21 Jun 2017

Explore Corsica by le Tour

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 In 2013 the Tour de France opening stages were held in Corsica with the entire circus staying on a ship which met the race at the finish of each stage. Watching on TV back in freezing Sydney in the middle of the night, the stunning Corsican scenery and sunshine provoked the statement “we have to go there some time!” So three years later when we happened to see an ad for Explore Corsica by le Tour it was a fait accompli.

Feeling like pro riders after our week-long training camp in Mallorca, we lined up for our passage to Corsica on a big ferry with nearly 600 French riders and a few other imports. The drool inducing bike bling, and the guys checking in with 4 sets of wheels made us wonder if we were in the right event. We filed in past the front row of bikes – Cadel Evans, Frank Schleck…

After a fairly hectic evening of getting organised and fed we settled down in our bunks as the boat pulled out of Marseille harbour, the gentle motion and hum of the engines soothing us to sleep.

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Day 1 got us into the routine – up a little too early, dodgy breakfast hurriedly downed, queue to fill water bottles, bike gear on, down to the bike park, roll off the boat and head for the start line to wait in the narrow start zone for the depart fictif into the “neutral” zone then into the race proper.

Stage 1
It was a strange day for us, on the first long climb Pete’s hip problems from a frustrating day of travel the previous day put him in a race against elimination and a day in the sweeper van, leaving me alone towards the back of the race without my favourite domestique and only a few stray Frenchies to share a headwind slog. The wild coast with its black sand beaches and steep hillsides disappearing into mist were a fitting scene for a fairly confused ride – no idea of the length or what was to come and not sure whether Pete was struggling behind or back at the boat nursing his hip. We both finished the day and Pete found his legs to fly home over the last 30km. Love that ibuprofen!

20170525_111751Stage 2 Climb


Stage 2
Day 2 had a 50km flat start with bunch riding behaviour and traffic forcing us to keep our focus on the road and away from the coastline. That ended abruptly as we started a 20km climb up to the highest point of the trip at 1208m. There followed quieter inland roads and more amazing scenery, until the pace picked up for the blast home down 20km’s of perfect high speed descent.


Day 2 Climb: don’t let the smiles fool you

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Stage 3
After the cheery atmosphere of the start and competition to be up near the front on the first two days, it was very quiet on day 3. Everyone seemed to be having their own little struggle and the start announcer couldn’t get much of a cheer out of the crowd. We rolled out into another long climb, this time to nearly 1000m, taking us to a beautiful high plateau of glaciated granite, pine forests and an azure lake created by a large dam whose wall we rode across. Later, another seemingly endless descent through beautiful villages and warm valleys had us madly grinning and giggling. A small climb to the final descent then back to the coast where the boat and finish feed station met us.


The stage starts were at sea level

Stage 4
The final day started in another gorgeous coastal town. By now we knew that the best approach to the start was to ride a few streets away to a café in a pleasant square, enjoy a coffee, take a few photos and slowly roll back just before the start was due. We managed to sneak out near the front of the bunch and just hang on to a fast group up the first big climb so we were really moving as it flattened out and one of the timed sections started. All of a sudden we were holding wheels, covering gaps and picking lines on a road as bad as any we ride at home – all at high speed with unfamiliar riders!


After a solid climb flanking Frank Schleck (we could’a had him) came the day’s advertised highlight, the twisting ride across the Agriate Desert. I don’t know that it would qualify as a desert in Australia, but it was rocky and shrubby with views all the way to the distant coast. After whooping and giggling down another spectacular descent to the coast, we pushed through energy-sapping headwinds to reach the final climb with little left in the legs to deal with the ever-increasing gradient, peaking with some 13% corners near the top


Finally reaching the “finish”, an obliging Swiss rider took a lovely photo of us before we bombed down yet another awesome descent back to the boat and prepared for an evening of fine local food and endless champagne.
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Things learned and reconfirmed:

Goat’s cheese on pizza is gooood

The price of the bike does not reflect the ability of its owner

At 70kph bugs explode on impact

A cyclist’s life is incomplete without riding in Europe – don’t miss out!

click to see: Explore Corsica highlights video


10 Dec 2016

L’Etape 2016 a Blast!

