Sunday, April 18, 2010

Windellama Wander

Another Saturday, another 200km brevet! Or so it seems - so far this month I have ridden a 200km every weekend, starting with the Tallowa dam ride over easter, Sackville scamper last weekend and Windellama yesterday.

As luck would have it I was attending the Innovative Ideas Forum at the National Library on Friday so the opportunity to spend the night and catch the ride in the morning was too good to resist. The 200km was a straightforward out and back to Bungonia, starting with the riders who were doing the Highland Hop 400 who were riding out to Robertson (nearly home).

Watching the weather during the week I knew I would need lots of layers for the start and when I arrived at the Sutton community hall in the fog and the dark at 5.15am at about 6 degrees I knew I was right. One critical flaw in my packing was forgetting my headband/ear warmers! Luckily, if slightly comically, I was able to use a clean explorer sock which reached from ear to ear and was just thin enough to fit beneath the helmet.

As the riders assembled I was surprised by the number of recumbents - 4. I had never ridden with a recombent before and they immediately made me feel tall, and fast on hills but then very slow down them and along the flat. Such was the nature of the group that I soon found myself alone riding at my own pace. I stopped at Bungonia for a coffee and then riding out in the fog I saw Kerrie-Ann stopped with a puncture. She was fine and I road on to Tarago to briefly pass one of the recumbents - Andrew i think - who has stopped for adjustments. A little further on I was having some navigational difficulties when Andrew cruised up and set me straight.

I watch him slink off into the distance, occasionally I would gain a bit of ground on hills but his speed on the flat was a good 3 - 4 kph faster than me - for less effort too. Coming up the 80km mark, the fog had lifted and I paused at the top of a hill to switch off the lights and peel off some layers. Kerrie- Ann caught me up and she paused to describe the next part of the route and explain the secret controle at the turnaround in Bungonia. She rode on while I topped up my perpetuem and then we regathered at Johnno's general store. Later I met Greg Cunningham who was also riding the 200km.

I set off for the last outward leg to Bungonia, a mostly downhill undulating ride to complete the secret controle and then ride back up. Going down I was passed by a couple of riders who were heading back.

Coming back up I passed Greg and Alex(?) another recumbenteer who were heading down. The climb was not too troublesome, what went up, must come down and the generally undulating nature of the countryside lent a nice rhythm to the ride. Riding from Tarago to Bungonia without the fog I passed some massive windfarms which were hardly turning at all. I could see that with a wind this ride would have a slightly different character and prove very difficult.

One last obstacle presented itself between Bungonia and the car, and that was the climb up Smiths Gap. The descent earlier in the day had been wonderful, so the climb probably wasn't. The reality though wasn't too bad. It was steep, but short, quite like the Bald Hill climb.

The final leg up Macs Reef Road was shorter than it seemed on the way out and despite a near miss with a truck overtaking me on a bumpy downhill run (me hanging on for dear life - the truck not respecting it), I was soon back in Sutton at 4.20 notching up one of my quickest 200s. I also felt really good and could have ridden a lot further, so the fitness is improving.

Next weekend I'm hoping to ride in the Central Coast 200km, which will give me 4 BRMs and 800 BRM km for the month taking me to 1400km of BRMs this year. Just over half of the qualifying total for PBP.

This morning I have stripped the Roubaix down and given him a good clean and lube. He looks fantastic now.

Mileage in KM = 2562

Monday, April 12, 2010

Springwood n' Sackville Scamper

What a ride. Big crowd of participants, old blogging friends, friends from suffering of yore and new types just waiting to be befriended.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I woke up in time to drive up to Waitara to join Howard and Bec's 200km brevet. The last one I missed - got a call from Bec halfway up the Picton road - "Are you coming Grant? we're about to go!" So I checked the starting time twice and set my alarm.

At the start I was happy to see some ole riding buddies, Peter B from the ill fated Scone 600 last year (he made it), Bec and of course Howard (thought I can't actually say I've ridden with Howard he's much too fast), Adrian and a number of new faces, a couple Naomi and Nick who were on very handsome bikes touring indeed.

The ride itself was glorious, separating out the tragedy on the western motorway, the weather was grand, the company great and the riding rewarding. Even at the first controle in suburban Springwood the organisers had somehow arranged for entertainment in the form of an Irish Harp player.

Leaving Springwood on the second leg was not without it's misadventures. Peter, Ming and I set off, Ming on a rather nice 26.5 inch bike with classic TA cranks. On the descent of Macquarie Rd, Ming found some awkward bumps on a tight corner and went down hard. I was far enough away to avoid hitting him and after pulling him and his bike out of the path of oncoming traffic we patched him up as best we could with my emergency first aid kit before riding slowly on to Richmond where a train could get him back to civilization. He had displaced his shoulder but luckily had not broken anything, which was a relief.

From there Peter and I wound our way up to the second controle at Kurrajong passing the "touring trio" of Adrian, Nick and Naomi. After the warmish climbing, the views from the ridge into Kurajong were wonderful, as was the Sassafras cafe were we met Bec and others and enjoyed some lovely food, a great cup of coffee and friendly service. The touring trio arrived shortly after us and we left en masse and I got the opportunity to ogle Nick and Naomi's thoughtfully constructed bikes.

