It is over, and I am a little sad. I need another big cycling event to train for, and need to up the ante somewhat. We completed the ride comfortably, with a average moving speed of around 23 kph on the first day and 22 kph on the second.
I dropped our bags off on the Friday afternoon before the ride, with the trusty xtracycle. I rode it to work loaded and left our gear and the bike in the bike cage downstairs. Fortunately Friday is a quieter day so there was room.
Our bags were a bit bulky, but nothing compared to what some other people bought along! I used the packing list they provided as a guide but didn’t bring everything they specified. I did bring an extra pair of shoes for around camp though, and these turned out to be the only superfluous item as they gave us a little bag when we arrived at camp with thongs in it. It also had ear plugs and an eye mask. They were important items if one hoped to get any sleep at camp, and you will see why when you see our photo of camp!
We rode to the start at around 6am on Saturday morning and the place was buzzing. Volunteers were cooking up bacon and egg rolls, and there were people everywhere. The ‘sweep’ car volunteers were dressed up in elaborate clown outfits. There was a guy there with a 1970s chopper bike, and another guy with a giraffe type unicycle. There were old mountain bikes, and flashy carbon road bikes. There were people with spokey dokes on their roadies. The self-identified cancer survivors had big yellow flags attached to their bikes, and there were at least 25 of them. There were 1,200 riders ready to start and we had raised a total of $4.6 million for cancer research at the WA Institute of Medical Research (WAIMR).
They closed Canning Highway temporarily to facilitate all of the riders getting out of the start area. It was very congested, and as expected, there were a lot of riders having problems with their cleats. The chopper bike was on the side of the road with a mechanical very early on, which was sad, but we later saw him at the very beginning of day 2. I am not sure how many kilometres he pedalled but he must have gotten a lift with the sweep vehicles!
By the time we got to South West Highway, the congestion had eased a little and it was easier to go at our own pace. We headed on to some quieter country roads, like Hopelands Road, and it was quite pleasant. The only problem for me was that the road surface was very coarse, and the vibrations caused me some issues with body/bike contact points. I could feel my cleats burning a hole through my shoes, and my saddle was not very comfortable either. My hands were OK though, I just made sure I moved them around a lot.
We rolled into Pinjarra at about 12.30, and there were already a few riders back. We had stopped for lunch at Karnup at about 10.30, so we were hungry, but when we went looking for food, all they had were museli bars and chips. Everyone was scrounging. There was no announcement about dinner over the PA but we noticed a line forming over by the mess tent at 4.30 so we ran over there. I filled my plate up as high as it would go and at it all, except for a bit of the roast beef as it was as tough as an old leather boot. Then we got desert!!! It was wonderful.
Our tent was in a great position – it was on the edge and it was furtherest away from the bar/dining/entertainment tent. It was also pretty close to the toilets. Everyone was pretty quiet and respectful once in the tents, but they had the oval lights turned on, so it was like daylight outside. They had the crew and the riders all mixed up together, and the Crew had to get up at 3.30 or 4am to go to their meetings and get breakfast ready, and with all the sound and movement, everyone else got up as well. We had set our alarms for 5.45 but I was up and had packed my sleeping bag, pillow and thermarest sleeping mat by 5.15. There was bacon and eggs for breakfast, but I wasn’t that hungry after being such a pig the night before so I just had some muesli. There were coffee trucks providing the hoards with their caffeine fix, and they made me a beautiful flat white.
I saw some really tall guys around camp and I wondered how they fit themselves into the little pop up tents. There were a couple of people who bought their own tents and set up, I think they may have been riders who were doing the ride solo but who didn’t want to share with a random (it was two people per tent, no exceptions, so if you were alone they would randomly allocate you a tent mate). I noticed later that there were quite a few couples where one was riding, and one was doing the crew work, so they could obviously share a tent and spend a bit of time together in the afternoon/evening.
There were also a few people who bought old canvas swags along. Good for them there weren’t too many mosquitos around.
Day Two had it’s high points and low points. They allowed the riders to leave on their own time within a half hour window between 6:45 and 7:15. This mitigated the congestion a little bit, but the problem was that they had routed us along the Kwinana Freeway bike path! The bike path was congested, and there were a lot of groups of guys who thought it as OK to overtake three abreast. There was little regard for riders who might be coming in the other direction!
I was just saying to N that we should back off a bit and let the crazy guys get far ahead of us to stay out of trouble, when one of the guys clipped a wheel, ended up wobbling across the path of all the guys behind him, and slamming another guy into the fence. He hit it fairly hard. A few other riders stopped to help out so we kept going, not wanting to contribute to blocking the path even more. People around us seemed to settle down after that.
When we got to Paganoni Road, we saw the half Ironman guys on their bike leg. They were the elite guys who would have been the first out of the water, and they were very, very fast. After that we were back on the road, and it was quite pleasant. We headed to the coast, and rode around from Point Peron to Rockingham. Lunch was at Rockingham near the grain loader. The ride got a bit ugly after that. We went along the coast via Cockburn Road, but you didn’t really get to see the coast line and the traffic conditions were not great. There was no overtaking room on the shoulder which was very narrow in places, so you had to pick gaps in the 90 kph traffic to pull out and get past people.
Fremantle was the last pit stop, then we headed back in towards the city. I really quite enjoyed the little rolling hills on the way back, but a lot of the riders did not.
We ended up riding with two other girls, and there were not many other riders in our immediate vicinity. We then were routed back on to the freeway bike path, but that was OK this time because of how strung out everyone was. By the time we got to South Perth there were a few more yellow Ride to Conquer Cancer jerseys. As we arrived at the finish line, the music was blaring and the MC announced all our names. There were quite a few supports hanging around and they were generous with their applause. We rolled in at about 1pm and it felt like we were in the front half of the pack. The last riders came in at 4.30pm – it must have been a hard slog for them!
I took the Gopro along for the ride and I am editing together a video. I had 4 batteries and a 64GB card, there were no charging facilities at camp. I managed to get quite a lot of video, so it’s going to take a while. Stay tuned for it, hopefully it will be worth the wait.