With the AusCycling Road National Championships just around the corner, we caught up with local cyclist Dean Wells who had some handy advice for this year’s competitors.
Q. What is your favourite cycling trail in the region?
My favourite ride is what our cafe group Thinking Man’s Bunch calls the Avenues Ride.
This 92-kilometre loop to the north of Ballarat passes through five towns and crosses the Great Dividing Range. Some 700 metres of climbing is achieved.
While the Avenues Ride is geared towards road cycling, there are plenty of opportunities for gravel aficionados to duck of-course and explore the farming country via dirt.
From Racers Cafe (south east corner of Lake Wendouree, elevation 482m) this ride heads east past the Ballarat Railway Station and up onto Humffray Street. It’s a gradual climb for the next 17 kilometres as we head out past White Swan Reservoir (Spring’s Road) and across the highpoint of our ride (el. 642m) which affords views across the countryside from the southeast to the northeast.
HOT TIP: for those seeking an extra challenge – seek out Clarke’s Hill and the rises around Mollongghip to add some extra climbing.
At Dean (el. 611m) a Castrol sign painted on the side of a shed is a popular photo opportunity for cyclists and car enthusiasts alike. We veer northeast to keep off the busy Daylesford Road and continue downhill to Newlyn (el. 550 m) before briefly riding on the Midland Highway towards Newlyn North. We turn west after the footy oval and pub, heading along Forest Hill Road, bound for Kingston (el. 530 m). Be sure to turn before the road turns to gravel – it’s best to take the Kingston-Newlyn Road into town.
Left turn onto the Kingston Avenue of Honour and enjoy the easy climb out of town along this beautiful boulevard honouring the local soldiers from wars past.
Right turn at the Midland Highway and enjoy free speed as the road turns downwards towards Creswick (el. 433 m).
Creswick is the midpoint of the ride and offers a chance to refresh. My favourite cafe in town is Le Peche Gourmand – Cyclist friendly, this is the best French patisserie in the Southern Hemisphere!
HOT TIP: never underestimate how a simple baton with butter and jam can rejuvenate the soul…
Head west out of Creswick past the Railway Station onto Luttet Street, then Addington-Creswick Road towards Learmonth (el.437 m). Head south east out of Learmonth on Weatherboard Road to Avenue Road – this is the tail end of the Ballarat Avenue of Honour. At 21 kilometres in length, it is the longest avenue of its kind in the world. Ridden in reverse, we arrive at the Arch of Victory which was built by the vision and hard efforts of the Lucas Girls. The story of the Avenue of Honour is worth the research alone and remains as a most magnificent recognition of each Ballarat woman and man who enlisted their services in WWI.
Head back towards Lake Wendouree, which is steeped in history and has been a recreation for many, many generations of locals and visitors alike.
DID YOU KNOW?
The 1956 Olympic rowing events were staged on the lake.
And, the Ballarat Botanical Gardens which border the west side of the precinct, feature the Stoddart Statue collection, Prime Ministers Avenue and the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial amidst open parklands, themed gardens and of course our treasured begonias.
Return to the cyclist-friendly Racers Café, which has plenty of room all-year-round for cycling and non-cycling patrons to enjoy well-earned refreshments.
*If the 90-odd kilometres of riding has only whetted your appetite, why not head out to Buninyong for a lap or three of the Road Nationals circuit.
Q. What advice do you have for riders who have entered the Gran Fondo?
If you’re taking part in RoadNats Gran Fondo and you’re serious about racing, the best advice I can offer is be prepared to ride fast. The 3km climb is not that steep, which enables stronger riders to bullock their way up the bitumen. The flat section across the top requires a fast recovery because it’s very easy to get dropped along both Yendon No. 1 Road and Yankee Flat Road.
It’s fast and thrilling down Gear Avenue, until you have to take a sharp right into FedUni – just as you’re hitting top speed!
The section through FedUni is challenging with rises and off camber corners. Onto Main Road and this is fast all the way down into Buninyong.
Overall, I believe the RoadNats circuit is suited to really strong riders. It’s either full gas, climbing, or technical. The circuit offers no reprieve, the roads are typical of our district.
I made the mistake of using my best climbing setup in 2020. A more upright position and lightweight low-profile wheels worked well for the climb, but put me at a clear disadvantage for the remainder of the circuit. In 2021 I’ll use my race bike.
Q. Where’s your favourite place to get coffee in Ballarat?
If I’m with the Thinking Man’s Bunch – Racers Cafe because it’s our club house
If I’m meeting a mate – Europa Cafe because of the breakfast and snacks
If I’m out shopping – Oscars Hotel and Cafe because of the lunch and dinner menu
If I’m with my wife – The Turret Café because of the cakes
If we’re in Creswick – Le Peche Gourmand because it is an experience
Q. What are your top three recommendations of things to do in Ballarat?
For couples – the Ballarat Art Gallery. It’s free!
For families – Ballarat Wildlife Park and Sovereign Hill.
For everyone – Lake Wendouree. You can walk it, ride it, run it, or drive it… just make sure you visit it!
Dean is a member of the Ballarat Sebastopol Cycling Club Road Race Committee and Eureka Cycling Club.