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Froomie super grateful for DJ's advice

                       Froomie appreciates DJ’s advice

L’Etape Australia 2016 was so much more than an amazing event. A dozen or so Rollers headed south and joined in the amazing atmosphere in the Snowy Mountains for the inaugural L’Etape Australia 157km race. Staying in prime location accommodation at Perisher, the stage was set for a ripper weekend. Friday was spent with road trips, registration, massive serves of pasta for dinner and of course the usual trading of excuses about why performance could not possibly be optimum the following day. Race Day, riders were greeted with a crisp morning and a fast start with the descent from Crackenback down to Jindabyne. A real highlight across the day, was the regular opportunities for riders to travel in large pelotons at cracking pace before everyone settled into their own routine for the final 22km climb up Perisher. DJ upheld the FR reputation by loads of strong work on the front and a chance to provide Froomie with a few tips. And kudos to Kurt and Matt who crossed the line in just 5hrs 45 minutes, averaging 27.2kph and smashing out a 14kph average for the KOM stages. Huge thanks to DJ for his outstanding coordination of logistics. Without doubt, a super weekend and definitely a fixture on the 2017 FR calendar. 2 December 2017 – save the date now!

22 Apr 2016

Father & Son Combo Wins the Day

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b2b_MiloBlayney to Bathurst is a Cycling NSW sanctioned event with two distance options of 110 and 70km on closed roads. Entrants are self seeded into waves, two of which  are officially races. Despite that, all riders have a timing chip and a pinned-on number so we all know what that means! This year’s Forest Roller contingent was Dave, his 16 year old son Milo, and Kev. Dave and Kev were the “veterans” (ahem!), having done it the year before.  The morning of the ride was brisk and started with a queue to load the bikes onto the truck that would take them to the start at Blayney for the ride back to Bathurst. Kev caught an early bus to start of the 110km, whilst Dave and Milo followed an hour or so later. Kev joined ranks with Mike Tomalaris and chose the 1st wave after the gold wave, which, unlike last year, turned out to be a poor choice. Being dropped from the pack at around 45km in, resulted in a long ride in a small bunch of lady racers who must have had a bad day in their wave. Long turns on the front saw Kev roll in with an official time of 3:07:39, 15 mins slower than last year. Milo was the most impressive, completing his longest ever ride in 2:29:07 and beating his father by 0.25 seconds!!

We like this ride a lot and would love to see more Rollers enter. It’s an easy drive, the ride is well priced, well organised, has great roads and enough options to challenge everyone. The “race” finishes at the back of the pits of Australia’s most iconic race track built on the side of Mount Panorama, which also hosts Bathurst Goldfields, an educational get-away centre complete with a replica, yep you guessed it – a gold field. Goldfields was our own pit-stop for Saturday night offering bunk bed accommodation and kitchen facilities; clean, and inexpensive! What else is good about heading out west for a ride? This prospect of a freshly baked apple by in Bilpin on the way home! Next year we will try and stop at a place that even has some left!

26 Mar 2016

Breaking New Ground : Orange Newcrest Challenge Ride

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Last weekend saw a large Rollers contingent head out to central western New South Wales for Bicycle Network’s Orange Newcrest Challenge Ride.  Promoted as the premier ride in NSW, the advertised 170km and 2200m of climbing didn’t seem to pose too much of a challenge on paper.  After all, our weekend rides are often up around the 150k ride and it is not at all uncommon to clock up a quick 2000 metres ascent on a Saturday morning ride.  How hard could it be?  I mean, we’ve cracked the Peaks Challenge, done multiple laps of the Mount Hothams and Falls Creeks … and it’s only 170k!  How wrong we were.  Despite being a little on the fresh side (6 degrees), we started out okay.  And it didn’t take long to warm up, both the temperature and the tempo.  A quick regroup at the lunch stop and everyone seemed to be travelling well.  However, from there, the climbing started.  Again, a quick glance at the profile the previous day didn’t strike any alarm bells or concerns but the undulations were relentless.  Add a reasonable headwind and the temperature climbing substantially higher than what was forecast meant it turned into a fairly solid outing.  In the end, a great finish by all the Rollers but, in particular, enormous kudos to two of our number.  Pete, a long time sufferer of cramps in long distance events, battled on through enormous pain and suffering to finish.  And Kev, rode the last 50k in the one gear … gotta love DI-2!  In all seriousness, a super weekend, packed with fun and laughter.  Join us for one of these soon.

