As we turned onto the road back to Falls Creek with 150 kms in our legs a wall confronted us. Craig disappeared up the hill with some mountain goats. I could just manage to get 34-25 around snaking up a 14% gradient at not much over 7km/h. It was going to be a long afternoon with 100 k’s to go……..
At 6:19 the gun sounded as Craig, Libby, Bruce and myself set off at a reasonable pace on the 250 ACE (Alpine Classic Extreme) in the Victorian “Alps” on what was a bit of an unknown for me . This is the first year this event has been held. How hot would it be, how vicious were the climbs and was it possible to ride 250 k’s with over 4000 metres of climbing in a day and not end up in an ambulance?
After 35 km of flat riding the climbing began. The first major ascent to Hotham summits at 1750 metres. After a couple of bends it seemed the legs were in good order. Conservation is the name of the game. Nothing silly. There is still over 200 k’s to go. As we ascended the climb Craig disappeared up the slopes. An hour or so later the tree line was left behind with great views down the valley in the early morning. But on the climbing went. Some of the riders that went out hard were suffering and carrying weight up these hills is something you want to avoid.
After what seemed like an eternity Mount Hotham arrived and went as the first checkpoint was down the other side at Dinner Plain. A quick refuel and then a descent that must rate as one of the best in Oz with speeds nudging 80km/h down to Omeo. All the elevation we gained was now lost. I picked up three others and we covered the distance in well under an hour. Where was Craig?
On arriving at Omeo it seemed that the front group of twelve including Craig had a longer stop. So I stuffed two bread rolls down my jersey and I got on the back. For the next 40 kms we rode down a long valley with lots of meandering bends and across a couple of “pick a planks”. Elevation loss or gain was minimal. What a great section this is! The half way mark appeared on the computer. Only 125 km’s to go. Everyone in the bunch was riding quite conservatively. I was about to find out why.
And then the left turn and the brutal climb. Riders were walking up the hill from the 4:00 am starting group. That’s the last I saw of Craig and from this point onwards I was riding by myself which meant no sucking wheels. It was the middle of the day but the elevation meant the temperature was OK. It is very scenic along this section.
So at 175kms the road finally started to go downwards to Falls Creek. I finally dawned on me that I could finish in under ten hours but my feet were burning. The last checkpoint at 190k’s meant 25 k’s of high speed descending. Minimal traffic, dry roads. A motor bike followed me down the hill and gave me the thumbs up at the bottom. This is fun! I knew I could make it. But then the bone dry 30 degree heat hit at the lower elevation, with my feet starting to burn again and reality set in. Does anyone want a pair of Sidi’s?
At kilometre 220 a “mere” 400 metre ascent to Tawonga Gap is the last climb of the day. But I had to get my damned shoes off. At the last water stop I drenched my feet and proceed up the remaining 6 km ascent. At the top is was the flowing bends back to Bright but an ambulance at the side of the road was a wake up call. Someone in Craig’s group came a cropper on a bend. Hope they are OK.
The finally kilometres clicked off back to Bright and a great sense of achievement as the transponder beeped on the finish line. 4370 metres vertical but slightly under 250 km’s in length. (Craig did some extra to make up the shortfall. He can tell you that story.) Craig’s ride time was around 8 1/2 hours which is very impressive indeed
What a great day!
Also well done to Libby and Bruce for finishing strongly. I reckon Libby’s time would have been the fastest for the women that completed this distance.
Would I do it again…….