• Great Ocean Road Riders. (Jarrad Schwark)Source: Jarrad Schwark
Before the elite men and women of the pro peloton raced around Geelong and the Great Ocean Road, we the people were given the chance to shine on one of Australia’s most beautiful cycling routes.
Jarrad Schwark

Cycling Central
31 Jan 2017 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2017 - 1:48 PM

The Cadel Evans Road Race People’s Ride is not the most challenging ride going but it is a feast for the eyes.

Starting in Geelong, just over an hour from Melbourne, the Cadel Evans Road Race gives punters like you and me the opportunity to join in on the Australian Summer of Cycling by riding the exact same course the pros will race hours later.

The difference between this and previous rides I’ve done like the Fitz’s Challenge, in that if you choose to, you can actually take a breath, soak up the scenery and enjoy the ride!

Of course, you can put the hammer down and rip your legs off, but why would you? You're riding along Australia’s most famous pieces of bitumen, the Great Ocean Road, through Cadel Evans’ hometown of Barwon Heads and the world-famous Bells Beach. It’s a real showcase of what south-west Victoria has to offer.

It's a ride of three parts. There's the hectic beginning where you roll through the streets of Geelong, navigating cyclists of all skill levels - a challenge in itself. Then between Barwon Heads and Bells Beach is the scenic bit, views that will take your breath away and if they don't the climb out of Bells Beach most certainly will. From there it's a tough grind through the rolling inland hills back to Geelong for the final finishing circuit.

You are lured into a false sense of security with a distinct lack of elevation in the first 50-odd kilometres. Just 150m gained between Geelong and Torquay. You can hold a strong pace if you choose, the smart riders saved themselves for the back end.

With the professional women riding the same day and the men the next day, there was some serious Pro Spotting happening with many pro riders using the People's Ride as an opportunity to scope out the circuit.

I was lucky enough to spot with three-time Tour De France champion Chris Froome and his Team Sky companion Ian Stannard out for a training ride. I jumped on their wheel for 12kms, busting my gut to hang on during the climb out of Bells Beach. While they were clearly keeping to a leisurely pace, it was an amazing thrill to ride with Chris and Ian.

It was a reminder that this ride is just a small part of the festival that is the Cadel Road Race which is getting bigger every year. The Men's event was given UCI World Tour status this year meaning that all the big racing teams are there. Also new for this edition was a circuit race around the Melbourne Formula One track on Australia Day.

There really is a lot to pack in if you want to head to Geelong or Melbourne for this ride and make a long weekend of it.

The difficulty of this ride was very manageable and for riders who are yet to 'notch up a tonne’ (ride 100kms), this would be a great target event. There's plenty of support with three well-placed aid stations with friendly volunteers. A majority of the ride is flat and beautiful and it's so close to Melbourne so getting there is a breeze. 

The entry was a little on the expensive side at $130. That did include a jersey which I thought was compulsory, however, there were a few rebels wearing their own kit. The ride is not timed but you are given a race number for your jersey and seatpost.

Anyone who's done a ride with one of those seatpost stickers knows the pain of having a bit of the sticker left after you take it off. Listen to the linked podcast in this article and I'll tell you a little hack on how to avoid that and to look a little bit pro at the same time.

Experienced riders may find the route a little easy, however, the views and the accompanying festival of cycling make it worth the trip.

With Australia's summer of cycling drawing to a close and your mind turns to next year's calendar of events definitely give the Cadel Evans Road Race a go.