Anyone who has been to Berlin has surely seen the ZWEIFEL building. At the time I just thought it was a company name, but as good friend explained it means 'doubt'. I thought it was such a bizarre word, and to be so huge and constant in a city centre.
Doubt, is a very powerful agent. It can cloud the mind, and once it takes over their is little to stop it. I had no doubt about the ride. Hell or highwater (which proved to be a little close to home) I was going on a big ride, a big adventure.
222km or thereabouts.
So easy to plan when you're sat down at a desk.
Look at a map. Choose an end point, choose a route. Throw in an extra climb, an extra stop, a little more distance, where does that road go I wonder. Click, click, click. Job done.
Thats how I planned my own 3 day ride / Tour Down Under to Adelaide last year, how I planned the Double Warrnambool. Weather, terrain, pain, the weight of the pack and fatigue were distant memories as I planned this years ride and so it was that I choose Bendigo as the destination this year. I did remember that anything over 200km wasn't necessarily harder, but it meant less daylight so fewer times to lull about, take photos, cruise along and less fun. Fun, believe it or not was at the core of the ride. Whatever twisted definition I choose to hold of it.
After posting the intention of the ride prior many had emailed, texted with intentions to join. Throughout the year people were asking if I was riding to Adelaide again, could they come, which roads I took, any suggestions. So after posting the invite I figured between 2 or 20 people would join me. When I rolled into Fed Square, 3 others waited - ready to roll at 7.
This is what you missed (minus the sunburn).
It's all looks flat - on the map.
Here's the route ridden / incorporating elevation and speeds.
200km in a day isn't easy. Add a backpack, a scorching hot day predicted with 40kph northerly headwinds and it quickly turns into a ride of dare I mutter EPIC proportions. With no support vehicle if you break down mechanically or mentally you have to deal with it yourself which is half the fun/battle.
Swanston street was bare as we headed north, into the teeth of the wind headed for Craigieburn. In a bid to minimise logistical issues I started the ride from Fed Square, rather than the earlier suggestion to train out to Craigieburn and meet at an allocated time in. It was the stretch from the city to Craigieburn that really knocked around the quartet early. Managing to get out of Brunswick without a flat among the group was a minor miracle. Tyres danced between the glistening remains of broken green and brown bottles that always rest in the bike lane from the night before. Through Fawkner and Campbelfield (Sydney Rd) the cords on flagpoles slapped audibly, flags billowing, and it was a hard grind to maintain over 20kph. Any conversation was a sideways shouting match. 'How about that wind?' I could still say with a laugh. This had all the makings of Double Warny de ja vu. We were in for a long day.
Taken from Craigieburn Rd just over Mickleham Rd.
From Craigieburn Rd we turned north, back into the wind onto Kongadeera rd. This has to be one of my favourite roads of all time. Slightly less favoured this day as the block head wind made even descents require pedalling. It's smooth, light country traffic and great scenery. Macedon to the west, Kinglake to the east, and steep hills make it a rural rollercoaster.
This bloke/fireman asked if I was from a newspaper as he didn't want his photo in the paper. Perhaps because it was such a stupid choice of day to burn off. Throughout the rest of the day we caught wafts of smoke from other burn offs and small grass fires.
We rolled into Riddells Creek and it seemed like a good time to stop and refuel. After a coffee scroll and an undrinkable coffee we filled our bidons at the service station and headed for Woodend/Daylesford. I gave the lads my dispatchers pep talk for hard days at work. Two words - Hot Bath. Though COOL SWIM would have been more apt this day.
JA and I got a bit of a motor on to Woodend and when I looked over my shoulder, JP and CH were nowhere to be seen. We waited in the shade of a coolibah tree for the duo to arrive. When they did, in unison they declared they would train it back from Daylesford. They were broken by the constant wind, and CH more so by the bulky weight of his pack.
From Woodend onwards, more twists and turns, undulation and changing of vegetation. The smell of eucalyptus was only broken occasionally by decaying road kill.
JA admitted he was on the 'gear'. Can't recall what it was but it has speed or the like in it. Or equated to more speed.
JA and I sailed into Daylesford and had lunch. I highly recommend the Chicken with Avocado and Clenbuterol Foccacia from the bakery. Accompanied with a meat pie, caramel slice and flat white to keep the fire stoked for the afternoon.
Tribal council spoke and we parted ways in Daylesford. 4 were now 2.
