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The Gong Ride

The Sydney to Woolongong bicycle ride.

Highly unmotivated to get up early with cold and rainy weather. Do not want to be outside, to be wet and tired. Want to stay in warm bed with cosy pillows to rest sleepy head on. Oh bugger it! OK, I'm getting up... I'm leaving...

Clearly, some people were more motivated than myself this morning; Gav, Tristan and others were already waiting at Sydney Park - the Gong Ride starting line.

After some fussing about we assembled Team Awesome for the group photo, wearing the biggest Avaitors and boasting the ceediest Mo's that you could imagine. Team Awesome is a hardcore, extreme action squad of super-fit madmen (and one woman); therefore, it was absolutely necessary to begin the ride with 20 push-ups. Are you serious? - Yes, damn it! Do it!

The first part was really easy. It was mostly flat, and it followed back streets with very little traffic to negotiate.

The drizzly weather dissappeared quickly enough to supprise you when you began to feel the burn - burn from the sun, that is. Luckily, St. Johns people had a stop early in the ride with suncream for all those who thought - yeah, no sun no problem. We were amongst them...

At the first major rest point (just after a freakin' huge dip in the Princess Highway, uugh hills) they were giving out muffins, tea and coffee. Good thing that, since all I came with was some gummi bears Meike that sent me. Any chance for some outdoor gymnastics would be taken throughout this ride, fun fun.

About 2 hours into the ride, one of Team Awesome's more feable members ran into trouble: muscular leg cramps. Shu jumped off his bike at one point, to grab the nearest fence and scream in pain. Not supprising really; he'd chosen to ride Little Stunner - his single speed road bike he made for free at the Newtown Nunnery. The fact he could turn the peddles at all was truely admirable, as its' gearing ratio was about 3:1 (rediculously hard to peddle). In fact, unless he was standing to peddle, it was bull-shit hard to get anywhere.

When Shu, Tristan and I made it to Waterfall Train Station sans Gav and Dave (who'd said somehting about picking up the pace sometime shortly after the starting line, and we hadn't seen them since), we were treated to a mamoth downhill into the National Park. They'd arranged motorcycle escourts to prevent speed-demons from horific accidents, assuming people would attempt to overtake on a blind courner at 62 km/h. But luckily, the escourts didn't try to slow us down; rather, only urge us overtake in safe places. Well, I was slowing down in parts on purpose - it was fuggin' fast! So pretty, the decent along rainforrest roads. Whee! So. Much. Fun. Wanted to ride back up and do it again, but the other two would no-doubt kick my arse for suggesting that - soft.

The next stop was somewhere in the National Park. It all looked the same as last time Tristan and I were here. This time, however, it was daytime and we knew roughly where we were. At the stop they had more muffins and prepaid lunches. With a surpluss of food and a clearly starving uni student, the very nice lady gave me a sandwich for free :-) lucky me.

It was time for a subtle bicep flex while eating, hehe. Shu had met some girls he knew from the Newtown Nunery, and they were all admiring his bike. I think they should have been spending more time swooning over Shu and his massive fitness level - his endurance beyond belief, that he could ride that bike all this way. Well, anyway... Me with my energy legs were not in the least bit tired. I was expecting more fatigue, honestly. I should have saved the bragging until after the race though (the vigour didn't last). The muscle-ups and levers we did in the trees were amusing.

Now, I'd heard nasty stories about a massive hill somewhere along the Sydney to Woollongong ride, but we'd just not come across it. That's what I thought anyway... Tristan left the rest stop before us - he said he wanted to get a 10 minute head start before we overtook him again.

From here it was a long, winding ascent along undulating roads. Marking the people in front motivated you quite a bit. Still, I don't want to make this sound easy - it was a really long distance to be going up-hill. Groan, mumble, complain. The road eventually emerged at a lovely lookout point, which made you believe you were nearly in Woollongong. But, well... we weren't. That was only 50 of about 90 km. Aww! We had met Alex Green (AKA: Unco-Alex) earlier, and again here at the lookout. Even at his slow and steady pace, we never managed to break away from his group. Gosh, people who've done this ride before... Waa!

At least some of us remained fully motivated up until now. Amusing bastards and their various decorations. Here's something funny: only 50 m after the lookout, where riders left in groups at the top of another steep downhill bit, and just as some bloke told Shu what a nice bike he had - ptsssssh! Punctured tyre. Lucky timing - if we'd gone down the hill, not knowing it was the steepest one of the whole trip, he'd have come a cropper at over 50 km/h. Not nice! Lucky for us, 50 m back up the road was a repair van (one of many along the way). $10 for an inner tube and $20 for a new tyre for me. My back tyre had worn through and was balooning. Best have that fixed now, eh? Seriously, wow! The hill really was the steepest. I was scarred my break pads may overheat, so was only intermittently breaking. Holy hell, we went fast. Shame we had so many wankers in the way, stopping us from safely overtaking. Wankers.

It felt like we were almost there, but when we heard things like - only 25 km to go! - we'd only become more bothered by our aching arses. Very hot sun, very sore backsides. Urgh! I want to be finished! There were a few more stops before the end. One was serving bananas and oranges free for all. That was, I think, the last time we saw Shu before the finish line. You see, he was as over it as we were, and decided to smash the last 15 km out as fast as he could. The final 12 km was along the beaches - very scenic if you had the energy to care.

We finally made it to Woollongong in 6 hours 20 something minutes. Kinda slow, considering Gav and Dave made it in 3 hours. We suck. They even had time to go shopping for board shorts so they could go swimming while they waited for us to arrive (didn't find anything they liked though, so didn't). Bastards. Fit bastards. Shu and Tristan made it ok and we all had lots of fun :-) Lunch with Unco-Alex and everyone, then home on a train. Need rest. Tired, burnt Sam. Next year: looking forward to it!