Warburton, Sunday November 22nd 7:30am, perfect conditions for the inaugural Giro della Donna Gran Fondo. I was really looking forward to what promised to be one of the most spectacular cycling routes in Australia.
Words - Glen O'Rourke Images - Veeral Patel
As we’ve come to expect from the guys as Cycling Tips the event was planned down to the finest detail. Plenty of sponsors where there to show off the latest and greatest, great food options, bonus prizes for the top finishers, pro-style race numbers and plenty of support along the way – drinks, motivational signage and the guys from Sufferfest.
The start was a nice even tempo and the 1,200 starters soon spread out. The concerns I had that it would turn into a race soon eased and happily groups formed early and we rode along able to chat and enjoy the scenery. I found myself in a group of around 20 riders that included a couple of national road series riders on a recovery day.
The circuit was really up and down the whole way with plenty of spectacular views, steady climbs and fast descents; the hallmarks of a perfect training loop. Our group shared stories of guys who ride out from Melbourne to do this loop and ride back in a day - sounds like one I should pencil in!
The highlight of the day was the Archeron Way with temperate rain forest and towering gum trees, this is really spectacular stretch of road. The angle of the sun cast dappled light and long beautiful shadows across the narrow road, idyllic riding conditions; I didn’t want it to end.
Just as I thought it couldn’t get any better the road turned to 13km of gravel - brilliant fun for me, less so for the guys at the side of the road with flats. Huge respect to Brendon Canty from The Drapac cycling team, he stopped to help a stranded rider with his last spare tube. Great to see.
The final challenge of the day was the climb up Mt Donna Buang. It was surprising to see so many riders suffering up the final climb. I guess those who shot off from the gun really paid the price.
There is so much to love about this event; it was really well organised, lots of support along the way, a great chance to explore new roads, also the finishers stem cap for the top 100 was a really nice touch. The only down sides in my mind are the $165 entry fee, but it's inline with what entering an event on this scale seems to cost now, and a couple of crashes, the result of riders riding beyond their limits. But hey you get that.
Would be great to see this event expand in the future offering a longer option, perhaps including the Lake Mountain Climb. I give it my stamp of approval and will be revisiting the Warburton area to ride again very soon.
A big thanks to the guys at Cycling Tips for inviting us along!