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.

No comments: