RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride day six – Port Campbell to Gellibrand


For today’s 80km leg from Port Campbell to Gellibrand, we’re thrilled to have a guest post from Tina McCarthy, founder of Wheel Women, Level 1 AustCycle Coach and 2013 winner of the Cycling Victoria Woman of Change Award.  In addition to an update of the day’s happenings, Tina offers her advice on planning and preparation for taking on the RACV Great Vic Bike Ride. 


Have you ever had one of those dreams where you suddenly find yourself sitting in that dingy old school room, the one you’d rather forget, and staring you in the face is an exam on quadratic equations” that sinking feeling hits you that “Oh my god we have an exam today? But I didn’t study – I don’t even know what this topic is!!” Yes, PANIC.

Okay, so maybe I need a psychiatrist, but I know many of you have been having your own wake-in-fright experience, dreaming about the fear of not training hard enough for the RACV Great Vic, or waking in a cold sweat, wondering if that Strava segment would have been better if you did the full-body shave – well, forget it! If you didn’t prepare, my guess is that you’re probably waking in the wee hours of the morning plotting how you’ll get on the SAG wagon. And when you looked at those hills today, rain pelting you in the face and hands numb with cold did you get that sinking feeling that maybe you just weren’t ready?

Face it, the RACV Great Vic is a big ride, and preparing adequately for any ride is essential, let alone one that covers 600km across Victoria and goes up the legendary Laver’s Hill.  And for many women, preparing for a ride like this can be a minefield of well-intentioned advice that can lead to a miserable experience. Well, guess what ladies, you’re not alone.

As a professional cycling coach I hear the horror stories all the time: ‘no, you don’t need knicks – she’ll be right – ‘yep, a plastic poncho should do the trick if it rains’ or ‘what are you worried about? You ride to the shops every day, you’ll make it. Well, maybe if the shops are about 80km away! Yes, our partners and work colleagues can be full of bad advice.

Maybe you’re reading this while you’re on the ride, or maybe you’re following your friends’ progress wondering if you could do it next year. Wherever you are, put down the Tim Tams and listen, because there is one word you need to know: preparation!

Just because I happen to be a cycling coach, people think I may have some secret way of channelling Cadel Evans or Anna Meares each day. I’m sorry to say, I don’t. But what I do know as a cycling coach is that the hills get easier when you do more of them, and the distance feels shorter when you ride it regularly, and that old Greg Lemond adage that “it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster” is so true.

Today on Laver’s Hill I was lucky enough to be with a group of high school students who had great preparation. The three girls I was riding with pedalled up that hill like there was no tomorrow. All three came off the ride a little cold, but exhilarated by the day and proud of their achievement. They had trained hard on the hills, so they could enjoy the excitement of today. They mentally prepared in the days before by looking at the elevations and breaking it into segments – they didn’t ride one big hill, they rode lots of small sections.

I’m just an ordinary woman, who likes a ride, but I like it even more when I know that I’ve trained hard and can ride easy. I also know that having the right gear will make a big difference to my comfort ñ yes, knicks work, so does chamois cream (and plenty of it), bike fits are pretty essential, plastic pants are a fashion mistake and ponchos went out in the ë70s. Gear up ladies, and don’t be afraid to glam up too!

Today was a great lesson in being prepared carefully with your gear. Yes, it was freezing up on top of the hill, and it was certainly wet too. I rode equipped with shoe covers, two pairs of gloves, arm warmers, beanie for under the helmet, wind vest, rain jacket, and I was also wearing two pairs of knicks (just a little something I like to do after several punishing days in the saddle). What I really needed today was some windscreen wipers on my glasses! Okay, there wasn’t too much glam in my outfit, but I finished the ride wet but warm and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

I ride at least 150km each week, and I always include some small hills in the lead up to the RACV Great Vic – I don’t do too many because hills and I don’t have a great relationship, but they are essential. I though today I’d end up stopping several times on the way up, but I was pleased that my preparation meant that it was a straight ride up with stops strictly in the rest areas.  But if you did stop, I know you would have been taking a well-earned break, and it’s okay to do that. The advice I give to Wheel Women participants – when it stops being fun, get off the bike and take a break.

One of my ride buddies is Carol Cooke, Paralympic Gold medallist and World Champion para-cyclist. When we ride, Carol spends most of her time screaming at me to hurry up (my excuse is that I’m not training for a hunk of gold), but she also lets me in on her little secrets and I’ll share them here with you:

  • When that hill looks big, put the head down and don’t focus on the top, just ride
  • When the wind gets tough, remember to keep saying to yourself, the wind is my friend
  • When you’re getting up the next day to do it all again, remember that this is fun.
  • Don’t let the negatives enter your head – laugh, and ride! Yes, LAUGH!

Carol and I laugh all the time when we ride, and that’s because we know that chatting and laughing on a ride is a great way to put the pain, or the distance, or the hard slog out of your head (I guarantee, she laughs a lot more than I do). So, if you’re finding the ride a little tough, and feeling like you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew because you didn’t prepare, then pull up beside an unsuspecting fellow rider and start chatting to them. Yes, they may think you too need a psychiatrist, but better that than suffering silently alone – ride, chat, LAUGH!

If you’re on the ride: as you looked at Lavers Hill today, did it feel like the horrific maths exam you didn’t study for? When you see the distance ahead each day do you secretly plot your route onto the Sag Wagon, or do you have that tiny smirk each day, laugh and say; “can’t wait to ride again tomorrow!”

To my fellow RACV Great Vic riders, I think you now have permission to grab that stash of Tim Tams ñ you deserve it. And in case you were concerned for my mental state, I still don’t know anti-differentiation of quadratic equations – looks like I’m headed for another nightmare tonight!

For photos of the day, visit Bicycle Network’s Flickr.

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