09 Oct 2015

The six-zero club is growing

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We’ve often heard it said that the Rollers come in all shapes and sizes.  They ride a huge variety of bike breeds.  And of course, all of them are “the best”. But even more significant than that is the variety of ages, ranging from 18-62.  Well, recently, Kerry officially joined the “Six Zero Club” and celebrated in style with some of the lads and a ride on his newly acquired steed.  And then as if that wasn’t enough, he went and moved to the ritzy part of town to trickle into retirement.  So the “Six Zero Club” is growing and rumor has it that another of our party is not too far away from reaching the same milestone!

14 Apr 2015

Ride Report – Blayney to Bathurst (B2B) 2015

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After numerous discussions over coffee, associated fanciful family camping trips, transport changes and other diversions, with just over 24hrs to the starters horn the Forest Rollers had a team for the Blayney to Bathurst Cyclo Sportif. Of the four riders (Kevin Hazeldine, Tim Dent, David Jaggers and visiting Danish import Morten Gregerson ) only one had officially entered the event and the rest travelled the 3 hr trans Great Dividing Range drive in the hope of a bib number and a place on the starting line.

With several hours of European and Australian bike racing tall stories and comparisons to occupy the car trip, the team arrived in Bathurst in the early evening on Saturday and while wandering the main streets in search of their pasta dinners ran into the 5th Rollers Racer – Jake Potgieter – who was entered in the real race – The A grade Golden Wave. With nervous race considerations exchanged, each went to their respective motels for last minute bike adjustments, preparations and fitful pre-race sleep.

5.45am the next morning saw the team at Bathurst raceway to find a very smooth and well organised event with bus transport to Blayney, bike transportation to the same, race registration, coffee consumption and bib number pinning, all without encountering a single queue. At 7.40 Jake set off with the A grade Golden Wave and 5 minutes later, along with regular Rollers ride companion John Pham, the 4 Forest Rollers started with the first wave of the Cyclo Sportif.

On the weekend of the greatest of Spring Classics, the Paris – Roubaix, the team found themselves in their own closed road, commissar car led, police motorcycle escorted, race paced classic. Through the beautiful rolling countryside of the NSW central tablelands and foothills of the Great Dividing Range each rode the race within the limits of their fitness, ability and risk appetite.

The course is a bit like West Head followed by Akuna with a finish at Church Point – but stretched out over 110km, so by no means easy, but certainly within the Rollers repertoire given our weekly training routes (with the exception of Morten who coming from Denmark isn’t really familiar with the idea of hills – not that it showed).

Through the race duration (with the exception of Jake) all five riders were eventually dropped by the lead group and left to chase, form secondary pace-lines and alliances and generally do whatever it took to get to the finish as fast as possible. The result was impressive times across the board. With the Bayney to Bathurst frontier now successfully scouted by the brave 6 riders this event is a definite regular fixture for the Forest Rollers and should see a large contingent taking up the challenge next year.

2015 team finishing times were;

Jake Potgieter – 2:34 (TBC)
Kevin Hazeldine – 2:52
John Pham – 2:54 (ride time. minus time lost to flat tyre)
David Jaggers – 2:59
Morten Gregerson – 3:01
Tim Dent – 3:36

