I went back to the old town for the last weekend of ATB training. It was a long weekend for me, and the weather promised to be near-perfect. The other guys were getting some miles done down on the peninsula. My plan was to do a circuit of the ‘peaks’ around Bendigo, namely Mt. Tarrengower (in Maldon), and my old favourite, Mt. Alexander. I’ve touched on Bendigo before. It’s drier, and a little bit flatter (don’t even bother going North, it’s flat as a tack), but here is plenty there to construct a fantastic ride around. I find the countryside in the Goldfields to be either long slow slight uphills, or long fast slight downhills, and every now and then there will be mount that will come out of nowhere and stick out over the landscape.
History and stuff.
For my first ride I headed straight to Maldon to tackle Mt. Tarrengower, which was a new one for me. Pinch had done some recon and assured me that it was right up my alley. I was pretty keen by the time I rolled into Maldon, but soon got a sinking feeling. There were signs saying “Hill Climb” all over the place and I could hear the buzz of activity from the hill. As luck has it I’d turned up on the one day of the year that Mt. Tarrengower is closed. ‘The Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb’ is an event which all the classic car enthusiasts, petrol heads, and steam punks come out for the day and race up the mountain. Balls. I’d wasted 80km round trip getting out there. Oh well, maybe I’ll just try again tomorrow. I headed to Mt. Alexander and somehow managed to snag the Maldon to Chewton KOM on the way. Hey I’ll take it, beggars can’t be choosers.
On the way the south side up I ran into a friendly young lass who was doing some last minute training for an upcoming race. It was interesting to chat to someone about how to approach training for actual competition, the ins and outs of injury management and measured efforts etc. It’s a different type of cycling altogether. She set a pace that was fine by me too. When we reached the summit we parted ways, she was off to do some more repeats of the south side.
On the way down I passed an older chap that caught up with me and immediately comment on my unshaven legs. The polar opposite to the conversation I had on the way up; we spoke of cycling in retirement and hand built Hillman frames. Thank heavens I’d done my research on my frame. He apparently used to race on them back in the day (some further research indicates that he used to win on them back in the day). He set a surprisingly quick pace (more than I’m accustomed to) and we talked shit for the 30 or so kms home, which we covered in no time flat. He mentioned that I “kept up alright” and should race. I don’t think he understood why I was doing all the distance and all the hills if it wasn’t training for anything, a man from simpler times. His comment “what does that thing tell you?” pointing at my Garmin, said everything.
The next day I dragged my tired legs out of bed, saddled up, and again headed towards Mt. Tarrengower. I took a recommendation to go via Fogerty’s Gap, which is a steep little pinch old Phil thought I’d like. The road rises quite steeply into the trees and he noted that when he was younger they used to say the white line looks like a goalpost. I LOLd.
When I rolled up to Tarrengower for the second time I was relieved to see that it was ‘open’ and headed up. It’s only 2.5 kms or so, but at 9% average it’s not for the faint hearted, especially since the steeper parts are well over that. Thanks to the notoriety of climb due to the yearly events the road is also in pretty good nick. The views top were fantastic thanks to the geography (pimple in the middle of nowhere) and the grand old lookout tower.
The way up.
Mount Alexander 14 1/4 miles.
I retraced my steps from the day before and mashed it (perhaps a little too hard) to Mount Alexander. When I got to the base of the climb I hit the wall, hard. I had nothing left and I started to freak a little bit about being in the middle of nowhere, with no food, and no one to call. Eventually I realised I wasn’t so far away from Harcourt, and food, but the quickest way was over the mount. I was feeling marginally better after 5 minutes so I chucked it in my 29t straight away and gingerly crawled upwards. There was no diversion this time and I was definitely feeling the 110km from the day before. After a climb that was a lot less painful than I’d imagined I made it to Harcourt, had a ham and mustard pickle sandwich and a half a bag of lollies. I don’t remember the way home so clearly, but it did involve, insane headwinds (and swearing loudly at them), minor hunger flats, grimacing, cramps, weeping, minor climbs feeling like major climbs and some mild sunburn for good measure. I’m fairly sure if I had a mechanical of any kind on the way home I would have lay down and let the earth reclaim me. Did it dampen my enthusiasm for my next ride? Of course not, it only whet my appetite.
My last minute training involved 230km and 3500 vertical metres in 2 days. I think I’m ready…if I can recover in time.