Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Winery Wander 300

After a spot flu that kept me off the rode for the inaugural Tarago 400, I decided I would travel north to have a go at the Winery Wander 300, and so move me a bit closer to completing a super series this year.

The start in Berowra is about 2 hours away from home so it was an early start on Saturday morning, as the alarm rang out a 3.15am and a bit dazed and sleepy I jumped into the car to head off. A few kilometers later I realized I was still wearing my ugg boots, but it was too late to turn back for more appropriate footwear. I also managed to miss the motorway exit and had to endure a 15 minute detour which meant that I would miss my chance of a coffee and have to rush to get ready on time.

I was the last rider to arrive at Berowra, but only just, and quickly changed into my riding gear and loaded the bike, got checked and away we went, only 5 minutes late.

In the dark and preoccupied with my preparation, I didn't really have a chance to familiarize myself with the bunch which was made up of 300 and 200km riders, so I set off into the cold, going a nit hard to warm up. Before long things were settling down after we descended from Cowan and with the sun beginning to rise I decided to pause for a photo, realizing at the same time that in my rush to get going I had not properly put my bib knicks and the shoulder loops were flapping by my side.

After partially disrobing on the road and being passed by a few familiar faces, I jumped back on the bike to make up lost ground. Passing a few riders on the climb up Mt White I found Dave, who I had ridden with on the Oppy earlier in the year and we fell into place for the rest of the ride.

As the day opened up before us it was clear it was going to be a great day for riding and after a brief pause at Peats Ridge we enjoyed the beautiful countryside between Kulnarra and Broke to the first controle. Here we caught up with Howard and Hugh and after a quick breakfast we headed out this time with Mark joining to make a trio of riders.

A slight headwind had cropped up and we shared turns over the undulations for a while before turning into the quieter and lumpier roads through the wine country around Pokolbin. The countryside was truly gorgeous and I was reveling in the pleasure of riding through it in such wonderful conditions. After a few more lumps, Dave signalled his intention to take it easier along here so Mark and I headed off towards Cessnock before stopping at a cafe for a cup of coffee and a sweet. A few minutes later Dave joined us and after a short rest we set off again taking the back road towards Quorrobolong around the Watagan Mountains before heading over the gap and skirting the back of Lake Macquarie towards Morriset. I had spent quite a bit of time on the front by now and as we turned onto Wyee road, Dave suggested we stop at the servo for a quick bite to eat before carrying on to Wyong and the second controle. I was eager to do so, feeling the fatigue creeping up from the early start and I had a rare guarana drink to keep me perky. It was here that I decided to attach the battery charger to the garmin to keep it going as the internal battery was getting low only to pull the connecting wires from the box. Bugger!

We rolled into Wyong as the sun set and after a rest and card stamping at the fish and chip/chinese restaurant we donned our night attire and headed out for the last 70kms. This last section was relatively tough and included a few longish climbs, and a few longish descents to break the monotony! As always the Cowan climb loomed before us and I was very glad to reach the Pie and set the controls for the relatively easy run back to Berowra.

I pulled into the station carpark at 9.30, a few minutes ahead of Mark and Dave. It was a great day out and confirmed my love of 300s, tough enough to make you work hard for most of the day, but without the sleep deprivation of 400s.

I was back home in a couple of hours and slept like a log, waking on Sunday morning to the pleasant ache of achievement.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Berry Mountain 200

Saturday saw the second running of the Berry Mountain 200. A few riders from Sydney plus a few from Wollongong, meant that the second run would be more populated than the first, though both inaugural completers i.e. Shane and Me were back for more.

The weather forcast had been looking good for most of the week leadin gup to the ride until thursday when strong westerly winds fetured in the forcast. They were supposed to abat during the day, so we set off from Dapto, gritting our teeth into a cold wind but optimistic that it may slacken off during the day.

It didn't.

The first control after a hard slog into and a pleasant run with the wind saw coffee cups blow off their plates and bikes crash over, further on we experienced wild pushes that sent us off line but it was all part of the day.

First control at gerringing #audax

As we pushed on the group moved ahead towards the mountain as one, though I was feeling the effects of the cold and dropped back, happy to plug away at my own pace.

I soon found myself at the bottom of the climb of Cambewarra Mt, after catching occasional fleeting glimpses of cyclists in flouro ahead. Starting the climb I stopped to remove my outer shell and fiddle with the new EO gear saddle bag which was proving tricky on its first run.

Plugging up the climb I was getting hotter so stopped again to remove my beany and quietly giving up hope of catching the rest of the guys.

The climb was long and steep and the false flats between Mt Berry and Cambewarra Mt seem long and hard in the wind. When I arrived at the control I found Barry and Geoff the sole riders. Seems I was the 3rd one in, but how? Everyone else was in front of me...

Soon Shane and Dale hove into view having missed the turn and gone passed only to swing back.

Cambewarra mt #audax

After a short break we continued on and enjoyed a rare descent of the mountain without any cars up front or behind and soon found ourselves sloggin along the flatlands south of Nowra across the wind into Greenwell Pt. It was hard work and we were glad to find the cafe at the end of the point for  lunch. Well some of us were :-)

Greenwell pt #audax

The return leg had us facing back into the wind en route to Nowra before turning with the wind for a very fast passage out through Bomaderry and along 7 mile beach road. before stopping at the penultimate control at Crooked River.

