Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Winery Wander 300

After a spot flu that kept me off the rode for the inaugural Tarago 400, I decided I would travel north to have a go at the Winery Wander 300, and so move me a bit closer to completing a super series this year.

The start in Berowra is about 2 hours away from home so it was an early start on Saturday morning, as the alarm rang out a 3.15am and a bit dazed and sleepy I jumped into the car to head off. A few kilometers later I realized I was still wearing my ugg boots, but it was too late to turn back for more appropriate footwear. I also managed to miss the motorway exit and had to endure a 15 minute detour which meant that I would miss my chance of a coffee and have to rush to get ready on time.

I was the last rider to arrive at Berowra, but only just, and quickly changed into my riding gear and loaded the bike, got checked and away we went, only 5 minutes late.

In the dark and preoccupied with my preparation, I didn't really have a chance to familiarize myself with the bunch which was made up of 300 and 200km riders, so I set off into the cold, going a nit hard to warm up. Before long things were settling down after we descended from Cowan and with the sun beginning to rise I decided to pause for a photo, realizing at the same time that in my rush to get going I had not properly put my bib knicks and the shoulder loops were flapping by my side.

After partially disrobing on the road and being passed by a few familiar faces, I jumped back on the bike to make up lost ground. Passing a few riders on the climb up Mt White I found Dave, who I had ridden with on the Oppy earlier in the year and we fell into place for the rest of the ride.

As the day opened up before us it was clear it was going to be a great day for riding and after a brief pause at Peats Ridge we enjoyed the beautiful countryside between Kulnarra and Broke to the first controle. Here we caught up with Howard and Hugh and after a quick breakfast we headed out this time with Mark joining to make a trio of riders.

A slight headwind had cropped up and we shared turns over the undulations for a while before turning into the quieter and lumpier roads through the wine country around Pokolbin. The countryside was truly gorgeous and I was reveling in the pleasure of riding through it in such wonderful conditions. After a few more lumps, Dave signalled his intention to take it easier along here so Mark and I headed off towards Cessnock before stopping at a cafe for a cup of coffee and a sweet. A few minutes later Dave joined us and after a short rest we set off again taking the back road towards Quorrobolong around the Watagan Mountains before heading over the gap and skirting the back of Lake Macquarie towards Morriset. I had spent quite a bit of time on the front by now and as we turned onto Wyee road, Dave suggested we stop at the servo for a quick bite to eat before carrying on to Wyong and the second controle. I was eager to do so, feeling the fatigue creeping up from the early start and I had a rare guarana drink to keep me perky. It was here that I decided to attach the battery charger to the garmin to keep it going as the internal battery was getting low only to pull the connecting wires from the box. Bugger!

We rolled into Wyong as the sun set and after a rest and card stamping at the fish and chip/chinese restaurant we donned our night attire and headed out for the last 70kms. This last section was relatively tough and included a few longish climbs, and a few longish descents to break the monotony! As always the Cowan climb loomed before us and I was very glad to reach the Pie and set the controls for the relatively easy run back to Berowra.

I pulled into the station carpark at 9.30, a few minutes ahead of Mark and Dave. It was a great day out and confirmed my love of 300s, tough enough to make you work hard for most of the day, but without the sleep deprivation of 400s.

I was back home in a couple of hours and slept like a log, waking on Sunday morning to the pleasant ache of achievement.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Berry Mountain 200

Saturday saw the second running of the Berry Mountain 200. A few riders from Sydney plus a few from Wollongong, meant that the second run would be more populated than the first, though both inaugural completers i.e. Shane and Me were back for more.

The weather forcast had been looking good for most of the week leadin gup to the ride until thursday when strong westerly winds fetured in the forcast. They were supposed to abat during the day, so we set off from Dapto, gritting our teeth into a cold wind but optimistic that it may slacken off during the day.

It didn't.

The first control after a hard slog into and a pleasant run with the wind saw coffee cups blow off their plates and bikes crash over, further on we experienced wild pushes that sent us off line but it was all part of the day.


