Grab a comfy chair dear reader, this will be a long ride report. The week was lean as far as cycling goes. I had Monday and Tuesday off the bike as my knee was still a bit sore from the Sunday ride. I had given the right side pedal a good clean out and dropped some more oil into it hoping it would come good. I did a 19km ride on Wednesday night and realised it wasn’t any better. Friday night I took the pedals off and replaced them with the original SPD pedals that I bought in the early 90s.
I had arranged with Lewy to do a nice long ride on the Saturday of the weekend. We would drive up to Kiama and then ride along the coast on back streets and bike paths to Thirroul and back. About 120kms all up. I picked Lewy up at 6:30am and then it was about an hours drive to the start. The weather wasn’t looking very good, but we were both keen to get some riding in. Lewy had invited a mate along, Damian, who was doing some training before the Sydney to Gong ride later in the year. Apparently Damian hadn’t been cycling all that long and we would see how he went. We also might try and make the ride longer if we were feeling ok.
We met Damian at the Kiama lighthouse and set off at 7:30am under leaden skies. I did ask Lewy what the ride out of Kiama and up to Shellharbour was like, as I had done the Highway route 2 weeks earlier. “Not to bad” was his reply. Liar! It was as lumpy as a lump with a lump on it! I was seeing figures of 7%, 9%, 6%, and 11%. Good lord, all this in the first 8kms of a potential 120km bike ride. It was towards the end of this first 8kms of lumpiness that Lewy decided, with out consulting the either Damian or myself that there were KOM (King of the Mountain) points on offer. We were all slowly pedaling up a hill, Damian a metre or so in front of me and Lewy somewhere behind. Next thing I know there is a whoosh and the whir whir of Lewy’s grippy tyres as he sped off up the hill. He was up out of the saddle and going hard. Damian turned and looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders. At the top of the hill Lewy is pumping the air with his fist and grinning like a Cheshire cat. Damian and I catch up and he informs us he had just got the first KOM points for the day. Ah, you sly bastard I thought. I also told myself I wouldn’t be dragged into this testosterone filled madness at the beginning of a 120km ride.
We were going along at a very leisurely pace, with just under 19kms covered in the first hour. This was mainly due to being on shared paths. The ride is magnificent, with terrific views out over the ocean and coves of the south coast. I really am blessed to live in such a great place.
At the 22km mark, we had to stop. The grey skies had burst and the rain was coming down. Nice, just what we wanted on a long day in the saddle. We had a quick stop to get covered up, and then it was off again. From Windang, up past the golf course and into Warrawong, we then headed east out to the coast, past a place called AdultWorld (Lewy tells me they have a great range of adults!) and then over a couple more hills to the bottom of Hill 60. Then it was a run along the beach to until you hit the steel works at Port Kembla. The scenery changes for a while as you pass through industrial settings that certainly aren’t pleasing on the eye. More about that later.
After skirting the darkness that is the steel works, you then ride into Wollongong proper. Back onto the coast for a little ride up to Wollongong harbour, where we had or 2nd stop for the day.
There was a mass of cyclists there from the Sydney Cycle Club, and plenty more on the roads heading north. We had a quick bite to eat, Lewy put his shirt on the right way and we headed north. The rain had stopped, so it was back to the vest for me. It was this stretch that I realised that Damian was no mug on the bike. He was out the front leading by a long way. I should say at this point that he had actually cycled to our start point, 30kms from his place. So there he was with 60 odd kilometres in his legs, smashing it out front. He will now be known as Jens Voigt. We were really moving along this part of the ride. It is all shared path, so you have to keep your wits about you. Lewy scared 9 shades of brown out of one group of women that were 3 wide taking up the whole path. So much for keeping to the left. We flew through Towradgi, Corrimal, Bellambi, Bulli and Sandon Point before arriving at Thirroul for a stop for lunch. We actually stopped at a cafe. Good lord, this cycling know business of stopping at cafes is catching.
I didn’t realise the significance of this sign until I got home and saw the photo. Lewy was taking me there!
It was then, over a coffee and croissant, that talk of doing an imperial century arose. We had pretty much decided that we would drop Jens off at his place at Dapto, which meant a long detour going home. Basically, riding around Lake Illawarra. I hadn’t ridden further than 110kms since about 1990, and Lewy hadn’t done a century since earlier this year, and here we were talking about doing 160kms! I blamed the caffeine. After a nice rest, we jumped back on the bikes and headed south again. We had done 60kms on the dot, so at the very minimum it was going to be a 120km day. My head said go, but my legs said no.
About 1km after the stop, we hit a nice climb. I was at the back and decided this was another KOM point for the day. Up I jumped and off I went. It hurt, but I won. That made it 1 all between Lewy and myself. Take that big fella! 🙂 The run back to Wollongong was great, with all of us taking turns at the front. The caffeine was doing its job nicely. I was running low on water, so we had another stop at North Wollongong Beach for a top up.
Watered up, we headed off again. And again we were doing some pretty good speeds. Out of Wollongong and around the edges of the steel works. As I said on Twitter yesterday, it isn’t always the most beautiful scenery. It is a dark and bleak place around Port Kembla.
