I attempted the Tallowa Treadle on Sunday as a good Alpine warm up. Though things didn't quite go as planned. Looking back on the day, I was guilty of poor planning and made a number of bad decisions, so there was plenty of room for misadventure.
There was a solid bunch for the start at 7am in pleasant conditions and for the first quarter of the ride up Macquarie Pass and along the scenic Tourist Road to Kangaloon, I was feeling strong and things were going very well. However at about the 60km mark I ran over a small piece of metal that dug a 1 cm long slash through the casing of my front tyre. Curses! I had recently changed to a larger saddle bag but for reasons unknown even to myself, I had neglected to pack either my small first aid kit or the length of electrical tape I usually carried, and I only had a twenty dollar note (for lunch) so I was worried about how I could plug the the slash. After a few minutes Bec, Henry and Paul came along and luckily Bec volunteered a bandaid which would be a solution and Henry confirmed that the tire casing, though cut right through was still OK, probably.
They road off while I fixed the tube and got on my way. The puncture cost me about 17 minutes in all, so I pumped along a bit harder than usual to catch up. I was also now a little worried about the front tire and how it would hold up on the long downhill descents to come.
I guess my first mistake came earlier in the month when I decided not to replace both tyres, as the bike shop only had one blue stelvio, and I had thought the front rubino pro with 2200km on it would be OK until another blue one came in. So I was kicking myself. By the time I arrived at the first controle at Fitzroy Falls, the main group were about 20 minutes ahead so were just finishing eating and getting ready to go. I ordered some food but was impatient and ate quickly and left with Paul shortly after the others. This was mistake number 2, I really should have taken my ease and ensured I was properly refreshed before heading off.
From Fitzroy Falls the route descends Barrengarry Road to Kangaroo Valley. It is a great descent but I was worried about the front tyre so took it cautiously, passing Barry and Paul at the base of the climb and catching up with the main group at the Hampden Bridge shop, where they were topping up with water before rolling on towards the slog up to Tallowa. Again I rolled on, not heeding Barry's advise to top up before the ride out to the dam. Mistake number 3.
A kilometer or so up the road I got my second puncture, this time a catseye, in the front tyre again. Paul, Greg and Bec passed me so I was back on my own, now with only one good tube, and the heat of the day rising around me.
I spent the next 15 kms struggling to catch up, but the road was rotten, the heat was stifling and I was losing the battle of the spirit. Eventually I arrived at the tip of the steep descent to the dam wall and met the group heading back up, they looked awfully hot and Barry was walking part of the way. I hit the turnaround at the base of the climb and not wanting to be left further behind I turned around immediately and started to climb back out.
It was steeper than I realised, and stuck in the wrong gear I had to quickly twist out of the pedal to avoid embarrassment. Ouch. There goes the knee. Losing count of the mistakes now.
I stopped then to eat a bit and think. I took a few nurofen and glucoden tablets drank some water (about 1.5 litres left) changed into a lower gear and remounted and started back up the hill. Now it's a nasty steep climb and the heat and airlessness really makes it hurt. It's the kind of climb when you need at least both your knees working. I got about half way before stopping and deciding to walk a bit, I could lean on the bike and take some of the pressure off my knee. So I slowly moved up the hill, variously pedaling and walking until after a while I made it out of the cauldron and things started looking up and the view was quite good.
With the road now trending downhill I was able to pedal more effectively with my one good leg and a nice headwind had sprung up to cool me down. I was worried though about my knee and the prospect of the climb up Barrengarry but I just set my sights on the next controle.
As I noted earlier the Tallowa dam road was terrible, large chunks out of the chipseal and gravel bits lying everywhere. Unfortunately I hit a larger bit of gravel and caused a pinch flat. My third of the day and my last tube, from here on in I would be patching.
I had about 18km to go until the next controle so took it as steadily as I could. Despite the liberal dose of Nurofen, my knee wasn't improving, I had long since drained the camelbak and was on my last bidon. There was no mobile reception. So I really had no choice but to plug on and it was with a huge sense of relief that I saw the turnoff to Kangaroo Valley and stopped at the shop for water, a mars bar, a chocolate Magnum and a staminade ($10 minimum eftpos transaction).
I asked after the rest of the group and they had come through about 30 minutes ahead of me. I rang Henry, as I had now pretty much decided to abandon the ride as I had no confidence in my knee and how I would get up Barrengarry road.
They were on the other side of the bridge and just about to leave, I said my goodbyes and wished them luck and settled in to wait for Sue to drive up and rescue me. The afternoon began to cool off and a light rain shower passed. My thighs then started to cramp, just to round off a lovely day.
By the time Sue arrived, I could barely stand, but she had anticipated my needs well and had brought an esky containing our medicinal peas. The cold pack was most welcomed. We retraced the route on our journey home and we passed the group who were now stretched out over about 30 kilometers but they were all looking good for time.
So while I had a shocking ride, I can take from it many lessons.
1. Don't let vanity get in the way of a new tyre.
2. Always carry the electrical tape.
3. Always rest appropriately and ride to my own pace - I was strong and happy before I rushed things
4. Top up the water whenever you can.
Mileage in Kilometers = 363