We made the beautiful alpine town of Bright our homebase for the weekend. From here the full loop over some of the biggest mountains in the Victorian Alpine Region was estimated to be 260km and 10hrs of ride time.
From the moment we woke up it was cold and rainy outside. We set off from Bright at 8am with expectations of an epic day. I could tell that many of the guys were questioning the decision to even start the ride under these conditions but everyone knows the weather can change at any time in this region. Unfortunately I spent a horrific night with food poisoning and was in no shape to ride by morning. That was okay though. I brought my camera equipment and was quite content spending the full day in a warm car taking photos and handing out waterbottles. At that point I felt like the luckiest man alive.
Our route: Bright up to Mt Hotham, down to Omeo, up to Falls Creek, down to Mt Beauty, up Tawonga Gap, and back down to Bright.
Eleven of the hardest mofo’s you’ll ever meet
Heading out of Bright into some seriously big climbs, and seriously dodgy weather.
5km in, it’s raining buckets and the group is already split into pieces. It’s gonna be a long hard day for these lads.
The start of the 30km climb up Mt Hotham.
At the top of Mt Hotham it was miserable. Pouring rain, 4C and only pockets of visibility. As one of the guys noted, “we were like salmon trying to swim upstream!”. With over 200km left to go and an unthinkable challenge ahead of us we decided to leave our fate up to a Twitter vote. Do we pull the pin, or do we push on? Within minutes we had an overwhelming “#PULLTHEPIN” from the majority from the onlookers. We also had quite a few “#HTFU” votes from the softies reading their twitter feed from under their warm doona. Thanks guys…easier said than done.
Most of the guys couldn’t feel their fingers with their clothes absolutely saturated. Fortunately there was a heated concrete floor in the shelter we found and everyone had a full change of kit. After 30 minutes of refueling and warming up we made a group decision. We’re gonna finish this damn loop. After all, it’s only 200km left into the unknown. Piece of cake…
We went against the Twitter vote and pushed on to see what lay on the other side of Mt Hotham. By the time we got down to the bottom of the descent the rain cleared up, the air got warmer, and the terrain transformed into a different world.
We made it to Omeo and we were glad we did. The weather had switched to being quite pleasant and the boys were “a-okay”. Had to take a picture to prove it.
From Omeo we travelled through the most amazing narrow backroads, rolling hills and rushing rivers that I’d ever seen in Australia. It was one of the nicest roads I’ve ever been on and at this point I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t be riding with these guys. After everything they went through up until Mt Hotham, this was their reward.
The new road up the backside to Falls Creek hits you like a bag of bricks. You come around a corner from one of the most pleasant roads you’d ever ridden and and then KABOOM – HORS, straight away! It goes straight up and backs off only enough to tease you once you get around the first switchback. From there you see the “FC35″ sign (meaning the top of Falls Creek is 35km to go). Which also means 100km left. I wish I could repeat the profanities I heard from the guys when they saw that sign. BullF#$% was one that wasn’t in my vocabulary until now.
I’ve never been on this road before and I was keen to drive as far as I could until the road closed to support these guys as for as long as possible. Even in the car I could tell this was a steep, relentless climb. It simply did not stop. Unlike Mt Hotham which is basically 3 climbs with some relief in-between, this one was massive climb with only a few undulations thrown in to give the legs a brief rest.
25km from Falls Creek and there was no way through. I had to turn around and go back the way I came. While driving the route backwards it struck me how far these guys had ridden and what they had achieved. It was a long tough drive in a car and I couldn’t believe that these guys had just cycled this.
I made it back to base in Bright just before the bunch rolled in. The guys pulled up showing a mix of emotions and in varying physical condition. However, not a single one of them regretted completing the ride. They were in an overwhelmingly satisfied state at the end of this truly epic day. Everyone went through massive ups and downs and with this forges an unspoken bond that you can only get by going through something like this together. If it had been beautiful weather and easy conditions there would have been none of that. This will be a ride that these guys remember for the rest of their lives.
A big thanks goes out to Rob Crowe (Ridewiser) for organising this trip. The level of expertise and planning he provides on getaways like this is tremendous. A ride like this would be nearly impossible if it were unsupported and Crowie took care of every last detail. Thanks mate!
Quotes of the Day:
Steve K: THAT is not a circuit for everyday punters!
Lynton: (in response to the notion that Steve Knight just did a whole winter in the gym) – ..Were you working reception at the gym?
Steve M: No I’m ok, we’ve been riding every race since May in the rain so this is pretty normal to me.
Danny: This is it, I AM Museeuw, THIS is where we take time! (alas, half-way up Hotham was NOT the right place to take time, but we could not allay the mind-set of DC)
Tristan: BULLF$#%. I refuse to ride any further up this climb, and I’m not that keen to ride back down that descent!
Bruce: I’m sure I would cope much better with these conditions if I could just use those carbon wheels you’ve got there, Crowey… (pointing)
Peter: That pretty much f#$%ed me doing that on 39×23 [Back-of-Falls]
Gabe: My legs decided they weren’t interested in staying at that speed anymore (in response to Steve M & Tristan P starting a duo TT on rolling in to Bright after 239km)
Michael: I’ve got a tip for everyone; don’t pull hard turns along here because there’s a wall at the end of this road (…just prior to pulling some big turns of his own along the ‘Snake Road’ to Anglers)
Tim: I’m so glad we decided to go on with it – I wasn’t looking forward to going back down the descent off Hotham (moments before Level 7 speed-wobbles nearly shook his beard off on the descent to Dinner Plain)
Bug: Oh, I’m pretty confident you’re gonna get good weather all day once you get going, its only intermittent showers… (well, he was half right anyway)
Wade: Can you guys maybe just do that last bit again through the fog at the top, I want to get another shot of the group arriving…?
Crowie: I’m getting too old for this. Never, ever again.
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