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I wear dirt on the outside because dirt is how I feel on the inside.

Well I completed The 3 Peaks Challenge, just. I‘ll refrain from giving you a full account, partly because I was in too much anguish to take any photos. Instead I’m going to reflect on what I learnt in the lead up and on the day, and what I’ll change for next year. These reflections are probably more for my benefit than yours.

Top 5 things I feel that I did wrong:

1. I rode a bike on which I’d ridden a total of only 70km. I really needed to make sure everything is dialled in (fit and mechanicals), and generally trust the bike. For example I rolled up to the start line ready to descend Falls Creek only to discover that my stem was  slightly loose and my front wheel was askew, which could have been very, VERY bad news if I hadn’t noticed it.

2. I took too much food. Not a bad thing per se, but the event was surprisingly well catered for. By the time I grabbed something at each rest stop and collected my valet bags I could barely fit it all in my pockets. Luckily I could send a bunch of stuff back to Falls in my lunchtime valet bag.

3. I didn’t get creative enough with my valet bags. I got very sick of sweet things. Instead of more bars and gels put something in there that you’re going to look forward to, even if it’s just a vegemite scroll, or some fruit, or whatever, just something to break up the monotony.

4. I jumped onto a group that was riding outside my limits, and subsequently did some turns up the front. This would have been ok if I was doing a shorter ride, but I can almost certainly say that the 30km from Porpunkah to Ovens at 40km/h+ in 40 degree heat was the beginning of my undoing.

5. I underestimated the effect the heat would have on me. After dealing with some close to zero temperatures while riding through winter and getting into some sketchy situations, I should have known that it would be equally as dangerous at the other extreme.

Top 5 things I feel that I did right:

1. I was friendly to everyone who would accept it. You never know if you’re going to end up having to work with somebody. Having a chat was the perfect distraction from the task at hand. I humbly apologize if I talked excessive amounts of shit at you if you were (un)fortunate enough to ride with me.

2. I swallowed my pride and stopped whenever I overheated, which was frustratingly often. I have a feeling that some people may have pushed on and got themselves into all kinds of strife. I saw one guy uncontrollably vomiting on the side of the road at the 200km mark…

3. This has been said already, but it’s so true. I broke the ride into bite sized pieces, just aiming for the next rest stop. I can’t imagine how much energy I would have wasted if I had have worried about the final climb up Falls for the whole 200km prior.

4. I continued to drink regularly even though my bidons felt like they were filled with tea, and they were supposedly insulated! Maybe I’ll try to find an esky that will fit in a valet bag for next year.

5. Taking most of February off the bike may sound like a ridiculous idea, and it probably was, but forced me to train very carefully for the 3 or so weeks before 3 Peaks. I just had to made sure that I reacquainted myself with some HC climbs (more for the mental boost), and that I didn’t exhaust myself. In the end I felt pretty good despite the long break.

In conclusion: Yes I finished, but nowhere near as comfortably as I was planning.  I was feeling rather cosy sitting on the 10.5 hour mark at lunch, but some momentary lapses of reason and some high mercury saw me only just make it over the line in time. I can’t wait to take on the traditional route next year!

Here at VVMCC we let our posts age like a fine wine before distributing them to the masses, which is convenient, because at the same time we’re all a little bit lazy.

I promised you an account of my Festive 500 campaign, well I’m not going to bore you with a km by km account, especially as most of them were pretty wussy, but I will tell you about my Festive 500 ‘Queen Stage’. My plan on Christmas Eve was to tackle a ride of similar proportions to 3 Peaks Challenge to make sure I was good and ready, especially since I was taking a month off the bike in Borneo, a month that should have been used for solid training. Conveniently based in Reefton for Christmas, my plan was to take on Reefton Spur, Lake Mountain in its entirety, up the back of Mt. Donna Buang via Acheron way, and a full Donna Buang ascent to finish off.

