Pro Cyclist Stephen Cunningham goes through how you should approach the Coast to Coast bike ride this year.
With a little over 2 weeks to go before the Big Day, it’s time you start thinking about how to approach the ride itself. I’ll talk through the longer ride, starting from Glenelg but if you are starting further up the road, just scroll down.
Heading out from Glenelg, it’s about a 12km gradual rise to the base of the Freeway. This is certainly not a place to be pushing, so treat this as a real warm-up. I like to call it the conveyor belt to the hills. Run a nice easy cadence and keep your heart rate nice and low. As you rise past Fullarton Road to the Base of the Freeway, this really is where the climb into the hills starts, so settle in, and don’t get to Portrush Road puffing and panting, there’s still a long way to go!
The Freeway (12km)
The Freeway climb is an absolute ripper and we’re fortunate to have use of the main road until Devil’s Elbow. In total it’s about a 10km climb with 450m of elevation, making it a 4.5% average gradient. Riding on the Freeway itself until Devil’s Elbow is a lot of fun, taking out the undulations of the bike path and enabling you to find a nice steady rhythm. Generally at this point, you should be aiming for a cadence of between 80 and 90rpm.
When you get to Devil’s Elbow, it’s here that if you are planning to test yourself today, start gradually lifting your effort. For those who haven’t fully prepared themselves, continue to remain in complete control, focussing on your breathing and cadence.
The summit of the Old Freeway arrives and ideally, you want to still be feeling like you have plenty left in the tank! You should have gone through a full drink bottle by this point and already had something solid to eat like a muesli bar or some fruit cake. Be sure to use the rest stops arranged by Bike SA along the way, early fuel intake is the key to a great day out on the bike. With almost 100km to go, don’t think it’s all smooth sailing to Victor, there are some points you need to keep in the back of your mind, including:
Kuitpo Forest (55km)
This section of the ride along Brookman Road is one to be wary of. A long straight road through the Forest that seems to go on for an eternity. Fortunately a wider shoulder has been created for cyclists, but do take care about half way along, when the shoulder suddenly disappears. So if you’re closely following wheels through this area, be sure to look ahead yourself and not just rely on the rider in front of your to call out for hazards! I’ve seen many a rider hit the dirt shoulder through here and with fast moving cars through this section, we will experience some vehicles wanting to overtake without warning. At the end of this road is the short climb to the back of Willunga Hill, a little rise but if you have pushed too hard through the forest, it’s these rises that really start to sap your legs and energy!
Pages Flat Road (77km)
This is a beautiful road, rising and dipping toward Myponga, but it can still surprise if you’ve pushed a little too hard early on. From this point to Victor Harbor, I can barely recall one flat section of road, so focus on running a really consistent cadence, regularly changing your gears depending on the gradient to keep the legs turning efficiently at around 85-90rpm. Be sure to have something to eat along this section as you’ll need it!
Hindmarsh Tiers Road (89km)
It’s around here you will start to be feeling fatigued and it’s also along this road where you find short rises that are quite tricky to see on the course profile, but believe me they do exist (particular around the 93km point). Try not to push too hard along the false flat sections and save yourself always for the steeper gradients. That applies to the entire ride, come to think of it.
Hutchinson Road, Greenhill Road (108km)
OK so this is it, the final dash to Victor Harbor. For many of us, this will feel like the toughest stretch of the entire ride. This last climb has previously featured in the Tour Down Under, with the main section being a 2km climb and rising some 80m in elevation. So if you have anything left in the tank, now’s the time to use it, race your mates or fellow riders to the top and pose for the cameras, to see who’s the Bike SA King of the Mountain! (Bicycle SA runs a STRAVA challenge for this section of the ride).
For those who are on their last legs, just settle into the easiest gear you have early, have a big swig from your bottle and tempo up to what are some of the finest views of the region and Victor.
A fun descent into Victor then ends one of the great rides in South Australia, charge one last time across the line and enjoy the festivities with friends and family.
I look forward to seeing you all there!
Join Stephen Cunningham on Coast to Coast taking place on Sunday 3 April.