They had both recently returned from a touring holiday in New Zealand and the bikes looked great. Nick had a Surly LHT from which he had removed the stickers which made it look kind of exotic and different. Naomi rode a beautiful blue Europa, with Grand Bois tyres, hammered Honjo fenders, relaxed gearing, Brookes Saddle and titanium Tubus rack. Did I mention her Stainless bidons?

Seriously cool bike that could drift off the bitumen onto gravel and not crash. It was great chatting about it and I was worried that I would come over a bit weird but Nick and Naomi seemed to understand. It renewed my love of the more relaxed bike, of the touriste aesthetic, of the original Apollogy project which got me reduxing in the first place. (More of that later).

On with the ride

We rode on down to Sackville for a ferry ride and then on to Berowra for another ferry ride, chatting away the miles, enjoying the hills and revelling in the descents. Even the Cattai Ridge Road was not as painful as I recalled. I was getting a bit of hot foot and my achilles tendon was playing up but the miles passed pleasantly and before too long we were at the finish enjoying a quick rissoto and beer with the others and sharing stories. There are some impressively fast riders out there. The first group were back by 3pm.

It was a great day, fabulous ride and I really enjoyed the company.

Anyway so impressed was I with Nick and Naomi's bikes I have decided to follow through and get myself a Rivendell Sam Hillborne, Maybe even some tweed bags and a flannelet cycling shirt. Style I think, counts for a lot with me.

Mileage in Km = 2320

BRM km = 1000

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tallowa Dam 200 - the ride of the damned

The easter long weekend saw the successful completion of the Tallowa Dam ride (Hooray!). Have some history with this one, having broken down on it last year (see my post 3 flats and a buggered knee). But this year it was a different story entirely, Well I made it for a start, it was cooler which made it a lot easier, and it rained quite heavily

I got the job of organizing the ride and was pretty happy to see a larger than normal group roll up on Saturday morning for the start. As well as the usual suspects, we had an "international" visitor from New Zealand, an interstate visitor (The ACT counts) plus a few making the trip down from Sydney for the ride.

We had spruiked the ride as covering some of the best scenery the Illawarra has to offer and the first half of the ride did not disappoint. Departing from Dapto we were spoilt with clear views across the escarpment and the gentle rolling hills around Albion Park and Tongarra. Climbing the pass the group began to spread out with the faster riders leaping ahead. Conditions on the pass were lovely and a number of Lyre Birds and King Parrots were spotted.

Before reaching the top of Macquarie Passs the route veers right to tackle the Tourist Road and its climb up over the Kangaloon Valley passing the Headwaters of the Nepean River and the snarling attack dogs - small and awkward, before the mostly downhill section along Sheepwash Road to the first Controle at Fitzroy Falls.

I kidded myself that I was riding sweep in case anyone required assistance, but I was just slow. Gravity sped me up on the ride down to Kangaroo Valley, topping 85kph on the descent and I caught up with Bec crossing the Hampton Bridge - carefully.

During the long slow climb up almost to the Dam (steep descent to the water) I started to see the faster riders coming back up and down. The sun was out now and it was growing warmer. Though not as intensely ovenlike as it has been.

Made it down the steep hill to the Dam wall and took the obligatory anti-summit picture before regrouping and heading back up the steep climb.

I soon commenced cramping and dismounted and walked a number of times. Highlight of the climb up was a very large goanna basking by the side of the road.

Topping out it's a good undulating ride back down towards Kangaroo Valley, a section of the ride highlight by sighting a large Wombat (alive) and the beginning of the rain. Arriving at the second controle I was greeted with cheers (thanks guys) and the disappointing news that the cafe had stopped taking orders for lunch. Damn! I broke open my emergency energy bar supply and before long was happily rounding up the tail to climb the last major obstacle of the route - Barrengarry Mountain.

At the foot of the climb the rain began, and the traffic picked up. I donned my reflective vest and had the lights flashing brightly and turned towards the climb. The road was slick and in many places I succeeded in spinning my wheel and it became necessary to dismount and walk. This happened more frequently as the climb wore on, partly cause I was knackered, but also it seemed safer to walk in may places as the wet conditions, high traffic speed and general absence of road shoulder were causing me some concern.

Eventually, after what seemed like an hour, the road began to flatten out, the rain grew heavier and the fog began to thicken. Pretty sure I was at the top. I came across a number of cycle tourists along the way, sensibly waiting for the rain to ease before undertaking the descent. Smart move.

I was really happy to reach the turnoff to Myra Vale Road and leave the traffic behind. A couple of km in I stopped to rest and put on some more layers as the conditions were very wet and increasingly cold. My speedo was also playing up but I managed to fix it with a spare ziplock bag and a rubber band. I was also very happy to find the the new Carradice Tourist bag was bone dry on the inside.

Sucking down some gu I then set up the remaining climbs to Robertson and then cautiously descended the Pass in improving conditions. Big ups to the driving of the Mazda who patiently sat behind me for a good few kilometers until it was safe to pass.

Once back on the relative flat the rain had eased and tailwind was ready to push me home and on the final freeway leg I was happily pushing along at 35kph, which always feels good with 190km on the legs.

Made it in last rounding up to 12 hours for the ride certainly a slow ride but with over 2500m of vertical gain (closer to 3000 I think) and the difficult conditions I was very pleased.

More pleasing yet is that I'm an official starter for Perth Albany Perth, so with luck I will get my first 1200 under my belt this season.

Mileage in Kilometers 2150