Crikey Mate – Fair Dinkum— What an absolutely awesome event. A piece of France nestled in the mountains surrounding Bright-Victoria.
Prior to heading off for the 2009 Taupo 4 lapper I entered the extended version of the 25 year old original 200km Alpine Classic in Victoria Australia.
With the opening of the new Alpine highway, a new route, with more mountains to climb, and a new distance of 250km was now available.
Fortunately, the Australian Audax group had decided to hold a Semaine Federale series of rides in the week preceding the 25th running of the 2010 Alpine Classic. This series of rides gave new riders, like myself, the opportunity to ride the majority of the circuits on a daily basis of about 100-120km during the week prior to the challenge.
I have never known hills to go on for so long and with such gradients, some taking over 2 hours to cycle, whilst consuming the full contents of my 2 litre camelback. Fortunately the camelback is now fitted with a new tube director-for complete hands free hydration.
This extra week of riding also allowed me to acclimatize, and I became very aware of the ever changing weather conditions of this Alpine region. One day at the top of Falls Creek, the coffee/muffin stop was cut short as the temperatures suddenly plummeted to almost zero and a rain storm developed. The wet descent from Falls Creek, allowed my extended road test of the Specialized S-works Roubaix (courtesy Pedal Pushers Palmerston North) to really show its superb stability.
I had ridden the Mount Buffalo stage a day or so prior in the company of Roy Stevens- Dulux 6 day Tour stage winner 1960,s tracking his wheel on that descent certainly gave me added confidence to push the S-works to the max. Its all part of the learning curve, riding with experienced riders of the abilities of Roy & others, especially on foreign soils.
Driving up to Bright from Melbourne (400km approx) the devastation of the horrific fires of February 2009 was still evident, although a lot of vegetation regrowth and rebuilding of shattered homes and lives was also apparent. It all served as a serious reminder of the Extreme challenges this Alpine region could offer, for me with the gastro/dehydration problems of 09 Taupo still vividly in my memory, I was going to be as prepared as possible.
My plan to freeze my Hammer Nutrition fuels and water to allow my nutrition-rehydrating to function was assisted in no small way by the inclusion of the new camelbak-podium chill jacket drink bottle to my ride equipment.
The cool, sparrows fart 4am start with about 250 other cyclists with lights ablaze was a nervous time. After about an hour the first of the mountains arrived, Mount Hotham. Being an Audax ride regular stops to check-in are required. Mt Hotham ws the first. I was fortunate that with my Hammer Fuel I only needed to top up my water at this first stop, as my expected 12 hours of Perpetuem was safely enclosed in the 600ml chill jacket bottle.
Audax rides are not classed as a race. Yeah right!My experience from other Audax events, world wide, is that where ever there is a start/finish line and a time piece operating, there definitely is a race somewhere on the course.
The few nudges before arriving at Omeo caused a bit of attacking, which allowed me to clear out of the checkpoint first, to prepare for the massive climbs up the back of Falls Creek. This this climb kicked off with a sudden 17-19% for 500 metre followed by some 9km of about 8%, all in all a hard day at the office, with welcome Audax extra water stops and encouragement along the way.
Arriving at the Falls Creek checkpoint was a real treat, from here I had already soloed it once in the week prior and new it was only 65km to the finish. But unfortunately there was still the Mt Beauty/Tawonga Gap to clamber over. That final grind up Tawonga in the full 35+ degree heat of the early afternoon was by far the worst patch for me.
The final descent and time trial into Bright was a delight, passing slowing riders to complete the ride in 10hr 47min. Some 2 hours ahead of my estimate, in the low 20’s overall, just out of the top 5% and well under the average time of 13hr 01min.
Mind you the event wasn’t a race! Whatever it was, it was a heck of a ride, and all being well I’d dearly love to get back over there again next year.
A quick peep at my computer at the finish read 24,920km, not bad for a 18 month extended road trial of this awesome and responsive Specialized S-Works. Now it’s time to head home and get the 25,000km rolled over before the Lion Foundation, Wellington to Auckland 13 stage road race/cycle.
No report on the ACE 250km and the other Alpine events of that week would be complete without a mention of the awesome organization and volunteers. Food/water stations all manned with enthusiastic volunteer support staff.
The major difference to a NZ fun ride, was that there was no ride pack. All of the food/water stops had foods and drinks of all descriptions available for you to use. With my Hammer Fuels I had no need to stop for foods.
The benefiting charity for the ride, Oncology Childrens Foundation – Childrens Cancer, again benefited by close on $65000 from the event. So for me and I am sure for all the other riders, missing a ride pack was of no concern. But by assisting a great charity added value to our efforts. May be there is a lesson here for our NZ rides.
Of all the long distance rides I have cycled, this ACE250km, must rate in my top 3. Just behind the old Taupo 500km version and the arduous K4.
Which reminds me, K4 is on again this October, and Taupo have decided to run an 8 lap (1280km) version this year. So I guess it’s going to be a busy year. RAAM have elected to accept this Taupo 1280km ride as a qualifier for next years Race Across America (if anyone is interested, check the UMCA website) so it may entice some more international riders to our shores.
But truly, if you want to continue your challenges, and want some hills, just like those in France, but closer to home, seriously consider looking no further than this Australian series in January next year. Its just fantastic! Weather dependant for sure, but then Taupo isn’t always warm and calm on that last Saturday of every November either.