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