Sitting down for lunch at Bright Velo on the Sunday provided us ride organisers with a welcome bit of rest. We’d been up since 5am, done plenty of driving, climbed and descended one of the toughest mountains in Victoria by bike … and the day was only half done.
Getting moving after lunch was challenging to say the least. My legs ached, the seats were comfortable and I was generally just enjoying the rest. But I dragged myself up headed out to the Mt. Buffalo tollbooth with the rest of our wonderful volunteers and got set up for the ride ahead.
If the number of riders sitting or lying on the grass at the bottom of Mt. Buffalo was any indication, quite a few people were struggling for energy and motivation. But after a quick pre-ride briefing everyone was off, making their way up Mt. Buffalo.
As I’d done on previous rides I waited back with Andy until the last riders left and then started making my way up the opening kilometres of the climb. In previous rides when I’ve started at the back I’ve pushed reasonably hard, overtaking riders quite early on and continuing in that fashion. This time up Mt. Buffalo was a little different.
My legs were clearly unimpressed with the idea of climbing another mountain and they never really got into the swing of things. A few kilometres into the climb I remember thinking that it might be nice to start seeing a few riders up ahead, to give me something to aim for. But the pace I was riding at (or lack thereof) ensured the road ahead was clear.
Andy, meanwhile, was looking as fresh as a daisy, chatting away beside me. The topic of conversation turned to food — as it often does when you’re hungry and still burning more energy — and what we would eat if we could have anything at all. Andy settled on a nice big piece of chocolate cake topped with shards of mint slice.
As we started passing various riders Andy would ask them what they were craving. Every suggestion made me feel nauseous. I was dehydrated and all I was craving was something cold and wet. The idea of eating anything even remotely solid was enough to get my guts churning.
There’s definitely an element of schadenfreude to this whole cycling caper, particularly when you’re cycling uphill. Seeing other people struggling up a hill, even just a fraction slower than me, is enough motivation to spur me on. It’s not that I particularly want to see people suffering — I just figure that if other people are doing it tough and they’re going slower than me then I must be going alright.
Let’s just say there were very few people going slower than me on the way up Mt. Buffalo. I was well and truly in the paincave and the kilometres seemed to drag by. The water stop at Mackey’s Lookout 11km in was a welcome intermission, not just for its rehydration opportunity but for the chance to stop and rest the legs for a brief moment.
As I hit the switchback section and the final stages of the climb, the plateau at 18.4km couldn’t come soon enough. I knew there was still a little bit of climbing before I reached Dingo Dell, but the thought of heading downhill, albeit briefly, was particularly motivating.
I lost Andy around the time we hit the plateau, unable to keep up with what was, for him, a ridiculously pedestrian pace. I grovelled my way through those undulating final kilometres and rolled into the Dingo Dell Cafe carpark completely buckled.
Before the weekend I had recalled how hard the climb was last year and so I took it pretty easy on Falls Creek and Mt. Hotham. But it didn’t matter — I was utterly spent by the time I reached the top. On the plus side my knee, which has been bugging me on and off for a month or so, was fine.
I hung around until the last riders made it to the summit — accompanied by our lanterne rouge John Van Seters — before grabbing the keys to the 4WD we’d borrowed for the weekend to put out our “Event in Progress” signs.
It was my turn to pick up the signs on the way down the mountain and so I did, stopping every 5km on the way down to pick up a pair of signs and their stands, and loading them into the back of the 4WD.
It was after 8pm by the time Sharon and I got back to Bright Velo for a well-earned dinner and beer. It had been a massive day, riding-wise and logistically, and we still had a 90-minute drive back to Falls Creek. We left Bright Velo at a reasonable hour, getting back to the apartment at about 11.30pm and falling into bed a short time later.
There was still one more day to go.
To be continued …
A big thank you to all of the amazing volunteers who helped us out on this ride: Sharon, Tammy, Maria, Brian, Nigel (for putting out the signs, again), John (our lanterne rouge) and Dr Carl. Thanks too to our sponsors: Croydon Cycleworks, Winners Nutrition, CycleCover, Nemisis, Hammer Nutrition, Racecomms and CyclingExpress.com.
Congratulations to Alison Bowen who wins this ride’s CyclingExpress.com voucher for an inspiring effort on the mountain. On one of her first mountain climbs Alison left a little early to make sure she’d finish at a reasonable hour and through a consistent effort with a couple of stops she got there in fine fashion. Well done Alison!
All of the great photos you see in this post were taken by Kirsten Simpson. To download low-resolution versions of any of the photos Kirsten took at Mt. Buffalo (and there are plenty more than the ones I’ve used here!), head here and use the password “BuffaloBunch”. You can support Kirsten’s great work by buying a high-res version of any image for just $7.95.
You can see my Strava file from the ride here. A full list of finishers can be found here. If you completed the climb but forgot to write your name down, send me an email with a link to a Strava file or equivalent and I’ll add you to the list.