For the last five years, I have ridden the 200km course.
This year, one of my regular riding mates caught me in a moment of weakness and I agreed to ride the ACE250.
As in previous years, the family spent the week camping in Bright and I took the opportunity to ride Tawonga Gap on Tuesday morning, Mt Buffalo on Wednesday morning and Tawonga Gap again on Thursday morning.
These last three rides, in addition to some reasonable training in the three to four months prior to the ride, placed me in fairly good stead.
Going into the ride, my goal was to achieve a sub 10-hour ride time (ie. time on the bike).BRIGHT TO DINNER PLAIN
I slept fairly well the night before but getting up at 3am was a tad rude. Arriving at the start line there were more riders than I had expected and I lined up about 2/3 towards the rear. My plan was to take it very easy to Harrietville and not get mixed up in any stupid breaks.
The line of red lights snaking along the Great Alpine Road in darkness was surreal and occasionally, a red glow would reflect off some low-lying fog.
Hitting the base of Mt Hotham I felt great and I got through The Meg without any difficulty, albeit out of the saddle.
Towards the last part of the climb, the sky began to turn light grey and the birds started to awake. Riding along, listening to the birds, my breathing and the sound of the whirring chain was a beautiful thing.
As I neared the peak, to my right a bright orange sun poked above the endless mountain ranges with a pink backdrop. At that moment, I almost felt the presence of God. It was a truly magnificent sight.
The apx. 15km from the summit to Dinner Plain was pretty straightforward and I reached Dinner Plain feeling good.DINNER PLAIN TO OMEO
I love the ride from Dinner Plain to Omeo. Admittedly there’s some climbing but by and large, it’s a beautiful slow descent and I roared along parts of this stretch at 40 – 45kph. The only lowlight was a dropped chain.
Arriving at Omeo I still felt pretty solid.OMEO TO WTF
This is one of the most beautiful rides in all of Victoria. My plan was to conserve as much energy as possible for WTF corner and onwards, so I took it pretty easy. I grabbed some water at the Blue Duck and as I rode onwards, I started to mentally prepare myself for WTF.WTF TO FALLS CREEK CONTROL
Mental preparation is all good and well, but nothing can truly prepare you for the first apx. 8km climb up the Back O’Falls.
WTF was, as always, a rude wake up call but overall, I kept things under control up the Back O’Falls and avoided going into the red zone. I particularly hated the first 500 metre dip, where I said to myself, “Thank f*ck that’s over”, only for the road to kick up very hard for around 250 metres.
There’s also a very nasty right hand bend that is extremely sharp.
Once I reached the High Plains I joined up with another rider and we switched turns hightailing it towards the Control Point. By this stage, I was starting to hurt. My legs were feeling tired, my lower back was killing me and I was very sore between the shoulder blades.
However, I got to the Control Point knowing that I would make it back to Bright because I had climbed the back of Tawonga Gap heaps of times and it didn’t scare me anymore.FALLS CREEK CONTROL TO TAWONGA GAP
“I had climbed the back of Tawonga Gap heaps of times and it didn’t scare me anymore.”
Well, it turned out Tawonga Gap was about to kick me in the arse for my hubris.
The start of the climb started out well enough, but by that stage in the afternoon it was extremely hot. On the side of the road are km markers to the Gap itself.
I rode past the water stop; big mistake. By the 3km to go mark I knew I was in trouble. I was sweating profusely and the remaining water I had I poured over my head to keep my temperature down.
By the 2km to go mark I was starting to hit the wall. Sweat was literally pouring off me, and I could tell by my laboured breathing I was starting to enter the red zone. My stomach was beginning to ache and scream for water, which I didn’t have.
By the 1km to go mark my peripheral vision was beginning to blur and I had a tight death grip on the bars. I was bathed in sweat and had entered the red zone My only focus was on reaching the 500m to go and 250m to go marks on the road.
At the 250 to go mark I could see the Gap and like an oasis in the desert, the ice cream van came into view. I rode to the van and very nearly fell off the bike. I spent two minutes lying on the ground and composing myself then gingerly got up and slunk over to the ice cream van.
“You got any Coke, mate?”
“Three cans, please.”
They didn’t even touch the sides and I followed them up with about 20 snakes that I had in my jersey pocket.
The sugar hit did the trick. Within another ten minutes I was back on the bike.
I swore I would never show Tawonga Gap any disrespect ever again.TAWONGA GAP TO BRIGHT
I was now like a horse on the home trail.
I flew down the descent and screamed along at 40kph towards Germantown.
I turned right towards Bright into a slight headwind and started to wind down for the last 6 kms.
The finish line was awesome, with my entire family clapping and cheering at the end.
Even better, my ride time was 9h 58m, with an average speed of 24.7kph!
- Sorry for the length of my ride report
- A great ride that requires solid training
- I could only ride the Back O’Falls once a year; it’s a horrendous climb that’s harder than Baw Baw IMHO
- The quality of other riders is extremely high
- Never diss Tawonga Gap
- This is the best organised ride in the country
- The vollies are legends
- I will do the ride again next year
To all fellow riders, regardless of the distance you rode, well done indeed!