Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mallee Routes revisited

The ultimate destination of my tour was the small north-west Victorian town of Hopetoun, where the Mallee Routes is held each year. It's a great event, best when the wind isn't blowing too strong across the seemingly endless plains. It's a tremendous gathering of audax riders, who pack the local pub for a festive dinner on the Friday night before the ride.

Last year was windy and I didn't finish the 300km ride after being talked into the longer distance. This year I allowed myself to become convinced 400km was a good idea.

The weather on Saturday was superb, with light winds and mild temperatures. The usual quick run down towards Warracknebeal saw the quick and the bold speed away and the slower and more cautious riders like me were content to drift back in the field. It's a long day to be riding at someone else's pace.

Onward towards Birchip, and still feeling good, the first 100km rolled by in just over four hours of riding time. Sea Lake rolled by, and another feed, which slowed me down a bit and though the second hundred took about the same time, my legs were definitely feeling the miles by now.

The leg to Patchewollock was where things got harder. Our group of two became three for a while and then four as we tackled the undulating sandhills to Speed where a short break allowed us to turns lights on and don reflective gear.

After a welcome feed at the Patchewollock control, the 50km back to Hopetoun came after dark and though we were still making good progress, it became obvious that finishing 400km by 2am as I had planned was going to be a big ask. I was getting tired and my hamstrings were giving me some grief and the prospect of another six hours on the bike for the 100km leg out to Wonga Hut in the Wyperfeld National Park just didn't appeal at all. When we completed our loop to Hopetoun, I decided to pull the pin.

Quitting isn't an easy decision to make, particularly after a DNF last year, but I was knackered and simply didn't have another 100km in my legs. Shame, but I'm pretty happy with my ride all the same - which took 15 and a half hours including breaks. My decision to pull out was vindicated in the morning when I found out my riding companion finally finished around 5am. Bravo to him, but I just wasn't up to a night that tough. And there's always next year for another crack. I'm disappointed not to finish what I set out to do, but I had a bloody good time and that, after all, is what it should be all about.

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