Thanks all for the great ride reports.
This was my first AAC 200.
My wife and I rode the 70klm option last year, and I immediately decided to "take it up a notch" and try the 200klm ride next. Perhaps a tiny bit premature? That was without a doubt the toughest physical challenge I've ever faced. Probably just as much a mental challenge I guess, as it was constant mind games up the last ~5klm of Buffalo in the heat.
We started at 0620 in the first few dozen riders of the 200klm group. Saw three blokes turn into the main street of Bright, roll across the timing mats and then all immediately decide they had to pull over to the LH kerb.....almost bringing down two or three following riders in the crush. That would have been a disappointing start to a 200klm ride. The pace out to Germantown was pretty damn quick. We'd been warned that it's always a bit frantic, so we sat in behind a big tall bloke wearing a Paris-Brest-Paris jersey and matched his pace. I figured he might know a thing or two about pacing himself.
Turned onto the Tawonga climb and chatted my way to the top with two blokes from Albury. I am hopeless at measuring my effort over longer rides, and I tend to go too hard, too soon, so I found it nice to be able to ride along at their pace and talk about training efforts etc. Waited for my wife at the top of Tawonga for about 3-4 minutes and down we swooped towards Mt Beauty. The road surface actually seemed a little smoother than when we were there back in October, but it's still pretty rough in places.
Very quick water stop in Mt Beauty, with a fruit bun each, and it was off onto the climb to Falls Creek. This was all new ground to us, as neither of us had been past the town of Mt Beauty before. I decided to ride with her in case she had any mechanical trouble, although I was also wary of our interrupted training & preparation for the event, so I had pretty much figured by this stage that she’d bale by the 130klm mark back in Bright. We ground our way up to Falls Creek village, with seemingly hundreds of riders passing us. I had kind of concluded by the pace we were setting that if we made it through the 200klm ride we’d be amongst the last finishers. The friends we were staying with from Brisbane passed us on their way back down the mountain when we still had probably 6-7klm left to climb. Made it to Falls Creek and guzzled a LOT of fluid down. We ate a fruit tart each and a handful of lollies. I pretty much hurried her back onto the bike after topping off all bottles as I was wary of stopping for too long.
So it was back down the mountain, past Bogong and into Mt Beauty. My wife is a very nervous descender, so it seemed like the descent took us almost as long as the climb but we got down safely.
We didn’t bother stopping for water, but kept on toward Tawonga Gap. I concur with everybody else that reckons that’s a tough little pinch in the heat of the day. My wife cracked about two thirds of the way up the climb……I didn’t know it at the time, but she’d been suffering from ‘hot foot’ in both shoes for most of the ride. We pulled over (this was at the 98klm mark by the Garmin) and I gave her our room key so she could make her way back to the cabin in Bright, and I set off ahead of her. Still wasn’t sure if I could make it the whole way myself, but willing to give it a go anyway. My Garmin was telling me it was 42 degrees just after I left my wife! I rode to the top of Tawonga, didn’t stop although there was a large body of riders gathered just off the road at the top. I flew down the other side and passed quite a few riders on that descent. That’s the only time that being fat is any advantage!
I passed two riders who were obviously rolling turns together, and they caught up with me just after turning right at Germantown. They invited me to ride with them, so we sat on 43-46km/h all the way to Bright. Unfortunately, I felt pretty stupid when I slowed to turn left at the sign pointing the 200klm riders around to the footy club, and my two paceline buddies kept on riding straight ahead. They were obviously only riding the 130klm course. My fault for not asking I guess, and no wonder they were smashing it.
I stopped at the lunch break for probably 5 minutes at the most. Topped off both bottles, a quick half a salad roll, and it was back on the bike and headed for Buffalo. The ride out to Porepunkah seemed to be (thankfully) downhill or downwind, as there was a lot of coasting even though I was determined to push the pace. I was kind of worried that I was too late to make the climb and get back to town etc. I needn’t have been.
The climb up Buffalo was a killer. With 130klm in the legs, and in that heat, I had to call on every mental trick in the book to keep on turning the cranks. I’ve never had such lower back pain before. I stopped at both water points for about 5 minutes, and I stopped again to stretch my back about 4-5klm short of Dingo Dell. At that point, if any other rider around me had suggested turning back I’d have quickly joined him I think. I remember my vision was pretty blurry there at stages, and I can recall being fascinated with the sheer amount of sweat running down my legs. Funny things you think of after the event I guess. Made it to Dingo Dell and had a welcome toilet break, although to my surprise I almost needed assistance to get a seat on the toilet. My back was completely buggered, which was a new experience for me. I topped off both bottles and had some banana custard, then it was back aboard for the fun part. Mt Buffalo has to be one of the best descents in Australia. I rarely dabbed the brakes and flew past dozens of riders……again the only time it’s any good being fat.
I took the chance to get right down low in the saddle with my chin almost touching the stem, mainly to stretch my back. I had ideas of smashing it back into town from Porepunkah, but I really didn’t have the legs. I rode fairly sedate pace for most of the way, marvelling at the increased heat once you reached the valley floor. I kept on watching the odometer tick over, and felt immensely satisfied that I was able to make it right through the full distance. Crossing the finish line I spied my wife waiting for me in the crowd which was really nice. I had a little trouble dismounting the bike at the finish line, again due to stiffness in the lower back. Memorable points
The vollies up there are quite simply superb.
The heat up there is f***ing incredible.
Congrats to all riders, and thanks very much to all the wonderful volunteers.