I’ll try and summarise the whole experience in a sentence for those not wanting to read the whole thing.
It was long and difficult but immensely satisfying.
I was video logging the experience if you want to check my instagram page you’ll see my progression from fresh to red eyed and hoarse =D
We were also followed by a photographer who is posting as he can.
So. Sydney to Melbourne raw details
Day 1: 360km 3800vm – 14 hours
Day 2 320km 5000vm – 14.5 hours
Day 3 350km 2700vm – 13.5 hours
Day 4 182km 1200vm – 7 hours (all moving time)
Total time 82hrs 6 mins
We had a perfect roll out of sydney as an Audax pelo. It was quickly split up though through the rollers and lights of western sydney and a front group formed and we were rolling fast towards CP1. Drafting is allowed in Audax so I maximised wherever possible. My plan for the day was to sit in with the front group and minimise stoppage time by filling a mussette at checkpoint and eating on the go, no sitting down or helmet off just keep moving. Strategy worked really well. Disaster about 175km with a puncture 🙁 Farewell front group theres no obligation to stop and I was on my own. No problem though done this a hundred times. Strip the rear wheel, check for debris, slip in the new tube, remount tyre, boost it with CO2 and BANG. Shock. Tube had pinched and blown with the CO2. Damn. Repeat process with 2nd tube, CO2 doesnt take properly to the valve and gushes uselessly into the air… OK… No problem I have a pump. Screw on the pump and what seems like an hour later I have inflation. Great! remove pump and PSSSSSH out comes the valve core with it! By now I am ready to throw my bike under the next semi trailer! The valve core is wrecked. So what to do? Patches. Here we go but its too loud on the side of a chipseal 100kph hwy to actually listen for where the hole is so I take the pump, patches and tube and clamber through the scrub for 50m to get somewhere quiet enough to find the hole. Success. I patch the hole and return to the bike to remount. Get halfway through pumping and PSSSSH. Patch has failed… Screaming at the sky for cursing me I wonder what to do next. I’m out of tubes and have one patch left. I return to my initial replacement and attempt to patch the snakebite. Success it holds air but alas it also failed when getting up to pressure.
Im stuck on the side of the road and I cannot believe it.
This process so far has taken an hour or so. I’ve seen riders passing me and waved them on, I’ll be OK I’ve got this. No I dont got this.
A duo of riders I know appear and graciously give me a new tube. I carefully install it, carefully semi inflate with the pump, check for pinches, then gas the rest. Success. ninety minutes since the original flat I am rolling again.
Picking up the pace and channelling my frustration through the pedal I start picking off riders who have passed me which is a little satisfying.
The rest of the ride to Canberra that night is pretty uneventful except for losing my Oakleys in the dark on a climb. I was not going back down to look for them in the dark. RIP Oakleys.
Rolled into Canberra and hooked into the food!
We were told the tragic news in the morning a rider had been killed the previous evening in whats believed to be an animal strike. A sombre mood permeated breakfast as well got our gear together and headed out on the crack of dawn, about 53o am. Canberra is actually really beautiful in the soft light.
Rolling up the Monaro highway with 2 mates was horrible. we stuck together for safety as the shoulder came and went and the surface was bad.
We stopped at Mike Halls ghost bike for a bit of reflection, particularly given we had just lost yet another rider. After a cup of tea and some super sweet jam slice back on the road. I gassed it up here and took off on my own. Needed to up the pace and nearly 5 kilometres of vert awaited.
Rolled through Cooma and met up with a rider who was my pace. We would end up riding all the way to Melbourne together.
The hills started out of Cooma and there was no rest. No easy bits, no respite. UP. DOWN. UP. DOWN. I’ve never switched from big to small ring on a ride so much ever. UP. DOWN.
It was hot. Like garmin says 41 degrees hot. checkpoints were adequetely spaced to stay topped up with water though.
After slogging through the Snowies and peaking at about 1550m (including a RIPPER descent down a snowy access road, got the KOM even, thank you disc brakes!) and a horrendous 8km @ 13% climb out of a valley the 2nd last checkpoint was upon us. A quick feed and drink and we rolled out on sunset. A reminder was shared to watch out for Brumbies and about 500m later our collective lights found no less than 6 of them just off the road. Hoping like hell they stayed put we rolled past. PHEW!
