Race Reports – Amy’s Gran Fondo 2017

So as el Prez noted in the weekly blog, it appears SPR purchasing a Van may not be sufficient already – we now may need to budget for a private jet to get our members to races in the numbers we saw competing in Lorne, Victoria at Amy’s Gran Fondo! #squadgoals, eh?

We have a few race reports to offer from the SPR Crew, and there were some crackingly good, and truly heart-warming results out ther -. Stuart Gee pipped on the line for a 3rd (by Gary Boylan AGAIN!),  Luke Ellis 6th in hotly contested 34-39 Men (riding for DOME),  Claire Tyrrell 4th just behind Laurensia in 19-34 Women, Amanda Nabi 4th 40-44 Women and Paul George beating out Robbie McEwen in the sprint home.

There are all the results on the Amy’s Gran Fondo website, with times and qualification for the Worlds, available here for your perusal. You will find quite few of our SPRouleurs with a “Q”!

What’s also awesome – SPR racers David Menarry and Peter Wilshaw, who both paid up to race at Amy’s this year prior to their crashes and serious bone breakages headed over anyway and offered support to the Green army. Clubmen? Hell yassss.

Laurensia Rosana – 3rd place Womens 19-34 years

After racing in the ‘Tour de Bintan’ race in March, I didn’t know what my next goal would be. That was until the announcement of the next UCI World Gran Fondo championship being held in Italy next year! Well I have never been to Europe before, so thought to myself, why not try to qualify at Amy’s Gran Fondo? After a discussion with my coach Toby Brown, my training was under way.

My training involved improving skills in handicap racing and endurance training. The mock handicap races every Sunday with the Strive and SPR club members raised my awareness on how to jump from one group to another, positioning myself, measuring my limit, practising my diet on a long ride and highlighting areas I should be working on. On top of this, I did strength training at the gym due to my on-going struggle after a lower back injury. It has not been smooth sailing but I collected my dividend from the hard training on race day.

On the race day, I was early on the start line and feeling nervous. The race pressure kept on building up as time ticked away to 830 am. Then the race went underway. The peloton consisted of men & women aged 19-34. Shortly after 500 metres, we started the first climb which was approximately 10 kms long. The male group swept us through pretty quickly. I tried to keep up with the pace but looking down at my power meter, I would not be able to hold on for long. As the peloton started fading away, I looked around where my female competitors were. I noted only 3 who were around my pace and none was in the peloton ahead. I was determined not to let them go, I kept up for most of 1st climb, but eventually dropped off as I struggled to keep up. “Damn it!” I thought. I had to work harder to catch them in the next 110 kms!

I then rode with a small group of riders until we hit the flat section. A big peloton passed by and I jumped on to this group. I could keep up with the pace which was great. I managed to reserve as much energy as I could before the start of 2nd climb. I also looked around in the peloton and thought “yes! I saw the top 3 girls”. I felt really positive and determined to not let them go! The 2nd climb then started. My legs felt pretty good so I pushed on.

Slowly and steadily I caught up with these girls. I was not paying attention until I was over the 2nd climb. Then I realised “hang on a minute, where are these girls? Am I ahead of them? I think I am!!” So I just pushed on even more until the last 40 kms. It was headwind along Great Ocean Road towards Lorne and I was alone – I knew I was in trouble. I held steady pace until a small peloton caught up to me. My body was aching from the hard efforts I put in. Moving from one rider to the next and jumping to different peloton drained me significantly. I was just hanging on by a thread. At 20 kms to go, some female riders passed me and when crossing the finish line, I was with few female riders. I was not sure on my placing and already let go of my hope for qualifying. I had a big sigh but also felt relieved when I rolled across the line. “Glad that was over” I thought.

One of great things about this event is that if you are top 25% of your age group, you will be notified immediately via SMS. I quickly stopped and checked my phone. I got the SMS! YAY!!! I am qualified to go Italy next year! The funny thing was that I did not check further on my placing until I got back to my accommodation and had a shower. I actually got 3rd place on my age group which in hindsight I probably knew but did not want to believe it. I also missed the medal presentation altogether! I could only laugh and cried a little. I never thought in my life that I would actually get a podium placing in this type of events. I suppose my hard yard finally pays off.

Thanks again to Toby Brown, Peter Mah and Strivettes my training buddies for your support. This would never be possible without your involvement! Here is for another year of training and Italy here I come!


Peter Lander – Long Time Fan, First Time Amy’s Racer

I remember it was about this time last year, at the coffee shop after ‘Stockies’ that a few of us started to talk about Amy’s Gran Fondo 2017. As people started to register for Amy’s I made the commitment to go and dared to dream that I might be able to qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo in Varese, Italy in 2018.

Training for Amy’s was less than perfect as it started to rain in July and there seemed to be few and far fine days. Nevertheless, I joined the Amy’s Replica riding group on three Sunday mornings to get a taste of the climbing and distance. By the third ride I was feeling confident that I could complete the Amy’s course in a reasonable time.