First control at gerringing #audax

As we pushed on the group moved ahead towards the mountain as one, though I was feeling the effects of the cold and dropped back, happy to plug away at my own pace.

I soon found myself at the bottom of the climb of Cambewarra Mt, after catching occasional fleeting glimpses of cyclists in flouro ahead. Starting the climb I stopped to remove my outer shell and fiddle with the new EO gear saddle bag which was proving tricky on its first run.

Plugging up the climb I was getting hotter so stopped again to remove my beany and quietly giving up hope of catching the rest of the guys.

The climb was long and steep and the false flats between Mt Berry and Cambewarra Mt seem long and hard in the wind. When I arrived at the control I found Barry and Geoff the sole riders. Seems I was the 3rd one in, but how? Everyone else was in front of me...

Soon Shane and Dale hove into view having missed the turn and gone passed only to swing back.


Cambewarra mt #audax

After a short break we continued on and enjoyed a rare descent of the mountain without any cars up front or behind and soon found ourselves sloggin along the flatlands south of Nowra across the wind into Greenwell Pt. It was hard work and we were glad to find the cafe at the end of the point for  lunch. Well some of us were :-)


Greenwell pt #audax




























The return leg had us facing back into the wind en route to Nowra before turning with the wind for a very fast passage out through Bomaderry and along 7 mile beach road. before stopping at the penultimate control at Crooked River.


Something warm and something sugary at Crooked River #audax 50km to go :-)


I hung around to see Shane roll in at about 3.45pm and with heaps of time up our sleeve we set off for to cover the remaining 50kms. Shane had beene xperiencing some gearing problems all day so was travelling conservatively and I soon drew away over the hills.

Stopping to switch on lights and don vest at Kiama, as the sunset and temperatures dropped I was soon cocooned in my lights and tapping away for the finish. I made one wrong turn up a freeway exit, but managed to loop back down and continue on to Dapto without any further misadventure.

It had been a challenging day but I was glad to be out and commencing my preparation for the SM1200 in November.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vale Richard Ballantine

I was saddened to learn over the weekend that Richard Ballantine, author of "Richard's Bicycle Book" has died.

Richard's Bicycle Book was an enormous influence on my riding and love and cycling, and I've been recalling fondly, afternoons spent planning rides, repairs and civil disobedience while turning it's pages.

I hope he is turning the pedals even now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

3 Parks 200

Following the Riverina Romp I decided to move my new bike purchase forward and took delivery of a Cervelo R3 last week.

After a few tuning rides I felt confident to remove the saddle from my faithful Roubaix and attach it to the R3 for this weekends 3 Parks Ride,  a 200 km brevet that is known for it's relentless pursuit of hills.

I had scheduled the ride in the Audax calender, but at this time of year there's a bit going on so I found myself the only taker for the ride. I had the company of Harvey on  the way up the pass but after that I was on my own. we started at 6.30am and the early conditions as we rode across the flatlands were foggy, cool and moist.

Photo

At the top of the pass Harvey and I parted ways - Harvey for a Pie at the Robbo Pie shop and me for the undulations of Tourist Road. Tourist Road is a favourite for many local cyclists and it was typically beautiful on Saturday, especially so as the fog began to lift and the warming rays of the sun came through to brighten the road as I approached the watershed of the Nepean River. From here I traversed across the valley, resplendent in its autumn colours, and I enjoyed the short but steady climb out the other side and onto the Gibraltar range ridge.

Tourist rd on 3 parks 200 #audax

Range Rd which follows the ridge line above Bowral and Mittagong has a few steep climbs before plunging down into the town of Mittagong, where, with 70ish kilometers up I stopped for breakfast at the Tick Tock cafe.

Photo

From Mittagong it was downhill to Picton (more or less) though I experienced some navigational uncertainty when I took a turn off the main road to find a new and unfamiliar subdivision in my path. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't there last time, so I spent a bit of time nosing around before finding the correct turn a 1km or so back up the hwy and enjoyed the fast downhill run to Picton via many of the smaller highlands towns. During this section I was feeling very comfortable on the R3, it was predictable, comfortable and when I pushed down on the pedals it went forward.