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Being based in Reefton meant I was only a few km from the bottom of Reefton Spur and smack bang in the middle of cycling paradise. I timed my ride to perfection. For those who have forgotten, the day before Christmas Eve was approximately 140 degrees C. This gave me a welcome rest day after a taxing 100km commute from Brunswick to Reefton via the glorious boonies on the 22nd.

I awoke early to discover it was a mere warm (not suicidally hot) Christmas Eve, which would only become cooler as I went higher in altitude, and there would be plenty of altitude gain.

Reefton Spur was first on the menu without any warm-up to speak of; actually it would BE the warm-up. Any grandiose visions of conquering mountain climbs at full flight came crashing down to earth as I was put to work on the consistently mellow but discouragingly long crawl along the ridge. Patience revealed itself as the key strategy of the day. I was almost on the verge of getting bored until I neared the upper grades and what are essentially the foothills of Lake Mountain. Those grandiose visions came back a little. The vibrant green of tree ferns and moss contrasted the bone white tree skeletons and there was not a soul for miles. Actually I would see few people on the road for the whole day, did I mention it was cycling paradise?

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Reefton Spur.

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Steeling the show.

Instead of heading straight up to the summit of Lake Mountain my plan was to descend to Marysville, have a muffin, then tackle the full length of the climb. The warm-up on the spur worked wonders because I felt fresh as a daisy for the whole way up. I even gave Pinchy a call at work halfway up to gloat about where I was. He did a good job pretending that he was excited for me. Karma struck as soon as I hung up however, my back tyre started feeling a little bouncy, and a (very) slow leak appeared. Not being the type to cut a climb short I took as much weight off the back and tried to keep afloat for the last 9km. I kept on looking around the corners for the lodge but alas I eventually gave up and got my quick change on, only to jump back on and roll around the next corner to find the lodge looming. In the future I’ll keep my gloating to a minimum; the cycling gods have fantastic senses of humour.

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Lake Mountain.

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Furry friends.

After another ripper descent and a brief lunch in Marysville (bloody good bangers and mash), I headed to the biggest unknown of the day: Acheron way. I had learned that there was climbing and dirt, but I wasn’t sure of the extent of either.

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Not long after turning onto Acheron Way I was flying at 40km/h plus along a paved flat section of road that shared the bottom of the valley with the Acheron River. The river crossed the road several times and occasionally felt like it was running on both sides. I couldn’t resist a little paddle to wash away the days grime. The dirt climb came soon after and it couldn’t have been prettier. The well-tended road wound through some quite dense rainforest for the best part of 10kms before flattening out. Then suddenly the whole Yarra Valley hit me in the face. The views were completely unexpected. I found myself on the side of a misty mountain completely alone save for packs of rosellas and the odd lyrebird, my legs felt no pain. I must have had the biggest stupid grin on my face when I popped out at Cement Creek and bombed it back down to Warburton.

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A summery Donna Buang scene.

I didn’t give myself any time to question my Donna attempt; I just turned around and got to it. I did do some bonking half way up, so it was pretty slow going (one day I’ll set a respectable time up that mountain), but I had food, so I was fine. Funnily enough was my first Donna without snow.
I was invincible all the way back to Reefton.

The next day I headed straight up the spur again to the Lake Mountain summit and back down before Christmas lunch; one does not waste a morning in cycling paradise. I’d done nearly 6000 vertical in two days and my Festive 500 tally was looking healthy. I felt I was ready for 3 Peaks.

Then I went and took off to Borneo for a month, without even looking at a bike the whole time. I did climb a mountain though, which I’ll tell you about soon.

There’s nothing wrong with biting off more than you can chew, if you have all day to chew it.

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Don’t take your Sunday bike on the Warburton Trail.

Gareth

Shit i have been lazy. I did this ride way back in November and I have only just now sat down to add it to the pages of this little blog. Anyway, the story went something like this. A few weeks before my mate had asked me to come on a road trip to Canberra with him and some mates to pick up a vintage trail bike he bought. Surprise surprise that a few days before we were meant to leave the others bailed. i guess they looked up ‘Canberra’ and rightly thought fuck to that. So to make this entertaining for me as well I conned Andy into dropping me off in Jindabyne on the way through, and then swinging by to pick me up. It was only a small detour of a  few hours so he obliged.

