9 01 2011

In my preparation for the 2011 Audax Alpine Classic, I’ve been out for my toughest ride yet.

Since I don’t have any massive hills to train on, I’m having to train for endurance, and today I went out for my longest ride to date.

Today’s ride was out to Gundagai and back. Gundagai is about 85kms away by road, which puts a return trip at around 170kms. Being that i was planning on taking around 7 hours, I thought it prudent to send out an open email to the local bicycle groups and invite along anyone who was interested. After bouncing a few emails and text messages back and forth, I had three companions organised, but a failure on my part to update one of them on the late change of meeting place dropped it back to two.

We left Wagga at a shade after 5.30am, with a plan of being back before 1pm when the sun hit its peak. I had a definite goal of a sub 7 hour time in my head and I was determined to make it. We made good time going out, stopping only once for some grub about half way out. Had it been up to me, we wouldn’t have stopped, but I didn’t really mind too much. Everything went well until we turned onto Nangus Road (about 65kms) and we got hit in the face by a strong wind. I dropped off the pair in front and took a few kms to adjust to it. Once I did, I caught up and we rode into Gundagai together.

Stopping for a refuel was part of the plan, and after a coffee and some cake, we headed back. One of the guys wanted to head back a slightly different way and so we did. As we headed off, I felt my legs turn to lead and I seemed incapable of anything more than about 20kph. By the time we turned off the highway, they ached and I struggled. I’m not sure exactly what happened. A few clicks down the way and they came good again.

By this stage, we were well and truly entrenched in our detour and as we crested a hill, things went to pot. Glen (who is an infinitely stronger rider than me), was lost. Should we have taken that turn back there? Do we keep going straight and hope that unsealed road doesn’t deteriorate before we get our bearings? Does anyone have a working GPS?

The question should really have been: Does anyone have a working GPS, that they know how to read properly? I had a GPS, and I got a good signal. I found our place on the map, found our turn and proudly announced that it was straight ahead not far up the road. Don’t worry about the dirt road, it’s not bad and we won’t be on it for very long at all. Big mistake.

Not only was a reading the map upside down (our turn was indeed the one we had just passed), but the dirt road quickly degenerated into a rocky hell hole. In fact, it was so bad, that I chose to get off and walk in patches rather than try to ride around the potholes and the rocks at slow speed. By the time we had made it back to some sort of civilised road, we had covered not much more than 15kms in an hour (and a bit) and we were well behind schedule. Honestly, I blame myself for getting it wrong, and since I was definitely a lot slower than the other two during this time, I don’t blame them for being pissed with me. They may not have been, but they sure looked like they were. I find it difficult when I ride with markedly weaker riders, and they were both easily stronger than me. I had stressed to them that this was my first time at this distance and that I fully expected to be playing catch up, but I never said anything about dirt roads or getting lost!

I estimate that we ended up losing 45 minutes on the detour, while the distance was only up by about 5kms.

In the end, we made it home after a 40km ride up the highway.  By the time we hit the last couple of hills, I was off the pace again, as much to do with the now ridiculous heat as anything else. But I made it home, as did the others. I’m very glad that they were with me.

In the end:

I stopped the GPS as we stopped at Gundagai and forgot to start it up again when we left, so I was a few kms out overall. Still 180+ kms in 7 hours isn’t too bad at all. Had everything gone to plan, it may well have been 6½ hours or less, but I’m still very happy with the time.

If I can keep my miles up throughout 2011, I will have a serious think about the ATBIAD 250 in late 2011.




One response

26 01 2011

Holy crap that’s a long way!

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