Ride report: Audax Alpine Classic (130km version)

On Sunday January 23 Audax held its annual Alpine Classic with cyclists from around the country rolling into Bright to participate in a number of different ride options. Deborah d’Avigdor, a resident of New South Wales’ Blue Mountains region, participated in the 130km version of the event and today’s guest post comes from Deborah.

Descending the Tawonga Gap
Deborah descending the Tawonga Gap

I haven’t been riding a bike all that long – about three years and only about 8 months on a roadie but I’ve caught the bug in no uncertain terms.

I live in a hilly area and being only small, have some natural advantage as a hill climber. I had heard people talking about Audax and Bright and the Alpine Classic for some years and the idea seeped into my mind that I could be daring enough to give it a go!  Not the ‘200’ though – I’m not quite that audacious! – but I thought the 130km, Bright – Tawonga Gap – Falls Creek return gig might be achievable.

So I signed up and like Matt with the 3 Peaks challenge announced publicly that I had done so.  This is a technique that seems to work quite well because pride dictates that you must at least come close to succeeding! (ed. I wish that was the case!)

I started training after getting back from a Bike SA tour of the Flinders region in September.  I had no real plan when it came to training as I’m pretty inexperienced but just decided to ride as much as I could fit in.  I had done a hill climbing training weekend the year before with an awesome group called Bike Beyond, a bike education mob based in Melbourne, so I decided that another weekend in the Alps would be a good idea.

The training weekend went really well – the first day was spent riding around Jamieson and the Howqua Valley in appalling weather conditions (potentially good preparation too!) and then up Mt. Buller on the second day.  Buller is a really lovely climb and I’m now having thoughts about competing in the Scody High Country Challenge ride.

Following that, I hopped over to Bright for a few days and did a bit of reconnoitering and rode Bright to Mt. Beauty return and Mt. Beauty to Falls Creek return thereby riding the two major elements of the 130 ride.

After that it was serious training time and I managed to average 180km a week for about 10 weeks leading up to the ride, including my first 150km Audax ride closely followed by my first 200km ride. These rides were relatively flat but I thought the sheer length of them would be good training.

My training hit a bit of snag a few weeks out from the big day when I couldn’t ride due to illness –  overtraining perhaps –  and a very bad few days of weather certainly didn’t help. In the end it didn’t matter and it could even have been a blessing training-wise as it provided an enforced rest.

So I turned up at Bright, very nervous and very inexperienced but as well prepared as I could be.  The place was buzzing – I’ve never seen so many cyclists en masse in my life – and it felt great to be so legitimised by numbers.

The weather turned out to be kind too – not too hot, and not too cold at the top of Falls either – though the people doing the 250km version of the event got caught in a horrendous hailstorm at Omeo.

Those of us riding the 130km version started at 7.20am. It was fun riding in a bunch out to the Tawonga Gap for the first climb but after 8km I found myself dropped by the group. Well, I dropped myself really. I’m a slow, steady climber and knew it would not be wise to go out too hard at the start.

After the first climb we lobbed into Mt. Beauty for a welcome stop and some lovely buns. (ed. From a bakery?) I had a slight incident with chain suck and a completely jammed chain which I could only put down to rider error!  While I was cursing and swearing and moving the bike over to the wall to fix it, there was a tap on my shoulder and there was the lovely Simon from my LBS!  I couldn’t believe how quickly they sent out a roving mechanic from 1000km away, but when you’ve got a good bike shop this is the sort of service they offer.

A very nice Audax volunteer came over to help too but in true Audax self-sufficiency style, I fixed the problem myself and then it was off to Falls Creek. I made the top by 12.01pm which was faster than I’d dared hope to achieve but unfortunately I couldn’t keep the pace up and just got slower for the rest of the ride.

I had been more concerned about the descents than the climbs especially as I knew I was not that fast and I was worried about getting in the way of faster riders. But it all worked out fine in the end and I even managed to overtake a few riders on the way down.

In fact, the descent off Falls Creek was just plain gorgeous – I couldn’t keep the grin off my face and the odd ‘yahoo!’ escaped my lips!  The second climb of Tawonga Gap was tough, really tough. I stopped at the water point half way for about 10 minutes and after that actually accelerated up the final two kilometres, having drawn some energy from who knows where!  The descent was very (very!) nice and it was a fast sprint back to Bright, despite a slight headwind.

We rolled back into Bright to a warm welcome and then it was time to eat!

I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Audax for organising such a fantastic event. For anyone that’s considering riding in next year’s event, if I can do it then anyone can.It’s just a total blast! 

Have you competed in a cycling event lately that featured some great climbs? Want to share your story? Send your report to Matt at theclimbingcyclist@gmail.com and get it posted on the site.

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