Something warm and something sugary at Crooked River #audax 50km to go :-)

I hung around to see Shane roll in at about 3.45pm and with heaps of time up our sleeve we set off for to cover the remaining 50kms. Shane had beene xperiencing some gearing problems all day so was travelling conservatively and I soon drew away over the hills.

Stopping to switch on lights and don vest at Kiama, as the sunset and temperatures dropped I was soon cocooned in my lights and tapping away for the finish. I made one wrong turn up a freeway exit, but managed to loop back down and continue on to Dapto without any further misadventure.

It had been a challenging day but I was glad to be out and commencing my preparation for the SM1200 in November.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vale Richard Ballantine

I was saddened to learn over the weekend that Richard Ballantine, author of "Richard's Bicycle Book" has died.

Richard's Bicycle Book was an enormous influence on my riding and love and cycling, and I've been recalling fondly, afternoons spent planning rides, repairs and civil disobedience while turning it's pages.

I hope he is turning the pedals even now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

3 Parks 200

Following the Riverina Romp I decided to move my new bike purchase forward and took delivery of a Cervelo R3 last week.

After a few tuning rides I felt confident to remove the saddle from my faithful Roubaix and attach it to the R3 for this weekends 3 Parks Ride,  a 200 km brevet that is known for it's relentless pursuit of hills.

I had scheduled the ride in the Audax calender, but at this time of year there's a bit going on so I found myself the only taker for the ride. I had the company of Harvey on  the way up the pass but after that I was on my own. we started at 6.30am and the early conditions as we rode across the flatlands were foggy, cool and moist.


At the top of the pass Harvey and I parted ways - Harvey for a Pie at the Robbo Pie shop and me for the undulations of Tourist Road. Tourist Road is a favourite for many local cyclists and it was typically beautiful on Saturday, especially so as the fog began to lift and the warming rays of the sun came through to brighten the road as I approached the watershed of the Nepean River. From here I traversed across the valley, resplendent in its autumn colours, and I enjoyed the short but steady climb out the other side and onto the Gibraltar range ridge.

Tourist rd on 3 parks 200 #audax

Range Rd which follows the ridge line above Bowral and Mittagong has a few steep climbs before plunging down into the town of Mittagong, where, with 70ish kilometers up I stopped for breakfast at the Tick Tock cafe.


From Mittagong it was downhill to Picton (more or less) though I experienced some navigational uncertainty when I took a turn off the main road to find a new and unfamiliar subdivision in my path. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't there last time, so I spent a bit of time nosing around before finding the correct turn a 1km or so back up the hwy and enjoyed the fast downhill run to Picton via many of the smaller highlands towns. During this section I was feeling very comfortable on the R3, it was predictable, comfortable and when I pushed down on the pedals it went forward.

I stopped for lunch at a Cafe in Picton and chatted with an older couple about wildflowers in Western Australia,  while I enjoyed my pie and coffee. As the next section of the ride was going to be a bit lumpy,  I was in no hurry to get away, especially as I had quite a bit of time in the bank despite the climb of Macquarie Pass and getting lost earlier.

Eventually I dragged myself away and once again found my rythm while enjoying the ride of the Cervelo on increasingly broken road surfaces. Once over the rollers on Menangle Rd, I turned right into Douglas Park for the dread Gorge. From the bottom the Hume Freeway bridge towers above, so I stopped for a photo and then commenced the climb. It's not especially long, but has grades of 25% and above for short sections, so I was glad to make the top.

Douglas park gorge #audax

By Broughton Pass things were becoming a bit overcast with clouds scudding in from the north and the breeze beginning to lift. Nothing too dramatic but while I had afternoon tea at Appin I was wondering if I was to get wet, especially with the most hectic section of the ride coming up between Appin and Bulli Tops to traverse, I was hoping for good conditions.

Broughton Pass #audax

The trip acorss to the tops was dry but busy and the crossing of Loddon Creek on the single lane shoulderless bridge was heaertstopping, but nevertheless survivable. As I turned onto the old Princes Hwy I felt the first few drops of rain and before long I found wet road and then rain that kept me company through to Stanwell Tops.

Rain aside, I was on the homeward leg now -with a tailwind to boot - and with more time up my sleeve than I normally do, I pulled into Bulli for second afternoon tea and an energy sustaining caramel slice before cranking out the 10kms left for home

Bulli, 7km to go on 3 parks and I was feeling peckish #audax

Riding up the hill towards home I coasted into the driveway just on 5pm. A little damp, but pretty happy with the day's riding and very impressed with the R3. Later I was surprised by how fresh I felt and put that down mostly to the bike.

The ride data told me that I spent 8hrs 31 minutes  at an average speed of 24.7kph  which meant I spent two hours stuffing my face and taking photos. Quite a nice day out really.

Mileage in Kilometers = 4337

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Riverina Romp 600

Last weekend I had a go at the Riverina Romp 600 organised by the ACT Audax riders and starting in Yass. It was going to be my longest ride for some time and while I am yet to complete a 400, my form on the Opperman 24hour ride had given me a bit of confidence and I really want to complete a super series this year and was fast running out of 600km rides.

My luck had changed as the weather forecast for the weekend was excellent and I was feeling pretty good and the bike was in good fettle. Everything was there for a good ride.

The route was to take us northwest from Yass to Boorowa then west to Young, Stockbingal and Temora before heading south through Coolamon and then to the overnight stop at Wagga Wagga. The second day was via back roads to Bethungra and then to Cootamundra before heading over the range to Harden, back into Boorowa and then back to Yass via Binnalong.

