The RACV Ascent

9:18 pm Unknown 0 Comments

The RACV Ascent is Bicycle Network’s bold new initiative to address the imbalance and get more women on to bikes. We believe that 50% of all bike riders should be women. Currently, only one in three bike riders are women and that’s pitiful. So we’re taking a stand.

It was indeed a bold initiative and massive undertaking, but if one organisation was going to be able to pull it off - it was Bicycle Networks. Here is a list of the promised features of the event:
  • - Closed roads
  • - Women only
  • - Large attendance
  • - Challenging course
  • - Good weather
  • - Great food
  • - Great experience to encourage a repeat attendance next year

The Lead UP

I had been approached in December to be a ride leader for the 100km route (see previous post). This involved taking multiple training rides to help riders decide if they could make the distance and train up for the big day.

A photo posted by Von Micich (@v0nm) on

Earlier in the year I went to check out the course with Fiona Neuwirth and got rained out, so shortened the ride to do the 65km route. That was really nice with the 1 in 20 as a feature segment.

We went back again another day for the complete 100km route and it was a good challenge. A coffee stop halfway was required and the last 20kms had a lot of short sharp hills that sapped the legs. I try to describe it in this little snippet from Bicycle Networks:

The big day!!

I rocked up just in time to get ushered into the parking lot and shuffle to the bathroom line. With any women's event - the number of toilets is critical. A massive wall of porta-loos meant there was not a long wait at all and I was prepped and ready to weave my way to the start line. This was the first sign that Bicycle Networks was ready for the big event.

Committing to completing the 100km in 4 hours was a bit of an unknown for me. In top form this would not have been a second thought, so I was keen to see how I would go with the target. I arrived on the start line to see representatives from all the Ambassador groups and Rush Women's Team. This was great to see a national level team out there amongst the masses, hopefully this raised their profile as I found when talking to the women around me they had no idea who they were.

This awesome chick completed the Great Ocean Road Classic the day before and then came out to ride with us the next day!

It was a cooler temp in the morning as the day broke, we rolled out with all the fanfare and I sat about 6th wheel up the first punchy hills. There were hot air balloons and lots of nervous giggles and chats as the steady tempo was set. I didn't look back to see how big our group was in the first wave till we got to the first main climb of the day at the 1 in 20.

The first rest stop was at the top of the 1 in 20 and there were jelly beans, mechanics and so much food! I grabbed a date scone and tried to eat it on the bike as we rolled out from the area.

Only so many jelly beans I could fit in my Jersey!

There were a few interesting road marshalling decisions where they left the road closed signs in place for the riders to weave around, however in all cases it was to stop cars from joining the riders and keeping us safe. There was only one stretch of road after the 1 in 20 along the top ridge where the cars were separated and one lady decided to drive on the wrong side of the road straight towards us.

I have to note of ALL the events I have ever attended, I have never ever had the marshals and volunteers cheer us on consistently all the way around the 100km course. I was impressed and it was great motivation and stood out in my mind.

The green leafy descent through the centre of the Dandenongs was so beautiful. I had joined up with three of the Trek Fondo Cycling Team to climb up to the lunch spot at approximately halfway through. I decided a coffee would compliment my free cookie and vegie wrap (that was tasty). The bean bags and pumping chicks ballads were awesome as I soaked up the sun and chatted to a few of the ladies as they rolled in. This rest stop was a mega one that had more energy bars/mechanics/freshening up station (deodorant/wipes/sun screen) and line up of porta-loos.

The day started to warm up, but I opted to keep my layers on after we rolled out from Monbulk. Unfortunately there were some tacks thrown on the road in a few sectors that caused punctures (multiple for some ladies) and there was some "anti women on bikes" graffiti sprayed on the road. A bit disappointing that this was done for only a short delay for some partial road closures - the spray paint and bad vibes last a lot longer.

In contrast, there was such a good sense of community between the ladies on the road and as we approached the finish line there was a PA system calling out our names. People were cheering and families were lining the sides of the road waiting to see their mums, sisters, aunties, daughters and friends ride up the gravel road. It was spectacular! After hanging up the bike we were ushered in to pickup our finish time, a glass of champagne, a RACV bag of goodies.

One of the early finishers

Around the next corner was a full on buffet BBQ feast of salads and gourmet snags. There were plenty of spots to sit, relax, eat and take in the awesome view over the mountains looming beyond.

I crawled off to the Physiohealth tent to get a leg massage before checking out the tents of all the great organisations that supported the ride, the journey these ladies have taken to get there and the future of AWESOME events.

A little tired, Tara the Tarmac bike and I check out the beautiful views!

There was some outcry when The Ascent was first advertised that the price point was way to high, but seeing everything that goes into it, volunteering my time to help ladies prepare and get on board, seeing first hand all the traffic management required... it was all worth it!

Reviewing the list of promised features, Bicycle Networks really hit the right tone for this event and delivered something very special that I hope will be repeated. If not on the same course, then somewhere close to Melbourne.

On reflection, one thing that I did feel was missing was a short course option of around 20km where a more social rider could attend without having to smash out hill reps and still participate in the celebration. This would potentially increase the numbers and be a little more inclusive.


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