October 24, 2013

Around the Bay in a Day 2013

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In the past five years I’ve completed three editions of Bicycle Network’s Around the Bay in a Day but with a prior engagement in Perth on Sunday, I had to postpone my fourth attempt. Instead, my brother Brendan de Neef went along and put together this report from the day.

The last time I rode Around the Bay was back in 2009. My brother Matt and I had done back-to-back 210km rides, in a clockwise direction. We had trained solidly through the winter, working up to the big day, with the intention of just finishing it. This time around was quite different.

With Matt over in Perth for the weekend I stepped in to fill his shoes. I approached the day with optimism, hoping to average over 30km/h, and not completely ruin myself. I had been doing training rides with my girlfriend Anneka and her work colleagues who were all working towards the 210km Sorrento return, so by the time Sunday came around, I was well and truly sick of Beach Road.

Myself, Matt ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Sampson and Andy van Bergen had arranged to meet at 5:30am at the start line but unfortunately, due to a back injury, Andy was unable to join us.

Brendan (left) and Sean Sampson at the start.

Brendan (left) and Sean Sampson at the start.

I had mentally prepared myself for a fight through the crowds in order to gain a good position at the start line. Upon arrival, it seemed the front of the starting area was the quietest of all the sectors, much to my surprise. Departing at 6am as a threesome, Fletch, Sean and I rolled out along City Road and bizarrely found ourselves in no-man’s-land straight away.

The much-talked-about plan was to cruise down to Geelong on the back of a super-strong tailwind-backed group, arriving well-fed, watered and rested, but as we settled into a rhythm on the Geelong Road through Altona, it became increasingly evident that we would be setting the pace.

With a full contingent of passengers, we set about tapping out a wind-assisted 40km/h as we navigated the strange array of detours off the freeway. Once back on the freeway the emergency stopping lane soon became too narrow for the large groups of riders rolling through.

As we started catching bunches of the 250km riders, it was inevitable that there were some spilling out onto the live freeway lanes. Fortunately the drivers out on this Sunday morning were all good natured.

Brendan with our Oma in Corio.

Brendan with our Oma in Corio.

For those that haven’t ridden the Geelong Road before it’s about as boring and uneventful a road as you can get. We were cruising at 40km/h, sometimes more, just watching the kilometres tick over, planning our approach for the rest of the ride and talking about how horrid the headwind would be on the way back (it was).

I had arranged the previous day to meet my Grandmother on a corner in Corio at 8am. We rolled off the Geelong Road just before 8am and rendezvoused at a tardy 8:03am where we were loaded up with chocolate bars and water (Thanks Oma!). The chocolate and water went down a treat and I was left marvelling at my precise ETA.

For a few minutes after stopping, we ramped up the speed, after I had put the thought into Fletch’s head that we could make the 9am ferry at Queenscliff. After a few minutes of fast-paced mayhem through the streets of Geelong we settled it down, resigning ourselves to the next ferry. The next 25km went at a decent pace, as we worked with a strong bunch of guys towards Queenscliff, one with a magnificent looking (and sounding) Baum.

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With close to 100km completed and only one brief stop my legs were starting to feel a little heavy, but with lunch just a few minutes away, we pushed on. At some point along the Bellarine Hwy we lost Sean. Thinking he was just behind us we powered on, through to Queenscliff and were ushered immediately onto the 9:30am ferry, lunch in hand, but without Sean.

As it turns out, Sean had had severe back spasms and had to drop out after catching the ferry to Sorrento, but great effort from him for sticking it out through the pain.

After guzzling lunch and rescuing our bikes from the precarious stack of carbon fibre we disembarked and had a chance encounter with my girlfriend Anneka and the Cockram Construction crew, who just arrived from the clockwise direction just as we were getting ready to leave. They had opted for a slightly later start and had taken a scenic detour through Mt. Martha, a very nice addition.

Fletch takes a well-earned rest.

Fletch takes a well-earned rest.

As Fletch and I rolled out we almost immediately latched on to an excellent group led by some guys in John West kit. We were joined by a few more in Energy Australia kit and did some rolling turns, breaking the ever-increasing headwind. We managed to stay together as a group for roughly 35km, coasting through Rye, Rosebud and Dromana sitting on about 35 – 40km/h through to the Mt. Martha area, where the road started to get a little lumpy and riders started dropping off.

