With the Federal Government banning outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday 16th March, 2020, the Bathurst Cycling Classic weekend, held over the 13th to 15th March just made it in before the cut off. The weekend includes hill climb, criterion racing and finally, on the Sunday, either a 50km or 100km road race. Yes it is a race with various race categories, fully timed on roads closed to traffic.
Unfortunately, due to cold wet weather, the criterion racing on Saturday was cancelled but come Sunday morning, the weather was cold, clear and dry, although a little breezy at the start.
For the 100km ride, the new course took riders from the centre of Bathurst out to Mt Panorama for a climb to the top. Cresting the hill just before the University, it is daunting to see the famous sign on the mountain side and realise that you are relying on pedal power where V8’s normally race. The climb actually is not too bad, if you’ve done the work needed before the race. Across the top it’s just rolling hills then there’s the descent! Possibly the most technical set of corners any rider will ever face as the road drops away and corners tighten, slowing your entry to the famous Conrod Straight. Speeds of well over 70kph are still achievable but before you know it, your exiting the race track.
If you have not been over the course before, having conquered Mount Panorama, it must be easy for the rest of the ride. Wrong! At around 30km, you hit Rockley Mount, around 4km at a consistent 10% plus gradient. No matter what you’ve been doing around Sydney, this is tough. Finally over the mountain for the incredible sweeping corners on the descent. Whilst not quite as fast as Conrod, it was just as exhilarating.
Fifty kilometres down and, according to the weather forecast, the ESE winds should be at our backs and strengthening to 25 to 30kph. It’ll be a sprint home with almost all the 1500m of climb behind us. Wrong again. The wind changed direction and it was in our faces with occasional gusts of cross winds. The only solution was to pull onto the back of another rider’s wheel and get out of the wind so three riders joined forces for the last 35km through Georges Plains and Perthville then through to the finish. Later one of the riders determined that for the last 20km, into the 25kph wind, we averaged 30kph. Why were we totally spent at the end?
Why punish yourself this way you may ask? Having a training goal such as Bathurst, Orange, Bobbin Head or The Gong Ride, is great motivation to consistently get out and improve both your fitness and technique. The satisfaction of doing your best over a challenging course with riders of similar ability cannot be understated.
Hopefully Bathurst isn’t the last big community bike event for 2020 but when things get back to normal, challenge yourself by entering one of these events and train for it. Your fitness and health will improve and you’ll have a great time doing a challenging course with other cyclists.