I stopped for lunch at a Cafe in Picton and chatted with an older couple about wildflowers in Western Australia,  while I enjoyed my pie and coffee. As the next section of the ride was going to be a bit lumpy,  I was in no hurry to get away, especially as I had quite a bit of time in the bank despite the climb of Macquarie Pass and getting lost earlier.

Eventually I dragged myself away and once again found my rythm while enjoying the ride of the Cervelo on increasingly broken road surfaces. Once over the rollers on Menangle Rd, I turned right into Douglas Park for the dread Gorge. From the bottom the Hume Freeway bridge towers above, so I stopped for a photo and then commenced the climb. It's not especially long, but has grades of 25% and above for short sections, so I was glad to make the top.

Douglas park gorge #audax


By Broughton Pass things were becoming a bit overcast with clouds scudding in from the north and the breeze beginning to lift. Nothing too dramatic but while I had afternoon tea at Appin I was wondering if I was to get wet, especially with the most hectic section of the ride coming up between Appin and Bulli Tops to traverse, I was hoping for good conditions.

Broughton Pass #audax

The trip acorss to the tops was dry but busy and the crossing of Loddon Creek on the single lane shoulderless bridge was heaertstopping, but nevertheless survivable. As I turned onto the old Princes Hwy I felt the first few drops of rain and before long I found wet road and then rain that kept me company through to Stanwell Tops.

Rain aside, I was on the homeward leg now -with a tailwind to boot - and with more time up my sleeve than I normally do, I pulled into Bulli for second afternoon tea and an energy sustaining caramel slice before cranking out the 10kms left for home

Bulli, 7km to go on 3 parks and I was feeling peckish #audax

Riding up the hill towards home I coasted into the driveway just on 5pm. A little damp, but pretty happy with the day's riding and very impressed with the R3. Later I was surprised by how fresh I felt and put that down mostly to the bike.

The ride data told me that I spent 8hrs 31 minutes  at an average speed of 24.7kph  which meant I spent two hours stuffing my face and taking photos. Quite a nice day out really.

Mileage in Kilometers = 4337

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Riverina Romp 600


Last weekend I had a go at the Riverina Romp 600 organised by the ACT Audax riders and starting in Yass. It was going to be my longest ride for some time and while I am yet to complete a 400, my form on the Opperman 24hour ride had given me a bit of confidence and I really want to complete a super series this year and was fast running out of 600km rides.

My luck had changed as the weather forecast for the weekend was excellent and I was feeling pretty good and the bike was in good fettle. Everything was there for a good ride.

The route was to take us northwest from Yass to Boorowa then west to Young, Stockbingal and Temora before heading south through Coolamon and then to the overnight stop at Wagga Wagga. The second day was via back roads to Bethungra and then to Cootamundra before heading over the range to Harden, back into Boorowa and then back to Yass via Binnalong.


I arrived in Yass just on sunset on Friday evening, found my room at the motel and before long had met Bob the organiser and was enjoying dinner at the Swaggers restaurant with some of the other riders.Amongst them were Grahame, Russell (who was part of the oppy team) and Cribby from Tenterfield. Dinner done I retired to my room and slept well until the alarm went off at 5am. Phone told me it was 2.5c so I layered up and drove to the start at the Yass Service Centre.


The riders soon massed at the start and the field was expanded by riders from Canberra and Wagga Wagga so we made a peloton of about 11 as we headed off, not knowing anyone very well and in the dark I was happy to follow the blinking lights and adjust to the pace. From the start the ACT approach was clear, stick together and stay efficient and we bunched towards Boorowa with some concern for Russell who had dropped off (he had punctured both wheels we later found out and had to drop out). As we rode, the sun slowly rose and provided a welcome relief to the cold and moist air, though at one point we crested a hill to find a spectacular inversion effect spread across a valley, with mist below us. Inevitably we dropped back down into this valley to lose the sun but the view was great from the top.


I required a nature stop at Boorowa and then found myself on my own for a bit on the road to Young. The sun rose higher and I stopped to strip off some layers before catching up with the group in Young.