10 Mar 2015

2015 Peaks Challenge

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SThe weekend commenced with a frenzy of texts and emails passing amongst “the Peakers” as they finalised logistics and accounted for the unfortunate withdrawal of comrades.
As luck would have it, by 7:30 am the number of Rollers participating was again back to 7 with new recruits Minos and Rob now part of TEAM FR (even if they were yet to realise it) and everyone on route to the event.
The mystique, anticipation and lofty ambitions of the crew made for plenty of cycling banter and over analysis of what was to come as the k’s ticked away on the Hume. Before we knew it we were meandering up the mountains, bellies full of meat pies, for what seemed like eternity as the road continued upward relentlessly. This was the first opportunity to lay eyes on the course and the significance of the effort ahead made the indignity of withdrawal more and more appealing with each turn.
The wonderful hospitality of Howman’s Gap YMCA, along with safety briefings, stats, nutrition strategies, and last minute preparation made evening turn to night in an instant. Anticipation filled the dinner hall as we joined together in a last attempt to take on carbohydrates as event veterans (Kerry, Kevin and David) bestowed counsel and encouragement on the rookies (Rob, Kurt, Rod and Minas) who were quietly &%$$!! themselves.
Rule #32
The morning was a brisk 6 degrees as we entered the start cage at 6:15, full of anticipation and nervousness and with the hope a greatness ahead. By 7am we were flying down the hill flanked by riders on all sides, jockeying for position in pursuit of greatness and status of legend.
Thankful to have survived the descent alive, we immediately found ourselves tapping away in our granny gear as we climbed up Towonga Gap, hoping to restore feeling to our extremities after the cold furious descent.
By the top of the first climb the team was dispersed amongst the field of 2000 as each member went about executing their survival plans. Magically, the mighty white black and red FR kit would periodically appear from amongst the pack and provide the team with an opportunity to share support and encouragement with one another.
Mt. Hotham was the next challenge, relentlessly reaching for the sky and with it, team members again drifted back in to the crowd with all comfort turning to pain and suffering as they individually battled the monster of a mountain. Thankfully lunch soon followed and the after a quick stop, everyone found themselves rapidly putting k’s behind them as they drifted towards Omeo.
The next 50kms, whilst beautiful, gives opportunity for introspection and as fatigue increased, self-doubt appeared. With the heat and fatigue I think we all would have willingly withdrawn if a dignified opportunity presented itself but (un)fortunately our equipment persisted and we each in turn found ourselves turning WTF corner. The next hour sucked and should not be spoken about to ensure continued participation in the event by the Forest Rollers. 10 hours approached and the strategies amongst the rollers led to the real life enactment of Aesop’s fabled “The Tortoise and the Hare”.

Rule #32

The last 25 kms where a bitter sweet blend of pain and positive endorphins as we each progressed with increased rigour toward the welcome of the crowd and the elation of dismounting the bike.
Success for each and every Roller!!!  Everyone performed outstanding and successfully achieved the near impossible, finishing the day together by toasting their massive achievements, each having earned their place in Peaks Challenge history.
Congratulations to our 2015 Forest Roller representatives:
David Jaggers – 9:25:01
Kurt Hunziker – 9:28:47
Kevin Hazeldine – 9:44:43
Rod Andrew – 10:42:59
Minas Aroney – 10:49:00
Robert Burroughs 12:28:09
Kerry Arden 12:28:09

03 Nov 2014

Ride Report – Gong 2014

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It was a cooler than expected at 5:30 am when 7 Rollers, (Tracey, Greg, David, Joseph, Simon, Tony and me) in full SBS Team kit set out from the Bantry Bay RV for the annual MS Gong ride. We had a Roller Police escort, (Phil) as well as a pacemaker for the first 15ks, (Mark). Roseville hill is always a tough way to start but it was a nice pace to the bridge from then on. David wanted to go all commuter on us with some pretty weird footpath work but we humoured him and  met Steve at the steps for the obligatory team photo.


Through town was pretty crazy, there was the usual red light indecision and road blockages but we were cruising down King Newtown Street in no time with more and more bikes joining us for the big event.


And it is a big event! Riders are capped at 10,000 so you know it will be busy. Since the event’s inception in 1982, more than 150,000 riders have taken the challenge of riding to Wollongong and raised over $30 million dollars to support people with MS – a far cry from the 240 riders who took part in the first event. One of my oldest friends has MS so this is a cause close to my heart.


