Neil Manning, Production Director for Condor, headed to Australia for Christmas and New Year. He explains his experience in Oz.
After a busy year it was time for myself and Mrs M to head down to Australia and New Zealand for a long awaited holiday visiting family and friends. Three weeks before we set off a call came through from Rapha Condor Sharp Director Sportif, John Herety. New signing Casey Munro is in Australia and needs a bike for the Bay Crits in January, so would it be possible to ship one out? After a quick internet check and phone call to Emirates I came up with a cunning plan. Being the same height as Casey and with Emirates accepting bikes as part of the luggage allowance I thought it would be great to sample the local rides in Melbourne.
Legendary Rapha Condor Sharp rider, Tom Southam, regularly winters in Melbourne and he gave me some tips of where to find the local rides. "Just head out through St. Kilda on the coast road to Cafe Racer, you're bound to bump into some riders there," Tom told me. I set out at 8am after checking Casey's bike was set up. Cafe Racer was easy to spot with around 20 odd riders milling about outside and plenty more inside judging by the number of bikes hanging up on the purpose-made bike hooks outside.
As I rolled past a small group had just left so I tagged on the back. As we left St. Kilda, with the sea on our right, I noticed there were a few small groups riding back the other way. Chatting to one of the guys in the group I found out that riders set off from before 6 in the morning every day, all the way through till 9 and later on the weekends. There seemed to be a constant stream of cyclists heading back towards Melbourne so after further questioning I heard that a recent survey revealed that over 100,000 riders were logged on the Bay Coast Road over a one week period. After about 20km we went past Black Rock where there was another cafe with a good crowd outside. This was a turning point for shorter rides and a sprint point for those heading back from longer rides.
Another 10km or so further there was another cafe where I turned and had a swift ride back on the back of a larger group. I was told that Sunday would be a big day so was looking forward to it.
On Boxing Day there were certainly a lot more riders out so I hooked onto a larger group of around fifteen or so riders. The pace was much higher than I am used to at this time of year, but then it was the middle of the Australian summer so what else could I expect?
The warm weather certainly made a difference to how my legs felt so I dug in to stay with them. After a sprint at Black Rock it was a steady ride onto the turn, but once we started heading back to town the group settled into some classic through and off riding. This time I got involved and there was a good line out going at a steady 26mph. The pace picked up as we were getting closer to St. Kilda and if there was a sprint coming up I had no idea when it would be, but then as the road straightened up I thought it was time to keep an eye on the front. I followed the riders through and managed 3rd or 4th, not bad when sprinting for an imaginary line.
The day after I finally managed to meet up with Tom Southam at Cafe Racer for a coffee and one last ride before handing the bike over to Casey. Tom turned up with a few local racers and we had a gentle ride out to Mentone and back for another coffee. Unfortunately the wind had picked up a lot and we had a bit of a side wind, accompanied by rain coming in off the sea to contend with.
If anyone is ever down in Melbourne get yourself out on the Bay Road - you will never be short of company and you will get some great views.