Ride Report – Amy’s Ride Canberra 2011

14 03 2011

Today I headed off to Canberra to take part in the 2011 iteration of Amy’s Ride. Unlike last year when it was a stand alone event, this year it was incorporated into a much bigger event, the Canberra Big Bike Ride. The CBCR advertises that it is the “biggest mass participation community bike ride in Canberra”. Perhaps it is because the ride was scheduled for a Monday (public holiday in Canberra), I didn’t think the turnout was very impressive, particularly compared to last year.  Saying that, I’m sure I heard at some point that over 600 riders had lined up for the day.

Last year I rode with Dan, and he was plagued by puncture problems and we DNF‘d after a single loop. This year, Dan has moved onto mountain bikes after (reluctantly) selling his very gorgeous Pinarello FP3, and is now plagued with sufficient problems that Merida bikes should be embarrassed. He’s moving onto a Trek EX9 now, and looking forward to his first ride. Anyway, this year I rode alone, and feeling reasonably well prepared I set myself a goal of a sub 4 hour ride. Given the course, I think that sub 4 hours is a decent challenge for an imtermediate rider.

I rolled up to the start on time thanks to a local doing a lap of the main streets. Despite plotting a course from the hotel to the start, I still go managed and just when I was getting concerned about missing the start, I spotted a jersey with an Amy’s Ride bib on the back. He led me in, I wished him luck (and thanks) and I went over to pick up my number. It was at this point that I realised that I’d left my bidons back at the hotel. Sonovab…. Thankfully, they had plenty and happily gave me two. Watered up and ready to go, I self seeded in the middle of the pack.

As we were about to start, my phone went off. A text from the missus, and so I moved off to one side to answer it. By the time I was done, I’d missed the start of my cohort and was sitting with the back of the pack. No worries, at least I didn’t miss the whole thing. We took off and without any real effort I found myself at the front of this small pack. Which is probably a good thing because as we crossed over the Kings Avenue bridge, things went a little awry. We were supposed to be following the “white arrow on pink background” Amy’s Ride signs, but immediately at the end of the bridge was a “red arrow on a white background” pointing right. Having done the course last year, I knew we didn’t go through the park, so I immediately looked up and saw the correct sign about 200m ahead. Unfortunately, not one of the 20+ riders followed me, and every single one of them turned off into the park. I contemplated turning around but decided to leave them to their fate. I figured it wouldn’t take them long to work it out. I did however stop and tell the first ride official that I saw. He did not look impressed.

It was not long after this that I started picking up stragglers from the earlier cohorts, and by the time I turned onto Coppins Crossing Rd I’d caught a bunch. I was determined to find a group travelling at a pace I was comfortable with and ride with them, but I struggled. I’d hoped to go out at about 28-30km/h for the first hour or so, but I was too far back. I ended up doing most of the ride by myself, and to be honest, I liked it. I generally prefer to be able to do my own thing unless I’m sitting on the back of a fast group working hard to stay in touch.

Just on the turn onto Uriarra Rd, I pulled over to the drink stop and grabbed a cup of gatorade. I didn’t really need it but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I checked the phone for messages from the wife and then took off. The next little section is small rolling hills. If you have enough speed at the bottom, you can pretty much coast to the top. So I flew. I thumped along nice and hard, overtaking a truckload of riders. To be honest, the conditions were pretty good and once I had some speed up I didn’t have to put a whole lot of effort in to keep moving.

It wasn’t long before I hit the big downhill and had my weeeee moment. I feathered the brakes a tad more this year than last, conscious of the speed wobbles I’d exprienced previously. From the bottom, it was a long uphill. I imagine it’s a bit like WTF corner at the start of the Back of Falls climb (I can only imagine because I’m too chicken to attempt the reality). As you roll down and around, you look up and a rearing up in front of you is a 10% gradient looping up and around the corner out of sight. There was really only one thing for it, pick a gear and pedal. Not long after the bend, it levels off quite a bit and then it is a fairly decent ride to the top (9km), before another descent and another climb. The second climb  (6kms)feels pretty steady all the way and I felt like I made reasonably good time (for me) up it. Saying that, it didn’t stop riders scooting past me like I was standing still, but every single one of them was a skinny arsed light weight (jealous much?)

At 9.33am, I pulled back into the same pitstop I’d pulled into earlier. This time however, it was all mud. As I scarfed down some fluids, oranges and buns, I could almost feel the mud clogging up cleats. As I prepared to get back on, I gave my shoes a couple of solid whacks on the road to de-mud them and climbed on board. Right cleat in, left cleat out, ground. I’d failed to clip in and had suffered the humilation of a zero k fall in front of a dozen or riders. Worse still, I dropped the bike onto the rear derailleur.

I clipped in again (left foot first), settled and rode off. Two minutes later, I felt the chain slip. Pulling off to the side of the rode, I took a look but failed to find the problem. I might not have found the source of the derailleur troubles, but I did find out why I couldn’t clip in – the front of my left cleat was frayed to the extent that it was obstructing. Trusty pocket knife 1, cruddy cleat 0 and I was off. My gear problems weren’t over though. I’ve got an 11-28 on the back and I simply couldn’t get into anything better than a 50/21 without the chain coming off and catching. Of course this meant that I couldn’t get the gear I wanted, couldn’t find the sweetspot and I suffered because of it. I just didn’t feel comfortable.

By the time I reached the first of the two climbs, I was pissed off. I lost my gear twice at the beginning of the climb and ended up going back to the beginning to the ride marshall. I hoped that he could see the fault, but he couldn’t and so I had to choose. Ride on or retire.

I wasn’t bloody retiring, not again. I’d only come this year to settle the score with the course for last years DNF and I also was not prepared to pull out of two consecutive organised rides (after the 2011 Alpine Classic). So I dropped into a gear that worked and just peservered. It was a case of put up and shut up, so I did. I made it of course, but by the time I went past the turn off and pointed towards the finish I was definitely feeling it.

As well as having ridden the hills in a gear not of my choice, I was closing in on the four hour mark, which meant I had to push. Not having a functioning GPS on me for the ride, I was uncertain of how far I had to go. The only thing I was sure of was my watch, which I had been stopping and starting religiously as required was closing in on four hours. Then I saw Parliament House. Then I turned away from Parliament House, then I saw it again….over and over it seemed while the clock counted up.

In the end I crossed the line in 3hrs 57minutes. I’d done it. Despite the bloody gears and the embarassment of a zero k fall, I’d reached my goal. I parked the bike, walked over to the goodie stand and refueled. I got a freebie bag, with another two bottles. I can still see the look on my wifes face when told her I had four more bottles.

I recently read a ride report from the guy who claims to have been the last rider across the line in this ride. Considering he was tailed by the organisers car, it’s a fair bet he right. You can read his report here (it’s substantially shorter, and more to the point than mine). He crossed the line in 5 and a half hours.

In all, I good day. Despite the issues, I achieved my goal. I’m not planning on doing it again in 2012, but lets see.




One response

26 03 2011

Well done, a good effort considering the troubles. Here’s hoping you had enough bike troubles for both of us! Maybe next year you should come a bit further south and do the Ocean Road!

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