It’s been a busy start to 2016 for me as I made my way south to visit family in a trip I conveniently planned around the Tour Down Under, the first race of the UCI WorldTour.
Obviously if I wanted to ride much of the same roads I’m used to, I needed a bike which called for a trip to Giant Adelaide to pick up my new Giant Propel. No messing around, here she is and she goes fast even when I don’t!
My first ride in Adelaide was painful to say the very least. Wednesday 13th January, official weather forecast says 35 degrees but it felt a lot hotter and very humid. My friend mentioned his bunch were recceing a women’s ride to be held the following week so I came along having no prior knowledge of the route before embarking south down Unley Road. For any locals, that can only mean one thing: Belair Road. It’s a long, steady climb of 3.7km at 6% average, which means it pinches and eases as it sees fit. It twists around with a couple of hairpins until coming to the summit at the BP servo at the top and what a relief it is to see that. Bear in mind, I hadn’t done any major climbs for quite some time before I came here so this as my first in boiling hot weather nearly killed me!
From there we swept around the beautiful Belair National Park where we encountered some wild emus who decided to race us to the end of the road. The only way from the park was up and before I knew it (but not soon enough) we were back at the meeting point having done just 52km and 1000m of climbing. I was toast!
On the Friday, I went on my first Rapha Women’s Ride with the Adelaide women. We had a massive bunch! Thankfully, I wasn’t a complete stranger as I bumped into some familiar faces from back in the day which made for good chat and trips down memory lane. The loop is always the same: from corner Hutt St/South Tce at 6:10am back into town by around about 7:30 for coffee. If you find yourself with a bike in Adelaide on a Friday morning make sure you go as the women are fantastic and I think it’s the only ride of its kind. Follow the hashtag #raphawomenadl on Instagram for a taste of what you can expect.
A couple of days later, I went for a little solo beachie and found out just how hot it can get after 9am. I’m now very familiar with aloe vera aftersun.
Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under started on Tuesday 19th January, but given my current sunburn situation, I wasn’t sure whether it’d be a good idea to venture too far so set out on a solo ride up some local hills. I went towards One Tree Hill, which in itself is up from the get go but then I came across some beautiful roads. I just went Grace-pace, taking my sweet time through some countryside when I came up to North East Road and the ant trail of cyclists were making their way to Lyndoch. It was at that point I completely changed my mind and decided to solo up there to watch the stage. A lovely day for a ride and a great atmosphere in the town centre.
Stage 2 went to Stirling so I decided to go up the freeway not having done it for some time and only descended it so far this trip. It was an absolute scorcher of a day and we didn’t get to the start of the freeway until the pros turned up for their own ascent. This meant we were climbing for 8km at the hottest time of the day, however so were about 300 other people. I’m sure it would’ve looked amusing from the helicopters covering the race. I think it was the slowest climb of the freeway I’ve ever done purely down to the heat and inability to take in enough water despite having full bidons.
I took a day out on Stage 3 not least because Dad and I had to drop a car down to Victor Harbor ready for the Bupa Challenge the next day but because I’d have no legs left for the following days if I didn’t make an educated decision. Unfortunately, I missed the stage that went up the Corkscrew but not to worry – there’s always next time!
The Bupa Challenge rolled around on the Friday and Dad and I set out on an adventure down to Victor. I went ahead solo as I’m slightly quicker but I met him at the finish line. The route was relentless opening with a climb up Norton, Woods Hill Road, through to Piccadilly and Crafers, Echunga, Meadows and on to Strathalbyn before a rolling ride leading to Crows Nest climb. At this point, I think I had about 120km in my legs and I had a 3km climb to tackle. Not ideal. Once I eventually got to the top with a little help of a cheeky zig zag here and there, the commentator told everyone it was “downhill from here” which was a blatant lie and I will not forgive him for that. I didn’t get any photos from the ride itself and the official ones aren’t out yet so I’ll leave it to your imagination. A nice route if you fancy going from point to point though (or return if you’re super hardcore!).
The highlight of the tour for me is always Willunga Hill. I went out with the Fondo women’s bunchie which supported Space2B (a charity assisting asylum seekers set up business for their creative endeavours). We had a bunch of around 40 women, which was excellent and a mixture of abilities too. Onwards with the annual pilgrimage.
If you’ve never done it before, climb Willunga Hill if you get the chance. It’s 3km of leg burning gear grinding but it’s worth it I promise. Adrienne and I kept morale high as we both pressed on to reach the top. It’s such a relief when you hit the 1km to go arch and you realise the first 2km were awful in comparison. You’ll see a giant crown on the road when you’ve got to the top but remember to keep going in case you miss the strava segment! Simon Mottram was out in force giving out King of Willunga caps to the crowd and absorbing the atmosphere with the revellers. When the riders came through, it was awesome! The streets were lined with an amped up army of cycling weekend warriors.
The route back was either a mass exodus via the expressway bike path, which would’ve been relatively unpleasant compared to the route we took. It was similar to the one we did on the way down, with a few different turns. Thanksfully, Adrienne’s boyfriend helped tow us all the way home but not before we got a solid feed at McLaren Flat Bakery.
Today was supposed to be a day off but then I remembered there was a ride with RCC from the pop-up so I was up at sparrow’s fart for yet another bicycle adventure involving Norton, a gravel climb, tight steep descents and ascents ending on a roll down Greenhill Road but not without stopping for a mid-descent photo.
This brings us up to present day and tomorrow is a rest day – finally! I’ve done a total of 865km since Wednesday 13th January made up of 13 rides (11 but I was running low on garmin battery a couple of times so saved the rides in case I lost everything). I’ve also climbed almost 10,000m in this time too.
I am really loving being back in Adelaide and I miss it so much. It’s the best place in the world to ride a bike – no contention. The hills are a few km from the middle of the city, the beach is a few km from the middle of the city. What more could you want? Oh and it’s boiling hot for the majority of the time.
I’m still around for a few days yet so I’ll keep on cycling and bring my total up to over 1000km for this month for sure.
Until I’m back in blighty. Enjoy!