– or maybe they just mean “watch out” for cyclists. In any case, you can’t drive very far along The Great Alpine Road on this weekend in January without quickly coming up behind those annoying cycling pests.
It’s the weekend when thousands of cyclists descend upon Bright to ascend many of the surrounding peaks using only pedal power.
The Audax element brings out some of the eccentricities… folding bike Fridays, recumbents, retros, tandems and at least these three 6am-ers.
With Foggy riding his first 200k Alpine, our aim was to get him across the line in under 8 hours, a challenging but realistic goal for his level of fitness at present. Smithy, having ridden this ride close to 7 hours numerous times (but never cracked it!), was going for about 8 and a half considering his lack of prep this year.
From Delaney Avenue heading out of Bright I gave it my usual turn of speed knowing the difference some good pace in the first 15k can make to your overall time. Some help came from a fella who quickly identified himself as a mate of Gus’s and Angles.
That was it though.
Each year, getting any help at all on the front prior to the Tawonga climb is one of the main challenges of the ride but it’s one of the reasons I have always looked upon this as a really big time-trial.
Brad and I satisfied ourselves with tapping away our own pace up the first climb whilst being passed by all the lightweights. We pulled a few back on the descent and then found ourselves in a solid group for the Falls Climb.
The Falls descent was a hoot and it was great to get the cheers from those still climbing. Ad Ed, Smithy (6am), Nic, Elmer (6am), Bandit (6am), Steve Richo, Gav (Fatties) and later Mr. C (6am) on his coffee run all added to the motivation.
Brad and I rode the undulating section of the Falls descent like the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte 6am-er hard hit! Again, as much as it takes it’s toll, there is time to be saved if you can ride that section hard and fast.
Bright with the thought of Buffalo in the forefront of our minds!
The first half of the Buffalo climb hit us really hard and we both suffered from some cramping and exhaustion which made for a slow climb. Brad found it particularly difficult when his quads and hammies both cramped at the same time! What can you do apart from stop and endure?
The heat and humidity of the day was most challenging in the valleys and the lower slopes of Buffalo were bathed in full sun. Other riders measured the temp on those first hills as 37 plus degrees so it’s not surprising it hurt.
To me it seemed to hurt more than the 44 degree day of a few years ago but it’s always the most recent agony that has the greatest impact!
As we left the top of Buffalo it was touch-and-go as to whether or not we’d crack the 8.
A massive cheer from the Read and Fogg families at the bottom of the descent was fantastic to hear and gave us at least an additional 10 watts of power each for about 200 meters but it wasn’t enough to take minutes off our time.
A time check of 7 hrs 43 min at the ticket box diminished any thought of under 8hrs but we rode home as hard as we could anyway.
It was a great day for the 6am-ers (and a heap of others of course) with some fantastic results:
- Foggy (6am) and I (6am) – aimed for 8 – pulled off an 8 hr 8 min
- Angles (6am), Cath and her sister, starting at 4am, completed the epic 250km loop through Omeo and back of Falls – what an effort
- Nic, a friend of the 6am-ers, pulled off his first 200k
- Smithy (6am), in his unusually unfit state, still pulled out an 8hr 22min – bloody freak
- Mr. C (6am) with a couple of mates, took it nice and easy over to Falls and back with a coffee on the way and a coffee on the way back
- Lumpy (6am), still nursing his knee back, took a cruise up Hotham and back on his lonesome (Question: How do you ride Hotham whilst nursing a knee? Time to come back I reckon)
- Craig Johno (Melb), who I rode pretty much the whole ride with a few years ago until his saddle fell off, powered past me going up the first Tawonga and I never saw him again – I reckon he probably rode about a 6:45hrs
- Elmer (6am) pulled out of the 200k just prior to the Buffalo climb with significant cramps having ridden a pace which looked like achieving his best time to date
- The Bandit (6am) completed his first 200k with his brother-in-law and had a massive smile on his face when I ran into him at the waterhole later on
- Gav and Cam from Fatties both did the 200k – Gav got through it and Cam was crippled by the cramps of Buffalo (one of many)
- Brendon (Bright) rode the 250k – don’t know his time yet but it will have been good coz he’s strong as an ox at the moment
- Derm (Bright) enjoyed the river after battling through the 130k and looks forward to getting back on a real bike (MTB)
- Adam (Melb)completed his first 200 in about 8 and a half I reckon – a hard day in the saddle but good prep for the Three Peaks
- Pastor Rod (Melb) cracked last years time by 5 min to come in at 9 hrs 15 min – back next year with an aim to crack 9
- Richo (Melb) smashed out his first 200 in his best ever time and will be back next year to set some serious goals
And that’s what it’s all about. Goals. The Alpine Classic to me is what got me interested in cycling in the first place. It’s my big time-trial and I love riding it every year with a particular focus in mind.
As a bonus, it’s conducted in the best place on earth.
This was my recovery ride yesterday –