Apologies for the long report, but it was a long day ...
That had to be one of the more difficult days I've done on the bike. Not so much the ride itself but the result of, I shamefully confess, poor bike prep. I have a reasonably new set of Neuvation wheels, which I happen to really like. I had read somewhere that the rim tapes that come with them weren't particularly good, but hadn't really thought through the consequences for a long ride. Brand new tyres and tubes fitted off I set at 5am to drive around the bay from Mornington. First puncture: in the back of the car at Frankston.
Oh great, that's got to be the rim tape. Is it that my new Michy tubes aren't as robust as the "cheaper" ones they recently replaced? Drove past the bike superstore at Mentone wondering why they aren't open at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. New rim tapes would be real handy right now. Arrived at Grovedale in plenty of time to fix the flat (had three spare tubes and patches) and enquired as to whether either of the two bike shops sponsoring the ride might have some gear for sale. No such luck. Should be OK ...
I headed off in the second group and settled into a good bunch as we headed west into a bit of a breeze. With the forecast of thunderstorms the black clouds looked fairly ominous, but produced only one short shower early on - just strong enough to have me guessing if I should don the jacket or not. It was not. I was in quite a large bunch along Cape Otway Road, which was quickly torn to shreds by the hill climbing up to Deans Marsh Road. I rolled into the first checkpoint at Bambra and decided not to hang around too long and cool down. A great down hill run into Deans Marsh, and then put the head down for the climb to the top of the range. Took the time to take in the beautiful scenery around here - nice to see lush green hills in an otherwise dry countryside. Going plenty slow enough to take it in! Crested the hill to a welcome orange quarter from the support team and buckled in for the run down to the coast. (Note to self: much more work required for the Alpine!) A great run down the hill through some spectacular timber and I had a huge grin when I rolled into the checkpoint at Lorne.
Lorne was very busy (as it is on any sunny Sunday this time of year) and so I decided to continue on, wanting to be away from the crowds. There was a lovely tail wind pushing along the GO Road and at this point it just wasn't going to get any better. Tail wind, great road, better scenery, little traffic. Could it get any better? Yeah, have a decent rim tape ...
Not far out of Lorne another flat. That damn rim tape. Sure enough and again, the flat was on the inside of the tube. With fingers crossed, I pressed on. I stopped at Anglesea for some food and a cold(!) drink, by this stage it was pretty warm. Pulled into the final check point at the start of Forest road, not looking forward to pushing into the by now very strong north westerly. I left with a few other riders, and we were working well together against the wind until ... another flat. Hmmmm, that's my last tube. I continued on into the wind on my own, greatly relieved to turn right with the wind. What a slog that was! The relief was short lived, as not only did the route turn back into the wind after less than a kilometre onto the Hendy Main road, but another flat. I suspect the heat was making my below standard rim tape even worse.
I selected a spot under the shade of a tree and set about patching a tube. I had only three patches with me (two thanks to the brilliant Genuine Innovations Air Road pump which has a kit stored in the handle - it pumps great too, btw) and was now getting really concerned about getting to the finish. Not that far to go now, but the time interval between flats was getting increasingly shorter. And I only had two patches left. Make that one - the first patch failed as soon as I pumped the tyre up. I rotated the rim tape by half a spoke spacing so as to get new material at the spoke holes. I had thought of this while slogging up Forest road, and cursed myself for not thinking of it earlier. A new hole for the valve was crafted with a 4mm allen key. After very very
carefully patching the tube, and then putting a $5 note between the patch and the rim (normally done to reinforce the tyre, not the rim tape!), pumping the tyre only half up so as not to put undue pressure on the rim tape, I set off - once more into the wind. I was now concerned about a pinch flat, in my attempt to reduce the pressure. And, yep, I got the red at the bridge too.
By this stage I was pretty much had it. I knew that the course had to turn back to the east at some stage, and thus a tail wind run home. I was hanging out for it. I just wanted to get back before another flat. On the run into Moriac (actually, more of a stagger than a run), a moment's lack of concentration had me caught by a cross wind gust as I came out from behind a grove of trees at the side of the road. Before I knew it, I was down in the gravel. Hard. I couldn't believe it. I had taken the course map out of my back pocket to see where the route turned down wind (ironically, only 300 metres further on!) and this combined with my general fatigue left me open to the wind. (The met bureau show that at the nearby Geelong airport at the time, the wind was 45, gusting to 60 km/h.) My left arm was bleeding profusely from just below my elbow, some skin missing from my knee. (The bike was OK - the right brifter was bent in, even though I went over on the left. The front must have dug into the deep gravel - me going left, it right. Still not too sure, and nobody around to provide a score out of ten.) Apologies to any locals who may have heard the odd swear word at that stage...
(Allez, you mentioned that Moriac was the low point of your ride and at times you just wanted to lay on the road. Having tried, I can't recommend it!)
Strangely, it wasn't all that painful (that was to come later) and with the combination of the risk of another flat and not much water left to clean up, I decided to get back as quick as I could. Amazing what a little adrenalin - and a 50km/h tail wind - can do! The blood flow stopped and I settled into a very quick run back.
Coming through the S-bend under the rail crossing on Mt Duneed road I was greeted by two cycles and two Harleys stopped in the middle of the road - directly under the rail line. Apparently one of the Harley riders, heading west, had decided to trim the right-hand corner a little, and while on the wrong side of the road had met the two cyclist heading east. Thankfully, there wasn't any impact with the two cyclists, the Harley ending oily side up in the gravel. (There's something there about Harleys not being able to go around corners, but then, I ride a Ducati ...) We was able to ride away, hopefully with an understanding of how lucky he was.
I made it back just before 3pm, luckily without any more puncture problems. I raised a few comments while checking in, unfortunately the first aid guys there at the start of the ride were out on the road somewhere. Checking the time, I realised I could just about make the 4PM Queenscliff ferry, so I tossed the bike in the car and set off, still in my riding gear and still with a rather (dried) bloody left arm. Despite the best efforts of Victoria's finest in making me wait in an RBT queue on the entry to Queenscliff, I just made the ferry by a few minutes. I got changed from my bike gear in the car and was able for the first time to inspect the damage in the mirror - I've never really thought before how difficult it is to see my own elbow. Not pretty. After the boat docked, I drove up the bay a little and had a cleanup in the salt water at Blairgowrie. After stopping off at a friend's place in Rye for an assessment, I then headed to Rosebud hospital. Five hours and six stitches later, I was on my way home. (As an aside, I found out after three stitches that you're meant to get an anaesthetic before getting stitched. Seemed there had been something of a lack of communication
between the staff ...The doc couldn't work out why it was hurting. "You've had an anaesthetic, the nurse said so." "Um, no I haven't. You mean it's not meant to hurt?"
I got home after a 20 hour day, with about 200 km driving, 152 riding, 5 punctures (including one in the car and one failed patch), and six stitches. What a day!