Saturday, December 20, 2014

Florentine mission.

The Florentine Valley is remote, but a particularly scenic destination for cycling
There's a loop that's been tempting me for a while up in the heart of the Florentine Valley, a bit over an hour north-west of Hobart. It's a shade over 100km on forestry roads and describes a more or less complete circle around the Mt Field National Park. As is usual in Tasmania, there's a fair bit of climbing, but the ride as a whole is certainly an achievable challenge. I scouted sections of this ride a few months back in the car, but to be sure the roads were passable and was impressed.

So we set off last Sunday for a lash.  Given the remoteness of some of the road and the expected lack of traffic we chucked a satellite phone and an EPIRB in my hydration park, just to be on the safe side.

Tyenna River Bridge.


Having carefully planned the route using the excellent RideWithGPS website and given the weather forecast due regard, I'd decided that the best way to tackle the loop was to get most of the climbing done early. To this end we started from the little town of Westerway and climbed steadily on the tarmac through National Park and Maydena, where we had a quick stop.

The gravel started at the 23km mark as we turned off the Gordon River Road. The climbing was steady, not overly so, but certainly long and taxing. The white road surface had me thinking of the famous 'strada bianca' of classic rides of Italy's L'Eroica.

I have a theory that gravel roads are much easier to ride after rain than after prolonged dry spells because the loose material on the surface tends to be compact a little into the road. Instead, we found ourselves cursing out tyres choices and pressures on the loose dry gravel, which saw us frequently sliding sideways unexpectedly on the gentle camber of some of the uphill corners.

Gravel roads can be a challenge after long dry spells.
The views along the way are well worth the effort. The range made up of Florentine Peak, Tyenna Peak and the Knobs dominate the skyline from the road, and the odd clearing where forestry work had felled a coupe allows for some spectacular photo opportunities.

We made reasonable progress in the warm, still conditions, topping the range after about two hours of solid effort. It was here I heard the first rumblings of exhaustion though, a combination of not enough miles in the legs and a lingering debilitation from having had the flu. I told Ben I wasn't sure whether I was going to get all the way around and we agreed to give it a few more kilometres and see if the feeling passed. 

The Niner RLT continues to impress as a comfortable, capable all-day all-surface bike. 
Sadly it didn't. At the 45km mark, with the worst of the day's climbing behind us, I was spent. We decided to turn back as the ride back to the car was a simpler proposition than the 60-odd kilometres ahead. In hindsight it turned out to be the right decision, despite my disappointment at not completing the loop. A bit more training would help, although I already knew 100km+ in a day might be pushing it my luck after a couple of weeks off the bike. It's better to have tried and failed etc.

The ride back was a confirmation that this ride might be best tackled in spring or late autumn. The loose gravel had us sliding all over the place and in parts we were travelling more slowly downhill that we had on the upward journey, picking our lines with great care lest we come unstuck. A short break at Maydena and we were back on our way, 90km for the day still being a decent enough effort. And the Florentine still beckons for an outing on another day.

4164km so far this year.


Paul said...

Have ridden from maydena to Tim Shea return, but would be keen to do this loop !!! The cx bike would relish it.

Paul said...

Hi David,

After a bit of planning, an early start and my spotme satellite tracker managed to do a loop similar to yours. Was great scenery and road is in pretty good knick.

Cheers Paul

David Killick said...

Nice one. I'm still pretty keen to get out there and have another go. Fitness is still a bit wanting at the moment though!