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

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