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Ballarat Autumn Day Ride 2016


Dear Rouleurs,

As regular (…but non-existent…sigh)  readers would have noticed, this year MMT has been doing charity event rides.  As a cyclist I guess you go through this evolution of riding by yourself or with your mates and commuting which means you tend to stick to well worn routes.  For me this consists of roads eastern bayside suburbs.  Doing 50-60 km charity events is an awesome way of breaking out of routine.

This brings me to my latest adventure, the Ballarat Autumn Day (BAD) ride.  As a first time entrant in the BAD, I was surprised to learn that this was the 27th edition of this organised ride.  Judging by the entrants I saw, most were fairly serious cyclists.  At some of the previous events there’s been a real mix of  casual, enthusiasts and athletes.  Compared to the Ballarat Classic that I did back in February, its pretty low key and operates with the support of the local Ballarat Bushwalking and Outdoor Club.

I elected to the 50 km version which on paper fairly easy, see pretty pictures below. There was supposed to be only one relatively easy climb on the way back into Ballarat.  Morning Tea Rest was supposed to be somewhere on the way back.

BAD 50 km ride course profile

BAD 50 km ride course profile

Let me say from the outset, this was really tough ride.  In the week leading up to ride I was nervously looking at the weather forecast thinking..’F#*K that looks bad’…pun intended.  Team MMT arrived in Ballarat on the Saturday afternoon before the ride and noticed that the wind was already quite strong.  Unfortunately the BOM’s predictions of thunder storms and high winds proved correct.  I was seriously considering pulling out.

BAD 2016 - 50 km Course.

BAD 2016 – 50 km Course.

Sunday morning, it was still very windy but at least the rain had stopped.  As I could see numerous cyclists making their way to the start line, I thought ‘What the hell!! How bad could it be?’.  Opps there’s that pun again.  The answer to that was actually it was pretty awful.  I tagged onto, what I thought at the time, was a moderately paced bunch, rolling along at about 23-25 km/h.  Most days, that’s in the ‘cruise’ zone for me.

What I hadn’t realised was how much I was being sheltered at the tail of the bunch.  As the ride turned into the country, the gently undulating course became exposed to very strong cross and head winds.  The hills took on a degree of difficulty that in no way was represented by their piddly gradient.  You can see this the gradient profile. By the 22 km mark, I was done.

I was dropped by the bunch on one of the steeper hills and left out in wind. In these conditions that was a really crappy place to be.  I pinched the photo below off the BAD Facebook page.  This was the bunch I wheelsucked before being dropped. If you look hard enough at the photo you can see the grimaces on the faces of the frontrunners.

MMT wheelsucking at the back of the bunch.

MMT wheelsucking at the back of the bunch.

Eventually I tagged onto another bunch but much to my chagrin, took a right when a left was intended.  This put me onto the 100 km course and up more hills.  At least I was side on to the wind. By 32 km I realised I had really stuffed up.  I found a course marshal who showed me were I was. I was almost 10 km off course. D’oh!!! This meant a course correction was needed (see pretty diagram below. I rode off the course and down the Sunraysia Highway. Fortunately I had the wind mostly behind me. Despite heavy showers I made reasonable time.

2016 BAD 60 km course as ridden by MMT.

2016 BAD 60 km course as ridden by MMT.

Closer to Ballarat I found another course marshall and evidently the broom wagon. Both were a bit surprised to learn of my detour. After completing a 28 km course correction, l finally roll across the start-finish line. All I can think is, that was much tougher than I thought would be. I call the other half of Team MMT this. She’s sitting in the warm reception room waiting for me. I check in and discover that I’m not the only who has had navigation problems. The wind has played havoc with the course markers.

Fortunately the race organisers have warm drinks and delicious fruit cake on. I need both. Team support has brought my wonderfully dry set of clothes. Soon I’m feeling warm and that sense of contentment you have when you’ve achieved something. Despite the inclement weather, I enjoyed the event and thought that it was well organised. I plan to the proper 50 km next year. Its a pity that this event isn’t more widely advertised in Melbourne, as it has quite lot to offer city cyclists seeking a break from car infested roads.

Until next time ride safe