Episode 21: The finishing touches

Route: Eltham to Geelong via Altona and Werribee (including World Championship circuit)
Distance: 121.4km
Duration: 4 hours 53 minutes

Looking out over Corio Bay
Looking out over Corio Bay

According to every cycling manual and advice column I’ve read, I would be crazy to do any more training between now and next Sunday. This last week should be used for ‘tapering’, to give my body a chance to recover from my most recent training effort and to prepare for the onslaught that next weekend’s 3 Peaks Challenge will deliver. In that sense, there’s not much more I can do. Apart, of course, from eating lots of pasta this week and not feeling the slightest bit of guilt.

A friend of Sharon’s and mine recently opened a restaurant in Geelong and for some weeks we’d been meaning to go down and check it out. We decided that yesterday evening would be the perfect opportunity for such a trip and with Sharon working until lunch time it gave me the perfect opportunity to get in a long one-way ride.

Riding from Melbourne to Geelong is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do but I’ve always been put off by the fact that in order to do so you need to be willing to do a fair few sidesteps along the way. For those that aren’t aware of the regulations or for those that live outside of Melbourne, you can’t cycle on the West Gate Freeway and the bridge of the same name – the initial stretch out of Melbourne. Instead you have to take a bit of a complicated route through West Melbourne that requires a little bit of planning. With the requisite amount of planning complete, I was ready to tackle the Melbourne-Geelong ride and meet Sharon for a hopefully-lovely dinner.

Beautiful Altona
Beautiful Altona

I set off from Eltham at around 10.30am and took my usual Eltham-city route out along Lower Plenty Road, Rosanna Road and Heidelberg Road until I reached Alexandra Parade. I rode across the top of Melbourne Uni and out past the zoo toward the Princes Highway. When we were younger our family often took this route to get to Geelong so I was familiar with the roads thus far but the next section was far less familiar.

After following the Princes Highway for several kilometres I turned onto Millers Road in Brooklyn – who knew there was a Brooklyn in Melbourne! – and rode south toward Altona. Without wanting to incite any East vs. West violence, I’ve always found Melbourne’s east to be the more picturesque and hospitable end of town. To be fair, I did grow up in the East and my exposure to the West has been quite limited, but I don’t seem to remember too many refineries in the neighbourhoods of my childhood.

Just before hitting the ‘beach’ at Altona I took a right onto Queen Street and followed that out to Seabrook (I had never heard of Seabrook before this ride either) and then turned left onto Point Cook Road. For those that aren’t familiar with this part of town, imagine miles and miles of housing estates in various stages of completion and you’re most of the way there.

Joining the freeway
Joining the freeway

At Sneydes Road I took a right and followed that over the freeway into Werribee, a part of town that I’m more familiar (though not necessarily all that endeared) with thanks to a couple of appearances at Around the Bay in Day. The Princes Freeway from Werribee to Geelong is fair game for cyclists so I headed in that direction and joined the main road. I’ve ridden on the Princes Freeway a couple of times before and on both occasions I had a delicious tailwind that made 40km/h feel as easy as 20km/h. While I didn’t enjoy such a tailwind yesterday, I was still able to sit above 30km/h without too much trouble and apart from the constant traffic noise and the fact that the Melbourne-Geelong road is flat, straight and boring, it was a nice quick run toward Corio Bay.

Before heading off on the ride I had been reminded by a couple of people that it was the weekend of the Avalon Airshow and that there was likely to be plenty of traffic on the way down. Luckily I was riding past in the middle of the day so the crowds had already filed in and the most obstruction I had to deal with was the constant noise from impressive-looking aircraft dipping, flipping and barreling above me. In fact, it was actually quite a nice way to break up the monotony of that long, straight road and I enjoyed what little of the show that I got to see from the emergency stopping lane.

Several hours after leaving home I reached the start of the Geelong Bypass where I veered left, taking the old road into town. My Oma lives in Corio, one of Geelong’s northern suburbs, so this section of the ride was also very familiar and in no time I was turning left onto Bell Parade and heading toward Western Beach and Cunningham Pier. After the drudgery of housing estates and freeways the sight of boats moored on Corio Bay was a godsend. The sun was shining, the water looked beautifully inviting and I generally felt good.

Random plane at the Avalon Airshow
Random plane at the Avalon Airshow

I rolled onto the grass at the entrance to Cunningham Pier and gave Sharon a call – she was just leaving Melbourne and was about an hour away. With that in mind I got back on the bike and headed toward Moorabool Street – time to check out the course that hosted the 2010 UCI World Championships course late last year. If you want a great description of the course check out Robbie McEwen’s preview on YouTube but here are some thoughts of my own:

  1. The Challambra Crescent climb is brutal! It’s not overly long but at around 20% that final section is more than challenging with 100km+ in the legs.
  2. The Queens Park Road/Aphrasia Street climb is also brutal! This climb isn’t as steep as Challambra Crescent but it still packs a punch. I was pretty happy when the road flattened out.
  3. The riverside sections are quite gorgeous. Not that the riders would have had a chance to spend much time looking at the river on the day!
  4. It would have been far better to ride the course without lots of traffic. For one thing, there are a couple of right-hand turns that are quite nasty with plenty of cars around.

In the end I think I did the course in about 40 minutes or so, taking it quite easy. I would be interested to see how quickly I could do it if I was going full bore and without traffic lights, but I suspect I wouldn’t be troubling the pro riders too much who were, if memory serves, completing laps in around 23 minutes.

