As I wrote earlier in the Dirty Melbourne article, the Dirty Gran Fondo is an enduro (gran fondo) on the dirt roads (dirty) in and around Wandong, Victoria. Together with another 250 riders, teammate Mike Blewitt and I lined up for the second edition of this event.
We arrived in Wandong around 6 am, well in time to collect our race numbers and take a short nap in the warm car while temperatures outside were struggling to get above four degrees. I guess I should’ve checked the weather reports prior to packing my race bag, but I didn’t and found out the hard way that summer gloves were not the right choice today. Luckily the Big Hill Events team had organised a ‘jacket throw’ so riders could stay warm until moments before the finish. One of the riders was even wrapped up in a sleeping bag to protect himself against the cold.
The Dirty Gran Fondo could be ridden on a cyclocross bike, a 29 or 26 inch mountain bike or a mongrel, basically any other two-wheeler. It was a nice surprise to see so many cyclocross riders at the start, 56 of them riding the full 90 km on their skinny knobby tires. Cyclocross is definitely booming in Australia and Melbourne seems to be more and more the place to be for CX. Possibly because it’s the only city with a somehow European like winter.
I moved up the field during the first kilometers of the race after starting in the back of the bunch and made it to the front just in time before eventual winner Paul Van der Ploeg tore the peloton to pieces. Many CX riders couldn’t keep up with the mountain bikers on the first steep descent but it was good to see some of them powering back to the front of the race. I found myself riding with team mate Mike during the first part of the race until the lack of training over the last few weeks due to injury made me too slow on one of the long climbs.
As I lost touch with the Blewitt-group, I realised just how cold my feet and hands were with temperatures around 8 degrees all day. A big thanks goes to DC from the Fitzroy Revolution for bringing his espresso machine and fire basket to the feed zone. It was awesome to fuel up with a coffee and a nutella sandwich while sitting in a comfy chair by the fire.
Just as I was getting a bit too comfortable, 26” mountain bike rider Chris Hellman got me out of my chair and back on the bike. Chris and I were in a 60 km break away during the 2011 Crocodile Trophy and it was nice to ride the dirt roads together again. We kept a good pace during the last 38 km of the race and finished in just over four hours.
A course that suited all bikes whether you’re racing or just in for a nice ride, European style feed zones and a very motivated Big Hill Events crew all added up to a great atmosphere at this ‘mountain bike versus cyclocross bike’ event. It was also a great opener to the Melbourne off-road winter with quite a few cyclo cross races on the calendar. I might try and get my hands on a CX bike and ride the Dirty Deeds Series prologue in Brunswick this Friday. Hope to see all you cyclocross fans then!
PS: In case you’re wondering why I knew exactly how cold it was before and during the race, check out my new training companion, the Magellan Cyclo 105. The Dirty Gran Fondo was only my first ride with this bike GPS computer but keep your eyes open for a full review on the Cyclo 105 coming soon.