Not sure if this is meant to be read as a poem, a rap, or just a stream of consciousness... but who are we to judge Luka's rare recap of a wild ride. Thanks for sharing!
Sub bloody 10, on the worst conditions that the event has seen, a riders journey, more than analytical data, a mental struggle and a body detaching itself from the head.
I'm a second year veteran of Peaks, rode my first 12 months back 2019, a ride I will never forget and a time (10hrs 27min) that only encouraged my ego to ride sub 10, it can be done, today March 8, a forecast that will deliver shivers and numbness to all that rode Peaks 2020.
Like all events my sleep the night before is broken into a slide show of mental pictures, number crunching data, weather, going through my ride gear mentally, waking up to visit the toilet, as I pass by the bike I squeeze the tire to check the pressure. Before you close your eyes its 5:00 am, wake up.
Breakfast at Nelse Lodge consists of cereal/fruit, eggs and bacon, toast with jam and a cup of tea for me, carb up, don't worry about weight this morning, time to ride.
Gear up and get to the start line, jacket, arm warmers, long fingered gloves, shoe toe covers, cap under helmet and as an extra a valet bag (riders kit plastic bag) to place under jersey on chest/core for extra warmth and wind protection (a shippey of an idea, hehe).
Start line is noisy and crowded as we, Jeremy and myself, make our way to our waves, wave one 8/9hr group. As I look over to my brother he gives me the thumbs up and stay strong. Light rain with heavy fog engulfs us as moisture glistens of the Lycra clothing, the decent will be an ass-tightening death grip until we clear the fog and wet roads further down the mountain.
I was riding well and felt good, I'm a slow starter, my cardio is like a diesel, I need an hour or more to transition to what is coming, Tawonga Gap starts the motor, Tawonga was a fair effort, (Jeremy dropped me on the start he had his own plan), one that needs to improve, the descent was good with caution to turns 5/7/9, with slight off camber turns usually attracting the over reaching enthusiast.
My trip from Tawonga to Harrietville was solid, a group formed and we all worked solidly holding wheels to the feed stop, refill water bottles, get food in, get back on the bike quickly the first of two climbs awaits, Mt Hotham, 33km distance with nearly 1400 metres of vertical elevation.
Mt Hotham begins with a gnarly pinch, the first 1/3 of Hotham is hard work with a nasty corner, The Meg, a pinch that you will never forget. I was feeling good and riding reasonable power, I came across Richard a fellow Nelse Lodger, he was still finding his pace, I pushed on solo to the second third, the false flat.
The false flat on Hotham is where time can be lost, groups had formed and were slow, I kept on my power and speed as I passed the groups. As I approached the end I managed to slow and get a gel down with some water.
The last third of Hotham is hard, with a nasty exposed descent opening on a saddle that is sketchy at the best of times, today we had an official waving us down through the fog to slow as we approached the crest . This last section of Hotham was difficult, as I had taken off my jacket/cap/long gloves on the Tawonga climb, I needed to stop to get gear back on, I was cold, really cold, my body was shaking, my body was letting me down, I had no control, my arms and hands where shaking uncontrollably with my teeth chattering, I was an out of control Chucky doll, one more climb, the CRB, I was losing mental focus and my legs where shaking as I approached the Hotham tunnel.
The ride towards Dinner Plain across the Hotham summit was so difficult to ride, with temperatures deteriorating and my memory is vague as my mental ability is slowly declining, rational thought is difficult, I'm alone in the fog and no riders near me, I keep pedalling as its only 14 km or so to the Dinner Plain feed station, half way. We had been notified of road resurfacing works on the summit, a gravel section, I was about to find out in today's weather.
The gravel only added to the misery, as I approached the road works, riders where becoming visible as the pace slowed, I manged to get on the back of a group. I thought I couldn't get any colder, I was wrong, I was covered in a light creamy clay paste from the road surface and the wheel spray from the rider in front, visibility was zero, toes and feet frozen, fingers resembling chicken feet in an Asian street market, I'm so cold and wet, the ability to hold steering / braking was seriously compromised, I had the speed wobbles and I wasn't travelling fast, with legs shaking pedaling was becoming difficult, as I looked to my left I saw a rider fixing a puncture on the side of the road in the gravel section, get to Dinner Plain and reassess the plan.
