Nathan Collins was the winner of our Amy’s Share the Road Tour competition, giving him the opportunity to ride the Tour across Tasmania, and a jump start of $7,500 for his fundraising efforts. Here, Nathan shares his unforgettable Tour experience.
It all started with my wife informing me that she had entered me in a competition to ride my bike around Tasmania for 7 days. I thought it sounded great, but realistically I don't usually win things, so I smiled politely and said 'thanks for that!' The exclamation mark was an afterthought and that probably showed.
Over the next week or two, I did think about it though. It would be great to spend a week on the bike living the 'pro' experience, in a peloton with some professional riders, testing myself on a level I hadn't ridden before.
Incredibly, a month or two later I received a very excited phone call from my wife telling me we'd won! I was able to ride in the Amy Gillett Foundation Share the Road Tour. Subaru was kindly going to donate $7500 towards my fundraising and I was going to get the opportunity to put myself to the test with great support from the team at the Amy Gillett Foundation and a few professional cyclists.
First and foremost I guess I'm a commuter - riding 150+kms a week. Second, I'm a second-rate cyclo-cross racer - although I did 'Stephen Bradbury' my way into the top 10 (well......10th) in the Victorian Championships this year. Regardless, 1100kms with 10,000m of climbing in 7 days was going to be a big challenge. I'm pretty comfortable with riding centuries, and I'm not afraid of hills, but backing it up day after day was definitely going to test me. I had lived in Tasmania for a few years and was familiar with a lot of the roads (and hills) that I would need to overcome and that was a little disconcerting!
Having worked in healthcare (including putting HALO braces on people who have broken their necks in traffic accidents) and being an avid cyclist, the work the Amy Gillett Foundation do towards improving awareness and safety for cyclists is something that really appeals to me.
The tour is structured to accommodate differing levels of fitness and skills. Riders are able to choose which of three groups they’d prefer to ride with: the ‘Jens’ group ride the full distance each day (between 100 and 200kms) at a fast pace, the ‘Ulrich’ group ride the full distance at a slightly slower pace, whereas the ‘Goss’ group ride a shorter section of the course (usually 70-100kms) but are often still set the task of riding the biggest climb of the day.
The tour is fully supported with each group allocated a support vehicle with a mechanic. There’s no pressure on the riders to have to complete each stage and it wasn’t uncommon for riders to sit half a stage out, or to join the ‘Goss’ group for a day or two.
Personally, I wanted to ride every kilometre of the tour and set myself that challenge. My road riding experience was a little limited so I settled myself into the ‘Ulrich’ group and set to work.
The first day was predominantly a day of climbing, starting at Devonport (at sea level as the name might suggest) and finishing at Cradle Mountain (notice anything about that name?)
Prior to the tour my previous biggest ride was 120km. By lunch on the first day, we’d ridden 110kms and had another 33 to go to work our way up onto the high plains and across to Cradle Mountain. The thing was: I felt great. The riding pace had been steady enough to ensure I had a little bit in reserve, but still fast enough to be a lot of fun. Prior to the tour I hadn’t spent a lot of time riding in bunches but felt comfortable and supported as I developed this new skill.
We arrived at Cradle Mountain Lodge with enough time to ride down to Dove Lake and submerge some tired legs before returning for dinner.
The accommodation throughout the tour was really comfortable and the food was great. I can only imagine the challenge of catering for 40 cyclists following a long day in the saddle. There was never a shortage of food, which was great because I easily consumed two main meals and two desserts every night, and it was healthy and delicious.
As the days progressed, I got to know everyone on the tour and found them to be a really friendly bunch of people. The AGF are an organisation with a positive message and seem to draw staff, volunteers and friends who are equally positive. Most days involved a rest break at a primary school where we would meet students and talk to them about safe (and fun) cycling.
The highlights for me were being able to spend a week focussing on the skills and fitness required to be a good cyclist. I’ve always been a strong enough rider but don’t always have the bike-handling skills to capitalise on that. My favourite moment was descending down a big hill at 60+km/h with Stephen Hodge (ex-Tour de France rider) riding alongside shouting instructions about my position on the bike, and which line to take around the corners down the hill. I can’t think of any other way I could access that kind of coaching from that kind of coach.
Overall, it was an amazing life-experience and one that I will never forget. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Amy Gillett Foundation and their team for a great event, and of course thanks to Subaru for the funding that got me on the road.