The blue is the Hells 500 RFWYA bit... And here is the link
To begin with, I’ll just mention what a Hells 500 is. The Hells 500 started as a bunch of mates that liked to ride hills, and ride them HARD (they haven’t lost any of that foundation). Hells 500 are also responsible for what is known as Everesting, Everesting is quite simple, yet very hard, and involves choosing a normal hill and riding repeats of it until you have “crested” the height of Mt Everest. So basically it’s doing hill repeats until your altitude gain is greater than 8,848m. Not an easy feat. If you do this, you are eligible to buy a Hells 500 jersey with a grey stripe - there were a few of these jerseys today. Impressive. Hells 500 do many different things within the cycling world, and have grown into somewhat of a global brand. You can read more about them here: Hells 500
The RFWYA is a regular ride that takes place on Tuesdays, and it takes place every single Tuesday, no matter what... It is also kind of a national ride, in that they have similar rides taking place in most states. I did the one in Melbourne, the one that starts at the Studly Park Golf Course carpark, and ends in one of my favourite cafes, Three Bags Full. One thing that is different about this ride, compared to many other regular rides, is that it changes week to week, so you have to keep up or else you may get lost.
To begin with, I, and a few mates who were planning on attempting the RFWYA, did a lap of the famous Kew Boulevard and then went on to meet the Hells 500 posse in the car park. Nervous; that was my feels within the car park. I was also a little intimidated as the group started rolling in, all dressed to the nines (in Lycra of course). I’d heard a lot of things about the ride, mostly that it is brutal and there is a very good chance you’ll get dropped (fall off the back of the group for non-cyclists).
The Hells 500 guys set off and there was no waiting around. Instantly I had to ride hard to catch the group; straight out of the carpark. After negotiating two sharp corners and a short but sharp hill, the bunch already felt half as big, that was until we hit some traffic lights and a few stragglers managed to join the group again. The light hit green and there was flurry of clipping noises and the swoosh of carbon wheels accelerating quickly back up to max speed.
The group managed to remain as one for a little while, but it wasn’t long before we hit a busy roundabout. I was hanging near the back of the bunch at this point, because I was still nervous of being near the front of this experienced and strong group of cyclists, so when the first half made it through the roundabout, the cars appeared and cut off the back group. I assumed that the front group would ease up to allow us to catch up. How wrong I was. There is no pity for the weak on this ride it would seem. We, the back group, had to wait a few minutes for another gap in the traffic and after we made it across the roundabout, it was full gas to try and catch up. Taking turns to lead our group back to the main group, we pushed really hard, and used up a lot of energy, but after few kilometres we managed to reattach to the main bunch.
From here on, with all my strength and stamina, suffering more than I can remember suffering, I managed to hang on to that main bunch. I tried to position myself closer to the front, to avoid falling behind again. We then went on to do a loop of 3 sharp climbs, quickly reconvening at the top of each. Reconvening for those leading, I had no time to rest as I'd fallen to the rear of the bunch again. I was really struggling at this point, barely able to breath and barely keeping contact. I knew I had to push hard, and not get dropped, else I would be well and truly lost–I had absolutely no idea where I was. One of my biggest drives to pushing through the pain was that I wanted to be able to claim that I made it all the way home with the main bunch! That achievement alone would be more than enough to satisfy me today.
There were lots more hills and unfortunately through a lack of concentration I managed to slip from the main bunch again… I was following a few lads, who although were dressed very well, sat up and dropped way off the bunch. Once I realised that they had no intention of catching up, I had to solo ride, or Time Trial if you like, back to the main bunch. With strong winds and undulating hills, it was no mean feat, but egged on by my ego I managed to catch one other guy and I could see the main bunch. This one guy pulled me back to the main bunch (for non-cyclists: by pulling, he didn't physically pull me, I just followed in his slipstream, making it a little bit easier to ride). I was exhausted by this point and after catching them down and rejoining, they oh so kindly upped the pace. Through the Yarra Boulevard, I think it was, they must have decided to sprint as fast as they could, with it being the last little bit of flat/downhill. Even averaging a little more than 40km/h I fell off the back again, but I did manage to keep them in sight. With one more steep hill to climb I managed to follow and keep the bunch in sight, and finally we turned back onto Kew Boulie.
I knew it was about time we made it to Three Bags Full, and boy was I looking forward to that coffee, but I didn’t really know they way, so when the group split into two groups at a certain point–one going to the end of Kew Boulevard, the other to Three Bags–I didn’t know which to follow, so I played it safe and followed the bigger group. Then after some deliberation, I thought about where Three Bags was in relation to the Kew Boulie, stopped, got out my phone and Google Mapped it. Yep, I’d gone with the wrong group, the group that were probably going back to the car park for their cars… perhaps. I turned around and made my way to the cafe. Pulling up a mere few seconds after some of the Hells 500 guys.
I put my bike down, and let out a huge sigh! I’d made it. I’d just about hung on and ridden as hard as I felt I could. This is a ride I believe will really improve my cycling and I cannot wait to do it again. I went into coffee and was greeted by my mates, all of whom got dropped after 5 minutes. They were suitably impressed that I managed to complete the ride. With my ego satisfied, I sat down and waited for my Long Black!
We integrated with the Hells 500 group and chatted a bit. These were definitely the cool kids of cycling, and it was a good laugh chatting to them and hearing some stories and rides that they love. A bit of advice was also shared, “Get off the flat, ride hills, it will increase your fitness ten fold.”, and you know what, after that I definitely believe them!