Sunday, March 02, 2014

I'll Take the High Road 200km Audax

 I can't remember my excuse for missing the Audax I'll Take the High Road ride last year. I suspect it was a combination of poor fitness and a glance at the ride profile. This time around I thought I'd better make a slightly better effort and I was glad I did.

Determined to enjoy the outing, I decided to ride my Thorn Audax. It's not the fastest bike around, but I bought it to do longer rides at a stately pace. Given it has lights and a handlebar bag already fitted, it seemed less hassle than messing around getting the Bianchi racer ready for an Audax event.  Although the Thorn is a lot heavier, it's also a lot more comfortable and reliable and despite the cushy wide Challenge tyres I figured it was the best bike for the job.

The big red mile eater.
Nine riders turned up for the event and after a quick briefing we were off. The faster riders disappeared over the horizon and I settled down into a steady pace at the back of the field. My plan was to ride the first hundred kilometres without exerting myself too greatly, or at least as much as possible given the 1500 metres plus of climbing on the way to Oatlands.

Andrew kindly kept me company and we chatted away as we made good time past Sorell talking about epic rides past and comparing notes on eating during rides. Knowing the course, Andrew was able to preview the hills too. Black Charlies Opening was a good workout and beyond Levendale there was a couple of sharp pinches but with the granny gear on the Thorn I was able to just spin up without raising my heart rate too greatly.

The handlebar bag fanciers club.
The weather was perfect for this type of adventure. The wind was low and the temperature rose gradually from the mid-teens to the low-20s. I dipped into my handlebar bag a couple of times for snacks as lunchtime drew nearer and we stopped briefly to refill our waterbottles around the 60km mark. We pedalled along the mostly-uphill outbound course, amazed to see the fast riders already on their way back when we were still about 20km out from Oatlands. Closer to Oatland we saw Frank and Nathan who were making good time and were on their way back and had a chat. We stopped for a quick lunch and set out again. I was pleasantly surprised how good I was feeling.

The return voyage was just as pleasant, despite a brief episode of upset stomach about 10km from Oatlands. The road seemed mostly downhill and the back sides of the climbs we'd done earlier seemed much less daunting and the country seemed extra scenic. The promised wind change came late in the day and wasn't too overpowering. We stopped again Woodsdale for water and at the firestation a few kilometres past  Levendale. Even the reverse side of Black Charlies Opening wasn't too big a big deal, although the gentle headwind down the highway was a bit of a grind beyond there. Nonetheless the miles were ticking over nicely and I was still feeling strong.

Another hill. I love hills, they make me stronger. Such scenic countryside.

I wolfed down a couple of Mars bars as the miles ticked by although by the time we reached Cambridge at the 185km mark I found myself flagging a little. I wolfed down some sweets as Andrew gradually drew away and stopped at the shop for a quick Coke, which seemed to help and we regrouped for the last push. After the final climb, the last six or eight kilometres were a fast enjoyable downhill to the finish. All in all a most enjoyable day on the bike and a reminder how much fun 200km rides can be.

1085km so far this year.

Andrew leading the way.

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