Finally, I've made time to report on another spectacular weekend of riding in the high country around Mansfield. Following on from last year's great ride in the mountains (Buller Conquered), the Lara Latte peloton this year consisted of a group of ten riders – Gus, Robyn, Graeme, Ron, Scott, Barrie, Ross, Dave P, Stef and Jürgen.
Having all made our separate ways to Mansfield on Friday and with accomodation spread in various places, we met up on Saturday morning in the main street of Mansfield. No sooner had we started pedalling, than the bunch split (yes, after only 25 m!). Most of the group stopped to chat with Rob G at the press stand, but I didn't notice and continued riding then couldn't find the group when I turned around. So I did a full circuit of Mansfield before catching up with everyone again (extra kms, that would come to haunt me later?). Once back together, we rode as a group out to Mirimbah, at a civilized pace, well aware of the big climb ahead of us. Kaye and Luke Kinnersly accompanied us in the "support vehicle" with Kaye acting as the team photographer.
After a "pit stop" at Mirimbah, and waiting for Scott and Ross who had stopped to help an "abandoned" rider fix a puncture (we figured they must have had Gus's Grandma helping, from the length of time it took!), everyone headed off on the climb up Mt Buller, at their own pace. In the KOM award, only Barrie and Dave in the group had transponders and were eligible for the prize, but pride dictated that the Laralatte "first up the hill" was hotly contested. Favourite Barrie started well, as did Dave and the late betting plunge Gus. Gadget made steady progress, to the rhythm of Bread, then AC/DC on the steep parts. Dark horses Graeme and Robyn were also in the mix, whilst Stef, Scott and Ross were happy to travel at their own pace and concentrate on getting to the top in reasonable shape. Yours truly dropped out of the running after having trouble with back spasms and needing to get off the bike to stretch on a couple of occasions. Half way up the hill, the "supplement" regime that Barrie had been consuming finally caught up with him and he had to stop for a "call of nature". Graeme started to feel the pain and dropped off the pace, to leave Dave and Gus battling out the honours, with Gus just arriving in the village as the first Laralatte rider. Of course, Dave is the officially recognized Laralatte KOM, as he had the transponder. All of our riders followed in short succession, everyone completing the climb in under an hour and half, arriving at the top to big cheers from their team mates.
We enjoyed the snacks provided and adjourned to the Cattleman's Club for a nice coffee, before heading off on the descent. Dry roads, little wind and a comfortable temperature allowed for fast riding down the hill, and most of us clocked in excess of 70kmh at various points on the descent. Once at Merimbah, we regrouped, unloaded spare clothing (needed to keep warm on the descent) with Kaye and Luke in the car and headed off towards Mansfield. There followed a period of even group riding with everyone sharing the work at the front of the peloton (yes, even Gus!). We turned to Jamieson just prior to hitting the 100km mark, and once the climb towards Martin's Gap started, the peloton disintegrated. Our more competitive members couldn't hold back and some of us were hurting and needed to slow the pace a bit. Then, of course, there were a couple of riders who slowed down to support those who were beginning to find the going tough.
The two step climb to Martin's Gap proved as devastating as I remember it from last year and we were certainly all pleased to reach the top and then roll on down to Jamieson. We enjoyed our Lunch in the shade of a cafe garden, and while most of us rehydrated with Gatorade, water or orange juice, Gadget tried the somewhat unusual approach of a Boags Draft. Said he didn't want to feel any pain on the return journey. The group headed off from Jamieson together, but no sooner had we hit the beginning of the approach to Martin's Gap, split into two again. I'll leave others to report on the front group and how Gadget's unusual rehydration regime worked, but in the second peloton, we all worked to encourage one another through the worst sections, before arriving at the water station at Piries and the knowledge that the climbs were over. From there, we had a quick run home with a tail wind along the flat.
Some of us enjoyed a massage in the town after the ride and in the evening we all celebrated with a group dinner in The Deck Restaurant. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and everyone is looking forward to doing it again next year. Of course, the fantastic weather made it all the more pleasant, so fingers crossed that we'll keep enjoying good weather on these outings! The general feeling was that for next year, we just ride Mansfield-Buller-Mansfield, allowing for more time in Mt Buller village and more free time in the afternoon in Mansfield. Also with the short ride on Saturday, we could consider doing the full ride to Whitfield and return on Sunday.
Details of Ride:
High Country Challenge Day 1 – Mansfield to Mt Buller to Mansfield to Jamieson back to Mansfield. Total 166.0 km.