Following two fantastic Longest Day events in 2020, as MC Velo plans for riding Rapha’s Festive500 in 2020 came together, another Longest Day involving a return ride to Wollongong got to the ride list quickly. Wollongong return would be a 180km ride but making the 200km milestone within reach.
Designed with options for turning before the full distance, some planned for Stanwell return, others planned to catch the train from Wollongong (and one threatened to turn at several points but rode the entire distance). RSVPs locked in and tables at brunch in Wollongong booked in.
While this route wasn’t going to be remote from anywhere, we enjoyed knowing that the MC support vehicle would be meeting us in Wollongong. Our first target was 10:00 for brunch reservation at Diggies at North Wollongong Beach. A slightly earlier start to ensure we made it on time and our booking was kept (oh, and the small matter of the booking deposit!). 20 riders set off in two groups.
We made good time to Bald Hill lookout. The ride through the Royal National Park through Waterfall was glorious with nearly no car traffic to contend with, and the sound of the Australian summer - deafening surround sound of cicadas - making even shouting calls in the group impossible to hear. This was quite an experience.
At one point Jeff said he couldn’t even think! An obvious question goes to why are cicadas so loud :-) See here.
A quick water stop only. 6 of us turned back to Sydney here for time commitments, and the groups joined up to ride together along the coastal road (featuring the Sea Cliff Bridge) to Wollongong. There are a few pinches and single file for most of the segment, but normally described as ‘gentle rolling’.
It was heating up and everyone was ready for replenishing with substantial food. We arrived for brunch at 9:59 with tables reserved and support car primed.
There is really only one way back to Sydney from Wollongong, and that is via Lawrence Hargreaves Drive to Stanwell Tops, otherwise known as ‘up Bald Hill’. It is good to know this before ordering - no extra order of bacon or sausage at brunch, else you might find it again atop Bald Hill. Some made PB’s climbing Bald Hill, others cursed the sign that says 80m to go! That only means 80m until a short breather, water, and some Snakes Alive - then it is the final push to Stanwell Tops and Helensburgh. It is now pretty hot at 30+ and we went through a bag of ice quickly - some of the ice in bidons and most of it sitting as melting deformations down jersey backs.
Once reaching Waterfall it was a familiar ride home for the entire group. And a fast ride back to Sutherland 7-11 drink stop, and then around the Bay home. Fortunately, holiday traffic was headed south and we enjoyed a light ride home all the way as traffic sat bumper-to-bumper for kilometres.
Destination was dirty beers at the Maroubra Beach Hotel. Riders gradually dropped off on their own paths as we neared home. On such a hot holiday day, the beach and the hotel were heaving so we sent the car ahead to organise some private beers that didn’t involve lines and COVID check-in. A great way to finish the ride with Velo visitors and family and canines stopping to join for a drink.
It was a slow ride home from there. Tim soldiered on to make the day 200kms (and a slight bit more in case Strava rounded down).
Another successful day out to top of an unfortunately memorable 2020. This Longest Day was a faster ride than previous with much of the route familiar to most riders. A great way to knock ~200kms off the Festive500 target this week, and another excuse to spend all day outside on the bike with friends.
- 4,208kms (182km per rider over full distance)
- 2 bags Snakes Alive + 2 bags jelly beans
- 1 thrown and wedged chain. 1 slow leak fixed.
- 1 bag of ice.
Footnote. As we arrived at Centennial Park Monday morning at 06:15, so did Josh. He set off early Sunday morning for a 24hr ride to Newcastle and after 400km and aborted plans, he rolled straight to CP for morning laps with MC.