Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Berrima 200

This past weekend saw the running of the Berrima 200 and my second tilt at the ride, which is fast becoming a favourite.

There was a bit of interest from other rides, including the local contingent and a few guys from Sydney, so we were a healthy group of 7 riders at the start.

The weather forecast was looking grim and as the ride drew nearing we were expecting to be confronted with storms and hot temperatures in the high 30s. Surprisingly, as the morning dawned I was surprised to find that it had been raining and temperatures were cool and humid.

After the paperwork at the start, we headed off after a short delay while we waiting for the last rider to join and then we set off at a fair clip heading for Macquarie Pass.

Once at the Pass, we encountered light rain for the duration of the climb, which was a welcome relief as it was becoming warm. For the first few kilometers we stayed in a loose group, which is unusual on the Pass where you tend to suffer in solitude but as the climb wore on the fit and the riders with Triples began to pull away.

I summited with Paul who had come down from Sydney in and was attempting his first 200 and we soon caught up with Mark and Terry, also down from Syndey who had paused to wait for Paul.

With one other rider yet to complete the climb I decided to wait for him to arrive and then proceed onwards to Fitzroy Falls. It didn't take long and we also collected Harvey at the Pie Shop and made a small group zipping through the countryside in fairly good conditions, high 20s,overcast and a slight, but cooling cross breeze.

At the falls we had our brevets signed and caught up with the others who were waiting for their breakfast. Ben Harvey and I decide that Bundanon would be a better lunch stop so pressed on after a short stop, filling bidons and camel backs before heading west along the Nowra Road.

Along here things began to warm up and we leap frogged each other as we worked to find our rythms. I had left my Garmin at home in my rush to leave and was finding it difficult to judge my pace. I like to average about 25kph over the ground, but not knowing my current speed was making me chop and change, but in the end I began to relax and just ride.

Stopping in Bundanoon for an early lunch at the Bike Shop Cafe is always a treat, and we all stopped except for Shane, who after eating a very large big breakfast at the Falls, and spending the last stage digesting it, pushed on.

We were soon away and rode to Wingello en mass, enjoying the growing downhill and the mostly overcast conditions which were really keeping the temperatures down. We took turns on the front with most of the work being done by Mark with a cheerful, "have a rest (insert name here)" and then proceeded to ride off the front, or maybe I was just tired. Turned out, when I caught up with him, that he wa not long back from the Bright Bootcamp and was in great form. We really didn't stand a chance.

At the control we met up with Shane again who was downing a Coke not have realised that we "all" had stopped for lunch at Bundanoon. 

From Wingello control it was a short hop to the Hume Freeway, as Shane and I rode across the railway tracks we assured everyone that we would proceed slowly, however it's mostly downhill and and we got carried away talking about the dirt series route that Shane is organising for the end of December and before we knew it we were at the intersection with the freeway, and it was hot. The cloud cover had blown off and the reflected heat was quite awesome.

We paused for a moment and saw the rest of the group approaching the intersection so rolled off on the downhill slope, enjoying the cross breeze even more so as we began a long drag up a freeway ascent. At the top I suggested we wait the others, I was planning to play a sweep roll on this section as the more inexperienced riders would be starting to push their limits, the freeway is littered with debris that can cause punctures and I'd rather be cathcing them from behind than riding back. Especially in the heat.

Everyone passed us in good time and we set out after the last rider passed, I suggested that Shane should ride at his own pace as I was  going to sweep and we soon separated into a lead group and the lanterne rouge which was myself and Harvey who was struggling with the heat a bit.

Ironically it was I who punctured half way up a hill nearing the Sutton Forest service centre, so I suggested that Harvey should carry on and I'd see him in Berrima at the next control. It was hot on the road and getting hotter for a while as I set to replacing the tube and setting off again I got a call from Harvey who had taken the wrong exit. As luck would have it it was just where I was passing so I waiting and he returned to the Freeway, only a couple of bonus Km in his legs.

Riding onwe had about 6km to the exit to Berrima and enjoyed high temperatures and a section of resealed road that left a lot to be desired and forced me out into the traffic lane for a nervous while. Soon though the Berrima exit hove into view and we looped under the freeway to find Terry with a flat and trying to fix it.

Terry's first words to me were that he hadn't done this for a while, well since he was a kid so we offered assistance, and after realising that one of his spare tubes was holed, replaced it with his last and got him back on the road.

When we eventually arrived at the control we found the rest of the bunch looking concernedly at their mobiles and slightly relieved that we had t last arrived. Terry soon followed us in and we where able to patch his tube so he had a spare, eat some delicious pastry, drink, ablute and share tales of suffering. At this point of the ride the on road temperature had hit 41 degrees, but thankfully cloud was coming in and temperatures dropped back down for the rest of the ride.

We still had a bit of climbing to do with the steep climb out of Berrima itself and the feared Bendooley Hill. With 70km yet to ride, and through the tough conditions earlier, we stayed as a group for much of the way, after the climbing breaking into two groups that rejoined at Bowral, or last chance of supplied before heading down the pass.

While everyone was getting tired, some were feeling it more than others and as 3 guys were now well passed their longest rides a more conservative pace was being set and we stopped frequently to let stragglers catch up and others to have a breather. I was determined to see everyone finish the ride and get their Brevet and thanks to the early conditions we had a lot of time and the pleasure of a 10 km descent of the pass to look forward to. I  brought this up a lot in conversation with the others. Sure you odo says 160km but 12 km of that is all downhill so you only have 28kay to go." Not sure if they believed me.

Heading down tourist road we again split into two groups and proceeded along at a reasonable pace and made the top of the pass before dark. From here is was like falling off a log and I was greatly relieved that barring a major incident, everyone was home and hosed.

So I set off down the pass in the cool evening air like a rat down an aqueduct until I saw a line of brake lights and parked cars ahead. Fearing an accident lower down I discovered that a truck was stuck on a hairpin bend and felt cheered by this, until I saw the truck.

It was in fact very stuck and probably shouldn't have been on the road as it had no chance of making this particular corner. The truck occupied every inch of available roadspace (a credit to the driver really) and we had to crawl under the trailer with our bikes to get through, much to the amusement of the cars waiting either side. Well at least I interpreted it as amusement. Things were actually pretty tense, and we didn't hand around for photos but took advantage of the fact that the lower reaches of the Pass would be relatively free from traffic and took off for an epic, fun descent.

Shane soon arrived alongside me and we reverse our earlier route back to Dapto to find Mark and his friends had arrived shortly before us and were draping themselves over the grass and pouring cold water on hot bodies.

10 minutes later Ben and Harvey rolled in to complete the 100% success rate and we all left soon after, salt stains on our knicks telling the story of a long hard day out .

 Mileage in Kilometers = 5860

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