It’s all about the coffee, or so they say. Secretly it is about keeping competitive as long as you can, and yes, the mateship. Cycling is way of life for many lycra clads on the Bellarine Peninsula. Many come from competitive sporting backgrounds wanting to stay fit. Some are just discovering the new ‘golf’.
I ‘belong’ to a local group called the ‘Bellarinas’, a motley crew of ‘wannabes’, ‘could’avebeens’ and ‘should’avebeens’. Ages range from mid thirties to mid sixties, and some either side of that. It’s like any social cycling group of retirees (‘its ok for you guys!’) and workers (‘why are you here and not paying our taxes') with past and present occupations ranging from police, fireys, solicitors, bakers, builders, teachers, physios, doctors, concretors the list goes on. Most names get a ‘y” tagged on the end.
And no-one is in charge because there are too many alpha males. Is the collective a “pack” or a “gaggle?" Where the measure of love is expressed by how much you are mocked, this writer is well loved.
There are rides nearly every day, publicised on a closed FB group page. The most infamous is Wednesday’s Tour De Bellarine, where riders from all round congregate at the Ocean Grove fire station, around 7:30am.
Newcomers are suspiciously viewed, but welcomed. After an initial overview of any new Di2, Fulcrum racing wheels, try-hard Asos shorts or who has a new Strava crownie or KOM, the group gets restless.
Garmins are set and off the group heads towards Portarlington, via some quiet, then hazardous roads (no shoulders, 100kmph!).
Speed is mid thirties. Oncoming riders are castigated if they don’t wave back, good driver behavior is acknowledged. Tall tales are told, oft repeated and still funny when told for the umpteenth time. Tight bunch, smooth rollovers.
On to the more scenic section along The Esplanade via Indented Heads and St Leonards. One of the great waterfront rides in the region, where we wave to the old ladies playing tennis and dodge the boaties trying to moor.
Here the pace cranks up. It’s usually quiet, although the Melbournites are slowly discovering “the other side”. Depending on the wind, 50kmph stretches sort out those who have been on holidays. Newcomers are left aghast. Idle chatter ceases. Mono syllabic grunts abound - “hole”, “car”, “rough”, until someone yells “puncture”.
The group slows and begrudgingly stops to theoretically assist, but generally breaths are caught and ridicule re-commences. The eternal argument of Shimano versus Campagnolo, whether to start or finish at the valve, pumps versus gas cylinders. There never is a winner.
Pic of the #bellarinas at Point Lonsdale by @oconnorn
After being timed its back on the saddle and a sprint to the finish for line honours at the Portarlington waterfront. The ‘sprinters’ maneuver into position, rolling over ceases. The hill finish line and glory awaits. Til next time. Exasperated riders then congregate at the Port bakery to compare levels of exhaustion, proffering illegitimate excuses, castigating winners for secret training or bemoaning those who still race A Grade!
This has become a time-honoured tradition dating back some twenty years. So much so that the bakery puts on toasted raisin bread en masse as a reward for our patronage, especially in winter!
Next it’s the hills to Drysdale. The older, slower, not-fit-yet riders sneak off a few minutes early to act as hares to be chased down. Chatter soon eases as the ‘goats’ crank it up. One, then two, then three hills.
First into the Drysdale Firey. More glory. Rebunch. More tales. ‘Who’s up for Leopold?’. The journey cranks up along the two metre shoulder on the Port Road. Back along the Bellarine Highway, up Swan Bay Rd rise, for one more belated surge. The hardy ones continue to “God’s waiting room”, Point Lonsdale. Yet another coffee after 90klms of pure bliss and disappearing chamois cream.
Set and repeat. What’s tomorrow? 13th? Torquay? Lorne?
On your bike and craving caffeine? Here are some go-to coffee-and-food spots in Portarlington, Ocean Grove, and Barwon Heads. Looking to plan a bike trip in our neck of the woods? Contact us for a copy of our cycling guide book.