At Dinner Plain I was a human wreak, my body was shaking out of control, I had trouble in focusing on tasks as I stood alone in the fog blankly staring at others, negative thoughts circled like vultures overhead on a road kill, pull out, harden up Luka, get your valet bag containing your feed kit, refill bottles, water/electrolytes, focus dick head, as I ripped open the bag with my arthritic claw like fingers I reached in for my double cheese salami sandwiches, I struggled eating as I needed water to swallow and could only eat by timing the bite with my chattering mouth, how long have I been here, move, move faster, eat faster, as I proceeded to place the empty valet bag down the front of my chest I noticed other riders following suite, I forgot where I left my bike, I am suffering dementia as I walk around looking for the bike, I noticed another rider placed his in front of mine obscuring it from my vision, I came up with a new plan, get to Omeo and re evaluate.
The Dinner Plain to Omeo is a 40km or so descent with some climbs, the descending was frightening, high speed with speed wobbles from uncontrollable shaking, I was in a big group and getting worse up until the first climb, the weather slightly improved at the lower elevation, the climb was slow however myself and the group managed to get over it, I was feeling a touch warmer and stronger. A few more climbs and as I passed Omeo feed station with the group I felt strong, I was on, new plan, number crunch, my frozen grey matter had thawed and was working, time looks okay, not great, but manageable, get to WTF before 8 hour mark, from my training I knew I was capable of riding 35km with a HC climb (Falls Creek East ) in under 2 hrs, if I can mange the pace sub 10 is possible.
The only problem I had was I needed to urinate, time wasting, a good group formed after the Omeo pinches, we rode strong and steady towards Anglers Rest, I got on front during the climb and split the group, a few riders got in front of me and we rode off, just before Anglers Rest I dropped of the back to eat and drink. At Anglers Rest, a much needed toilet stop.
I'm still on time as I ride away number crunching data, the only negative thought was am I capable of riding such power figures / 5km time splits on the back of Falls with 200km in the legs and 3500 meters plus of vertical elevation, I'm about to find my inner strength as I focus on the pedal stroke the Grim Reaper appears out of the fog (spectator in costume), at WTF corner, I start the ascent looking at the computer 7:52 hours, I'm under 8 hours, got 8 min in the bank.
Falls Creek East (back of Falls) is a climb in 4 sections, first 5kms is awful, WTF pinch is brutal, with the first 5km avg 10% and 9km averaging 9% with pinches that are soul destroying, after Trapyard Gap, 13km mark the climb eases up considerably with some flats and pinches, still a climb up until the 23km mark, Mt Cope time marker.
After 5kms I looked at the computer and was a little anxious as the split time was over 30 min, however the first 5km are the hardest, as I continued to climb the 5km split times started adding up in my favour, after the 15km mark I knew I had sub 10, I was feeling real strong and just controlling effort, all i need is 9:59 hours, as I crested the timing point for the KoM ascent I knew that 13km was left, I could ride this section eyes closed from memory. The weather being the way it was I had taken jacket/cap off during the ascent, it was cold with heavy cloud and fog, visibility was low, no time to waste, just ride what ever is left leave it on Falls.
Knowing I had sub 10 I just rode hard with caution, punching up little ascents with everything I had and descending with speed and discretion on turns. Dam wall in site, gas it, last pinch before descent to finish line, empty yourself, full gas on descent with caution as you approach left hand turn and barriers the finish arch appears with the time displayed, 9:52 hours, sub 10.
Never give in, believe in yourself, understand your training and your ability. My non-moving time was excess of 30 minutes, wasteful, something I wanted to improve on this time, however considering the conditions acceptable, on another day a better time, on a worse day lets not go there, for it can be worse in alpine regions. Peaks is a journey, a struggle, more than data, from the time you start training to, there is no end, its a lifestyle, a way of life, just ride, wear your finishers jersey with pride for it's hard earned.
Stephen Lane thanks for the advice, training plans, videos, nutrition tips and always a pleasure in running into you at the event.
All Bicycle Network wave riders, past and present: Jess, Ali, Lee (Hollywood), Kate, Stephen, James, Justin, Shel, Fats, Prita, Tall Dan and others that i haven't had the pleasure of sharing a wheel, thank you guys for making it happen. And last Jeremy Williams a friendship that was born from Strava and Peaks, thank you brother for the training rides and advice.