We are back home after a weekend in the spectacular high country around Mansfield. And what a glorious weekend we had – great riding, fantastic weather, good cameraderie and entertainment, on the Scody High Country Cycle Challenge.
Barrie and I set off at 7:00 am on Saturday, on the 185 km High Country Challenge ride which included the ascent of Mt Buller. With bright sunshine and just a light breeze, it promised to be a good day and we weren’t disappointed.
Once we left Mansfield and got to the rolling hills around Merrijig, the big peloton split and we were able to set our own tempo. The climb of Buller proper, began at Mirimbah, elevation 650m, and ended in the village of Mt Buller at 1620m elevation, some 16km further up the road. It proved to be almost 1000m of non-stop climbing – once we had settled into our respective rhythms, the going was very good. The bright sunshine and spectacular weather kept spirits high and made us forget any pain we had to endure. The last 2 km kicked up very steeply and really tested the legs, but the sight of the village ahead and above spurred us on. Barrie completed the climb in the very respectable time of 1 h 02 min (just missed breaking the 60 min mark) and I followed 10 min later.
After a well deserved feed and coffee (and rest, of course) in the village of Mt Buller, we set off for the descent, which was quite technical and tricky in places. The wind chill factor complicated things even further and at some parts my eyes had teared up so much that I was having trouble seeing clearly (no, the pain of the ascent had gone by then – tears were from the chilly wind on the fast descent!) It was quite a fun descent nevertheless – 16 km of downhill riding to the Mirimbah toll gate, and then another 20 km or so of gentle downhill, but with a moderate headwind by now. But what the heck – we had conquered Mt Buller, so nothing could bother us now!
Just before getting back to Mansfield, we took the turnoff to Jamieson and rode along the valley for several km with now just a gentle sidewind, that didn’t really bother us. We were again in a good rhythm, swapping turns at leading. We caught two cyclists going in the same direction and they asked if we would let them tack on. Kind hearted souls that we are, we said yes. They sat in our slipstream as Barrie and I swapped leads for at least 45 min, before one said they’d now return the favour. I was quite pleased to have a longer rest, but this cyclist “banged” over the top of me and put 5 bike lengths distance between us before I could react. I quickly accelerated to close the gap, but was annoyed at having our rhythm broken. 100m further on, the road started to slope up again (ever so gently) and this guy virtually died in front of us – forcing me to come over the top again, wanting to maintain that good rhythm. Anyway, at the end of that little climb, Barrie and I looked back and both the other cyclists had disappeared into the distance. Fat lot of help that was!
We had a good chuckle over this incident, but our smiles soon turned sour as we hit the climb up Martin’s Gap – only a 200m blip on the landscape, but after what our legs had done so far this really hurt. And on the far side of Martin’s Gap was a 1-2km descent of perfectly straight road – we were disturbed about that, for, although a great descent at the time, we realised we would later have to ride back up that stretch. Well after tacking on to a good bunch, we managed to quickly negotiate the other two hills before rolling into Jamieson for a well deserved rest and lunch.
After a good rest, meal, drinks and stretch, we departed for the return leg to Mansfield. By now of course, the legs had completed 130 km of the journey with the climb of Buller, and when we hit the first of the three hills on the Jamieson-Mansfield road, the legs certainly reminded us of that fact! It seemed as if these 3 climbs were harder than the ascent of Buller and by the time we hit the long, straight uphill to Martin’s Gap, it was just a case of grinding in the lowest gear at cadence of only 60-70 and wait for it to be over! But we got safely over Martin’s Gap and stopped at Piries to top up our water. Here we met a group of cyclists who were all refreshing after having suffered, like us, on that last climb. We joined together and rode in a peloton of about 14 riders all the way back to Mansfield. The legs were good again now, and, on the flat roads with little wind, felt like they could continue on forever! But common sense prevailed and we stopped at the finish line, that we reached around 3:30pm.
After refuelling with some food, coffee and water, we decided to have a massage, which at $10 for 20 min, was a really good deal and loosened up some stiff muscles.
All in all a fantastic day’s ride. Well worth considering this ride and the weekend activities for a larger group from the Lara Latte Cyclists next year. Barrie and I have certainly marked it in our calendars already!
(watch for photos soon!)