This was the last we would see of the coast for a while. It was hard going heading into a strengthening Southerly wind. I sat at the front for a while, but didn’t realise I had dropped the other 2 until I got to the top of the rise of the hill we had been riding up. I waited about 20 seconds for the other 2. It was then a run around the oval near the olympic pool and up this hill.
With out warning, Lewy jumped out of the saddle and took off like a scalded cat. After blasting away at the front ten minutes earlier, I couldn’t go with him, but had my doubts he could keep that pace up. He got a gap of 100m before his cadence dropped off. Hmm, I wonder if he has blown up. I lifted my cadence and started to slowly haul him in. The faster I went, the slower he seemed to be going. I caught him with about 200m to the top of the hill. “errrerrrrr, I went to early, errrr errrrr errrrrr, I went to hard to early, errr errr errrrr” he said as I went past him. I laughed at him as I went past. It must have looked like a snail race to those watching. I giggled all the way to the top of the hill. With 50m to go I jumped out of the saddle and gave it everything I had half expecting the crafty bastard to catch me and pass me. I rolled for about a kilometre before I pulled up and waited for him and Jens. We then headed to Lake Illawarra.
Thankfully, it was nice and flat. We were maintaining a nice average speed around the lakes edge. It was time for another stop, and we decided to stop near the fish shop and boat ramp at Berkeley Park. Just as we approached, we could see a guy on a mountain bike ahead. I know not what possessed me to scream out “Lets get him boys” and off we went in chase. Again Lewy and I were racing up a hill. What was wrong with us?
We pulled up in the car park at the fish and chips shop and had a breather. 95kms and 4 hours in and I was starting to feel it.
That little rise on the other side of the lake is where we were headed. It seemed so far away. Off we went. It wasn’t long before we were dropping Jens off at his place, thanking him for the ride and setting off with clear directions on how to get back to the Lake. I just want to say thanks to Damian for the company for most of the day. Was great riding with you mate. I hope you smash it when you do the gong ride. From what I saw, you’ll do it easy.
We took off parallel to the train line. We got to a junction and I said to Lewy, “Left or right mate?” “err, right” That didn’t sound so confident, but hey, Im lost anyway. Across the train tracks we went. Never was that saying “the wrong side of the tracks” more apt. We went 2kms to the west before Lewy said “This doesn’t look right.” The bugger had read my mind. He consulted the GPS on his phone and sure enough, we had just done 2000m we didn’t need to. As it turned out, at the end of the day it actually helped us to hit 150kms on the button. Up a few back streets and some steep hills and we were headed back to the freeway.
At the 115km mark I needed more water, so we pulled into a service centre. I used the amenities, filled up on water and had a spell. A couple of Cokes, which were cheaper than Lewy expected, and we were on our way once again.
We joined the bike path again and hugged the edge of the lake. We were doing ok with the pedaling, but our maths was scratchy at best. Estimates ranged from 140 to 160 for the day at this point. It was starting to drizzle and was getting colder. The track around the southern edge of the lake is great. Where you do have to join the road, they are quiet streets and the riding is easy on flat roads. By this time I was starting to feel sore in the back. My elbows were aching. My undercarriage was numb. But my legs still turned. Then I remembered the hills at Minamurra and Kiama. Hmmm. We stopped for the last time to put our rain jackets back on.
The last 23kms were done with out much chit chat I can tell you. We were both pretty confident we would manage close to 150 by this stage. All I can say is the last 10kms seemed to go on for ever. I would look at the Garmin and it would say 141.2kms. I would pedal for what felt like 10 minutes, look down and it said 141.7kms. It was really hard going for me. I don’t think Lewy was smashing it either at that time. The 3rd last hill up to Doonmore was a killer. Then it is a long roll down to the train line. The flat run along the bike path into Minamurra went quickly. Too quickly. The 2nd last big hill at Minamurra had us both gasping hard. The KOM points were no longer being fought over. We were crawling along in the rain and the wind. We rounded the headland at the North end of Bombo beach and could see the finish. A loop under the train line and a short flat before the last killer hill. It took a while, and we were both busted, but we hit the top and then it was mainly down hill to the car park. Well, I thought it was. I forgot about the 500m kick to get to the car. We got to the top and my Garmin said 149.9kms. I had told Lewy I didn’t care if it said 149.9km when we got to the car, I would get off. Well I had just enough energy to make it tick over 150kms before getting off the bike.
We had just done 150kms in pretty crappy weather. I was pretty damned happy. We packed up. I drove down to the change rooms by the pool. I wont convey what happened there, but it was pretty damned bizarre. Back in the car and I told Lewy I needed to eat. I think he looked up the SMH Good Food guide on his phone and we headed for Red Rooster. I can say this, a hot chicken roll never tasted so good. Lewy was saying that the best thing for you after a long ride is a chocolate milk. Into the Ice Cream shop I went and grabbed a chocolate milkshake for him, and a caramel for myself. An awesome way to end the day.
A big thanks to Greg “Lewy” Lewis for organising the ride. For doing the hard work up front when I was busted and being a big part of my Around the Bay preparation. Can I better that next weekend? Probably not, but I do feel a lot more confident that I can do 210kms in a day now. Thanks Lewy!