I arrived in Yass just on sunset on Friday evening, found my room at the motel and before long had met Bob the organiser and was enjoying dinner at the Swaggers restaurant with some of the other riders.Amongst them were Grahame, Russell (who was part of the oppy team) and Cribby from Tenterfield. Dinner done I retired to my room and slept well until the alarm went off at 5am. Phone told me it was 2.5c so I layered up and drove to the start at the Yass Service Centre.

The riders soon massed at the start and the field was expanded by riders from Canberra and Wagga Wagga so we made a peloton of about 11 as we headed off, not knowing anyone very well and in the dark I was happy to follow the blinking lights and adjust to the pace. From the start the ACT approach was clear, stick together and stay efficient and we bunched towards Boorowa with some concern for Russell who had dropped off (he had punctured both wheels we later found out and had to drop out). As we rode, the sun slowly rose and provided a welcome relief to the cold and moist air, though at one point we crested a hill to find a spectacular inversion effect spread across a valley, with mist below us. Inevitably we dropped back down into this valley to lose the sun but the view was great from the top.

I required a nature stop at Boorowa and then found myself on my own for a bit on the road to Young. The sun rose higher and I stopped to strip off some layers before catching up with the group in Young.

Just outside Young #audax

I sculled a coffee and then left with the others who after a few hills formed an orderly bunch, Anthony acting as Captain and keeping us in line. Along this road I chatted to Cassie who as a twice finisher of RAAM I held in some awe and was soon introduced into the finer points of riding with this bunch taking a turn on the front for what seemed like hours before getting some advice from Anthony.


We rolled along, into a headwind and soon made Stockbingal where we stopped and enjoyed elevenses at the cafe with homemade cakes and quite fine coffee.


From there, well fueled and joined by Michael, we made an orderly train along the mostly flat roads towards Temora and then turned to enjoy a tailwind towards our dinner checkpoint at Coolamon. The weather was wonderful and we enjoyed a glorious sunset shortly before riding into the town and finding the control set up and ready to feed at a small park.

Sunset #audax

From Coolamon to Wagga Wagga was only 70ish km along back roads and we again rode on in a bunch, watching the moon rise full and orange into the sky. Fatigue was beginning to become a factor and we spread apart on the dark roads but by the time we were in the outer suburbs of Wagga Wagga everyone was rolling togther and we were soon at our respective hotels/houses by 9.15. The days riding had seen me accomplish my fastest 200 and 300s and I was very pleased to see a nice chunk of time for resting in a comfy bed, with a planned starting time of 4am in the morning.

After a shower, I prepared things for the next day, packed my dirty kit into a post pack for mailing home and set the alarm for 3.30am and was soon asleep. And then, it seemed after I had closed my eyes, the alarm was ringing and it was time to get up.

Pulling up at the arranged place, Grahame was already waiting and before ,ong we were joined by Tom and toegther we began the second day of the ride, in the cold and dark, dodgy errant kangaroos as they bounced fleetingly into the beams of our headlights.

The going was tough for me during this stage, I was tired, cold and miserable. The brain kept wanting me to stop and sleep by the side of the road and I fell behind the others only catching them when they halted to clarify a route turning. I perservered howevr, there was nowhere to stop and the only way I could conceivably get home, other than on my bike, was from Cootamundra, which was 120kms away.

After about 2 hours of struggling the dawn began to break and as the landscape lightened so did I, until the first rays of the sun did their warming work and before too long I was feeling happier and strong again.

We easily identified the various information controls along this section, stopped briefly in Bethungra to delayer and top up water and enjoyed a long chat with a garrulous gentleman who provided some good advice about the route ahead.

We soon found ourselves climbing, short but steep rollers and after a brisk descent were in Cootamundra by 11.30am, back in front of the clock and ready for brunch.

Leaving Cootamundra, Tom indicated that he would press on as he wanted to be home early and left Grahame and me in his wake as we commenced the increasingly difficult climb up onto the Great Dividing Range.

We found ourselves in a sequence of rolling hills, were we would ascend for 1km and descend for 1 km slowly gaining more and more height as we went east. It was hard work and the day had turned quite warm making the going at times tough but we eventually worked our way up to 600m and made it into Harden for the 3rd last control, surprisingly we had made up a bit of time as well.

The wind was no freshening, but thankfully it was behind us our slightly cross for most of the next stage back to Boorowa. Again we climbed and descended and climbed again and our stop at Boorowa was the beginning of the end, only 90kms more to travel so we were able to enjoy the late afternoon and early evening before riding into the penultimate control at Binnalong just on dusk.

Nearly done #audax

With darkness now descending the remaing 37kms to Yass was not without adventure. The route was forced to transit along Burly Griffin Way, a very busy road with some long rolling hills and inadequate shoulder, but thankfully we soon turned off that road before rejoining the Hume Freeway for the last few kilometers to the finish.

As luck would have it, about 4kms out I flatted (first and I think only one for the ride) but this was soon repaired (and thnaks to the unkown cyclist who stopped in his car to offer the use of his track pump and tools) and we were soon at the service centre, cards signed and stamped and more than pleased with the weekends riding.

I enjoyed the ride so much, that I rewarded myself with a new bicycle, a Cervelo R3. I shall take it on it's maiden audax ride soon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting used to the pies

After surviving my manflu I wasn't anticipating any heroic riding this weekend. In fact I had committed to some extracurricular work activities (which involved driving a mini loader) so was less than optimistic about riding too far.

