Traveling on the train down to Pakenham I was wondering if I was under dressed I was counting on the weather
forecast being accurate and the temperature rising by the 8:00am start. I put those thoughts aside as I signed up for the ride and had the pleasure of meeting whad, Cleatus, Victor and Simon.
Twelve riders assembled for the ride heading south east on the scenic route to Drouin, we crossed the Slog route and saw some riders ahead of us just before we turned off past Bayles. We were making good time on the flat sections with the bunch staying together quite well turns being taken on the front by whad, Kevin, Simon and me. Kevin did the 250 Alpine Extreme this year so it was interesting to hear his take on it as it's on my list of to do rides.
At around the 40 km the hills started John, Kevin, Simon and I got a gap down one of early descents continuing riding as a group to Drouin. John is 71 and has been riding seriously for 51 years racing, touring, endurance including Paris-Brest-Paris and he is till mixing it - simply inspirational.
A stop at Drouin where Keith, Eryl and Stephen looked after us, fueled up and briefed on a unmanned control we headed off as other riders were coming in. The country side was rolling with gradients of about 5%, John dropped off when I was on the front sorry mate, we regrouped and reached the unmanned control with Kevin, Simon and I departing together.
We were now into the serious climbing - as whad has said the course profile does not indicate what it's like to ride as the road pitches up and down in a series of pinches looking at my data in a 20 km stretch the gradient hits 10% or more 10 times with one pinch maxing out at over 20%. I remember that bit well as I got to observe the forest in some detail as I ground my way up. Overall my data makes it about 2700 meters of climbing. The beauty of the forest was rewarding and the roads were quiet - fantastic riding. I dropped my chain shortly after - managing to reach down to get it back on going down hill, was just catching up with Kevin and Simon when it dropped again. So I let them go finding a handy branch to hang my bike from and do a front derailer tune up, John passed me looking strong and relaxed. Sucked a gel and was soon purring along again caught up with John just past Neerim and we rode together into Noojee, The descent to Noojee was fun but demanded attention as the road edge fell away, the sight lines were poor, and the dappled forest light made it difficult to read the road surface.
I enjoyed Eryl's pasta salad at the Noojee control. Keith and Stephen also organise the 250 Alpine Extreme it was very interesting hearing about the level of research and planning that goes into such an event. Stephen briefed us on the next stage with a wicked glint in his eye this man likes his hills. Left the control chatting with John as we wound up gently after lunch. About 10 k out I pulled out front of John; the road continued throwing up challenges but not quite as frequently as before lunch until the Milner Road turn off to Hoddles Creek. This is a nasty little hill well over 10% as you approach the climb you can see by the way that it ramps up in front of you that this is going to be a grind. Got to the control at Hoddles Creek with Stephen grinning - "Did you like my hill?" and offering some chilled trifle which went down very well. John arrived shortly after; Kevin, Simon and I lingered as it was very pleasant chatting in the sun with the bush as a backdrop.
Kevin, Simon and I headed off just under 40 k's to go, the section through to Gembrook is a gnarly little section with a series of pinches over 10%, my legs were feeling the work so I just tried to spin as much as I could. Kevin and Simon pulled away past Gembrook; shortly after the road started to descend for the ride to the finish at Pakenham. Enjoyed the descent keeping the legs moving to aid the recovery process. Keith had a sausage sizzle going at the finish; chatted some more with Simon and Kevin very nice to meet both of you. Decided to wait for whad, Cleatus and Victor to come in. It was great to meet you guys in person and Victor that was a huge effort well done!
When I left to go home it looked like all riders were on track to complete including two late starters which is a fantastic effort and my respect to everyone for completing such a demanding ride. Enjoyed talking to Robert on the train back into town with choral accompaniment provided by Collngwood supporters going into town to see their team.
Gentle 30 k down to Black Rock for a coffee and back in the sun finished off a very good weekends riding.
Next challenge for me is the Alpine Delight at the end of November which Stephen is organising - gulp I'd better start training
Hearty thanks to Keith, Eryl and Stephen for a brilliant ride and organising such good weather!