Bicycle Network: Ride On magazine
Greg Bland describes memorable rides on the Great Ocean Road and in Tasmania a few months after a health scare
My heart-rate monitor started screeching at me…Then a pain started in my central chest and began to go up my throat.
It was late February 2011 and I was riding around my Romsey circuit. Something was not right. I decided to go to the doctor’s surgery which was closer than home. I told the receptionist: “I think I’m in trouble as my HR won’t go down.” A doctor soon appeared asked some pertinent questions, BP was taken, then off into the treatment room and an ECG was installed.
“Mr Bland, we think you have had a heart attack, so off to the Royal Melbourne hospital you go.” On arrival, ECG again and a heart specialist came and, after a review of the results, I was admitted.
Next day an angiogram was taken which found an aortic artery was very narrowed and a smaller artery blocked so a stent was immediately inserted. Well, that put paid to bike riding for a while.
Two months later, clearance was given by the Cardiologist by saying, "On yer bike." So, slowly into training little bit by little bit. Five Kyneton Golden oldies plus a riding companion from Romsey eventually made the Amy Gillett Foundation Gran Fondo.
What a ride. First 34km to Skene’s Creek turnoff was fabulous along the Great Ocean Rd. Then the turn right up the range towards Skene's Creek. What a push. Just concentrate, get the breathing and heart stabilized and push. Past Forrest, and trundled on toward Dean's Marsh and turned right for the last 10km of the timed section of 110km. Was this climb hard! There is a photo of me about 20m from the finish with my front wheel off at a 45 degree angle to the right. I must have been going soooo slow. Well, I finished the Fondo in 5.36:11, 19 out of 24 in my above 65 age group at a speed of 19.7kmh.
When I arrived home on the Monday I looked up the GF site to check my results. They weren't up yet but I saw an ad on the side about a raffle being run by the AGF for entry into the Share The Road Tour 2011 in Nth Tasmania. I saw the tickets were $50.00 each with only 175 on offer. On pondering it for a while and because I'm on a DVA pension I decided not to. That wasn't the end of it, however. Tuesday evening came around and on viewing the Fondo results the ad called again. Pondered seriously, but nah and walked away, for about an hour. Kept thinking about the odds. Better than most raffles, came and had another look, wrestled with myself for all of a minute and paid my $50.00 and entered.
I promptly forgot about it until about three weeks later when the phone rang and my wife answered the phone, then asked me," Do you know a Rachael?"
Me a Rachael, no, why would a Rachael be calling me. I took the phone. The question was asked, "Are you Greg Bland? It's Rachael from the Amy Gillett Foundation, you have won the raffle!" What raffle? The raffle for the STRT 2011 in Tasmania! Still didn't twig. The raffle run in conjunction with the Grand Fondo. Well, at last, not the penny but the boulder, crashed on to my head and I was over the moon.
Six weeks later I was on a plane to Launceston and what follows is my adventures on the AGF Share The Road Tour 2011
Returned last Sunday week after four days in Tassie riding in the Amy Gillett Share The Road Tour. What a great time. Met past and present well-known cyclists like, Steve Hodge, Brad McGee, Mary and Dennis Safe - Amy parents, Rochelle Gilmore, Emma Ryan and Simon Gillett Richie Porte to name a few. I had put myself down to ride the full distances.
On the first day we headed north along the Tamar River. The groups all started together and 20km out of town they split up. After about 10km I was getting left behind on the hills but the practice was to wait for the slower riders at the top. Simon Gillett, the ride leader, suggested I should go with the shorter distance group. I resisted for a while but after another 10km or so, I thought that it would be wise. Being an older bloke who began riding only six years ago the other riders were way above what I could do so I relegated myself to the shorter distances. Good thing.
On the second day, we left Sheffield and headed for Cradle Mountain. We started climbing and after about 10km had a glorious descent into the major climb of the day. Well, what a climb. I was puffing and panting, cadence of about 50 and speed 5-6kmh. Then Steve Hodge came to ride with me and he literally took 1/4 of my weight by pushing me. First one hand then another. I couldn't believe it. I expressed this thought and his reply was, "you can't do nine grand tours without putting something in the tank! I would have made it but I would have finished about an hour later. By the way, all this went on when raining. A physio was in the support car and advised me that my seat was too low, so it was raised 5mm and moved forward 3mm. What a difference.
Third day we started off at the Mt Roland lookout. Straight into a 5km descent then into a climb. After about 500m I was puffing and panting and my heart rate was way up so I just had to stop. All sorts of things were running round in my head like "What am I doing this for? Don't be a twit and get in the support car. I can't take any more of this?” But, after I got my breathing and heart rate under control, I made it up that climb and there was an absolutely great descent of about 8km.
Stopped at Mole Creek for smoko about 10min after the group had arrived. They were ready to head off before I was so they left and I pushed on the 20km by myself with a support car behind. Arrived at Deloraine the last rider in and got a great cheer.
The last day I opted to go up to the top of Ben Lomond and mountain bike it back to the finish at Blessington. Well, I had never been on a mountain bike before and going down the hill initially the apprehension factor was very high. After I had worked out how to use the gears and was instructed in the correct riding position things became more tolerable. I didn't have toe clips or clip-ins so my feet slipped off the pedals at the most inconvenient times.
Even though I had promised myself I would not walk up hills I couldn't initially master the terrain so walking it was. Never mind. As I got more confident the speed came up on the downhills and the effort in the inclines was rewarded.
Every night after dinner, Steven Hodge interviewed a past or present rider. Brad McGee, Rochelle Gilmore, Emma Ryan, and also a riding partner of Amy's who was involved in the crash.
At the final lunch prior to coming home I expressed to the group my heartfelt thanks for the acceptance and encouragement during the tour. I finished off my talk by singing the old song, "Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed" At that, applause and cheering broke out because all of the non pro riders were feeling that way.
I arrived home at about 8.15pm and went to bed by 9pm. Woke up next morning at about 7am and pottered around for a while and thought I would lay down again for a short while! Woke up three hours later!
Overall the time down there was great, with the acceptance of the group being exceptional even though I was the oldest and slowest. It was well worth the time and effort and I thank the AGF for providing the opportunity for me to attend. Look out for the gray haired and bearded bloke riding in the AGL STRT 2011 kit.