Blessed with a laid-back lifestyle, a thriving culinary scene and some of the country’s most stunning ocean views, Victoria’s Surf Coast and Geelong region has charm in (buckets and) spades. Australian cycling champion Cadel Evans takes us on a tour of his local region.
The lifestyle, the people, the city’s diverse food and wine bar scene and, of course, the bike rides: for Cadel Evans, all these elements combine to make Victoria’s Surf Coast and Geelong region his happy place. The former professional racing cyclist and Tour de France champion lives in Switzerland and returns home a couple of times each year. When he’s back in Australia, it’s the coastal town of Barwon Heads he calls home.
“There is a lot to do, a lot of buzz and exciting new ventures in the region,” he says of its appeal. “You’re always only 15 minutes or less away from the solitude and beauty of the coast or the country. You can’t beat that.”
In 2015, the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – a four-day cycling event for pros and enthusiasts that encompasses Geelong, Barwon Heads, Torquay and all picturesque vantage points in between – marked Evans’ final professional race.
Evans says it was also a chance for him to do something exciting and meaningful for cycling, the region and its people. “And to promote my favourite place in the world, to the world, by staging an event in a postcard [setting].”
Evans shares his favourite spots across the region ahead of this year’s race.
1. Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne
You honestly feel like you are on top of the world looking along the most magnificent stretch of coast from here. It’s a very special and serene location and it never fails to make me feel alive – which is something a bike rider needs after the steep climb up to Teddy’s Lookout.
I think Anglesea has something for everyone. I love riding through Anglesea and some of the mountain biking and gravel riding there is excellent. The beach is a favourite, the Anglesea Hotel is one of the coast’s best and if you want to guarantee the kids a kangaroo sighting then you can do so via a guided tour in a golf buggy at the Anglesea Golf Club.
Think Willy Wonka. You don’t need to have a golden ticket or even kids in tow to like this place, but if you do you are onto a big winner. You can watch the chocolate being made and, if you have one of their hot chocolates, I guarantee you will return again. Plus they sell ‘Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race’ chocolate.
4. Barwon Heads
Well what can I say? I live here when I’m in Australia. It’s such a great and relaxed place with an array of cafés and restaurants as good as any small coastal town in Australia. Thirteenth Beach is one of the region’s great surf spots and riding Thirteenth never, ever gets boring. The river is fantastic and I expect to be cooling off under the bridge over summer quite a bit now with our young son Aidan.
The sheer beauty of the sea as you are riding along the Great Ocean Road never ceases to amaze me. There’s something different every day: from the water colour to the tidal swells, to the vast beachscapes when the tides are out, not to mention the dolphins and whales that are regular visitors.
OK, I’m going to put it out there but I think the coffee in the region is Australia’s best. There will be some Melbourne cafés that beg to differ and maybe it’s the taste of coffee after a long ride, but you’re rarely disappointed by a Geelong or Surf Coast café. Torquay has some beauties along the Esplanade where the race goes past like The Salty Dog Café , Café Moby, Bomboras and Frontbeach Taphouse & Restaurant .
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is 30 January – 2 February. Visit the website for more information.