Like many of you on this site, this morning would have seen you leave the sea, wind through the hills and down the Fleurieu in a big "question mark" shaped course down to Victor Harbour. For me at least, there was never the question of asking "WHY". Not even the 8 degrees (less wind chill) experienced between Aldgate and Echunga.
We started from Sterling. Half an hour early. My experienced co-riders like it that way, and after being the last man home on other large group ride events, I can appreciate their wisdom. We were by no means Robinson Crusoe with that decison, with many choosing to take off as the cold mist rose from the garden ponds, creeks and dams.
The cool start gave way to the first warmth of the day around the approach to Echunga. The first 'real' (regular and fit!) riders passed us just outside of Meadows, and we tried to keep up! We seemed to find something extra in the legs doing this. We screamed past the Meadows stop and headed towards Willunga. The run from Meadows to Willunga was some of the most enjoyable riding I think I've ever done. Sunny, no wind, and the shadows of the Kuitpo pines flickering across the steady stream of riders on the road.
It was here that I noticed something that was pleasing, on a number of different levels! The number of women participating in this ride seemed much higher, as a percentage of the total than in other events. We made sure that we said 'good morning' whether we were passing, or being passed by them! In fact most people were keen to exchange greetings on the road, even the blokes in the big 'trains' as they flew past.
The stop at Willunga will be known as the place I took another step into the strange cycling culture, as I tried one of the gels that were being handed out. Now if there ever was a food created purely for function and not taste, sports gels would have to be it. Still, we had gone ot harder than I thought we would, it was warming up and, more importantly, they were being handed out for nix! So down the hatch one went. Three words. Sweet shapeless oyster!
The trip up Hindmarsh Tiers was harder than I thought it would be, with false flats and steady climbs for a good portion of the road. This saw the onset of mild cramp with 25km to go. It was starting to get the better of me when some thing great happened. We started the biggest descent of the day. The start of the drop saw me getting passed by one of the regular riders, who I estimated was approximately half my weight!. He was crouched, hands close together on the top of his handle bars, just like the pros. Streamlined, smooth, fast. Then physics kicked in, gravity took its toll. I started catching! There was no way I was passing this dude. He might have fallen off in shock! So on the brakes I went. The drop levelled out, he looked at me, turned away and snapped back in a double take. He tried to yell something at me but it was lost in the wind. Then we came across the second drop, and he knew I was there this time. As the road levelled out again, and the speed had come down to 40kph, we nodded at each other and he simply said, "Nice descent." As a slower rider, its not often you get to share those sorts of experiences with regular, quicker riders, but when you do, its pure gold.
The brief rest the decent, along with the gel sports drinks, seemed to get rid of the cramping, and we approached the last climb before the finish with some degree of confidence. Enough to give the Devil/Pirate girl with the photographer some advice and examples on how to speak like a pirate! It was getting warm, but the view was worth every drop of sweat and we knew by now that the finish was almost inevitable. Crossing the line felt great. It was 11.04am and we had been on the road for a total of 3 hours 34 minutes. There was a big smile on my face to be sure. Just as there was on the kids who completed the 10km or 20km rides. Just as there was on the mountainbikers. Just as there was on the faces on the blokes in the big 'trains'.
If the success of an event is measured by those smiles and the banter that comes from having an experience or completing that event, then I would have to say that today's Coast 2 Coast was an extraordinary success.
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