It was about 10 am when he dropped me off, and we estimated that I would have about 4 hours to get up and back. plenty of time. We parted ways and i began my ride up to the highest paved road in australia.

my begging and end point. On the shores of lake Jindabyne

my beginning and end point. On the shores of lake Jindabyne

pretty much all uphill.

pretty much all uphill.

This is fairly indicative of the view for the first part. Yellow lines, nice roads and gumtrees.

This is fairly indicative of the view for the first part. Yellow lines, nice roads and gumtrees.

The climb itself while long was not actually all that difficult. It is a fairly constant and manageable gradient for the first half and allows you to settle into a rhythm and knock off the k’s. it is a gorgeous part of the country though, so it is by no means boring. As you get to about 23 k’s in, the road flattens off a bit. In fact it flattens so much it goes downhill. From here on thats how it is, all the little gains made in altitude are mostly lost again by a downhill section soon after.

By the time I made it this far i was also pretty much out of water. If you are going to do this ride, the only place to really get a refill it at the tollbooth. I found no accessible water at any of the ski villages on the way up. Luckily for me though there was an event on the same day I was there, it was called sea to summit or something like that. Basically compeditors start in Eden on the coast, 250odd k’s away and race their way all the way to the top of Kosiosko, then back to Thredbo village. This all sounds like a suitably epic ride, and kinda a sweet challenge. Except these idiots were running it. All of it. When i told people i was only riding from Jindy they looked at me as if i was the laziest person on the road. It was good for me though, the support crew supplied me with a few bottles of water on the way up. Cheers lads!

yep, thats the road snaking it's way off into the distance.

yep, thats the road snaking it’s way off into the distance.

sometimes i rode on the wrong side of the road. YOLO

sometimes i rode on the wrong side of the road. YOLO

Thredbo village. No water.

Thredbo village. No water.

Holy shit it's snow in November!

Holy shit it’s snow in November!

Eventually you get to Charlotte Pass ski resort, the highest in Australia. From there it’s just a short few k’s to the end of the road. And it’s pretty fucking awesome.

An Italian bike at a ski resort seems fitting.

An Italian bike at a ski resort seems fitting.

The view from the top. There is a path off to the the left that leads to the summit of Mt. Kosiosko, but I was under time constraints and in road shoes. Kosiosko can be seen on the left near the tree.

The view from the top. There is a path off to the the left that leads to the summit of Mt. Kosiosko, but I was under time constraints and in road shoes. Kosiosko can be seen on the left behind the tree.

When you give your phone to someone to take your picture while riding, find a frail elderly person. you might still be able to catch them after you take your shoes off.

When you give your phone to someone to take your picture while riding, find a frail elderly person. you might still be able to catch them after you take your shoes off.

If you're a really good snowboarder this stretch of road would excite you. It is known as the Charlotte Pass road gap. Yep, from the rock on the left over the road. It is unbelievably massive in real life.

If you’re a really good snowboarder this stretch of road would excite you. It is known as the Charlotte Pass road gap. Yep, from the rock in the trees on the left over the road. It is unbelievably massive in real life.

The descent into Jindy is awesome and is a great reward after all that climbing. spectacular views of the lake too.

The descent into Jindy is awesome and is a great reward after all that climbing. spectacular views of the lake too.

After I took the obligatory pics at the top carpark i made my way back. Once you get past the top plateau the descent is great. The road is in top condition and is wide with an awesome shoulder. Just tuck it and enjoy the payback. Pulling into the meeting point back in town, Andy opened the door of the car when I was about 20 metres away. He had just pulled up, the timing could not have been more perfect. After a celebratory beer we commenced the drive home. what a day.

The bike even starts. (After some Aerostart)

The bike even starts. (After some Aerostart)

After almost a year of organising, we managed get Aidan and Huw to come along for a ride.  For one, it was a baptism of fire and for the latter, a spectacular dismount halfway down Kinglake.  Both didn’t finish, but I’m certain we haven’t scared them off.  Aidan is highly competitive and Huw is as strong as an ox and feels no pain.  They’ll be back in not time.