It was so great to have a group that wanted to work together to make the ride more enjoyable, after being so disappointed with the groups on the way down to Queenscliff. Big shout out to those John West guys for getting the rabble organised.

It was around this time that it was starting to heat up, with the Garmin reading 37 degrees (clearly it wasn’t) and the headwind was also getting stronger. Fletch and I found us a new companion as we were coming into Mornington; some guy in a pale yellow Rapha kit riding an S-Works something-or-rather. We shared the load, although with just three of us it became increasingly difficult as the headwind grew stronger.

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As we left Frankston the sufferfest began and continued through to Mordialloc as the wind blew directly down the wind tunnel created by the Nepean Hwy. Full credit to Fletch for putting himself out in front for a heroic number of turns, as we battled through to Mordialloc at around 28km/h. Feeling slightly weary we stopped at Mordialloc and refuelled, collected our thoughts and prepared ourselves for the last 30km into the wind.

Both of us had dug quite deep to keep the pace up and the heat was starting to take its toll on me. With the end in sight we set out for the final run to the finish. Luckily that section of Beach Road is more sheltered than the last and we were able to maintain a consistent speed most of the way back.

It was at roughly this point that I was very happy I wasn’t doing the clockwise direction. Battling back through the western suburbs with a headwind and the West Gate climb looming was far less appealing then a Beach Road finish. As we entered the last 5km I slammed down the most delicious gel I have ever had and powered on to the finish line.

Before and after.

Before and after.

We crossed the line with a very pleasing time just shy of 7 hours ride time and a 30km/h+ average. It was a big and rewarding day on the bike and having that 210km benchmark has really shown me how much I have developed as a rider over the last couple of years.

Kudos to Fletch for suffering through the whole thing with me and doing some monstrous turns at the front and also to Sean for smashing out the first half in style. A big thank you goes out to Emma Bolger and the team at Bicycle Network for having me and congratulations for putting on another excellent event.

Click here to see Brendan’s Strava file from the ride, including his ride to and from the start/finish.

14 Comments

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  1. Bill Griggs / Oct 28 2013

    Yes Carl is right. I am pretty sure it was my Baum. Pale blue, dark blue with a bit of red – based on the colours of a special RAAF aeroplane. I was in that group and had quite a few comments from other riders about it along the way especially down to Queenscliff. On the way back from Sorrento I don’t think too many had a lot of spare breath!
    Once again I had checked your blog beforehand Matt, as I wanted to work out what I was up for. I used one of your ride plans for 3 Peaks in March and it was really helpful so I read your ATB with interest. Excellent as always. Thank you.
    I had a great ride. I only bought my first road bike last year and did Melbourne Sorrento and return with some mates in 2012. It was my first ever 200km ride. This year I wanted to do a “lap”.
    I lucked out and got into a great group heading for Queenscliff. It had all the Bicycle Network 3 Peaks Professionals. I remembered seeing them at 3 Peaks back in March. They are a great bunch and very friendly. Pretty handy riders too. Add in a predominantly tail wind and we flew down. 3hrs and mins to Queenscliff/no stops (apart from the red lights).
    Plenty of time for the 9:30 ferry, which was good as my Di2 front derailleur cable was loose so I couldn’t change to the small ring. Not that that mattered on the way down but I remembered a few slopes on the way back from last year. Also changed my gear (valet service) which meant I was dry when I got on the ferry – kept me from getting too cold. Ate lunch on the way over.
    Took off with the 3 Peaks Pro group again but after about 3 km one of them got a flat and they all stopped. I pulled over 50 metres up the road and took the opportunity to find a convenient tree to depressurise my bladder. It would turn out to be the only stop.
    Then I decided to ride on as it was clear the wind was no longer my friend. I expected to be caught and hoped I could hook on when that happened.
    The slog began. I rode with a number of groups all rotating the front. Eventually I ended up with 2 other riders. One had started quite early and had done the 250 leg while the other was riding Sorrento and back. We stayed together pretty much to the end. Along the way our group varied from 2 to 20ish. The 2 was because all 3 of us dropped at one stage but managed to get back on.
    Around Frankston we hooked onto the back of a strong guy on a time trial bike. He was moving. I was third wheel of 15 or so but after about 5 kms I was starting to think I would need to drop from third spot! While trying to work out how to balance embarrassment with the risk of blowing up, the second wheel guy suddenly pulled left and waved me through. At least it wasn’t only me. I pushed and got on his wheel but after anothe km or two I was done. I checked the train behind me and it was gone! So I slowed and rejoined it. We found the TTer again further on and I think he turned off as I am pretty sure he was not part of the event, but thanks for the tow anyway.
    We kept pushing through the crowds of bike trying to maintain a pace. Just the three of us for most of the beach run. My Garmin locked up at 205 km – still had battery life just froze. I have since upgraded the software but annoying to lose HR etc data. I still had Strava running on the phone so I had something tp check sector times afterwards.
    I ran out of water with about 10km to go and was just starting to cramp. Chewed some Rennies and pushed on.
    There were so many red lights, which you might think would be good for a rest but you slow/stop and then reaccelerate each time.
    Passing under the last bridge next to Alexander Gardens my right hamstring cramped so hard I had to unclip and pedal with one leg for 100 metres or so.
    Finally 3 hrs and 23 mins after leaving the ferry I crossed the line with my two headwind companions. A quick handshake, thanks, and well done then off to get fluid.
    Official time 6hrs 25mins and 4 secs at a bit over 32kph for the 210. Estimate 20+ red lights along the way. A big improvement on my 7 hr Sorrento and back time last year. Of course it is not a race but as still a relative novice I do strive to improve.
    Pretty happy with my day.
    Huge thanks to all who rode with me and helped me on the “lap”
    :-)

