10,000 riders, nearly $4,000,000 raised for Multiple Sclerosis, 83.32km. I had the Garmin GPS on the job this year, so I now know that the course is a little shorter than the 90km advertised. This could be due to Continental Drift or some such phenomenon moving Wollongong closer to Sydney than it used to be, thereby squeezing the hills in between a little higher, like rumples in a tablecloth. Or maybe they’ve changed the course a bit since the good old days. I don’t mind too much. My friend Steve and I had to ride a few kilometres to get to the start, so 90km wasn’t far off the day’s total.
The Gong Ride is not a race. It stops for red lights and cappuccinos. However, I have a rule that nobody should ride in front of me if they look older and fatter than I do, at least in my imagination. Looks can be deceptive though, as I’ve learned over a few of these events. Having an ample rear and a keg rather than a six pack below your rib-cage is no impediment to good riding.
If I really want to know whether the person in front of me is going to be hard to overtake, I check out (1) their calf muscles and (2) their bike. Anybody can dress up in full CSC or Rabobank regalia, buying it from China via ebay. But nobody gets sculpted calves or a state of the art Colnago without being serious about their cycling.
There were less silly costumes than in other years, though some brave souls, with little regard for their bruised backsides, came along in red budgie smugglers as a tribute to Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who dresses this way for triathlons and photo ops.
Best placard along the way: “Ride it like you stole it”
Maybe as big rides go, this is not the toughest, but after a solid climb up through the beautiful Royal National Park, everybody is pleased to reach the top of the rise and see Wollongong below. There are still a few short sharp pinches and 35km to go, but the end is in sight.
To see the in-zoomable Garmin map of the ride route, along with profile, maximum speed, average moving speed and generally Too Much Information click here.
You will notice, if you really do zoom right in on the map, that I missed the road occasionally and went crashing through the bush in the national park. I don’t recall doing this, so I can only assume it was a small GPS error caused by overhead foliage interfering with the satellite coverage.