We hadn’t done the Hurtsbridge-Wittlesea-Kinglake loop in over 6 months and it was a great way to gauge how much we had progressed with our riding.  Suffice to say, we completely smashed our PBs going up Humevale Rd.

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I was looking through my photo album and I found a set of shots taken from a solo ride back in November.  It’s a fantastic ride if you’re ever around the region as it gives you an excellent glimpse of what the Grampians offers.  There were two climbs that I took on for this ride, Mt William and Reeds Lookout.  As the climbing cyclist has already covered Reeds Lookout, I won’t digress too much on it. Here’s a link for the lazy;

The Climbing Cyclist – Reeds Lookout

Mt Wlliam is pretty much the same as Reeds Lookout, except the views improve as you go up higher.  It starts as soon as you turn left from Grampians Rd and continues on for 9.5km.  The average gradient  is between 4-6% and climbs 585m over the distance.

It’s definitely challenging, but far from punishing.  There is a false flat at around the 5.5km mark where the gradient drops to 2%, providing some respite halfway through.  There are two sections were it can end and mostly depends on your level of fitness.  The first is the car park and if you’re up for the challenge (and fun), continue past the boomgates to the summit towers.  It’s another 231 metres of climbing, averaging at 12% for 2km on a narrower bitumen road.

Here are some links –

Strava – Mt William summit – Strava – Mt William carpark cycle2max 

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Below are a few shots I took whilst descending Mt William.  Forgive me for the quality, all shots were taken form my phone.

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Photos of Reeds Lookout –

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If you’re after another climb around the region, I would also recommend going up Boroka Lookout.  Below is a shot of what awaits once you’re up there.  I won’t do a write up on it due to a couple of reasons, I didn’t ride up it and the climbing cyclist has already done the job for me.

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As you may have gathered from my previous post, I’ve been travelling during the last month through Japan and China to put my feet up after three years of non-stop work and study.  One of the best things that I did whilst overseas (and blog worthy) was to go island hopping by bike in Onomichi.

I didn’t get many opportunities to go cycling in this trip, as my wife is generally averse to riding distances over 20km and that I travelled sans bike.

It starts from Onomichi City and ends on Shikoku in Imabari City.  The main route follows the Shimanami Kaido, a 60 km road that connects the six islands.

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The designated route is relatively easy as it follows the island coastlines, but you also have the option to increase the degree of difficulty by going inland and taking on the hills.  There is also the option of taking the ferry if you pussy out halfway through the trip.  Below are few photos of this ride.

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For her to thoroughly enjoy it is a testament to how amazing this part of Japan is.  I truly recommend that you do this on your next visit to Japan.

I first mapped out this ride about 2 or 3 months ago, knowing full well that it would making a ride that would be quite challenging. 110k’s with 2400m elevation can be a decent ride at the best of times, but when 80 or so of those k’s are on dirt, things could get difficult very quickly. Here is a link to what it looks like.

We met at Launching Place at 8am and got quickly on our way. We headed down Gembrook rd until we hit The Pack Track, along the way experiencing what would be the first of many flats along the way.

Gareth helped to set the theme early for the ride.

As soon as you turn onto The Pack Track it turns to gravel. It also begins to climb in altitude, with some parts getting pretty steep but never lasted for a long distance so didn’t pose too much of a problem. We ended up slowly snaking our way through the dense forest, taking in the awesome surroundings and even saw (and heard) a koala not far from the road while we waited to repair another flat. I have never heard a koala in the wild before, and for a second I was actually shitting myself.

We were lied to. This was not the correct way.