From the start at St Peter’s until the National Park it is very busy and quite stop start with the gaps getting wider the further we got. As the shorter rides start along the route there are new congestion points just when you thought it was clearing. But that is the joy of it, you can have a chat, check out some weird and crazy bikes and riders, (my favourite was Wonder Woman) and just go with the flow. The other problem was the headwind; it was gusting hard and made the ride a whole lot tougher than last year when the sea breeze was sweeping us down the coast.


By the time we started getting a clearer run David, Phil and Greg could take no more and we let them have their respective heads, not to be seen again until the finish. The rest of us did our best to keep in touch but with 10,000 others it’s not that easy. We stopped and regrouped at a couple of rest stops and Joe did his usual trick of getting back on his bike at granny speed.


Cruising through the national park is an awesome experience on a closed road but Tracey started to get a bit twitchy on the Stanwell Park climb and decided to have a go – so I just tried to hang on. Through the rolling hills of the northern Wollongong suburbs, over the Sea Cliff Bridge, (spectacular, despite the wind) Tracey kept muttering that there was no one going at exactly the speed she wanted to draft at so we tagged our way up and down the little climbs to the finish. The rest of the gang were in close pursuit so we all came in around the same time, with maybe one exception. Greg and the gang had been in for a while and were looking very relaxed enjoying the SBS hospitality.


Now the end is where this ride excels. Riding with the SBS team you are treated like a rock star. As you cross the line they take your photo, take your bike, book you in for a massage and ply you with enough food and fluids, (beer etc. included) to make you want to curl up and have a nanna nap. There are people thanking you everywhere and it’s a very humbling and enjoyable way to end a ride.


Between the humble Rollers we raised over $6000 for MS, a great effort with Tony raising a large slice of that. The SBS team that we were part of raised over $100,000 with the whole event raising around $3 million. So, next year, get in early, join the SBS team and come and have a ball with us!


Thanks guys for making it another memorable Roller ride.




28 Oct 2014

Ride Report – Fitz’s Challenge 2014

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The Fitz’s website says things like, “hardest ride”, “serious physical challenge”, “not for the feint hearted” and “dare to cycle above your limits” – we probably should’ve taken more notice. On a fine Canberra morning the Forest Rollers took on the 205 km Fitz’s Epic, which is billed as “a hill grinding odyssey with 4,030 m total climb”, the 165 km Fitz’s Classic which is modestly described as “a daunting challenge with plenty of climbing (2,940 m total climb)” and the 105km Tharwa Challenge which promises to “sneak up on the complacent with a 1,660 me total climb”. Apart from the seemingly endless hill climbs on these rides the Rollers also had to deal with high temperatures (mid 30’s) and strong winds, the combination of which were poetically described by Kev as the perfect storm. As we took in the otherwise splendid countryside we increasingly noticed that the roadside was becoming congested with riders changing flat tyres, trying to stretch out leg cramps or simply resting in the shade to reduce their core temperature. We also experienced our share of cramps and “mechanicals” on the day to finish in furious agreement that the author of Fitz’s website was not prone to exaggeration and this was indeed a big day out for all. A special mention must go to “the machine” who pumped out the 205 Epic in a lazy 7 hours, 28 minutes and finished second overall!  We know you are all asking the question …. but really, do you need to?  Yep, you guessed right … it was Greg!

19 Oct 2014

Jersey Ride

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The Forest Rollers have a new kit, and to celebrate and show case our new look a ride along the Northern Beaches was in order, stopping off for a group photograph and a coffee, or two, of course. The jersey design was the result of a club competition which saw a couple of dozen of creative entries. This was followed by a short listing vote which narrowed the field and a final vote to the decide the winner. The new design is predominantly white which will help with visibility and keep us a few degrees cooler in the summer months when we get out on longer rides in the national parks. The FR logo was stylized and coloured with red fading to black across the back. With a red and black strip across the left chest and sleeve to create a clean, semi retro look that is quite eye-catching. Watch for us on your rides, we may not be the faster group out there but I suspect we’d be the friendliest.