I returned to the world of brevet riding today with the Berrima 200. The route looked a beauty and at this time of year riding in the NSW Southern Highlands is very pleasant, mild weather, light winds with only the hills to spoil the fun.
2 others had committed to the ride, while another couple came as far as the Pie Shop in Robertson before turning back, and we set off from Dapto at 7am looking forward to the day ahead. I hadn't completed a brevet for about 12 months and in the interim the longest ride I had completed was about 100km. Despite feeling a bit ague-y during the week I really wanted to ride, partially because I just wanted to do a long one, but I also needed to prove to myself that I could, bung foot and all.
Climbing Macquarie Pass was challenging and slow, but I was pleased to be coping with it, once at the top it was a short hop across and down to Fitzroy Falls for the first controle. A quick coffee and water top up, we headed off as a group, but somewhere along the Nowra road I began to feel a sharp stabbing pain in my achilles tendon. Crap, bung foot now buggered ankle. I spent the next few kilometers wrestling with myself and the pain, doubts looming large about being able to complete the ride.
At last I reached down to massage the tendon and realised that the zip on my leg warmers was digging itself into my ankle, a quick flip and behold the crippling achilles tendon pain was gone. A mixture of relief and embarrassment ensued, but it did give me more confidence to continue.
We stopped for an early lunch and Bundanoon and then headed off towards Wingello. Mark and Kevin were making good time into the slight headwind at this stage, and I was able to hold their wheels but soon realised that I didn't have the kays for it and would need to ride my own ride. I dropped off the back and happily pootled along, enjoying the birds (Black cockatoos and two yellow tailed cockatoos and lots of rosellas) until I caught up with them at the Wingello General store, our second controle and welcomed stop.
A couple of kids, brother and sister, were pretty impressed that we had ridden up from Dapto, asked lots of questions and showed us their bikes, even perform some daredevil tricks, as we left they rode their bikes around furious demonstrating power slides and wheelies. They were great.
After a short ride through pleasant bushland/farmland we joined the Hume Hwy for the next 30kms on to Berrima, I settled into my rhythm and let the others roll away, content to adopt a slow down and enjoy the ride approach. Soon I was exiting the Hume and aiming for Berrima where I stopped for a berry muffin and caffeine sugar hit. 20 minutes later I was back on the bike and cycling up out of town. The first hill was persistent, then the next - Bendooley Hill - was a real tester after 130kms. Eventually I road over the KOM 500m marker and knew I would make it to the top. From there, the view was just fine.
In my mind I began to break the ride down into doable sections. With 70kms to go, and the last of the checkpoints behind me I needed small goals, nothing too far, so I could keep my head and manage my increasing fatigue. Mittagong was next, 14km - easy peasy I kept repeating to myself.
And within 45mins, I was tracking through Mittagong, next stop Bowral, 7kms. Laughably easy. Good thing too, as there is a slow climb between the two and I was glad when I crested and coasted up and along the main street.
Veering out of Bowral onto Kangaloon road my next Target was the turn off to Tourist Road. This section was relatively flat and I realised that I was really, really enjoying myself. Longest ride for a long time and was confident, for the first time that I would make the distance.
After the initial first steep uphill on Tourist Road, the descent down to the valley in the late afternoon light was a pleasure. Riding along the valley, I switched on my headlights as I noticed that cars were coming at me with their lights on, then commenced the slow climb up to the Pass. This was tough and my foot began to complain but I promised myself a break at the top and kept the wheels rolling until I crossed the railway bridge that marked the practical end of the days climbing, only the descent to Albion Park and the short stretch to Dapto left.
Checking the time, I realised that I was well ahead of my 12 hour target, so I stopped and feasted on energy bars, took off my shoes and stretched out my aching foot before suiting up in wind stopper, long gloves and reflective vest (it was now almost dark and getting cold) before I took to the long decent of the Pass.
As always it was exhilarating, and apart from a few passing cars, I had the Pass to myself. At the bottom, I felt strong and refreshed, my foot was fine and my resolve was firm. Dapto here I come. Curiously, the closer I came to finishing the ride the stronger I began to feel, picking up pace and enjoying the blooming night sky until the lights of the conurbation began to wash them out. Before too long I was coasting back into the station with a tremendous sense of achievement and a time of 11.40.
The station Master told me that Kevin and Mark had arrived about an hour earlier, which was great news and I retreated to the car to pack and head home for a well earned beer. It wasn't until I uploaded the data from my Garmin later that I discovered the vertical gain on the ride was over 2400m. That was about 800m more than I had thought it would be, and I must confess that I'm glad I didn't know that at the time, it probably would have put me off, ignorance is underrated. And so ended my first BRM in 12 months.
A great day out on the bike.
Mileage in kilometers = 1697