Picture: Anthony Seipolt lines up at the start of the inaugural Amy’s Gran Fondo

It’s natural for every rider to wake up and look either at the weather radar on their phone, or out the window.  This was no different for Sunday’s Amy Gillet Gran Fondo.  Earlier on in the week, the forecast was for a sunny 26 degrees.  On the night before the 120k ride, rain had begun to fall and the forecast for the following day had turned to a wet and windy 18.
Approximately 2,600 riders gathered at the start line and waited anxiously for Dave McKenzie to give us the go ahead to ride/ race what is one of the most beautiful roads in Victoria – the Great Ocean Road.  Bathed in sunshine, our fears of riding in wet conditions faded.  Open roads, amazing scenery, sunshine and good mates – this is what riding your bike is all about!
I was off in the first wave and the pace was on from the get-go.  Whilst the perception may have been that the first leg of the ride from Lorne to Apollo Bay was flat, in all reality it is nothing of the sort.  The road winds and twists and undulates the whole way.  We made it to the turn off at Skenes Creek within the hour.  This is where the real riding was to begin. A 10k climb at an average of 5.5% ensured that those who had put in the training took off and left those of us with less form (and a little more weight) grinding our way up the hill.  Our wave of riders strung out with an elite group going forward until they were quickly out of sight.
I managed to catch up to a small bunch and we climbed as best we could, all of us hurting and puffing.  By the time we got to the top, a couple of riders from the second wave had caught us.  This was slightly demoralising as we had taken off 2 minutes ahead of the second wave in Lorne, and whilst our small bunch of riders were struggling our way up the climb, in my world I didn’t think we were going that slow.
Now a group of approximately 20, we all began to work our way through the Otway Rangers.  At a point when you thought the riding couldn’t get any more brilliant, we were greeted with dense forest and rolling roads.  The pace was on with everyone sharing the work load and doing what they could to try and push the pace.  I was happy to be riding with a couple of team mates from the Bike Gallery as well as fellow committee member and president of the SKCC, Anthony Seipolt. 
We made our way through Forrest, Barwon Downs, Murroon, Pennyroyal and Deans Marsh with all of these small country communities coming out to cheer us through.  All riders were more than happy to wave and say hello in return as it is always nice to receive a cheer.
We approached the final climb of the day up to Benwerrin.  The final 10k’s of the ride, all of which I knew were going to really hurt.  It didn’t take long for that thought to become reality, as the pace once again quickened (or I slowed) and the group took off up the road.  At this point I can’t really shed much light on what the scenery was like or who I was riding with.  I can although tell you that there was a burn in my legs, and when my eyes were open they were solely focussed on the white line in the middle of the road.  I’d spent too much energy leading up to this climb, and now my body was telling me so.
I rejoined all of the crew in Lorne after a leisurely decent from Benwerrin.  Sitting around and enjoying what ever food we could possibly get our hands on, we all swapped war stories and patted each other on the back after a brilliant day out.  Every now and again one of us would quickly kick his leg out and grimace in pain (cramp) which was a sign that it was a tough old ride.  The timing chips we placed on our bikes the night before provided instant results and we all got very excited once we learned that we had each qualified for the UWCI World Championships in Belgium next year.  Our team also finished 3rd overall giving us more reason to celebrate.
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Amy Gillett foundation on hosting one of the best events I have taken part in.  I would also like to thank the towns and communities associated with the event for making all cyclists feel welcome and appreciated.
The Amy Gillett Gran Fondo was an event that I hope to be able to ride in once again next year.  If you missed out this time around, make sure this isn’t the case in 2012.  




Contributor: Rick Horvat