were off and going.

Course Map
The first 20-30km is spent largely getting sorted out and finding a spot in a group going at the "right pace." On a large ride like this you quickly get a sense of which wheels it is safe to ride on versus those you should avoid and it took until Moriac for things to settle down in our part of the bunch. The weather until this point had been ok but it soon started to drizzle, making conditions slippery and nervous in the now large group.

The focus for me and Dave was to make it to Deans Marsh (75k) where we could take a pit stop and prepare for the climb over the Otways. This was made somewhat more difficult as by now we were both keen for a 'natural break' as they say. But our group was travelling at a reasonable pace and we were disinclined to give it up so we just hung on.

Making the left turn for the last 8k into Deans Marsh I decided to go to the front of the now labouring bunch. I knew there'd be a slight tailwind in this section and without really trying I found that a gap had opened up on my mob. Not what I'd planned but at least I had clear road. So I did what every self-respecting hard-man-of-the-road would do and put the hammer down! What had been an easy 30kph for the last 20k was a 35kph push for a 5k TT. I waited for a minute or so at Deans March as Dave pulled in with the bunch. A toilet break rarely felt so good!

The road over the Otways is no straightforward up-and-over climb. I'd describe it as four distinct sections over the 12k distance. The first rise is 1.5k@5.9%; followed by a false flat totalling 2k@0.8%; another climb of 1.5k@7.5%; and finishing with a series of three short climbs over the final 7k of the ascent. It is a beautiful road and one of the highlights of the ride.

Through the Otways
Reaching the top at Benwerrin you then get to enjoy a wonderful descent into Lorne. The roads were wet from the rain so I took things rather easily for the first 4k down the hill, but as my confidence (bravado?) grew and the roads dried out a little I opened it up for the final 5.5k where I averaged a touch over 50kph (my benchmark downhill speed). Woo! Hoo! A lot of fun. We rolled into the beachside town of Lorne having covered 97k in 3.23hrs (28.7kph average). Time for a pie, donut, coffee and short break.

The holiday mecca of Lorne
By the time lunch was over I had really cooled down. The temperature had never really climbed and I found myself shivering as I remounted the bike. Thankfully the wind was basically behind us and so it wasn't long before I was feeling ok again. The 30k section of road between Lorne and Anglesea is the other main attraction of this ride. It is the "Great Ocean Road" part and on any other day can be a bit hairy to ride as the road is narrow, winding and there are lots of tourists looking at the sights - instead of concentrating on driving on what is for them the wrong side of the road.

By this stage, however, Dave was starting to feel the pinch so we rode at a steady pace and enjoyed the sights. (Well, I did. I'll have to check with Dave to see if he remembers them at all.) The views along here are magnificent and the road undulating, it is beautiful cycling territory. Before I knew it we were descending into Anglesea having finished this scenic stretch.

The final 17k to the end at Torquay begins with a gentle (2k@4.3%) climb before a gradual downhill run into the finish. So sad to say I lost my mate Dave here. It was one uphill too many. Since we were so close to the end and there were still lots of groups on the road I knew he'd find a bunch to ride with so I once again got into ITT mode and soloed for the last 15k, averaging a nice 35kph. It was great to finish a ride like this feeling strong - all that commuting to work has really made a difference.

Dave finished only a minute or two behind and looked rather better than his suffering might have indicated! On the ride back to the car we wished we'd parked at the bottom rather than the top of the hill - but it wasn't all that bad. And the chocolate milk and dim sims at the roadside stop halfway home have never tasted so good!

More photos from the day on Flickr.


  1. a) it looks gorgeous, and what a perfect day for it :)

  2. Wondered where you'd got to Paul. Thought you might have taken up another sport - you know, like lawn bowls or darts ;)

    Great scenery! Would have felt safe with so many cyclists on the road too.

  3. LBTEPA - the machine was all underneath me. Riding is soooo much easier than those long runs!

    Ewen - yeah, great to be 'back' in blog-land again :-)


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