After about an hour or so we cleared the treeline and came to a junction in the road. The paths all appeared to be inaccessable or access roads for power companies and we were about to turn around and head back down the way we came until we heard the familiar sound of dirt bikes. Four of them emerged from one of the paths heading up and over the ridge line, so we decided to ask them if they thought the way they had come would be suitable for road bikes. “Yeah, you should be fine, but it’s a bit hilly.” We knew it was intended as a warning, but that was presisely why we were here. We said thanks and headed up the hill, glad we didn’t have to do any backtracking. It was a nice ride along the top of the ridge-line from then on, up until we had to descend. That descent was definately one of the hardest we have done, with the constant 8-9% gradients, loose surface, pot holes, ruts and corrigations keeping us on our toes the whole way down. I had a massive grin the whole time. Be warned though, the bottom brings an intersection with Yarra Junction-Noojee rd, and is a great test of your brakes. (I certainly appreciated my ‘new’ 7410 dual pivot Dura Ace ones!)

The road coming up from the left leads to a sweet ridge with great views. The one leading off up the hill leads to one of the best descents ever.

We now had done about 50k’s, 1500m and had no water left so we turned left at Yarra Junction-Noojee rd and went in search. Three lessons were learnt while on our water mission:

1. Horses are awesome.

2. People in the country like to put non-functioning taps in their front yards.

3. DO NOT jump front fences to fill water bottles unless you like being sworn at by country people.

Horses are indeed awesome. He loved a good upper lip tickle, but who doesn’t?

We found some water at the Gladysdale tennis courts and headed back to Black Sands rd. Black sands is a well maintained gravel rd that winds its way upward through the forest just below Warburton. The climbing starts immediately, and is steady for 7.5k’s. It averages 6.6%, but we decided that as it is on dirt it deserves another 2%. I know I sure found it a tough slog as the unrelenting nature of the climb made it hard to get your breath. Really, there is only one small flat of a few hundred metres halfway up and that’s it. I did get to enjoy some pretty awesome scenery though, the mix of huge green ferns and tall Mountain Ash made the journey quite bearable. It also allowed me to stop and ‘take photos’.

The beginning of Black Sands rd. It was actually a great surface to ride on, very manageable on 23c’s

There were some great hairpins toward the top.

waiting at the top, Gareth found this guy trying to climb up his rim. This is definitive proof that leeches love campy.

After the main climb the road meanders along the ridge line and eventually, at the roads highest point, you are rewarded with a waterfall. We decided to risk it and filled our bottles again. No-one got sick so I guess it was ok. As the ride turns northward and heads toward Warburton we headed through some logging areas, which is always kind of a downer to come across after riding through so much untouched wilderness.

At the waterfall Scott and Gareth decided to stage an impromptu Rapha model shoot.

I was just thirsty. According to Shark Expert*, The Australian Army takes red cordial on its missions to add to water to make it safe for drinking. Something to do with the sugar apparently (Please note: Fact may not be an actual fact.)

The descent. God, the descent. Scott thought the earlier one was bad, but Gareth and I disagreed. This downhill section was truly dangerous, littered with debris, deep ruts cut into it from running water and large exposed rocks. Or pot holes. And it got bloody steep. I ended up getting a flat on the rear and was in the process of changing it when Scott noticed that my from tire had not one but two cuts in the sidewall with inner tube poking cheekily out the side. Great. Luckily it was at this moment that a genuine stand up gentleman, Bruce (name has been altered due to the fact I forgot) arrived on the scene in a Patrol. I seized my opportunity and bought a lift down to Warburton. I won’t bore you with the details of my awesome adventures there, but suffice to say Scott saved the day and we ate doughnuts in the end to make up for it.

The boys put on their leg warmers for the descent. I just enjoyed the scenery. If you can think of a better way to make paper, I don’t want to know about it.

This was one of the better sections of the descent. Otherwise known as Warburton Pave.

Doughnuts fix everything.

This is definitely a ride recommended. There are a few other options through the northern end that may make the descent less hair-raising, but either way it can still be done safely if you take it easy. But I just got 25c tires the other day, so maybe this way out isn’t such a bad idea…

Until next time. Pinchy

*When Scott dispenses his pearls of wisdom, he is known as Shark Expert.

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.

Goalpost.

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.

Gareth.