Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ambling through the Alps.

Riding a bicycle long distances in summer is a good way of learning some valuable lessons. At this year's Alpine Classic I learned, once again, that riding up big hills on extremely hot days is a testing experience. But it is curiously rewarding.

The Alpine is unlike any other series of Audax rides. For starters, it attracts just under 3000 riders. The level of support on the ride is nothing short of extraordinary and the mountain scenery and atmosphere in Bright are both wonderful too.

My day started off farewelling the endless hordes of 200km riders at 6.20am before heading off in the 130km bunch an hour layer. No major dramas on the first climb of Towonga Gap nor on the ascent of Falls Creek, both of which I tackled at my normal slow pace. Although Falls Creek is a long climb, it's not overly steep and I was able to pace myself to reach the controle at the top just before noon without having over-extended myself. By now the full effect of the summer sun was beginning to tell. The descent from Falls is delight - as most descents are - and within 15 minutes I've undone 90 minutes of climbing and was on my way back to Mt Beauty.

The climb back over Towonga Gap is the hardest part of the ride for me - it's the steepest climb of the trip and is fully exposed to the sun. There was no breeze. I stopped every kilometre or so to get my heart rate down and enjoyed a lovely cooling spray down from the volunteers at the water station halfway up. At this end of the field all the riders are suffering. I stopped to help a bloke who'd broken a spoke then was back to the grind. The top never comes soon enough.

From there it's downhill all the way to Bright. About 5km out a group of six blokes riding together swept through and I jumped on their wheel for the quick roll to the finish line. The Alpine is the only ride I've been on where there's a band playing and a crowd cheering and clapping as you finish, which I find rather delightful. Then it's just a matter of parking the bike in the rack, punching the clock and heading to the brewery next door to the park for a rehydrating pint or four on the grass with the people who've already finished as you swap tall tales of your rides and wait for mates still struggling out on the road in the 200km event.

Happy just to finish, I was slightly slower than my last finish at this distance in 2007 - 17.8km/h rather a than 17.9km/h average speed. I must be getting older. I'm happy with that: it comes out as a shade under seven hours of riding time. If I rode a few more hills in preparation next year I'm sure I'd do even better.

If you've never done the Alpine Classic before and can get to Bright in January it's an experience I can't recommend enough. The ride itself is great and the carnival atmosphere that infuses the entire town for the three day weekend is just magic for the keen cyclist. Long may it continue.

467km so far this year.

1 comment:

Treadly and Me said...

Long may it continue indeed! In my experience the people of Bright were friendly and welcoming. I hope it's a fun weekend for the locals, despite the huge bike invasion.

Yeah, I suffered a lot on the return over Tawonga Gap. Very much not fun. But the bad memories fade and the good ones get gooderer.

Congratulations on another Alpine Classic in the bag.