I did the 210km distance Melb-Frankston-Sorrento-Ferry-Geelong-Melb with Ewan (willew) and a friend of his from Point Lonsdale named Lindsay who is 71 and doing his first ATB. Ewan and I were doing our 10th (5 each way including the 250 each way) having both done our first in 2002, although not together. I had just been riding for a short time at that stage and did my first 3 on a hybrid.
Ewan stayed at my place on Saturday night and we left at about 5.00am Sunday to get to the 6.00am start in the Alexandra Gardens. Normally Ewan and I would not go to the official start as it is chaos, but as this was Lindsay's first he wanted to experience the whole thing.
We parked in North Melbourne and rode to the start which was at the Swan St bridge in Alexandra Ave., arriving at 5.45am where we met Lindsay and took our place in the 25-29 av. speed group. When we looked up the road there were hundreds of cyclists in front of us in the 30-34 and 35-39 groups. It then became very frustrating as we had to wait for all of these riders to go off in waves of about 100 in 4 minute intervals and this meant we didn't actually cross the electronic start line (this was a timed event with tags on our bikes) until 6.45am which is about 90 minutes later than usual for us. The only positive for this type of start is that we were able to ride at an acceptable pace down City Rd to Beach Rd whereas the last time I started from there it was almost walking pace for the first few kilometres.
Once we reached Beach Rd we were able to up the pace and cruise along in the low 30s. The wind hadn't really got up at this stage and the going was pretty easy all the way down to Frankston. We had stopped at the first rest stop in Mordialloc for a refuel and again at Frankston. We had averaged over 28 kph to this stage and the wind was starting to get up. We climbed Olivers Hill comfortably with me leading the way as I had a lot more k's in my legs than the other two. We rolled through the undulations from Mt Eliza to Mt Martha and tackled the only real climb of the route up Jacksons Hill just before crossing over the Mornington Peninsula Freeway. It was at this stage we got a couple of brief showers as we turned into the wind and headed into Dromana and another rest stop. We refueled and proceeded to tackle the last 20ks into the wind along the foreshore though Rosebud, Rye and Blairgowrie. It was here that Ewan, cunning old bugger, tagged us onto the back of a tandem and we managed to cover the next 15ks in the high 20s. Unfortunately they pulled off and we rode the last 5ks under our own steam. We arrived at Sorrento at 11.05am having dropped our average to just over 26. There seemed to be a stuff up with the ferries as there were none coming or going. We got our lunch of a chicken sandwich, an apple and a piece of cake together with a bottle of Powerade. As there was going to be a long wait for the ferry most of the riders laid or stacked there bikes against each other in the queue and went and ate their lunch on the foreshore. The first ferry was at noon which was the big one and we just missed. We managed to get on the smaller ferry at 12.30pm which had me a little worried as it was an open deck and the rain clouds looked like they were moving in. Fortunately they didn't come our way.
The crossing of the Heads to Queenscliff was pretty uneventful and we arrived at 1.10pm. We then rode to Ewan's place in Point Lonsdale (the route went past his back gate) where his wife Donna had made us some savouries, fruit cake and a drink. We left there at about 2.00pm and then started the hardest leg of the day as we headed up Shell Rd toward Ocean Grove into a very strong SW wind and our speed dropped down to about 20kph or less. As we turned north into Grubb Rd for a bit of welcome relief we were met by Lindsay's son and family. After a brief chat we headed off again and turned back into the wind along the Bellarine Hwy where our speed dropped below 20. It was not long after that I got the biggest fright of my life as my rear tyre literally blew up. I thought that my day had come to an abrupt end, however I was able to do some temporary repairs with a sleeve and a patch from my repair kit and only pumped up the tyre, which had a large gash, to 50psi. This got me as far as the rest stop in Geelong, but I was doubtful it would get me the last 80ks. Fortunately the Trek van was there and I was able to get their last 700x23 tyre for $40 which was all I had on me.
We headed off up the Geelong Rd and eventually onto the freeway. I put the spinnaker up and cranked the speed up to 45-50kph. I had been waiting all day for this massive tailwind and when it arrived it was absolute bliss. We sat on this speed until the next rest stop at Little River where again we refreshed ourselves before heading back into the slipstream up to Werribee where we turned off the freeway before stopping at the final rest stop. Back on the freeway once again as we sped along to the Laverton exit and turned off through Altona and up to Brooklyn along Grieve Pde where I expected to get back on the freeway. However, as it was now about 6.30pm we had missed the cut off for the Westgate Bridge and were diverted along Geelong Rd. The signs then pointed to Francis St which I know has no bike lanes. This is part of the route for our regular mid week ride so we stayed on Geelong Rd and and turned down Somerville Rd which does have bike lanes . We caught up with the ATB route once again and headed into the city along Footscray Rd and through Docklands. However this is where the signage disappeared so we found our way back to Alexandra Gardens along Southbank and eventually onto Alexandra Ave via City Rd where we crossed the finish line at 7.15pm.
This was one of my latest finishes of all my circumnavigations of the Bay, but due to lots of stops, long wait for the ferry and the late start. However, I did manage an average speed of 26.5 and a ride time of 8.08 and an elapsed time of 12.30. The actual distance was 214kms. I felt pretty good at the end and I think this was probably my best ATB in terms of food intake. I haven't used gels on the ATB before, but using these together with some muesli bars, endurance tablets and electrolyte tablets in my water bottle I finished quite strong. Although there were a few problems and frustrations I still enjoyed the ride, particularly as Ewan, Lindsay and I stuck together and kept each other company and supported one another the whole way through. Would I do it again? Probably. Would I go from the official start? Definitely not.