From the moment you arrived in Lorne on Saturday you knew you were in for something special, and a succession of packed race briefings only served to heighten expectation of a wonderful day to follow. It was clear that the Amy Gillett Fondation hadn't missed a beat in organising the second instalment of this instant classic, having driven the course the day prior filling the pot holes with hot mix to make the event even safer.
Getting a seat somewhere for dinner on the Saturday evening would have been a challenge for some with even the Aireys Pub some 20km's away fully booked, and out of food before too long.
Sunday morning greeted us with grey skies, a temperature trying its hardest to break into double figures, but importantly - no rain and negligible wind. To pedal out onto the main street of Lorne at 7:45 was like being confronted by a tidal wave of lycra and over 4,000 smiles, smiles that would most likely disappear at different intervals over the course of the day but soon return after crossing the line 110km's later.
If you were lucky enough to be on the front group from the starting gun, you would have been greeted by a road completely devoid of cars with the exception of the local constabulary wagon which sat about 100 meters off the front of the group keeping a watchful eye on the road in front, and the marauding chase bunch behind them. The Fondo isn't a race but with every rider being timed and bragging rights at stake, it's no surprise that the moment the timing point at the end of the short neutral zone was crossed, it was game on. The sound of a chopper hovering above only added to the pro feel of the occasion and whilst the legs of many were no doubt begging for some respite from the early pace, the heads were too consumed by the moment to listen. If only there was time to look up and take in the oceans beauty mere metres to our left.
To have both side of the road to ride on was wonderful but it was easy to forget that you could legally cross that centre white line particularly on the descents. There seemed to be a lot more up than down and those that hadn't read the course guide properly would have been disappointed (both mentally and physically) that the KOM point at the top of Skenes Creek Road wasn't immediately followed by a nice long descent to give the legs a rest. In fact there was no such long descent, more a case of two parts down, one part up and that's what makes the course a challenge for any rider.
The forested climb and gradual descent gave way to rolling green pastures and plenty of support from locals standing in their driveways cheering. The support of the locals that live down the 600 or so driveways that were blocked for the ride cannot be understated - this event could not take place without their embrace for the event and it was appropriate that they received waves from those pedalling past.
The finale of the day, a steady 10km rise out of Deans Marsh, didn’t read too hard on paper but after the distance travelled and the speed at which some people covered it, it would have proved a cramp inducing slog for many. A few last ditch battles were being fought as the finish line came into sight but it was all smiles once the line was crossed.
Lorne was abuzz with happy people following the event as stories were exchanged of heroics and accomplishment, those who won and those who didn’t. The biggest winner on the day was the event itself. Hands up who can’t wait for next year’s!