The Sydney Gong ride last Sunday was a great ride and fabulous first experience for me.
Despite some early rain, me and about 11,000 others rode from Sydney Park in St Peters through the southern suburbs of Sydney, around Botany Bay through Sutherland, Roayl National Park and long the coast to Wollongong.
My day began early with some fast coffee at 4.20 am and dash to Wollongong railway station to mark the 5.20am fast train to the city. The platform was packed with lots of cyclist on all types of bike, from my 1980 era Apollogy, to Carbon monococques, mountain bikes and dragsters. A couple of young girls looking the worst for wear after a long night out seemed a bit surprised by the crowd of flashing, luminous helmeted cyclist on a normally deserted train station in the small hours of a sunday morning. It was raining steadily.
Train trip was uneventful, picking up more and more riders until eventually in the murk of a rainy dawn we alighted at St Peters and crossed the road into the park to commence the ride.
The Gong ride is very well organised and leaving the park at 7.10am was pretty easy, though the rain and crowded roads brought an edge to the event, you could hear the brakes grind on rims and caution was the rule to avoid awkard early collisions. I saw a lot of early punctures in the slow run up the Princes Hwy in the crowd by once through to the suburbs around Botany Bay the rain lifted and clouds began to break up and by 8am it was quite sunny and I stopped to remove my rain jacket.
Stopped at Loftus for a Muffin and coffee and felt pretty good, a lot of people happy with the first 30kms, and I set off for Heathcote. Riding along I caught hold of a pretty quick group and enjoyed a really fast run averaging 29 - 32 kph along the hwy to Heathcote were we had to stop to await grouping to descend into the Royal Nation Park. As we waited an ambulance drove out with a couple of riders who didn't make it down in one piece. Again caution was the word. True cause the ride attracts a really broad range of riders and experiences. Not everyone is comfortable or able to go fast, and that's fine, but it can hurt when things get out of shape.
The RNP is a highlight of the ride and I really enjoyed cycling through it. Chatted with a lot of people on the way and admired some nice bikes. A lot of old ones still being ridden and getting along nicely too.
Climbing out of the park it was geting hot with just the beginnings of a southerly beginning to blow which was becoming welcome.
From there, one last serious effort up the short sharp climb to bald hill at Stanwell Tops and the magnificent views down the escarpment to Wollongong.
A steep controlled descent behind a police motorcycle (that saw me begin to cramp) and we're off again on the last leg towards North Beach and home. Amused by the Borat Mankini team, I slugged long, occassionally drafting or being drafted behind in a kind of leap frogging affair into a steadily increasing south wester. It remained sunny though.
Arrived in Stuart Park at the finish line to find Sue and the kids waiting with camera and smiles, 3 hrs 49 minutes after leaving posting and average speed of 24.9 kph. Pretty pleased with that and enjoyed at beer or three later tat afternoon.
Thanks to the organisers and my sponsors on the ride. All up the ride raised more that $1 million which was a record.