26 January 2018
CADEL EVANS GREAT OCEAN ROAD RACEby MATT CHARLESWORTH
“In 2017, the Cadel Evans Road Race was elevated to feature on the UCI Road Cycling World Tour. Given my recent performance in the Amy’s Gran Fondo, I was not surprised when I received a race pack and invitation in the mail. A 163km circuit through the scenic Geelong and Surf Coast regions racing the best riders in the world… I wish. So it turns out that I didn’t quite qualify for the main event but instead registered for the 35km People’s Ride. No harm done, I heard that Cadel Evans was riding in the exact race. Admittedly too, the elite race did sound at least 100km too long for my legs to handle.
The People’s Ride for us, was a chance to join in on the action. The track is a more condensed version of the Elite course with the same start and finish line. My Dad and I joined the last group of riders on the Geelong Waterfront; each rider competing in either the 35, 65 or 115 kilometre category. Running off Weet-Bix and milk we set off around Corio Bay. On two-wheels we really appreciated the surroundings. The Geelong Waterfront was absolutely stunning. Sail boats drifting in the bay, early-morning crazies swimming in the shallows, a Ferris Wheel and Eastern Beach, the popular swimming spot with a semi-circle pier. “Enough sightseeing” I thought to myself, it’s time to race.
Dad led out tackling a head breeze for the first 10km while I sat comfortably behind in the slipstream. I could have stayed there for the entire race just reserving my legs. “Are you just going to let me do all the hard work?” Dad bickered to me over his shoulder. After the smart remark, I thought it was time to put some distance between me and the old fella. I’d really push through a section thinking I’d leave Dad in the dust but every time I peaked over my shoulder he was still there… I just couldn’t lose him. We rode the entire race together and even crossed the finish line in an agreed “draw”. A refreshing moment of kind sportsmanship amidst all our usual competitiveness.
We got our first taste of elite racing as we pulled into the Peppers The Sands Resort, our lovely accommodation for the weekend. “Team Sky” the professional cycling team from the United Kingdom just happened to be staying in the same place. Equipped with a fleet of team cars and half a dozen bikes per rider, they definitely meant business. We picked 3 points to cheer on the elite riders: Bells Beach, Challambra Crescent & Steampacket Gardens. Another came by surprise while we were lounging on Torquay main beach. The Challambra cheer station was set up as a mini-village at the top of a climb in the suburbs. It was as if the organisers had selected the steepest hill in the whole of Geelong and with an evil laugh decided “not just once but four times”. I felt a little sorry for the riders as their faces turned to pure agony, rising from their saddles just to make it over the crest. The bells, whistles and cheers from the crowd, possibly the only thing getting the riders through. The broadcast was shown on a large TV while the riders disappeared down the bottom section of the track. The same footage being watched by cycling fans and the like in over 140 countries around the world!
An Australian, Jay McCarthy took out the title in a sprint finish. Everyone was in attendance to see the awards ceremony, including the one and only Cadel Evans. Cadel mentioned how that for many years these exact Geelong roads had been his training ground. It was a pleasure to ride in Cadel’s tracks and to witness the top-most level of elite cycling.“