Saturday morning I rode with Ben on our Asquith St loop and varied it with a new segment through Mangerton, and then I spent a solid 5 hours at the controls of the loader shifting railway sleepers and building garden beds. The loader was fast though, and by the end of the day the planned weekends work was done. Cue Barry's email that he was riding up through the gong on route to the Pie Shop with his triathalon club and would I like to meet up?

I thought that I would, perhaps not all the way but at least some of it so I arranged to meet at 8.30am at the Harbour and set off from there with the group of about 25 other riders. Apart from Barry I didn't know anyone but chatted along as we cruised through the flat lands around the Lake and towards Albion Park. Bunch riding is always an interesting experience, some riders have impeccable discipline, other's less so and I worked to avoid to swervey wobbly riders, admired a nice Cervelo R3 and winced at chain crossing and poor fit.


We stopped for water briefly at Albion Park before heading along in single file up the Illwarra Hwy towards the pass. The climbing began to string the group out a bit and as we neared the bottom of the Pass most of the club members pulled in to regroup and to contest the KOM, while I just rolled through.

It was pretty warm now and the climbing was hot, and there was lots of traffic and a large number of vintage and veteran cars en route to a car show in Bowral. My inner rev head enjoyed the progression of MGs, Sunbeams, FE Holdens and the odd Jaguar. I was less enamoured of the modern motorcyclists who were racing themeselves and overtaking on blind curves however. They were just dumb.

As I passed the 2 thirds point on the climb I was passed by a few of the faster triathaletes, but only a few and was soon at the Pie shop for the second time in a week, enjoying their wares and cooling my heels waiting for the others to arrive.


Sure enough they were soon all there. Most were getting lifts back to Cronulla though a few were planning to ride back to Albion Park Rail for the train, while Barry was aiming to ride all the way home. So four of us set off for the descent and enjoyed a traffic free screamer. One of Barry's mates, Peter, dropped like a stone and we were flat out trying to keep him in sight. I learn't a lot on the way down.

It was a steady roll back into town after that. The other's had some cramps and a puncture and then there was a headwind but being relatively fresh and nearer to home I enjoyed sitting on the front and tapping out a rhythm, though I'd sometimes roll off the front and have to slow down.

Nice day for a ride


Once back into the City we rode past the Wollongong Station and Peter opted for the train for the rest of the journey while Barry carried on, arriving back home in Sutherland at about 7pm with 240kms done.  I did 105 which was a pretty easy day in comparison.

I quite enjoyed the ride though, a bit of variety was a treat, the waether was great and I was feeling well recovered from my cold.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tallong bridge and a bodgy bottom bracket

Last week I noticed that my drivetrain was getting worn so ordered a replacement chain, cassette and bottom bracket though as the week progressed I realised that I needed the bb sooner rather than later and while climbing up Macquarie Pass this morning on the monthly 200, I was losing confidence in the bb's ability to get me all the way there and back.

It had that nasty slop where the pedal would rock through a quarter turn before feeling like it was engaged with the chain. So at the top of the pass I decided to avert disaster and turn for home, but not before enjoying a pie and a ginger beer at the Robbo Pie Shop.


Ben was coming with me as far as the Pie shop so with the pie onboard we both headed back for home towards a lowering sky which decided to catch us out with a downpour only 3km from home.

I cycled on the bike shop and got a replacement bb and spent a happy hour cleaning bike and replacing bearings. As it turned out they were well shot, the seals had gone and water was lapping around the bearings. They'd only done 8k or so. I may need to review my maintenance schedule!

On the positive side the weather radar has revealed that the route was copping a lot of rain - the stupid clouds hadn't realised I was at home and dry, So weather 0.5, me 1 , for a change.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fleche Opperman 2013

My last Oppy was in 2011 and was an epic in inclement weather, in 2013 I had an opportunity to complete my 4th Oppy at relatively short notice and jumped at the chance.  The team was comprised of diverse and it turned out "reduxing" riders who for one reason or another had been off the bike for a period of time (heart problems, foot problems, cramping problems, etc). I didn't know about the reduxing part until during the ride but it was going to be interesting so I said yes.

The route was to take us across the north of Sydney to Hornsby and then to Fennell Bay in Lake Macquarie along the old Pacific Hwy and Expressway. From there we would return around the Lake via Morriset and Wyee before tracking into Wyong before retracing our path back through Peats Ridge and Hornsby to our sleep stop at Seaforth. The last leg was from Seaforth to Parramatta park via the harbour bridge.

I had arranged to spend Friday night at Seaforth  to save an early start on Saturday morning and was glad I did. Stephen's home is nestled on the shores of Middle Harbour and provided terrific and relaxing views over the water and pleasurecraft. We enjoyed a quuite evening preparing and talking bikes before heading to bed.

#oppy13 has dawned clear and fair

The day dawned spectacularly and by 8 o'clock the team had gathered and was organised, Philip, Russell, David, Stephen and me. We set off, Stephen leading us through the maze of streets that wook us through Seaforth and beyond. The early stages of a ride are always interesting, observing how others ride, settling in to ones own rhythm and remaining observant. The Saturday morning traffic was also heavy and we were glad to leave the relatively busy roads of suburban north Sydney for the quieter conditions along the Pacific Hwy. We were travelling along quite well together, and I was feeling strong and comfortable.