    • A Fat Fossil / Oct 28 2013

      Well done Bill! Really Impressive.
      Want to go round again?
      (No Westgate etc)

      Am fast running out of RTB “Ducks” as part of my Smith Family fundraising.
      (So far over $300 raised)
      If we can “sell” a few more – I’ve undertaken to go round again! Carrying some more DUCKS!
      :)

      Chip in here: http://tinyurl.com/lsmfpsp
      And if you can afford to: Buy a Duck!

      Crikey – there has to be a grand in this – surely!

  2. Carl Le / Oct 25 2013

    I’m glad you had a great ride.
    The Baum rider was most likely Dr Bill Griggs from Adelaide who had the 6th fastest time for the 210km a/c ride.
    My experience riding the 250km a/c ride was a much more disappointing one.
    This was my first ATB after taking up riding in January.
    After the first 140km, we arrived into Queenscliff at 11:15. Waited half-an-hour to then be told we’d be on the 2pm ferry (a 2.5hr wait!!). No explanation was given & subsequently, the only reason given has been that the tailwind brought everyone down earlier – which doesn’t make any sense to me.
    We managed to get onto a 1:30 ferry – an extra ferry organised by Bicycle Network (BN), now why weren’t there additional ferries organised earlier given the numbers expected & thousands already waiting when we arrived back at 11:15?

    The conditions for the ride from Sorrento back to Melbourne were as your ride plus bouts of rain.
    We noted that water refill stations & first aid posts were being packed up as we left Frankston. They were gone by Mordialloc, along with the course marshals (none seen until the finish ).
    To our dismay, arriving at the finish at 7pm (2hr ferry wait), we found that:
    A) There were no medals left
    B) There were no free drink or food stations (only a few vendors left and the toilets)
    C) The BN marquis completely closed with only volunteers around telling us to call BN in the morning.

    We 250km riders were the worst affected by the above.
    Multiple calls and an email to BN have achieved nothing but a “we are investigating”, and “we may be able to get more medals for those that missed out”.
    There is nothing on the BN ATB website about the issues, and you have to contact BN if you want to be added to the list that “would like” to receive a medal.

    Apologies for some of the negativity but the above really diminished what was otherwise a great day on my bike.
    Perhaps if you bothered to read this far you had a similar experience..

    My stats ended up being:
    Riding time 9:00
    Ferry time 3:12
    Total time 13:23
    Av spd 27.5kph
    http://www.strava.com/activities/90162351

    • Matt de Neef / Oct 25 2013

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Carl. Sorry to hear it wasn’t a completely positive experience!

