Amy’s Afterglow

by Old Bone Machine


The safety brief this year was again introduced by Amy’s husband, Simon Gillett, and  the familiar voice of Phil Liggett narrated the safety video. A local police officer advised us all that a size 8 hook baited with prawns, would reward the rider with a dinner of whiting from the Lorne Pier.

The key message of the brief for me was again one of respect, care and thanks. I would be one of 4,000 about to ride on a closed 120km course including a 40km section of the Great Ocean Road (no cars & trucks). I certainly felt gratitude to the organisers, the locals, the volunteers and the Amy Gillett Foundation. I felt deepest gratitude because I am healthy and I was able to participate.

To be told that some of Amy’s ashes were scattered along the Great Ocean Road only made the message more significant.

Act I – 38.8 kms

(Old Bone Machine on the BMC)

The first part of the Fondo, Lorne to Skenes Creek, along the Great Ocean Road, is fast. Ocean vistas I suspect are ignored as riders, high on adrenalin and coffee, pedal with fury. The road in this section is relatively flat and only the sharp curves slow down the riders.

As a lone rider you need to find your place and I found mine in a bunch that included the Simmo crew. The Crab, with his wide back and thick legs provided an ideal windbreak. Did I mention the legs of The Crab pedalled perpendicular to his bike?

Act 2 – 48.3 kms

The scientific concept of entropy dictates that matter moves from a state of order to a state of disorder. On the 9.6 kilometre climb from Skenes Creek, I watched entropy at work. The climb though steady with a gradient of 6% put an end to the ordered, working bunch. No more hiding.

On the climb, I paced myself and found, that after a time, I had left behind most of my bunch. I live and ride near the hills of Mount Dandenong so I knew that sure and steady was a prudent approach, especially at this early point in the ride. Nonetheless, the sight of the devil woman in her red dress near the summit was a welcome one.

Act 3 – 110 kms

There was little relief after the climb, or at least not the relief I’d hoped for. The road descends but short, sharp climbs continue to hurt the rider.

A flat section of about 20 kilometres saw bunches of riders form again. I made good time in a bunch averaging 40 kilometres with what seemed little effort. The sudden sound of brakes though alarmed and alerted us all. Speed and grace can turn to disaster without notice.

The final 10 kilometres of the Gran Fondo are difficult. Mentally I wasn’t prepared for another series of climbs with gradients of 9% so near the finish. Gran Fondo means great endurance and I suppose it was with great endurance and effort that one finishes.

In total, 1900 metres are climbed.

I sprinted to the finish, passed three riders, and was nearly sick. I sometimes do not know why we do what we do.

Epilogue – 120 kms

The road from the finish line at Benwerrin to Lorne is steep and potentially dangerous in a race situation, so in keeping with the Foundation’s emphasis on safety this section is untimed. Part of the reward then of finishing the Fondo is to allow yourself to coast down to Lorne.

I was content to have finished this year in the top 25% overall and in my age catergory. My goal was to finish under 4 hours and I completed the course in 3:36 (average 30.5 km). Next year of course I hope to ride smarter and faster, perhaps also to ride with a team.

As soon as one ride is done, the mind begins to imagine the next.

Sadly, the Fondo is over for another year but I’m still basking in Amy’s afterglow (and I am thankful).