Peats Ridge 84km down #oppy13


Shortly after crossing the Hawkesbury River bridge some close passing traffic froced me through a bad patch of tarmac and I pinch flatted my front tyre. No big deal (and as it turned out the only puncture on the ride) and I set to repair it aided by Philip while the others decided to ride along and start the climb up Mt White. It was a beautiful day though growing steadily warmer as the clouds burnt off. Puncture repaired Philip and I soon caught the others and we continued along the climb past Mt White and onto our first control at Peats Ridge where it was now becoming quite hot, with 30c showing on my garmin.

From Peats Ridge we enjoyed a period of descent enroute to the F3 and Toronto. I was feeling pretty good and with the tailwind we were picking up some pace. Word came up that we were to make an unscheduled stop at the Service Centre at Paruna for water so we pulled in for a quick break.

Water stop at Paruna on the f3 hot but tailwind is nice. #oppy13

Before heading onwards for the 30kms to the Toronto exit. I was travelling at the front of the group swapping turns with David and Phillip, and we paised at the turnoff for Russell and Stephen, who was struggling a bit in the heat, to catch up.


From the turnoff we had a good run on quieter roads to Toronto, taking a turn along the foreshore to see the cool waters of Lake Macquarie before heading to the turnaround point at Fennell Bay. I was starving so we called in at the Macdonalds for some salt and fat and it was here that Stephen succumbed to the heat, experience some heat stroke and painful cramps. At first he suggested that he wouldn't be able to carry on and we should head off, but it became clear that he needed some assistance so we hung around, called his wife and then an ambulance. We propped him on a table and amidst his pained groans applied ice to cool him down.

It was a bit of a worry but as things transpired he was OK and had experienced similar issues a few times before. With Stephen tucked safely in an ambulance and on route to a clinic, his bike safely in the boot of he's wife's car, we were free to continue our journey back towards Sydney and a sleep.

We were now a fair bit behind schedule and headed off into the setting sun around Lake Macquarie towards our next control at Wyong. As the sun set we fell into a strong rhythm, taking turns on the front and pulled into a relatively lifeless Wyong at about 9pm.

After a quick stop at an all night service station we continued along, climbing Ourimbah Mountain on the F3 before turning off at Somersby for a return visit to Peats Ridge. The cafe's were long closed but the blutions were open so we filled up our bidons and headed back out onto the road. It was now quite late and we were getting slower and the sleep break arrival time blew out from 1am to 2am then 3am in the blinking of a microsleep.

A slow 300 to be sure, but we were all together and travelling with various degrees of doggedness. And eventually, after a close encounter with a Powerful Owl at Mt White we felt renewed vigour as we sped up the Wakehurst Parkway towards Seaforth and enough time for a shower and 90 minutes of sleep.

An hour and a half doesn't seem like much but I awoke refreshed to see the waters of Middle Harbour riffling in a strong breeze. Once outside again and on the bike, the breeze seemed much stronger, especially comming across the Spit, Harbour and Anzac Bridges.


ONce the other side of Pyrmont and tracking through the inner west, the wind dropped off and we made steady progress towards Parramatta along the various cycleways. I particularly enjoyed the river path at Ryde, but not as much as I enjoyed entering Parramatta Park and tracking towards the finish.

We were the second group in with 15 minutes to spare and 364kms under the wheels. Soon we were joined by the other teams who had managed a simiarl distance, longest being the Psychologists from Newcastle who completed 390km.

So with Oppy number 4 completed I enjoyed a big breakfast before heading off for a couple of ferry rides back to Manly and the drive home.

Journey home after #oppy13

Ferry ride part 2 #oppy13

The scenery on the water capped the day off nicely!

Mileage in Kilometers = 2404
Meters climbed = 26,608

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Royal Ride - wet windy and alone

I had been planning to ride the Gunning 400 last weekend however the ride was cancelled due to the inclement weather (there was a tornado and torrential rain) and had been tapering for that so really haven't done very much except the odd morning jaunt, some hill repeats and such.

Today though I was organising the Royal Ride 200, a personal favourite of mine which takes in the beautiful coast and much of the Royal National Park. After an initial flurry of interest the usual suspects were otherwise engaged and then the early interest faded so it was just little old me for the ride.

Again, the weather was looking poor, forecast of scattered showers and southerly winds to 55kph and when I awoke, it was raining and I really had to push myself out of the door.

The route commences with a loop around Lake Illawarra and I was pleased to see that the roads were dry once I cleared the bulk of Mt Kembla. The wind was also pretty benign at this early stage and things went  well. There was a bit of shower at Windang and  the wind was picking up but by this time it was on my rear quarter so was an added benefit.

Before long I was up Bald Hill and descending into the Royal National Park. The roads were wet but inside the park I was sheltered from the wind, though there were occasional showers every now and then.

The various creeks and rivers in the park were running and made a delightful sound and site as I rode along

Toonuum falls

A few showers passed over, but I had decided to wear my merino long sleeve jersey and it dried well after the showers and did a good job of keeping me warm. Especially as I had now climbed up to the main ridge of the park and was heading towards Bundeena for the halfway point and lunch.

Bundeena - half way

 I enjoyed a chicken burger at the "pasho" before heading back up the hill and on to Audley. The rain came again in waves, this time a little more concentrated on where I was before passing. The weir at Audley was open but high.


