The things we do. Half-past five in the morning is no time to be
greeting the day, especially on a Sunday, but if you are riding
in the Savings & Loans Coast to Coast, you have little choice. My
dreams were shattered into millions of pieces as my mobile phone alarm
noisily jolted me into reality. Within seconds I was lurching down the
hallway in search of the kettle, jersey and knicks in hand, wondering if I was sane. I got the same answer I always
As I neared my planned departure time, I was surprised that it was still so dark. The daylight hours were shrinking and I hadn't been up this early for a couple of weeks. I hoped that it would be light enough to set off for Glenelg by 6.30. It just about was. I whispered a goodbye to my sleeping wife and hit the road. By the time I'd gotten to Cross Road the light had improved sufficiently that any qualms I had about visibility were extinguished.
Not long after joining the main road I was unexpectedly joined by a friend I see occasionally and we rode down to The Bay together, chatting happily. He is a veteran of the Coast to Coast ride; this was to be my first. I'd registered in 2007 but the ride was called off due to the severe Adelaide heat wave.
As we closed in on Glenelg, we noticed that some riders had decided to afford themselves an early start. We saw bikes headed in the other direction as we reached the end of the highway.
Not unexpectedly, Colley Reserve was teeming. Despite the number of riders and bikes, my registration was completed without any fuss. I applied my ID bracelet and then fuelled up with a banana and a muesli bar. I wandered around the reserve, catching up with people I knew. Michael Bridge had to deliver his riders' briefing without amplification, as the PA system had failed. It didn't seem to matter.
Riders poured out of Colley Reserve on time at 7.30. Shoulder to shoulder, we carefully (and somewhat amazingly) negotiated the roundabout at the end of Colley Terrace and set off up the highway. As I took my place in the midst of the riders, I wondered what kind of ride was in store - a pleasant pootle to the seaside, or an(other) energy-sapping marathon that would test the endurance limits of both me and my bike. The answer lay somewhere in between.
A few sudden stops were required along Anzac Highway, for one reason or another, as riders and machines found their early rhythm. Fortunately, everyone in my vicinity seemed to be switched on. Communication was clear and actions were precise. As we rounded the corner into Cross Road, I saw a woman who had unfortunately gone over and was trapped in the middle of the road. She had to wait while riders diverted either side of her, like blood corpuscles coursing through veins. I'm not sure if she had been clipped or simply lost her grip on the road, but it was a rotten way to start the day - hopefully she got back on and enjoyed the rest of the ride.
As we passed virtually by my front door, I couldn't help but think of the twenty kilometre loop I'd already ridden, just to get to my starting point. I had another 110 kilometres to go so there was no point in worrying too much about that.
As is the norm on these road rides, I got used to being passed by loads of riders. It provides an opportunity to admire the bikes as they move closer to vanishing point, something of which I would have the privilege for the rest of the ride...
We climbed up the freeway before joining the regular bike route up to Crafers. It was a pleasant morning, warming up gently, and the ascent to Eagle on the Hill and beyond was a great way to get into the business of the day.
At the first refreshment stop I chatted with Ray Merrick about the amazing Australian explorer Hubert Wilkins, whose house is on the Mawson Trail near Mount Bryan. Ray had recommended his biography which I had recently purchased. This was no time for idle chat though, and soon enough I was back on the bike for a ride through the hills.
Stirling, Aldgate, Mylor and Echunga all came and went as I rode, enjoying the downhill aspects of the route. It is a lovely part of the world, and makes for some terrific cycling in terms of both the roads and the surroundings. The little towns, the magnificent gum trees and the rolling green hills all make for a beautiful backdrop to the day's riding. Some of the locals eagerly greeted riders with shouts of goodwill and good luck. At Meadows, I stopped just long enough to dismount and have a drink before resuming. Not long after, a huge 4WD missed me by about half a metre and the double horse trailer they were pulling missed me by even less. The fact that the road was empty in both directions obviously wasn't going to influence this brainless clown from giving up any of "their" lane. It is the closet I have ever come to being hit by a passing vehicle and it wasn't pleasant.
The day was starting to warm up, and on the way to Yundi I started to feel some slight indicators of fatigue. Nothing severe, just a little leg weariness. This, however, was earlier than expected, little more than half way onto the journey. At the refreshment stop on Yundi Road I sat down for a few minutes and had a chat and a decent break.
The ride along the Victor Harbor Road was thankfully short, but it was in the wrong direction and it was up a slight incline. Traffic roared past and if it hadn't been for the very generous shoulder, it would have been hair-raising. As it was, it was just a grind. It was a necessary evil, however, as it was the only way to get onto Pages Flat Road, which marked the resumption of the much quieter route to Victor Harbor. As I left Pages Flat Road and turned into Hindmarsh Tiers Road, I was getting the message from my legs that they were ready for a lie down and a cup of tea. Bad luck, legs! Less and less riders were passing now, meaning that most were in front. It wasn't a worry, as it was to be expected. In fact, it signalled that I was getting ever closer to my destination.
The last refreshment stop was welcome, but I didn't stay long. I'd reached the point where I would be quite happy to see the end of the ride. And I still had a bit of work to do. After enjoying a fantastic downhill stretch I paid it all back as I climbed the last stage into Victor. Each hill appeared to be followed by another. This was the hardest part of the ride. I'd read the guide, seen the profile, and discussed this last stage with others. Despite being prepared for a bit of an effort, it still exceeded my expectations and in the end just became an exercise in turning the cranks. I entertained myself with notions of buying a road bike before I attempt another of these rides. I had the sensation that I was climbing all the way to the coast, but that feeling was as much to do with me being tired as it was to do with anything else. Don't let it be said, however, that I wasn't enjoying myself. I was - it just might not have looked like that...
My first glimpse of the sea was a joy to behold. Not long now... After a little more work I hit the outskirts of Victor and blew into town feeling very happy that I had arrived. I deregistered, finished, got changed, discovered that my vegetarian lunch had been taken by a carnivore, and had a beer. In that order.
Some of my mates rode back. I thought about it, but the absence of a 250cc engine on my xtc3 made for an easy decision.
Another good day out, another ride completed. Next?
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