Velothon Q&A: Suffering and glory part of the appeal for founding rider Gove
Velothon Sunshine Coast founding rider Ben Gove might know these roads better than most visitors but says it’s not just the cycling that keeps him coming back to Maroochydore. Cyclist chats with the New South Welshman to discover that pulled pork sliders, post-ride refreshments and his cheering family, is the motivation he needs to reach the finish line each day.
Cyclist: As a founding rider (someone who attended the first Velothon Sunshine Coast in 2017), has Velothon become a bit of an annual pilgrimage? While only in its third edition, is the ‘founding rider’ element a bit special because it’s not a prize you can chase, nor a category you can enter?
Ben: For some it is already becoming a pilgrimage and it certainly has done so for me. I am pretty lucky to have family living in Buderim, just 15 minutes drive from the coast and Velothon is a wonderful way to get out of Sydney. This is probably true for a lot of others who want to combine a regular family holiday with a little cycling on the side. In terms of weather, it’s a great time of year to visit the area.
C: The Velothon concept has been around for some time, at least in Europe but the Sunshine Coast event has really begun to cement itself as the home of Velothon Australia. What do you love about the Sunshine Coast?
B: There’s so much to love about the Sunshine Coast. The climate, superb surfing, great roads for cycling and the generally laid back attitude. I grew up in Brisbane and we spent countless long weekends and school holidays up in Noosa. Frankly, I don’t really need an excuse to get up there these days. I see it like my second home. The area has a great mix of terrain for the visiting cyclist. There is amazing riding in the hinterlands and then you’ve got the flowing coastal roads up to Noosa. You can spend the afternoons at the beach or head inland to some of the great hillside towns. I love the Sunshine Coast – but maybe I am a little bias.
C: We were chatting a little earlier about your various cycling interests and one of those is being able to express yourself while exploring nature. You’re not a huge racer but these sort of events have appeal. What is it about sportives, be it one day or across multiple days, that you find so interesting?
B: Ok so maybe ‘expressing myself while exploring nature’ is a little too creative – I’m here envisaging dancing through flower fields instead of cycling.
I do love the ability to immerse yourself in the simple act of riding a bike, especially when it’s off the beaten track. I do a lot of indoor riding on Zwift but it just doesn’t match the relief and calmness of riding outdoors. That’s a true de-stressing activity that is hard to find in other places – apart from maybe a yoga session in that field. I love sportives and gran fondo style events as they provide a reason and focus behind training while the event itself gives you an opportunity to ride and meet with new and likeminded folks.
Velothon takes it to the next level as it doesn’t just finish with the ride. Once you step off the bike it’s often that you’ve crossed the line with a compatible group at a similar level and that forms new friendships. The banter in the Clubhouse after each stage might not last into the wee hours of the night but enjoying a coldie while watching Tour de France highlights under the stars is just the icing on the cake.
C: Describe your perfect Velothon stage; Day 1, 2 or the final day featuring Obi Obi – the climb loathed as much as it is loved…
B: I am sitting firmly on the fence with this answer as there’s a little I love about each one. Stage 1 into the hinterland is breathtaking. I remember during my first Velothon (in 2017) riding out of the low lying fog and it felt like I was on top of the world. There were kids on the roadside who had been let out of the classroom to cheer us go by and it’s a memory that will really stick with me forever. Stage 2 last year was so different to the opening stage with the fast and flat flowing course that saves the sting till the end and I loved the inclusion of the sprint section. Stage 3 is incredible but not just because of the climb of Obi Obi. The lead up to the climb has everyone champing at the bit to get going from the moment the flag is dropped.
The flowing roads up to Noosa are simply spectacular and the roads to Noosa suit me to a tee – right up until we hit the hills. The first KOM out of Noosa is flowing, smooth but unfortunately for a sprinter like me, its generally climbed far too quickly. Obi Obi is hard but doable. Small, sharp and hard ramps are only a small part of the day but frankly to ride back into Cotton Tree is a huge relief.
To find family and friends at the finish and enjoy a beer (or two) is the perfect way to round out three epic days. So which stage do I love the most? I have no idea. Every stage has its moments of suffering, glory and relief. I love them all. Its why I come back every year and why I will continue to come back. But for the sake of not sitting on the fence I am going to say Stage 1.
C: How do you go about preparing for Velothon? You’re from the Central Coast of NSW and I imagine there are plenty of climbs with similar gradients to the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Have you started ‘training’ or do you call it ‘practicing’?
B: I am lucky being on the Central Coast as we have a few hills that top get close to 30%! You need a mix of training to get through an event like Velothon which thankfully means not having to ride up those sort of gradients every day. I generally run a Zwift workout session leading up to the event which includes plenty of ‘sweet spot’ intervals and threshold work. Ultimately you need a few solid kilometres under the belt to really enjoy it but like any event of this nature, there is a certain element of hardening up in order to really push yourself.
My training has just started but I’ll be looking to really ramp things up 8 weeks out from the start.
C: You seem to love getting really stuck into extra curricular activities outside of bike riding and the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) is one of those you’re actively involved. What is the WBR and how does it tie into an event like Velothon?
B: I do a lot outside of just cycling and I think that is simply wanting my hobby to also mean something more. WBR is a fantastic organisation and I encourage anyone interested to look them up and donate generously.
World Bicycle Relief mobilises people through the power of bicycles. They are committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence and thrive. Bicycles gave me my independence as a kid and when I see what a bike does for the kids in developing countries it really does feel incredible.
C: And if folks want to support the WBR mission, how can they do it?
B: Head to worldbicyclerelief.org. WBR need regular givers to the charity.
C: Who will be joining you on the Sunshine Coast come 19 July?
B: Hopefully a thousand others. I look forward to catching up with some from last year, some from the Zwift racing platform, some from my club, some from the charity and all the others I have been getting out to meet lately at events in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. Most importantly, my son Jackson will be with me for the weekend and (hopefully) cheering me at the finish each day. Nothing is better than having family with you at an event like this. It’s such an perfect event for the family to be part of.
C: Your bike setup to conquer the climbs of the hinterland, will you be making any specific changes to gearing and do you have recommendations for first-timers who might need to consider their equipment?
B: I’ll most likely run the same gearing as last year. I’ve got a compact crankset (34/50) and even with the 11-29 cassette I was still searching for an extra gear. However, I’ve worked more on climbing lately and I think that the challenge with Velothon comes in the types of gradient you’ll encounter. Some of the ramps are incredibly steep and you need the gearing but with practice, the course is very achievable. The good news is the flats are fast too so there’s a little for every type of rider – as long as you put in the work.
C: Yellow, green, KOM or team classification, do you have a chance at taking any or all of the category victories? If not at the top of the list, what sort of rider would you classify yourself and is Velothon suited more towards a particular rider?
B: I will line up with the goal of having a crack at the sprint jersey but in reality, I am just there to enjoy it. I am definitely not a climber and will not be a threat to anyone when the road tips upward. If I can pull a competitive WBR team together we might try for a team classification.
C: Finally, why ride Velothon Sunshine Coast?
B: I think the tag line says it all.
The Roads, The Glory, The Banter.
I ride it for them all (even if I am not really going to challenge the Glory much). It is an event that is fully immersive and offers the perfect escape mid year. Winter cycling in NSW is a little tough going and this event provides the perfect weather and some awesome riding.
Riding aside, I am hanging out for the pulled poked sliders that were served up in the Clubhouse last year. Of course, I’ll need to wash them down with an appropriate number of beverages.
For more information around this year’s Velothon Sunshine Coast head to velothonsunshinecoast.com.au