Then all too soon the day arrived for flying out to Melbourne. Getting to Lorne at about 4.00pm, Meegan and Faye, following their coaches instructions set off for a short ride with Greg (DG) in tow, I decided to follow my own training plan and relaxed. The beautiful town of Lorne clings to a narrow strip of coastline and behind the town where the houses are built is up. Our house was no different, being located on the course and the start of the 4 to 5 per cent 10km climb to the top of the scarp. A bonus of course was the sensational views from the balcony over the treetops and coastline.

A Rouleurs ride had been organised for the Friday morning, meeting at the bakery for coffee and then doing the 10km climb together. It had rained the night before and the skies were looking decidedly unfriendly. Nevertheless, about twenty of us took to the hill in cold and wet conditions. My housemates, again following their training plan, had a rest day and drove the course. On the ride down from the top there was more rain and all I could think about was a hot beverage in the warmth of the café.

On Saturday Vanessa Johnson had booked lunch at the Airey’s Inlet pub about 20km from Lorne and over fifty Rouleurs and partners packed out their back room. After that it was back into town to soak up of the atmosphere with some five thousand riders taking over Lorne as well as catching a bit of the action from the NRS women’s and men’s criterium races around the town circuit.

At last it was Sunday, the day of the main race. Getting up that morning the first thing I did was to check out the weather and it was blue skies and little breeze. He weather gods had turned on a beautiful day, albeit it was going to be cold start. Bikes were given a final check over and we made our way down into town from our house. It was a brilliant sight with thousands of riders packing out the main street in Lorne waiting for the starter to send them on their way. Most of the Rouleurs were in SPR kit and there were lots of smiles and hugs all round, photographs being taken and club members encouraging each other to do their best and have a safe ride. In my age category there were only forty four riders and I figured it was going to be tough to qualify for the UCI, but I would give it a crack anyway.

There were only a couple of minutes between each group and it was not long before the slower riders from other groups were being passed as we did the 10km climb. For me it was a matter of finding a bunch of riders that I could stay in touch with and jumping to the bunch in front if they were too slow and being picked up by the group behind if I got dropped. After coming down from the first climb we came into the hinterland with farms and rolling hills. The next stage was more challenging through the Otway National Park with some of the major climbs of the race. I managed to pace myself with a couple of other riders until we got to the final climb. Descending to the coast at Apollo Bay was nothing short of sensational with breathtaking views of the coastline and forest. Once at Apollo Bay we had 40 km of coast road back to Lorne.

There were hundreds of riders on the Great Ocean Road and often in large groups, and while closed to traffic I found it hard to get into a rhythm as you tended to be captive of the dynamics of the group. I did not know my position in my age category. Finally the finish line came into view and I was cheered on by Rouleurs who had finished earlier with bells and shouts of congratulations. My official time was 4 hours 8 mins and 30 seconds – 8 minutes slower than the last qualifier. The fastest qualifier in my age group was 3 hours 30 minutes; unbelievable!

While there were no major crashes, there were a few incidents. Someone brought down half a dozen riders, including Jeremy O and while not badly hurt it affected his overall time. Heiko was the author of his own misfortune when he stuffed his gilet under the back of his jersey, only to unzip it a while later and have his gilet fall out and wrap itself around his derailleur which prematurely ended his race. Fortunately he was not hurt, but the bike suffered some major damage.

As our riders came in and got their official times it was really pleasing to see how many riders qualified for the UCI. The Rouleurs across all age categories, both males and females were fantastic ambassadors for the club and their achievements speak for themselves with podium finishes and  so many qualifying. Post-race it was off to the Lorne Hotel to share stories and relax with all the SPR crew. I have no doubt that many of us will be back next year to do Amy’s again and for or me personally I will be aiming to get under that 4 hour mark. Congratulations again to all those who qualified and I hope to see many of the same faces back in Lorne in 2018.

Sarah Fitton – Hitter; 3rd place Womens 35-39 years

Last year at Amy’s Gran Fondo I was in pretty good form, given my recent return from European summer and endless mountains. But good results in racing don’t just require good fitness, they also require a bit of racing experience, good positioning and knowing when you really need to burn the matches. I finished fourth, just a second or two behind second and third and a place on the podium.

Pre Race Reccie. And conditions looking sub-optimal. Photo: Hop-a-long Smithy

This year I returned a little smarter, a little bit stronger, although probably not as fit, with the aim to be on the podium. My race was far from perfect, but my aim was to position myself well in bunches and really push myself to stick with the fast bunch over the short power climbs which had dropped me last year, left me isolated and lost me time.

Fitton, with cameo from Tyrrell.

Andrew Ballam’s group swept me up a while after the first climb and descent. I absolutely busted my guts to stick with them. Which I did ……. until just before the second climb……. In the process taking “Top 10” Strava cups throughout this whole section, which is testament to how fast they were going!

In the closing 3kms of the race, a big group, including Amanda Nabi, swept me up and I spent the next few minutes trying to work out if there was anyone there from my age group – nope.

Blue Steel. Bring it, Chicks. Bring. It.

So I rolled across the line without having to contest a sprint, knowing there was at least one female ahead of me but hoping not more than two others – the rider I knew was ahead of me finished a minute ahead of me so I managed to grab third and get my podium spot.