Start of the Challambra Crescent climb
Start of the Challambra Crescent climb

After returning to Cunningham Pier and the end of the course I tossed around the idea of going around again. In hindsight it probably would have been worthwhile taking on a second lap, training-wise, but with Sharon set to arrive shortly I instead opted for a ridiculously-priced muffin and Powerade combo which ended up costing me $9. After a while Sharon arrived and after stowing the bike and getting changed we headed out to a much-awaited dinner.

So, after 21 episodes and many months of training it’s time to rest up and wait until next Sunday. I failed in my mission to ride at least 150km on one occasion but on the plus side I did manage to notch up 100km+ on 7 occasions since coming back from New Zealand – 4 more than I had been aiming for. By this time next week we’ll know whether the training I’ve done is enough or whether I really needed to do a bit more.

The view from Cunningham Pier
The view from Cunningham Pier

With any luck, the next time we speak I will have made amends for last year’s failed attempt and dragged my sorry arse around 235km of Victoria’s greatest cycling territory. The more I think about it, the more I realise that the training I’ve done will only prepare me half of the battle – the physical part. I’m confident that I’ll be able to get to Dinner Plain without too many hassles and I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to get to the start of the Back of Falls climb (the aptly-named WTF Corner) as well. By that point I think the battle will well and truly have become a mental one. Whether or not I finish the ride will depend on my state of mind – if I can put the pain and suffering to one side I’ll make it. If I’m mentally weak by that point, it could be curtains.

As I mentioned last time, it’s not that I won’t be giving it everything I’ve got – I haven’t come this far to fail – it’s just that I’m a realist about how hard it’s going to be. As corny as it sounds, it’s in those tough moments that I’ll be drawing on the words of support and encouragement that all of you have given me in the last few months. It means a lot that you have read and enjoyed my aimless ramblings and I’ll be giving it my all to be able to say ‘I did it!’ this time next week.

Don’t forget that you can get involved in the banter over at Facebook or Twitter or send me an email if you among those who haven’t delved into the murky world of social networking.

Wish me luck!

6 days to go.

12 Replies to “Episode 21: The finishing touches”

  1. Good write up – it’s a few years since your post and this article is still a top reference for the route to go around the bay… but the rules for princes freeway are changing – we won’t be allowed on until after Werribe so you have to go through town and join after the river… check out this link from vic roads :https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/~/media/files/formsandpublications/traffic-and-road-use/cyclingonmetropolitanfreeways.pdf?la=en

  2. Good Luck Matt,

    I’ve been following your training and I’m looking forward to see how you go. Sounds like you’ve had some good advice, break the ride into segments and focus on getting through bit by bit. That way back of Falls is just a bit!

  3. Matt,

    Kudos to you mate. You’ve done a truckload of work to this point, which all-in-all has required more dedication and effort than the 3 peaks will require on the day! And in my mind that puts you at about 80% of the way through this adventure.

    Remember that you don’t need to go solo. Don’t be afraid to sit onto a bunch in the spirit of getting a few “free k’s” (as I like to call them) under your belt. At the least I hope you’ll be doing some turns with a few other people at your level to help some of it slip away with ease.

    This obviously doesn’t help so much on the climbs but take every advantage you can! In the unlikely event you get to the end and feel like you somehow cheated yourself, you know exactly where you’re at next year and can back it up with a better result!

    Can’t wait to read your write up once it’s all done and dusted…


    1. Hey Scoota. Thanks for your comment, and for your optimism! I’m hoping that the flat kays disappear quite quickly so that I can concentrate on grinding away on the climbs. And yep, either way (although hopefully with a positive result!) I’ll blog about the whole experience once it’s over. Thanks again. 🙂

  4. Good luck Matt,
    I too am stupid enough to sign up for 3 Peaks. I’ve done the training and felt good at all times but whether that prepares me for attacking the back of Falls with 190km in the legs is unknown.

    Eat and drink responsibly, pace yourself, and think of that beer and fire at the top of the Mountain!!

    And if you finish, remember there is always the Hells 500 next year.

    1. Thanks Glenn. I guess when I’m struggling on the Back of Falls climb I’ll just think back to the Hells 500 guys and imagine how tough they must have been doing it!

  5. Heya Matt,

    Had a browse through your blog, I too have been training for next weeks mosey around the Vic Alps. I’m sure you’ll be fine, just enjoy the ride, the scenery and the gradual build up of satisfaction as you draw nearer to the finish.

  6. Just take it easy this week, and head out for a couple of gentle, light spins. As you have mentioned, you have prepared physically – it’s the mental side of things that will be a battle! The good news is, there are things you can do to shut up your brain!

    Sometimes when I’m deep in the hurt box I just start counting in my head with pedal stokes. If you get distracted and miss a number, start over again. Another one is to lose yourself watching someone elses wheel. A sticker on a spinning hub can be mesmerizing, and it comes with the bonus of being paced!

    Some good news about the back of Falls. Don’t believe any scaremongering you may be reading about the surface. It was responsible for a lot of punctures last year, but it’s really settled in now, and is looking the goods.

    Absolute best of luck, I believe you will crush your demons this weekend!


    1. Thanks Andy. Great tips on how to stay mentally focused – I’ll be employing them for sure. And that’s comforting about the surface. So, how was Hells 500?!

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