Tuesday, 22 December 2009

22/12/2009

Bright - Hotham - Falls - Tawonga - Bright: aka 3 peaks.
It's hard not to say this whole trip was about today. The longest kms, over the toughest terrain, a ride we'd been planning to do for pretty much bang on 12 months.

The forecast was for a pretty hot day, and when the rough maths suggested we'd need around 9 hours of ride time, plus extra for stoppages, logic dictated we start early (ok so 7:30 isn't massively early, but we're on holidays so it counts).

With jerseys stuffed to capacity with food we rolled out towards Harrietville and Hotham. There wasn't a huge amount of talk, everyone was a little nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect from the day, or to be more precise what to expect from their bodies.

From the very start of the Hotham climb we settled into our own rhythms, Andrew and Alex surged ahead, BJ with his 23t cassette (yes he is an idiot) ground away, while Jim and I spun together. By The Meg, Jim and I had caught up to BJ and decided to form a 3, at the tollbooths it was every man for himself.

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I had a half hearted crack at setting a decent speed down to the bottom of CRB, but fear about the rest of the day had me top out around 84km/h.

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At the top we regrouped, refilled water bottles and headed on to Omeo, everyone seemed to enjoy the descent, especially the final bit into Omeo. At the bottom of Hotham I tried to help Downie set a new personal max speed, sadly he missed my wheel and my leadout was for naught... well 94km/h isn't naught.

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I should mention on the kicker out of Cobungra I tried to hold Alex and Andrew's wheel(s), but failed about 1km from the end. Still I was feeling good about how I was climbing, sure I'm no 55kg whippet, but I felt I was holding my own.

We stopped in Omeo to refill bottles, fuel up the stomachs and generally take a couple of minutes off the saddle. We were approximately half way, turning back, though never a serious option, would mean a hard ride, but from here on it would not only be hard but be on road none of us had seen before. We'd seen the maps, we'd studied the profile, though everyone knew neither ever really tell the full story.

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The road from Bingo Munjie was awesome. I often fear that word is overused in society, but none other seems fit to describe it to you. The graphs tell me the road angled upwards, but it never felt it, we pulled long turns along the winding road that had everyone (bar Alex who had a bit of a hunger flat) exclaiming at just how great a day it was.

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At Anglers Rest we encountered the second Pick a Plank bridge of the day, the first had produced some nervous moments, the second produced a hole big enough to absorb my front wheel. The damage was relatively minor, a slight buckle to my wheel, a bruised hand and some red gum splinters driven through various parts of my body. Still it took the edge off the fun of the road.

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Soon after the rest of the fun drained away completely. We turned off the Omeo Hwy and up the back of Falls Creek into what I can only describe as a wall of pebble mix. Everyone dumped every gear they had, and yet we still suffered. Suddenly the pleasant sun that had watched us carve turns minutes earlier was trying to bake us into the bitumen. Patches of shade offered only fleeting relief despite our tectonic speeds.

This single lane road now stands as one of the hardest roads I've ridden on a bike. Sure there have been times when I've hurt as much, but never have I been riding as well, yet been treated with such disdain by tarmac. The profile graphs had described it as 7.7% for around 9km, the reality was far worse as short flat sections and a tiny descents brought the average down, but worse still they'd given us false hope that the climb was over, only to get around a corner and see yet another wall of black top waiting patiently for us to grind up it.

Despite the worry that the climb would never end, it did, and so did my sugar levels. With no opportunity to eat on the climb, I hit a nice big hunger flat hole. Luckily the top section of Falls was flat. We all cruised along, thankful that the temperature was 10-15 degrees cooler than the climb (37c vs 24c), I shovelled a couple of bars in and like magic found life returning to my legs 15 minutes later, just in time for the descent. Once again my breath was taken away by the beauty of the road we were riding on, winding it's way around the Rocky Valley Storage Lake.

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The descent off Falls is the the 2nd best thing about this ride, the 3rd is the road before Falls, the first is finishing the bloody thing, but the descent comes a bloody close second. I did my best to chase Andrew, while BJ did his best to chase me. Smooth road, open corners, and stupid average speeds had me grinning, overtaking cars and leaving them behind like they didn't have an engine had me laughing manically.

Back down into the Kiewa Valley the temperate was scorching, unbeknownst to me Alex hadn't had a heap of water at the top of Falls, so the fact we hadn't stopped to refill meant that by Mt beauty he was feeling spanked. We took our second major stop for the day, this time in a slightly less dignified manner, sprawled out on the ground in front of the super market.

Once we'd all drunk our fill and refilled our bottles, it was time to head to the last challenge of the day, Tawonga Gap. A short climb, but after over 200km and 2 mountains no one was quite sure how they'd cope.

Fuelled with full fat Coke I decided that I was going to try and chase down Downie. A few km into the climb I'd left Jim and BJ and joined him for the ride to the top. Around 3km to go I attacked hard, only to be dismayed to find Andrew firmly stuck to my wheel. I really wanted to get to the top ahead of him, but he seemed too strong. I backed off and recovered. 2km to go I accelerated, he stood and accelerated with me, trying to take the pace up even higher, the second he sat down I stood and kicked the pace again. It hurt, but when he swore (light heartedly) I knew he was hurting, so kept the pace up. Soon I had a gap, but I also had a problem.

It was 2km to go and I was hurting. I mashed at the pedals, all pretence of making them go smoothly around was thrown to the wind. Shoulders bobbing, hips rocking I tried to put every ounce of my being into getting to the top. The gap wasn't getting bigger. I stopped thinking about the top and started to worry about the rider behind me, and that's when the counter attack came, he flew up and around me, taking all my motivation with him. So close, yet so far.

The ride down Tawonga was fast and fun, but the areas of shade and light often made it hard to pick good lines, it didn't matter though, the ride was done, all that was left as to roll back to our cabin and stuff our faces with food.

So, in summary, it was a long day. A long day with lots of hills. The sweet, sweet descents and gorgeous views almost made the whole thing worth it, but not quite. Also, fuck you Pick A Plank bridges, your bruise inducing hard surface is preventing my right hand from finding a comfortable place on my bars.

Chickens eaten: 1

D: 251.2km
A: 4,725m

3 comments:

Mak said...

Man the Rocky Valley dam looks so different when not covered in snow. I ski up all over that dam wall all winter racing and training

Neil Robinson said...

It was down right pretty and though inviting for a swim on a hot day, we figured it would still be icy cold.

Mak said...

its the highest alpine lake I believe and I often see it with ice on it in winter so I figure after the spring thaw there would still be a nasty coolness to it!