While I was in Adelaide for the Australian Cycling Conference I signed up for the annual Community Challenge ride that precedes one of the stages of the Tour Down Under. This year it started at Norwood and ended in Strathalbyn. The full route was 135km and included a number of significant hills, however there were several other entry points along the way to enable riders of differing abilities to get involved.
7500 riders joined this years event. From 6am, the route through the city and up into the hills was flooded with light green jerseys provided as part of the registration. The fastest riders formed tight pelotons while the middle and end of the ride were a little more straggly and fluid. The majority of cyclists were men on carbon fibre road bikes. About 10% of the riders were women. Riders ranged in age from teenagers to 60/70 year olds. I did note a few other kinds of bikes (including tandems, some tourers and a few mountain bikes). Everyone was pretty much dressed in lycra, wearing matching cycle jerseys and padded shorts. Although lycra is often criticised as representing a particularly exclusive and narrow subculture of cycling, what was interesting was the inclusive feeling of the ride. Lycra’d cycling bodies came in all shapes and sizes, giving rise to the idea that this material is not just for the conventional sleekly muscled cyclist but for anyone who rides a bike.
The route passed through many small towns such as Stirling, Mount Barker and Macclesfield where local residents had decorated the streets, houses and local shops with bicycle themed paraphernalia. Many were sitting by the side of the road, equipped with balloons and whistles to cheer and encourage passing cyclists. No doubt many were set up for the Tour Down Under racers who would be speeding past later in the afternoon, but it was nevertheless a lovely warm welcome.
Given the phenomenal amount of cyclists the organisation of the event was impressive, both in terms of marking out the route and quality of the refreshments. Fortunately, the weather was nowhere near last years 40c+ temperatures but water and food stops were nevertheless essential in a 135km ride. It was therefore great to find regular parks and school grounds well indicated along the route providing water, boxes of bananas, fruitcake, energy drinks and chewy things as well as toilets and shadey spots to sit and relax.
At the end of the ride in Strathalbyn riders were swiftly escorted through town and into a large playing field equipped with more food, entertainment, free hats, sunscreen and medical assistance if needed. Overall it was a terrific ride, well supported by organisers and the local community.