Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Riverbank Ramble revisited

It rained pretty much all winter here last year, the wettest winter for 70 years, so there wasn't much riding done and I laid plans to build a winter bike capable of withstanding the never-ending deluge. Or an ark. The former project continues but thankfully this winter has been a return to the norm with lovely crisp days and the occasional pearler with bright blue skies and welcome warming sunshine. Mudguards seem somehow redundant this season.

Since I have Sunday-Monday off and my wife was working Monday I decided it would be the perfect day to have another crack at the Riverbank Ramble 200km Permanent on the road bike with Bicycle Tim - a favourite route for us both and a good chance to get some miles in our legs. It's a challenging loop ride, lots of good-sized hills for the first 120-odd kilometres, followed by a fast downhill then flat run home broken only by a final bump about 5km from the finish.

What a perfect day it turned out to be. Though mostly overcast, there were more than a few moments when I felt distinctly overdressed in a long sleeved top and winter gloves as the mercury nudged up to 15 degrees Celsius. My last attempt at this ride in November wasn't an overwhelming success. I rode well, but a stiff headwind over the last 80km and perhaps a lack of conditioning left me completely knackered towards the end. I've been spending a fair bit of time at the gym of late and had a few easy days beforehand so I was feeling rested and fit, but a few strong gusts of wind rattled the house Sunday night and left me feeling worried I'd be bitten again. My concern was misplaced, Monday dawned unusually warm for winter and still and overcast.

We set off from Kingston Beach spot on 7am and quickly made our way through Hobart and up the bike track before climbing the ride's major climb - the 400m grind to Glenlusk. Despite a brief scare on a wet wooden bridge on the way down the other side we were cruising smoothly and decided to take our first break at Bushy Park 70km in, where we refreshed with toasted sandwiches and cake and a big plate of chips.

Back on the road through my favourite section of this ride through Glenora to Westerway I was having such a good time I clean forgot about the next big hill - on the way into Ellendale which slowed me to a granny-gear crawl. The following two are steep but nowhere near as long of high so it was was across the Derwent causeway and right up the Lyell Highway to Hamilton for a brush with an angry log truck driver and a spot of lunch.

From the top of the big hill past Hamilton the ramble ride becomes a pearler of a downhill and with a slight tailwind we zoomed down towards New Norfolk where we had a quick bite to eat before knocking off the relatively flat 50km into Hobart- made even easier by roadworks which have smoothed out at least one of the hills I remember from my last trip. With plenty of time on the clock we stopped at the Riverview Inn at Taroona for a delightful couple of beers before knocking off the back side of Bonnett Hill to finish in a respectable elapsed time of 11h30m, of which 9h30m was spent on the bike. The time was about an hour less than my last effort, mainly I suspect thanks to Tim setting a fair pace out front all day. And despite 2000m of climbing for the day and not having done that much riding lately, I felt surprisingly good at the finish.

2,736km so far this year.

Photo from Flickr by Smiling Da Vinci.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Some promise shows.

As recently as a week ago I wasn't all that confident about my chances against the clock in the Winter Challenge. I rode the course on the weekend, not with any fierce intent, but more to learn the way and check for any nasty hills or similar obstacles.

I parked the car and sent off without a warm-up, rolling over the tiny rises south of Franklin, enjoying the brisk zero degree day and noting the liklihood of a tailwind home. Once warmed up, it became apparent that the organisers' promise of a fast course was no idle talk. The 10km mark rolled by far more quickly than I expected and, feeling good, I cranked the pace up a notch.

My goal from the start was to get around the 37km in under about an hour and 30 minutes - nothing too flash, just a gentle Sunday ride. The split times from the Winter Challenge website put a mid-field placing around the 1hr15 minute mark, and I wasn't really thinking of setting a brilliant time on my first outing. I've been spending some time in the gym in the last few weeks to try to build some strength in my fiendishly weak upper body, so I wasn't feeling overly rested either.

Two moderate hills didn't provide too much of a problem about halfway in, then the course turns for home. An hour into the ride, with 27km down, I rolled past the Kermandie pub. That's very quick for me. Suddenly it all seemed somewhat more achievable. As I sped up the river, past reasonably familiar landmarks, Franklin seemed only minutes away. But 12, or 15 or 20?

Now there's a nasty little rise just short of the Franklin - it's got a winery or something on it and it somehow knocks me for six every time. I was waiting for it and as I wearied I wondered where it had got to as somehow Franklin never seemed to appear. Winery Hill didn't disappoint, providing a last test of legs and lungs before, I coasted into Franklin in 1hr25min. It wasn't a not a cracking time, but not bad for an 80% effort. There's room for improvement there - plenty of room. I've not lately fancied myself as much of a racer, but suddenly I'm looking forward to the big day with more anticipation than fear.

2496km so far this year.