An epic ride to start the new year.
The AUDAX Alpine Classic. I’ve completed 200km of cycling before but I’ve never achieved over 4000m of elevation.
The cycle/climb involved four mountains. Dave was on a different route to me.
Our day started at 0230am: much to our disbelief there was this huge crazy lightening storm overhead. We staggered to the car at 0300 and travelled to Bright through horizontal rain and trees flying around through fog.
The ride started at 0400. Dave managed to get both bikes assembled from the car within 7 minutes. We could see other riders lining up at the start line, chomping at the bit, illuminated by lights as I struggled to attach mine to my bike in the last minutes leading up to go time.
It was all very stressful!
We said goodbye and as we rode our bikes toward the the start line, it was already starting and we turned our opposite ways on the road into the darkness.
My ride found a large group, the rain still horizontal and lightening moved across the sky to another location.
In the darkness, the pulse of red lights from bikes in front hid the dirty spray that continuously flicked up from their wheels and into my eyes.
I had to get ahead of these cyclist and we were now climbing 18km of our first mountain – Mount Buffalo (Dingo Dell).
The climb never seemed to end in the darkness but I kept saying hi to others and met a like minded lady who made the climb less excruciating.
That climb took almost an hour and a half to reach the top.
Toward the top of that climb, my blood sugar fell and I felt ill. I realised I had only eaten two bananas so was glad to see the checkpoint that offered cereal, hot drinks, fruits and pancakes.
The Mount Buffalo sunrise was meant to be spectacular but the sky woke into shades of somber grey.
As we descended the same way we came up, my teeth chattered, my toes completely soaked and numb, my clothes sopping wet from the rain that had gratefully passed on.
The terrain was rocky, with dispersed hardy, alpine plants smart enough to survive any winter or brutal summer.
The descent was tricky with wet roads and winding curves. One local cyclist told me to take care as fallen eucalyptus leaves on the road when excreting their oil loves causing cycling accidents.
My ride took me on the flats briefly before heading up Tawonga Gap. It was kinda pretty, Australiana type flora. Another 6km of climbing, I felt ok. I was riding on my own and trying to remain right in the moment, pine trees flanked the road and reminded me of Christmas, I focused on my breathing and even felt a bit meditative.
One lady passed me on this climb. ‘I am going to catch her’was the first thing I thought.
I immediately tried but couldn’t. Instead i gave her kudos in my head. I was not competing with her today, I was only competing with myself.
Down into the Tawonga Valley, I reached another checkpoint and ate everything on offer. I was ravenous, an appetite I’ve never known before cycling.
I started my climb up Falls Creek (sounds like a leisurely cycle pathway beside a bubbling brook when it’s really a mountain climb to a great skiing area). Everyone I came across talked about this brutal climb of 30km.
The first 20km are manageable, but this mountain was unforgiving and unrelenting.
It was also the most picturesque of the three mountains. Beautiful ferns opened out under a canopy of misty snow gums that stood so tall that I couldn’t see where they ended.
I sometimes noticed other cyclists above me on the side of the mountain. These roads switched back onto itself and to a higher altitude. Did I really have to keep climbing??
By the 22km mark, the road became more unrelenting, seemingly unaware of just how much I had already climbed. Below me dropped off into a series of rolling valleys of pines and gums.
I started to get deliriously fatigued here.
I wanted to shut my eyes for a while but instead came across a bike rider who had stopped and was hunched over his bike. He had fallen from his bike and had perhaps fractured a rib and sported a gashed knee. I stayed with him for a while. This kept my mind on someone else and not my current struggles.
We made it to Falls Creek, a ski resort that is enduring a harsh summer day, more valleys of pine and a multitude of dead gum trunks from yesteryear’s devastating bushfire.
I ate more, I drank coffee, my eyes completely heavy with fatigue. I ran into Dave here at this point who was feasting and getting back on the road. He had covered some big distance quickly. He did an amazing 250km effort over some huge mountains.
The down hill of Falls creek was a relief for me, 30km of curvy descending, the roads now dry and conditions much warmer. Yay! I get cold too easily!
I realised that I again had to climb my fourth climb, that same Tawonga Gap, 7km of climbing. My legs were like lead, if they could’ve scream obscenities at me they would have. Cyclists I passed were grimacing, some walking with their bike, wincing and unable to hold a conversation through the pain.
I was thankful it was my last climb! Only 7km that took over 40 minutes to reach the crest.
It was all downhill then to the finish line. It was now after 1400hrs and a fanfare waited for us all at the finish line.
The climbing was painful and humbling.. difficulties should not be underestimated.
The views at the top and the descent, a sweet reward. Dedication pays off.
It’s so rewarding being challenged, we are capable of so much more then we even realise. All we have to do is want it more than anything and a version of it is ours.