 From here I had a short steep climb up before turning back for home along the Hwy and into the wind for a short while before descending back into the park from Waterfall.


Crossing the bridge at the bottom of the descent the river was looking more swollen than before. I carried on, sheltered from wind now, but I could hear it in the trees every now and then. It wasn't long though before I heard a new sound, looking ahead I saw sheeting rain, racing towards me. Oh well I thought another scattered shower, but It wasn't and for the next 30kms I was caught in a very dense downpour. The road was soon running with water and I could only plug along into it.

Topping out at Bald Hill it was foggy, windy and very wet. I was nearly blown over as I entered the lookout and took shelter in the amenties to refill my bidons and listen to the howling in the eaves.

The descent of Bald Hill was a tentative affair, I just wanted to make it down without falling and from there I just had to grind it out. The sea cliff bridge put on a show, with waves crashing beneath, and rain and wind thrashing above. I was glad to clear it  and then focus on the remaining familiar and less weather thrashed road home.

By the time I got to Sandon point I turned to see what I had just ridden through.

Just rode through that cloud

And was glad it was nearly over.I still had 20km to go plugging into the wind and frequent squalls but I was already wet through and the more it rained the less I heard the drive train squeaking in protest so I soon found myself rounding the bend for home, a warm shower and a beer.

Despite the weather, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed the ride, I even managed to complete it in under 9 hours which is one of my faster 200s.

Mileage in Kms = 1785
Climbing in Meters = 20,622

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Shoes

The quest for the perfect pair of shoes really knows no bounds and on Friday I picked up a pair of wide fit Bont Vaypors.

They look the goods and a 70km ride on Saturday with poorly aligned cleats showed them to be quite comfortable though I am yet to heat mold them. They are much lighter than the current workhorse Sidis and very stiff.

New shoes

I hope to sort them out during the week and use them in anger a couple of times before the Gunning 400 at the end of the month.

Saturday's ride saw Ben and I head north to intersect with Barry as he came south. We rode up to Bald Hill and then with Barry safely met, we returned to the gong for second breakfast at North gong

This morning I headed out with Harvey for a clockwise Lake Loop taking in Hill 60 and a detour up O'Briens road, which is steep and at least today, hot. The view from Hill 60 was typically refreshing though.

With today's ride I surpassed my 200km goal for the week and find myself sitting on 1,348km for the year with 14,912m climbed.

To celebrate I cleaned the Roubaix and even gave it a coat of wax. Shiny bike to match the shiny shoes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Berry Mountain 200

We are bound by our concept of what is possible. An as far as Wollongong Audax goes this is true. We had a series of tried and true rides or variations of them that concentrated on roads west, and sometimes north of the Illawarra. However late last year, my friend and fellow audax member Shane ventured south beyond the southern Kiama barrier and had himself some fun on a few climbs down that way. I reckoned if it was possible to get south of the bends, a 200 or 3 would open up and we would have some new routes to enjoy.

So with Shane's experiences to hand, the advice of some locals and a thirst for the new I conceived the Berry Mountain 200 as a first foray into the deep south.

So as a new route, there are wrinkles to iron out, but otherwise the ride was as challenging and enjoyable as a good audax ride should be. Travelling through diverse countryside, regulated farming, urban, national park, wooded climbs coastal and flat estaurine plain the route demonstrates the geographical diversity of this thin strip of land along the Pacific Ocean.

Poetic route design aside, practically the days ride was looking bad. The weather forecast promised rain, chance of storms and strong southerly winds. All of which turned out to be true. It was also very cold (for February - actually it was very cold for August) though we were committed to the ride.

5 riders had expressed an interest though the prevailing weather mean't that just Shane and I would attempt the ride, Ben and Harvey decided to come along as far as Gerringong before heading back and Barry thought better of it before driving the 100km from Sydney at 4.30am.

So from the start the forecast strong southerly winds were there. As I rode from home to the start at Dapto I had to push hard into strong gusts.As the day wore on, the gusts would only get stronger. Luckily things stayed pretty dry until we passed through Jamberoo and were on the way to Kiama.

Berry Mountain 200

Berry Mountain 200

From here the rain got steadily worse and we were happy to arrive at the controle at the Gerringong Ice Creamery for a bit of dryness, second breakfast and coffee.

Berry Mountain 200

 It was here that Ben and Harvey turned back and Shane and I pressed on into the weather and the (for me at least) unknown.

Once through Gerroa the road flattens out before we turned right to make the undulating passage to Berry. Here we found some shelter from the wind and the rain backed off a touch given us a nice respite. Arriving in Berry we detoured around the back of the town avoiding the traffic and were soon starting to climb. Not familiar with the route and tangled in my spray shell I bid Shane adieu as he rode away, catching glimpses of him at the switchbacks. The climb was not particularly steep, through the corners were, with grade increasing to 18% for short stretches. Nearing the top the road swung back out into the wind and I learn't to appreciate the protection the hill had been giving me for the last 20 minutes.

After making it to the top of Berry Mountain I was able to extricate myself from the oven of the jacket just in time to start dropping a bit of height along tourist road and for the rain to start up again. It was along here that the Garmin route map began to experience confusion and it continued to insist that I was off course, before finding it again. Not knowing the road, it was a bit disconcerting, especially when turning at the well signposted road to the summit lookout it was insisting that I make a u turn. Nearing the summit, I'd clearly entered into cloud base, as  the rain intensified and visibility began to reduce. The single lane road had a bit of traffic too, as sightseers retreated from the weather in their 4wds, but before long I was at the top and enjoying the view!