    • sean / Nov 3 2013

      Having done one atb a couple if years ago, I really don’t see the attraction. I too experienced stupid wait times for the ferries (probably because my group had had so many punctures from all the debries on the road) as well as a fair amount of hostility from the ferry passengers.

      Not having done the ride before, and having heard it was a great event, I was very surprised and dissapointed by:

      No flow of lights to get the ride started. Traffic lights were as any other day.
      Very mediocre signage of the route.
      Almost nothing in the way of road closures ( I naively thought we would at least get a lane all the way with the amount of riders.
      Barely a lane even on the west gate bridge. Would have expected one direction dedicated.
      Strange complicated course back around werribee area.
      Route doesnt go the scenic way to dromana.
      Inadequate lunch. Had to detour to gelong shortly afterwards.
      Few (maybe no?!) extras ferries.
      Lots of debris on the road. Never got so many punctures before or since
      Anyway I won’t go on, And perhaps i expected too much, but all and all I really felt I got very little for the considerable amount of money I spent.

  3. Scott / Oct 25 2013

    Great read ! Myself and a few mates hatched a silly plan a few months back. We live in Mornington and decided why not ride to the start line for the clockwise 210, and home again too….
    Well once it had been said it had to be done, none of us brave enough to say what a silly idea. Blokes hey ? So two of us did just that, left home at 3:30am with some other locals riding to Port Melb, arrived back home around 7pm with about 355kms on the clock. The ride home was going well until the cold change came through at Carrum, wind hitting us in the face !!
    Even more impressive one of our mates escorted us down to the ferry, then rode back towards Melbournce to meet us at the bottom of Westgate bridge for the ride home. With a few other detours he did 401kms for the day !! Certainly an epic tale for the ages. For the record, our moving average was about 28kph for the day and 30kph for the 210 bit. First day back on the bike was today…all good!

  4. Shaun / Oct 24 2013

    Great article, love the website. I did the Melbourne (rode from St Helena / Eltham North) Sorrento return (to Port Melbourne) ride and really enjoyed it. On a side note in your picture from Sorrento I am standing just to the right of the green bike in front of the war memorial with the number pinned on the bottom of my top and silver helmet. How funny is that!

  5. Simon / Oct 24 2013

    Nice write up Brendan.

    My first ATB, and I did the clockwise. Geelong to about Laverton was painful to say the least. The Westgate itself was surprisingly not too bad going up, but the crosswinds going down made it a bit hairy. I might try anti-clockwise next year…

  6. Kateroo / Oct 24 2013

    Nice write up. We did the same ride, but didn’t get through the start gate until almost 6:30 am. First time doing an ATB and I averaged 25.6 km/hr, which I am pretty happy with, considering that head wind from Sorrento back to the start. We live on far south nsw coast and love our hilly roads in the bush – the straight flat roads of Melb are a novelty, but ultimately pretty boring! We prefer the hills, so we are now planning to do the 7 peaks challenge, then some European classic climbs next year.

  7. Brendan de Neef / Oct 24 2013

    Fletch: Thanks mate!

    Aaron: It was a pleasure riding with you guys, group of the day!

  8. A Fat Fossil / Oct 24 2013

    Well done Brendan!

    Anyone want a genuine Round The Bay Duck?
    I rode on a free ticket courtesy of Team Stubbsy – ABC Melbourne – thanks guys – and to raise money for the Smith Family.
    (I won Team Stubbsy at 8:39! Check this out:
    http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2013/10/21/3873429.htm )
    And in answer to your next Question – No!

    Along for the ride were some rubber Ducks! Some which still need a home!
    Smith Family Sponsors kicking in 30 plus bucks – Get a genuine RTB Duck!*
    *While stocks last

    Go to here: http://tinyurl.com/lsmfpsp to see photo of example Duck (on the 10am Ferry)

    Your bath, could use such a duck – no doubt!

    It was a cruel run home Sunday…

    Lots of vomiting etc witnessed. Urggh

  9. Aaron Twigg / Oct 24 2013

    Hey Brendan I was one of the John west riders leading that group it was the best group of the
    day. I was the bossy one on the Look 585!! once we got it going it was great fun!! Thanks for working with us!!

  10. Fletch / Oct 24 2013

    Great write up Brendan!

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