Mt Buffalo is the final major climb of the Alpine Classic 200km. I've never ridden it, although I've heard chilling tales and looked into the dead eyes of those who've tackled the beast after 130km of riding in the midsummer heat. One friend, absent from the Classic this year due to an ever-expanding list of almost-credible excuses, rates this his favourite climb. But there's nothing like finding out for yourself.
Like the other rides I'm doing this week, the 72km round trip up Buffalo and back was meant to be a confidence builder. And that's exactly how it started out on the lower slopes of the 1695 metre mountain - the day was cool and the going not too hard, just a steady pedal up the nicely-graded road as it winds upward and upward. After about an hour of this, it's hard not to start wondering how much further is to go, especially as a steady stream of early starters are coming the other way yelling greetings as they blur past. No clue from road markings or signs. No sky visible through the trees signalling a crest. Never mind, I tell myself, enjoy the views and push onwards.
After two hours, with the top nowhere in sight and the second water bottle rapidly emptying, it's hard not to become a little dispirited. I hadn't eaten, thinking two hours would nail it and was starting to get hungry. Finally the top of the climb came into view and an undulating four kilometres across the top took me to the lunch stop, my confidence not built so much as challenged.
A quick bite to eat and back on the road. Mindful of the cool temperatures, I bought myself a local tabloid newspaper, hoping that a thin tissue of lies stuffed down my jersey might hold off the chill of descending. And so it proved: I stayed tolerably warm during the thrilling descent back towards Porepunkah. Two and a half hours of upward toil was gone in less than 40 minutes of descending. I took the opportunity of enjoying the last five kilometres into Bright, imagining the thrill and relief of an Alpine finish. Here's hoping. Sunday will tell.
Rest day tomorrow. I need it.
421km so far this year.