Berry Mountain 200

The descent was good, after a few more undulations we turned onto the Moss Vale Rd, with it's large warning signs of long steep descent ahead flashing past. As escarpment descents go, this is a beauty, not as technical as some, and quite exposed at times so you can both build up considerable speed while taking in the vista. As we'd dropped back below cloud base the road was dry and we sped on to Nowra.

Navigating through the traffic at Nowra was shortlived and we were soon traversing the coastal flats dominated by cows and corn enroute to the turnaround point at Greenwell Point. It was here that we experienced the worst of the wind, as we met it head on and unprotected by any geography. Eventually we made it and the cafe at the end of town made for a welcome respite from the weather and a huge meal, before we once again set off out into the wind.

Berry Mountain 200


I had been anticipating that the return leg would be easier, however the wind had contrived to strengthen and veer, so it was another hard slog back to Nowra and across the river were we saw the local sailing club enjoying the conditions. We turned out towards Shoalhaven heads, still finding the wind, and the stench of fermenting sugar at the Manildra ethanol plant not to our liking. Though it was now drying up and we occasionally saw some patches of blue sky. Soon, but not too soon, we had cleared the heads and now more protected by vegetation we enjoyed a tailwind back up to Gerroa. However it was along here that my garmin decided to switch off so I missed a few kilometers.

Our last planned stop was at the Gerroa Caravan Park cafe, which had a pleasant ambience enhanced by a chicken who kept curious sentry at the front door. Shortly before we left a family came in with a clearly distressed little boy. He had stubbed his toe and they were in search of a bandaid. Happily I carry a stripped out first aid kit on longer rides and more happily have not yet had to use it on myself and I was happy to lend a hand.

Back on the bikes we traversed through Gerringong, and down onto the Princes Hwy where the wind was again gusting strongly, but thankfully from behind and it wasn't too long before we were streaking back along the hwy for home. Nearing Shellharbour I felt the rear tyre go down, and on closer inspection found a staple stuck through the tube, but this was quickly repaired and we continued along through Albion Park to arrive at Dapto Station at 5.45.

Despite the weather, it was a very enjoyable day out, quite tough at times, but that is as it should be. I'm looking forward to riding it again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bright and the AAC

Every Australia day long weekend the Audax Club run a series of rides out of Bright in the Victorian Alps know as the Alpine Classic.

In previous years I have attempted both the shorter long distances, of 130km and 140km and this year I thought I'd have a crack at the 200km ride. A key feature of these rides are the challenging Alpine roads, long climbs and in January, heat.

Unfortunately, in the week leading up to the event a lightning strike started a bushfire near Harrietville which was unfortunate as the ACE 250 route went through there, the AAC 200 went around there and I had booked my accomodation there.

Nevertheless, come Thursday the car is packed and we optimistically set forth after a call to the Motel said that everything was fine, we would see the fire but there was no immediate danger.

So we drove on, checking in occassionally with email and twitter to see how things were going. We learn't as we stopped at Holbrook for a play on the submarine, that the route had now been changed to reflect the fires impact and advice from authorities, it was now to be a 3 repeat of Buffalo for 210km.

Oh, OK. Called the motel again, are you sure everything's OK? Yes, it's fine, the media is exagerating come on up!

So a few hours later we were driving towards a smokey Harrietville but so far so good. We checked into our Motel and then spent the afternoon and early evening looking at the fire as it lazed down the mountain side about 1km away.

After an anxious night (moderated by an excellent smoked trout pizza at the Hotel) we decided to leave and try our luck in Bright. Happily, the first place we called had a room available ( a direct effect of the fire and people withdrawing from the ride) so we were now safe and set for action.

That afternoon I decided to try a descent from Buffalo, reasoning that I can climb a rough road safely enough, descending is a bit different. We drove to the top and I set off and was soon passed by Sue at the Lake but when I arrived at the bottom Sue had only just beat me down in the car, so with that accomplished we enjoyed the sights and sounds and food of Bright and relaxed.

Next morning I took a flat, earlyish, run out to Myrtleford after thunderstorms passed through early in the morning. I was surprised by the smoke which lay in the valley but as the morning wore on and the wind lifted, it cleared. We then relaxed amongst the Bonjour Bright festivities, heard a great French band and relaxed in the river and the pool at the Motel. Later we had dinner at the Ginger House which was awesome and then retired early for the ride.

I was up before the sparrpws, prepped and ready to go - so got a good starting position in the first wave of riders. Unusually, I felt relaxed and interested in how things would go and passed the time chatting with other riders, a guy on his first AAC (hope he did well) the guy on the shiny Moulton (as distinct from the guy on the red Moulton - 2 Moultons!!).  The start went smoothly and a rush of blood to the head had me in a large and fast bunch rocketing away down the Alpine Hwy towards the climb. It is always a nervous time, joining a fast bunch of whom one knows nothing. You have to make quick assessments about who is safe to follow and your senses are taught ready to react to the least input. Not far down the road, there was the loud pop of a tyre blowout. As I was on the outside, I veered away, as did the guys in front of me to make room for the rapidly decelerating cyclist heading our way. Disaster averted, we powered on, through the roundabout and towards the Hill.