Just outside Young #audax

I sculled a coffee and then left with the others who after a few hills formed an orderly bunch, Anthony acting as Captain and keeping us in line. Along this road I chatted to Cassie who as a twice finisher of RAAM I held in some awe and was soon introduced into the finer points of riding with this bunch taking a turn on the front for what seemed like hours before getting some advice from Anthony.

Photo

We rolled along, into a headwind and soon made Stockbingal where we stopped and enjoyed elevenses at the cafe with homemade cakes and quite fine coffee.

Stockbingal

From there, well fueled and joined by Michael, we made an orderly train along the mostly flat roads towards Temora and then turned to enjoy a tailwind towards our dinner checkpoint at Coolamon. The weather was wonderful and we enjoyed a glorious sunset shortly before riding into the town and finding the control set up and ready to feed at a small park.

Sunset #audax

From Coolamon to Wagga Wagga was only 70ish km along back roads and we again rode on in a bunch, watching the moon rise full and orange into the sky. Fatigue was beginning to become a factor and we spread apart on the dark roads but by the time we were in the outer suburbs of Wagga Wagga everyone was rolling togther and we were soon at our respective hotels/houses by 9.15. The days riding had seen me accomplish my fastest 200 and 300s and I was very pleased to see a nice chunk of time for resting in a comfy bed, with a planned starting time of 4am in the morning.

After a shower, I prepared things for the next day, packed my dirty kit into a post pack for mailing home and set the alarm for 3.30am and was soon asleep. And then, it seemed after I had closed my eyes, the alarm was ringing and it was time to get up.

Pulling up at the arranged place, Grahame was already waiting and before ,ong we were joined by Tom and toegther we began the second day of the ride, in the cold and dark, dodgy errant kangaroos as they bounced fleetingly into the beams of our headlights.

The going was tough for me during this stage, I was tired, cold and miserable. The brain kept wanting me to stop and sleep by the side of the road and I fell behind the others only catching them when they halted to clarify a route turning. I perservered howevr, there was nowhere to stop and the only way I could conceivably get home, other than on my bike, was from Cootamundra, which was 120kms away.

After about 2 hours of struggling the dawn began to break and as the landscape lightened so did I, until the first rays of the sun did their warming work and before too long I was feeling happier and strong again.

We easily identified the various information controls along this section, stopped briefly in Bethungra to delayer and top up water and enjoyed a long chat with a garrulous gentleman who provided some good advice about the route ahead.

We soon found ourselves climbing, short but steep rollers and after a brisk descent were in Cootamundra by 11.30am, back in front of the clock and ready for brunch.

Leaving Cootamundra, Tom indicated that he would press on as he wanted to be home early and left Grahame and me in his wake as we commenced the increasingly difficult climb up onto the Great Dividing Range.

We found ourselves in a sequence of rolling hills, were we would ascend for 1km and descend for 1 km slowly gaining more and more height as we went east. It was hard work and the day had turned quite warm making the going at times tough but we eventually worked our way up to 600m and made it into Harden for the 3rd last control, surprisingly we had made up a bit of time as well.

The wind was no freshening, but thankfully it was behind us our slightly cross for most of the next stage back to Boorowa. Again we climbed and descended and climbed again and our stop at Boorowa was the beginning of the end, only 90kms more to travel so we were able to enjoy the late afternoon and early evening before riding into the penultimate control at Binnalong just on dusk.


Nearly done #audax




























With darkness now descending the remaing 37kms to Yass was not without adventure. The route was forced to transit along Burly Griffin Way, a very busy road with some long rolling hills and inadequate shoulder, but thankfully we soon turned off that road before rejoining the Hume Freeway for the last few kilometers to the finish.

As luck would have it, about 4kms out I flatted (first and I think only one for the ride) but this was soon repaired (and thnaks to the unkown cyclist who stopped in his car to offer the use of his track pump and tools) and we were soon at the service centre, cards signed and stamped and more than pleased with the weekends riding.

