After a week of very enjoyable cycling, it's back to earth for me. The Alpine Classic again demonstrated why it is the best cycling event in the country at the weekend, I got in heaps of miles and even had the odd beer or two.
For those who don't know, the Alpine Classic is a series of rides put on each year by Audax Australia in the town of Bright, Victoria. As you'd expect from the name, there's a bit of climbing involved in each of the distances, which range from 70km to 250km for the one-day rides. I was a bit surprised to learn that this year is the fifth time I've been to the Alpine, after visits in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I've ridden the 130km ride twice (plus one DNF) and the 200km once.
Given the unfortunate demise of the Semaine Federale, several people got together to run a series of rides over the week preceding the main event. It was nice to be able to get some miles in, some brevets up and to explore some of the countryside around Bright. There is plenty of excellent riding in the area and not all of it involves heading up massive hills. I was glad to knock off three 50km and one 100km ride as part of a plan to get myself back into some sort of form ahead of the upcoming Mallee Routes, which seemed to work ok.
Another good thing about getting to Bright a week early is that you get to see that atmosphere build. Over the course of the week more and more riders arrive and by about Thursday there seems to be more bikes than cars on the roads. The polished concrete floors of the Bright Brewhouse clatter to the sounds of cleats as people enjoy a post-ride beer and the supermarkets of people being far too fussy about what they eat.
Alpine week is also a great chance to catch up with many old friends from epic rides of years gone by, to embellish tales of grand feats and to plan new ones. For those of us getting ideas above our station, seeing the legendary Matt Rawnsley receive an award for 100,000km of Audax rides at the club AGM helped put our own achievements back in perspective.
Bushfires this year meant the Alpine Classic had to be rerouted to take in multiple climbs of Mt Buffalo. While this was a bit of a shame, it also meant a new challenge, with those entered in the 200km and 250km ride enduring three ascents in the summer heat. I was happy enough to make it up once.
For me, the highlight of the ride is always the experience at the finish. After coming down that narrow lane to a round of applause when I finished near the end in 2010, I've always spent an hour or so cheering in the last riders. It's great to see the elation on people's faces at the reception - unlike the finish on any other ride I've been on. The cheers for those near the very end are always the loudest. And that's how it should be. Can't wait for next year.