As the road started to tilt upwards the bunch began to fragment, I was beginning to feel the effort so when clear I pulled inside to let the faster riders past and to adjust to my own conservative rhythm for the climb. Once I had settled into my rhythm I found the going along quite to my likeing. It was cool and I the views were tremendous and the passing company pleasant and cheerful. Before long I found myself  riding past Waterland and not long after that Dingo Dell hove into view. After a quick stop, ate a bit, refilled bidons and cleaned glasses, it was on for the descent.

I was a bit nervous about how this would go, as we had been warned at the beginning to expect traffic and be conservative, however after a few turns I found myself in open space and let things roll as they would. My earlier reconnaissance paid off as I tracked around the fast corners and recognised the tricky bits and slowed down responsibly. I passed quite a few less confident descenders and arrived back in Bright at 9.33am. 2 hours and 13 minutes for a lap. Awesome!

At Bright I had a quick bite to eat and then headed back up. The fast bunches of the first run had now given way to a steady stream of riders and as the temperature was starting to rise, I soon recognised that the second lap was going to be a bit slower. Quite a bit slower as it turned out. To the heat, my back was beginning to ache and no amount of standing and stretching seemed to help. I kept plugging away but was starting to experience all of the signs of bonking, cramps gripped my thighs and speed was dropping ever lower. I stopped once to suck down a gel before rolling into Waterland to drink and get sprayed. I grabbed an endurolyte tablet and again resumed my struggle with the mountain. By now the incipient cramps had become full blown wobblers and I yelled out loud a few times as I pushed through them. At long last I made it to the dell, at 12.33, some 2 hours and 40 minutes since leaving Bright. I sat for a while, did some stretching and eating and feeling a little better set off for the descent once more.

Again I enjoyed the ride down, passed a heap of people but once at the bottom and needing to push along things weren't looking so good. Legs were again cramping and my back, despite a few NSAIDs was complaining out loud. It was also much hotter now with temperatures on the lower slopes sitting around 35c and I saw quite a lot of riders stopped, slumped over their machines, or lying dramatically by the side of the road, however the roadside had sprouted a number of enthusiastic cheer squads who lifted my spirits greatly and I was able to push on back into Bright at 2.05pm.

However it was there, with the brewery on my right and the cool river on my left  that I had a long hard look at myself and decided that another ascent was not a realistic option, legs were twitching, back was aching, head was spinning.

The two laps themselves weren't anything to sneeze at, 145km and 2780m of climbing and I enjoyed a beer and a swim in the pool (and some more cramps) afterwards. Just now, my back is quietly telling me that I did the right thing, while my thighs have the ache they only get when they are learning, it's a good ache.

Later we caught up with a few friends and celebrated their achievements. It really was quite an extraordinary weekend.

So next year can't come too soon. I've already booked the accommodation!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

First week of the year

Well so far so good. This last week I've ridden 273km and climbed about 2900m and the rest of the month is looking to be a big un, with the Tallowa Dam ride next saturday and the Alpine Classic at the end of the month.

Have done a couple of pre work rides this week, a fast blast up to Clifton and some intervals on the Gun Club hill.

Yesterday I shouted the roubaix some new bar tape and got a new pair of look cleats for my shoes which were getting down to stubs. So everything is now looking ship shape and comfy.

This morning we headed off to the Robbo Pie Shop in mild conditions and enjoyed the climb of the Pass, though felt tired from the exertions of the week (the interval session yesterday took a lot out of me) and as the temperature climbed past 30c I was beginning to feel it. Generally I feel that my physical resilience is suffering without my weekly yoga class but that will change soon when the new term commences in a couple of weeks otherwise conditions were pretty tough.

I still managed my fastest climb of the Mountain to date however the ride back in the heat and into a headwind was difficult and I felt quite stuffed by the time I got home with about 96km under the wheels. Stuffed enough to not be stuffed to ride the extra 4km to round it up to 100! As the morning turned to afternoon my throat has started to ache and I'm feeling a bit febrile so am planning to have a rest for the next few days and enjoy the memories.

Mileage in Km = 228
Meters up = 2478

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Wrap up

Now that 2013 has officially begun it is time to reflect on the numbers from 2012. There's a few more numbers now, as technology has moved on and I can now get a good indication of vertical distance as well as time and horizontal.

There weren't any specific goals for the year, other than to get riding again and complete 6000km for the year.

I ended up with a total of 6726km, spread out of 148 rides and approximately 65,000m climbed and about 300hrs in the saddle. Twice I managed to ride over 1000km in a month with December the most active with 1139km, closely followed by October with 1006. In April and November I rode over 800km, however the rest of the year was patchy as I struggled with my foot. Since the operation in August however, things have been coming back together nicely. In fact I managed just under 50% of my annual total in the last 3 months of the year. I've also lost about 15kgs which has had a dramatic impact on my cycling, especially my climbing. I have really come to enjoy climbing, which is quite a change!

I did complete a couple of Strava challenges - the 800km challenge in April, the 79 mile challenge in October and most recently the Festive 500. Completed a few BRMs, including the Berrima ride (twice), The Royal Ride and the Coastal 200. I also completed at least one 100km or longer ride every month.

I've also started mountain biking which is great fun and provides a nice alternative to road riding and is a great way to improve bike handling and overall fitness.

So while the year was mixed, there were some dark moments in there, I've come through 2012 with a renewed cycling vigour and hopes for a slightly more consistent 2013. Hopefully I can continue the momentum of the last 3 months throughout 2013.