I enjoyed the ride so much, that I rewarded myself with a new bicycle, a Cervelo R3. I shall take it on it's maiden audax ride soon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting used to the pies

After surviving my manflu I wasn't anticipating any heroic riding this weekend. In fact I had committed to some extracurricular work activities (which involved driving a mini loader) so was less than optimistic about riding too far.

Saturday morning I rode with Ben on our Asquith St loop and varied it with a new segment through Mangerton, and then I spent a solid 5 hours at the controls of the loader shifting railway sleepers and building garden beds. The loader was fast though, and by the end of the day the planned weekends work was done. Cue Barry's email that he was riding up through the gong on route to the Pie Shop with his triathalon club and would I like to meet up?

I thought that I would, perhaps not all the way but at least some of it so I arranged to meet at 8.30am at the Harbour and set off from there with the group of about 25 other riders. Apart from Barry I didn't know anyone but chatted along as we cruised through the flat lands around the Lake and towards Albion Park. Bunch riding is always an interesting experience, some riders have impeccable discipline, other's less so and I worked to avoid to swervey wobbly riders, admired a nice Cervelo R3 and winced at chain crossing and poor fit.

Photo

We stopped for water briefly at Albion Park before heading along in single file up the Illwarra Hwy towards the pass. The climbing began to string the group out a bit and as we neared the bottom of the Pass most of the club members pulled in to regroup and to contest the KOM, while I just rolled through.

It was pretty warm now and the climbing was hot, and there was lots of traffic and a large number of vintage and veteran cars en route to a car show in Bowral. My inner rev head enjoyed the progression of MGs, Sunbeams, FE Holdens and the odd Jaguar. I was less enamoured of the modern motorcyclists who were racing themeselves and overtaking on blind curves however. They were just dumb.

As I passed the 2 thirds point on the climb I was passed by a few of the faster triathaletes, but only a few and was soon at the Pie shop for the second time in a week, enjoying their wares and cooling my heels waiting for the others to arrive.

Photo

Sure enough they were soon all there. Most were getting lifts back to Cronulla though a few were planning to ride back to Albion Park Rail for the train, while Barry was aiming to ride all the way home. So four of us set off for the descent and enjoyed a traffic free screamer. One of Barry's mates, Peter, dropped like a stone and we were flat out trying to keep him in sight. I learn't a lot on the way down.

It was a steady roll back into town after that. The other's had some cramps and a puncture and then there was a headwind but being relatively fresh and nearer to home I enjoyed sitting on the front and tapping out a rhythm, though I'd sometimes roll off the front and have to slow down.

Nice day for a ride

Photo

Once back into the City we rode past the Wollongong Station and Peter opted for the train for the rest of the journey while Barry carried on, arriving back home in Sutherland at about 7pm with 240kms done.  I did 105 which was a pretty easy day in comparison.

I quite enjoyed the ride though, a bit of variety was a treat, the waether was great and I was feeling well recovered from my cold.




Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tallong bridge and a bodgy bottom bracket

Last week I noticed that my drivetrain was getting worn so ordered a replacement chain, cassette and bottom bracket though as the week progressed I realised that I needed the bb sooner rather than later and while climbing up Macquarie Pass this morning on the monthly 200, I was losing confidence in the bb's ability to get me all the way there and back.

It had that nasty slop where the pedal would rock through a quarter turn before feeling like it was engaged with the chain. So at the top of the pass I decided to avert disaster and turn for home, but not before enjoying a pie and a ginger beer at the Robbo Pie Shop.

Photo

Ben was coming with me as far as the Pie shop so with the pie onboard we both headed back for home towards a lowering sky which decided to catch us out with a downpour only 3km from home.

I cycled on the bike shop and got a replacement bb and spent a happy hour cleaning bike and replacing bearings. As it turned out they were well shot, the seals had gone and water was lapping around the bearings. They'd only done 8k or so. I may need to review my maintenance schedule!

On the positive side the weather radar has revealed that the route was copping a lot of rain - the stupid clouds hadn't realised I was at home and dry, So weather 0.5, me 1 , for a change.