When Greg mentioned offhand on a training ride that he and Aldo were going to head north to ride the Dog Trap 200km brevet organized by Howard and Bec, I thought yeah why not, new ground to cover and a chance to practice navigation. With about 2900m of climbing it promised to be a challenging ride.
At about 4.45am I loaded the bike onto the car and left for the start at Waitara having checked and double checked that I had everything before departure. It was raining slightly in the gong and while it was dry further north, it was foggy and well moist for most of the day.
There was a large group of riders assembling which was a bit of a novelty for me. We normally ride with a group of 5 or 6, so 20 or so riders were a huge pack. Greg and Aldo rolled up to complete the southern contingent and soon we were all on our way, into the fog and the unknown.
The Dog trap ride is a great route, the first challenge comes at about 6km in when you descend Galston Gorge, its tight switchbacks and lumpy surface made all the more difficult by quite dense fog. It was a sensibly cautious descent and then slow work climbing up towards Wisemans Ferry.
I heard the song of a lyrebird at one point, and Howard later mentioned that he nearly ran it over a bit earlier. The joys of morning! After the climbing the gorge I was feeling quite good and started to pick up some speed on the flatter sections looping around the agricultural lands of the western Hawkesbury. Despite my cue sheet clipped to the handlebars and despite Douglas’s shouted advice, I still managed to miss the turnoff and did a couple of bonus kilometers until I realized that the only riders around me were from Wollongong. Could have been worse I suppose and it was still foggy.
Rejoining the route we sped on towards Berowra Waters and the novelty of a ferry ride. Then there was the climb out which as Howard promised was quite good, if a little foggy. From Berowra we turned left onto the Pacific Hwy and headed north. Pretty soon I had a puncture and we stopped to fix it before the enjoyable descent from Cowan to the Hawkesbury. Crossing the river was lovely until Greg picked up a puncture. Two punctures in 5km. Nice one puncture god.
From the Hawkesbury bridge the route pretty much climbs for 30km to the controle at Mt White. We were now a bit behind and stood resolutely into the climb to make the controle closing time. The riding though was very pleasant, snatching views of the upper hawksbury, admiring the occasional sandstone outcrop, spotting the odd parrot. As a bonus for nature lovers, Gymea Lilies and banksias were flowering prolifically along the road and apart for the odd motorcyclist the road was quiet.
Eventually the Mt White café emerged out of the mist and we had made it by 25 minutes. There were still quite a few riders at the café and it was interesting to her Glen Druery talk about his recent achievements at RAAM.
From the controle there was more riding in the general direction of up through smelly farming land towards Kulnara. Just after Kulnara, we had to pull to one side to allow a Rolls Royce to pass before descending the truly frightening Bumble Hill (I didn’t see any bees but the road was very rough, perhaps better named Bumple hill) into the Yarramalong Valley.
We were making good progress now and the fog and mist had cleared so we felt a bit drier. By the time we made the second controle at Wyong we had picked up and hour on the closing time so were pretty happy with our progress.
A quick sandwich and discussion of home brewing and we headed off toward the next challenge, the Dog Trap Road. We were at first puzzled, the road looked benign, and we couldn’t see any gravel, but a kilometer or so further on the gravel and the climbing commenced. It wasn’t too bad until the final 400m which were very steep, Greg and Aldo made the climb but my internal heart rate monitor told me to stop, so I walked the hard bit. There were more hard bits to come and next 20km to the 3rd controle were my least favourite form of riding, undulations heading upwards, and I was feeling pretty shagged when I finally made it to Peats Ridge.
From there things improved rapidly and we reaped the benefit from all of the climbing earlier in the day with fast downhills and momentum into the short climbs for the 40km. Descending Mt White in the enfolding dusk at 70k/h was terrific. From the Hawkesbury bridge, the last major challenge remained to climb back up to Cowan. For some reason I had been worrying about this all afternoon, but as so often happens, the reality was no where near as steep as I had been imagining.
Greg and Aldo waited for me at the top and we fairly zoomed back to Hornsby along the Pacific Highway, dodging broken glass and car doors as best we could, landing at the final controle at 6.35pm.
It was a great day and a challenging ride, thanks to Howard & Bec for some great organization and Greg and Aldo for dragging me along.
Mileage in Km = 3182