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


Treadly and Me said...

Excellent! Glad you made it through this time.

I wonder if this ride has the makings of a 'classic' that will continue to attract riders from near and far?

Adrian E said...

Great ride Grant. Thanks for organising it. That was the best 200 brevet I've been on so far. Challenging and beautiful. Look forward to seeing you at tomorrow's ride.