It was very brave for our colleague Kelli to agree to ride this same event last year - 300kms from Bowral to Sydney in 2018, having only ridden twice before. 12 months later and lots of cycling in between, Kelli is riding with 18 others for 819kms over 6 consecutive days in Victoria to raise money for the Future2 Foundation.
Future2 Foundation supports young Australians aged 12 to 25 years experiencing social, financial or physical hardship. Since 2007, Future2 Foundation has committed $1,195,066 million in grants to grassroots programs that contribute to skills training, financial literacy, work experience, community service, mentoring. See video intro here.
The pre-ride WhatsApp talk is already confident. “We are chasing 1000kms this week” - not just the planned route covering 819kms! This is all before riders have aclimatised to variable weather in Victoria with cold starts, some 22% sections, and the mystery of a zero gravity climb - the road that looks to climb but is a descent!
The ride is organised and led again this year by the legendary David Eck of Coogee Tri Club, with clipboard and ladder never from his side.
I am looking forward to this upcoming adventure.
Before the ride got underway, we met with two local grant recipients doing great work with disadvantaged youths in Melbourne.
Baroondara Cares operates a scholarship program to close the gap on educational inequality and poverty by providing educational scholarships to financially disadvantaged, motivated and talented young people between the ages of 12 and 25 who live and / or study in Boroondara.
The South Sudanese Australian Youth United (SSAYU) ‘Bounce Back Pathway’ is a mentoring program empowering young people to reach their highest potential through mentorship and basketball. We enjoyed a game of hoops with some of the leaders and youth before eating pizza together.
A good start to set the scene for why we were about to ride 800+kms.
Day 1 - Melbourne to Broadford 122kms
Day 1 started at the Joe Ciavola Velodrome at Darebin International Sports Centre (DISC). Here we met up with Matt Keenan who had some great insights to the Velodrome and his riding career through to commentary.
We also heard from Society Melbourne and its work with homeless youths. Society Melbourne is a not-for-profit with a mission to end youth homelessness in Australia by supporting young Australians to co-create their own pathways out of the homelessness cycle through education and job training, housing support and paid employment. The program participants are given support to transition into further education or employment in their chosen field, and are often able to find long-term employment within Society Melbourne’s network of industry partners. The Future 2 grant is enabling 35 young people to participate in the hospitality training program.
Matt then accompanied our group of 16 riders along the bike path from Melbourne to the start of the Kinglake climb with stories of his hill repeats aged 15 with some local 17 year old mate called Cadel.
Day 2 - Broadford to Ballarat 140kms planned - 195 actual
“Gravel, wrong turns, mechanicals, cockatoos, echidnas, over a long ride.”
This was a tough day and didn’t stop at 140kms. After some unexpected gravel, wrong turns, and many mechanicals across the gravel….this day turned into 195kms and 11.5 hours in the saddle as we raced against the light into Ballarat and straight to the restaurant for dinner!
We are now 17 riders.
Day 3 - Ballarat to Apollo Bay 166kms
Gorgeous Sunday riding. Perfect day without wind through the middle of nowhere in Victorian country. The only pub we passed was lunch for the day and the publican was there waiting for us.
The visiting bikers protected our gear and we were soon on our way again… 45km to the next climb..a 20km ascent before a dynamic 10km descent down Skenes Creek into Apollo Bay.
Day 4 - Apollo Bay loop via Lorne 135kms
“A search for a short ride with dappled light, found 30kms of gravel and adventure”
We are now 18 riders.
Looking for a shorter day after Day 3, most of the group followed the original route of 105kms and a small group sticking to the amended route of 135kms. There was no shame in looking for the shorter ride today which worked across the mountain ridge in dappled light. The local told us the route was “packed, and her son rides it.”
Well, we found 30kms of that packed gravel. A split group and a wrong turn gave us two adventures. One of those landed back at the bottom of yesterday’s 20km climb! There is always a better story after an adventure, but the heartbreak of the group that took the gravel to avoid that climb was legendary.
Day 5 - Apollo Bay to Queenscliff 129kms
“Sun, surf, sand, wind (36kt), rain, hail”
We are now 19 riders.
Today we split into two groups to accommodate speed preferences (fast and faster), first stop Lorne for breakfast.
The wind along the bay was wild. It was mostly a tailwind but in the coastal gorges we copped gusts and changing directions from side wind to headwind - at one point stopping us head on at 36 knots!
We descended Skenes Creek again, but slower today with heavy wind gusts over the ledge and rain.
It was fitting that before dinner we heard about the work done by Hello Hurricane - they don’t take the storms away, just train youth to deal with them. Their work aims to step-in at a critical period in young people’s development and offer a pathway for personal growth that will build resilience, knowledge, confidence and leadership amongst teenagers of the Geelong region. While particularly at-risk youth (as identified by school welfare departments) are part of the Foundation’s program, the services offered are mainstreamed so as to avoid creating social stigma attached to program participation. The program offers varied training for mind and body, promoting healthy living and also soft skills such as communication, teamwork, initiative, project management, time management and problem solving.
Day 6 - Queenscliff to Melbourne 113kms
“We are now 30 and looking for final gravel.”
Now we are 30 riders - joined by 11 additional colleagues from Melbourne. Of course we couldn’t end this ride without a bit more gravel... a short stretch up Arthur’s Seat.
This ride was all about Arthur’s Seat. A tremendous climb that opens out to great vistas down across Port Phillip Bay.
Three of our fresh riders had only even made one climb before today - Mt Pleasant. It was great to see them conquer it, but I don't think they enjoyed it as much as I did!
Arthur’s Seat is a must do on return to Melbourne. A 120km loop from CBD.
This was a great ride to combine effort and challenge, where those dark cycling moments were physical and mental reminders of the purpose of the ride and where some disadvantaged Australian youths find themselves regularly. The opportunity to actually meet several grant recipients to tell their stories was the right mix.
Quite a few riders hadn’t ridden a 6 day event before, including regular and accomplished riders. Some were anxious about how they would fare. Every one of them rode well and was surprised by what they achieved. This included Kelli who is (nearly) ready for the event next year.
Rides like this inevitably include some adventure. These are the things that create wonderful stories and memories.
A great ride with great friendships built.
- 6 days
- 850+kms each -> 14,450+ kms total
- 126kms of gravel!
- 9793^m each -> 166,481^m total
- 4 tires
- 20+ punctures
- 1 spoke
- 1 set of cleats
- 1 disc shredded gilet
- 92 Winners bars
- 120 gels
- 78 muesli bars
- 3kgs Snakes
- 12 cans of V