I put on another coat of sunscreen during lunch as the sun was now radiating on our necks. A quick loss of fluids out of town and I was ready to tick over the afternoon session. The sign said 76km to Bendigo. There was a resonating of accomplishment as the hard part, and majority of the distance was done. The pedals felt light as Daylesford shrunk into the distance. Glancing down I noticed we were cruising along at 40kph. It felt like the wind had changed direction. I was doing the math in my head(76km - average of 4 hours - we'll be there in 2). However, the high octane carbo loaded lunch wore off just as fast as we pedalled and we realised we'd better back off before blowing up.
This is no photoshop. This is country Victoria.
'STOP!' I shouted at JA. Just had to get a shot of this sign in Guildford/good excuse to stop and rest. We sought refuge in the shade, and the sweat mixed with sunscreen was now rolling into our eyes and stinging like hell. The original plan to cover 222km and take the Goldfields highway was abandoned like the banana peels previous. Let's just get to Bendigo.
The pair of us chugged along the Midland highway and rolling into Campbells Creek we came upon another cyclist. It was a young kid on a road bike, all of 10 years old I'd guess. JA asked him how far he'd ridden. 'Thirteen kilometres' he exclaimed with excitement. I laughed to myself remembering when 13km was in itself an EPIC ride. 'One hundred and seventy' JA replied to the future of Australian cycling. As we rolled by he mustered another turn of speed into the wind to latch onto our wheels. His spindly little legs and body bobbed up and down but it wasn't long before the young roadie trailed off.
Not far out of Bendigo there is a winery called Big Hill.
A white gown that is unmistakably a wedding dress was on the deck. I looked around for the 'Big Hill' and sure enough it lay ahead. JA asked if I heard 'that'. 'That loud bang that was you popping?' I replied. He shook he head and wanted to pull over. We basked in our own sweat roadside. A beat up old corolla pulled up. The passenger wound down the window and offered us ice cold bottles of water. It was just what we needed to get us over the BIG HILL and into Bendigo. 200km ticked over at the top of the climb. It wasn't the 222km as planned, but it was big enough for this day.
Descending the down the Big Hill on the Calder into Kangaroo Flat we were unofficially in Bendigo. The good doctor had suggested I ride the last kilometres of the day in a little gear, and jump into a body of cold water to aid recovery. I managed one of the two rolling through Golden Square in the smaller chainring. Then the rear became a little spongy, a slow leak. Then my GPS battery died. I wasn't the only one who'd had enough for one day.
The earlier talk of a beer / man hug post ride had clearly vanished from JA's thought. I escorted him to the train station and there wasn't much rattling behind his eyes other than get home and rest. After saying our goodbyes I found the nearest motel and got a room for the night.
It was 6.30pm.
I still had to shower, wash and dry my kit, eat, drink, eat some more, get supplies for tomorrow morning, and get to bed. Oh, and repair that flat tyre.
I let The Boss know that I'd made it and she relayed the crazy weather that I'd left behind and that was coming for me tomorrow. The world's most disappointing chicken parma and pasta later (La Porchetta), I went to the supermarket and purchased tomorrow's breakfast and ride snacks, moisturiser and got myself back to the motel to change the flat, and hit the lights.
I've learnt from the Cannonball Run, TDU and similiar multi-day rides that very little is open at 7am, particularly in the country, and on a Sunday - forget about it. If you don't buy tomorrow's breakfast the night before you end up riding the morning on an empty tank which puts you in purgatory from kilometre one.
After letting drip dry, then wringing with towels I used some evaporative cooling techniques to make sure it was dry the following morning.
Skin grows back stickers also double as as tyre boots for gashs in the tread. Mini pumps are bloody useless I might add. Claims of 120psi? More like 80. I took CO2 cartridges also for times when I didn't feel like standing on the side of the road pumping my fist.
Physically tired, but restless I struggled to fall asleep. I'd neglected to bring my patch kit so I was down to one spare tube. I woke in the middle of the night from a dream of slashed unrepairable tyres and being stranded. It didn't auger well for tomorrow.
What's in the bag.
For your own adventure planning here's what I took (and forgot to take).
Wool Socks (2)
Rain jacket (Campagnolo raytech)
Sunglasses (Briko Zen)
Helmet (Laser 02 - thanks Tim @ Cecil Walker Fitzroy)
Money (cash and plastic)
Chamois cream ( Assos)
Sunscreen (Banana Boat)
Spare tubes (2)
CO2 catridges (3)
Nikon D700 with 50mm lens (not pictured and made up 2kg of total 6.5kg weight)
Nikon 35mm lens
Phone / charger
GPS / charger
Gloves (Tokyu Hands)
Muesli bars (6)
Patch kit (forgot to bring)
The easy day was now behind me. Tomorrow I head solo across the flat plains of Victoria's north for Wang(aratta).