At the Tour Down Under event, the Willunga Hill Pilgrimage hosted by the Norwood Cycling Club has become one of the most revered rides to be a part of. It’s so popular, in fact, that ride numbers have had to be capped at 400 in order to ensure safety of all participants and to not over-stretch the volunteer base.
How did it all start?
Years ago one of the Norwood Cycling Club members thought it would be a great idea to get a lot of their members together at the club and ride out to Wilunga – tracing one of the Tour Down Under stages since it’s a great stage to watch from the top.
According to Norwood Cycling Club member David, ‘And it’s morphed into something bigger than that, so now we have 400 wristbands for today. It looks like they’re all going to go. We’ve had really big support from people like Rapha. We’ve got tents, TVs, lounges. There’s food and there’s drink. So it gives riders a little bit of comfort at the top. It’s a long day on the hill and so we can all get there, watch the race in a bit of comfort.’
Such is the popularity of the ride, looking around the starting point there wasn’t a huge amount of Norwood jerseys but quite a lot from other state. ‘It’s a big thing’, says David. They even got a phone call from a guy in Brisbane a couple of days prior to the ride asking if it was still happening since it was the only reason he was coming down to South Australia.
‘We have to be careful about how far and wide we publicise it because last year we had so many riders we blocked the road. There were a few disappointed people who couldn’t come with us. So we can only cater for so many on the hill.’
‘So only 400. But it’s a great ride and just seeing the amount of people from other states is fantastic.’
We also got to have a chat with one of the founders of the ride, Ben Lewis to find out how it came to be. ‘For about five or six years we used to camp out up here then the concept got picked up by the committee and expanded on, so we reserved the spot up the hill. It’s gone from one night camping out to a few nights, it's getting more and more popular. It was primarily just club members but with Andy’s input and Rapha it grew and grew and the word got out. Initially a few from St Kilda (Cycling Club) and Melbourne would come over – now it’s everybody. I’ve seen people on normal commuting bikes come along and cruising up the hill. It’s all good for promoting cycling, particularly in Norwood.’
The Willunga Hill Pilgrimage is a solid pace
‘This year we are going out in waves so hopefully the fast guys will sort themselves out. It doesn’t have to be a smash-fest,’ says David.
Why is the Willunga Hill Pilgrimage so awesome?
After a solid pace up the hill there’s a great vantage point to watch the Tour Down Under while enjoying a picnic in the McLaren Vale vineyards. You get a picnic blanket and a basket of goodies – olives, cheese, brand, fruit – to savour throughout the afternoon. We’re sold!
A little about Norwood Cycling Club
With about 350 members (numbers tend to peak towards the end of the year), Norwood Cycling Club is the oldest club in the state and the entire Southern Hemisphere. Established in 1883 Norwood is the largest club in South Australia and they are dedicated to promoting cycling, a healthy lifestyle and bringing juniors up through the ranks. They have a reputation for high quality riders and tough gradings. As an example, one of their riders went over to Melbourne for a while where he was B Grade and placing, back in Norwood he was C Grade and struggling.
Norwood offers a three licence series so people can have a go while having their insurance covered. Riders can pick any three events to participate in. They are club event so people can get a taste and a feel for what it’s like and most then stick around and get a proper licence.
Find out more about Rapha at www.rapha.cc
Learn more about the Norwood Cycling Club at http://www.norwoodcc.com.au