A nice descent and the kays ticking down made us think we’d be done in no time but just to mess with us the last 8km for the day was uphill at about 6%. Not horrible but with nearly 5k in the legs it was pretty annoying.
Rolling into Laurel hill we were 6th ish in for the night and a friend who was the checkpoint captain even had a beer for me. Cracker! Took care of myself, my bike, smashed some food and straight into bed for a solid 6 hours sleep. LUXURY!
Slept in a little as eager as I was to get away the image of animal strike was in mind and decided to wait for daylight given we were straight into the hill we climbed the night before.
Rolling out as a duo I knew we were in for a good day, I’d ridden the route from Laurel hill back to Melbourne before and there are some very fun descents as the route trends downwards. Plus returning to Victoria, the land of freedom and sanity. Mostly.
It was due to be another hot day and by 10am we’d already rolled to the border and were refuelled and riding along the murray river. GLORIOUS! So hot though. A vollie came past and asked if we wanted any water. HELL YES! Cold water refill and felt better.
Arriving at the next CP we went inside, sat down and ate our bodyweight in food. My strategy of quick musette on the go having gone out the window. No regrets.
Things got a little dull here but were punctuated with the climb up to Beechworth where once again, bodyweight in food and I FINALLY acquired some new glasses as my eyes were hanging out of my head.
Banging descent from Beechworth was fun however we were now in the purgatory of the Victorian rural flatlands. STRAIGHT. FLAT. CHIPSEAL. Pick all three. We rolled turns. Told stories. Talked bikes. Anything to pass the time.
Eventually we made a turn (so exciting after 40km straight) and found our final checkpoint. By now food was becoming a pain so opted for some cup of noodles, soup an a bacon and egg rolls. So good! The Audax vollies really do an incredible job!
Rolling out into the dusk we knew we’d get to the sleep stop around 1030pm. We played “whats that light ahead”, “can we catch it?” “No, no we cant”. haha!
Nothing particularly noteworthy, more rolling turns ( I was using songs in one ear to time the turns, 1 song = 1 turn). Highway riding on the shoulder and keeping an ear out for traffic and riding the rollers. UP. DOWN.
Lake Nillahcootie (near Boonie Doon) was our stop and as predicted 1030 arrival. A solid sleep tonight as the first checkpoint didnt open til 9am. something like 7 hours sleep. HUGE.
Again, look after myself, my bike, feed up, sleep.
We left around 7am, leisurely by Brevet standards after a BACON AND EGGS breakfast. Did I mention how good the vollies are?
I knew today would go quickly and was aiming for a 4pm finish at the Coburg Velo. I’d stripped everything I could from my bike and was carrying just the basic spares which made the bike feel much faster on the climbs.
We set a blistering pace of about 30kph for the first 40km after which I annouced this was unsustainable and needed a breather at a servo. Sugar and carbs in the form of Solo a Weis bar and Doritos (2nd breakfast of champions) we took off again, snubbing the gravel rail trail and sticking to the tarmac.
Rolling into Yea and hitting the bakery right on 9am we got our cards signed, smashed whatever food we could fit in (you literally stop wanting to eat around day 3) and took off into the first climb of the day. Many kilometres of false flat around 2% before it starts in earnest.
I could not hang with my trio anymore, the legs just werent responding. I did know I would catch them on the descent though. I can bomb down a road like a missile. So that happened as predicted but then straight into the next climb was dropped again.
There were some marvellous vollies (They are wonderful people vollies) at the top of climb 2 with water. THANK. YOU!
The descent into Whittlesea is a CRACKER. wide, fast road I got on the horns (aero bars) and proceeded to hit 90kph and matched traffic on the way down, even drafting a motorcycle at one point. It was SO DAMN HOT though like riding into a hairdryer.
The CP at Whittlesea was a McDonalds but I didnt know that… So rolled into the first servo and downed 1.5L of cold water, a ginger ale, another weis bar and something else I forget. Then rolled up to the CP, slapped myself for not knowing it was a McDonalds and proceeded to eat a large cheeseburger meal and a thickshake.
Not long to Melbourne this was all flat! Joy! We are rolling together into the hairdryer. Did I mention it was hot? It was so damn hot. The route has one last quirk though, a short but sharp 1km pinch before hitting the city proper. Ugh. Dropped and caught up on the roll down.
We hit the fringe and route started taking us on bike paths rather than road. I get that from a safety perspective but the stop/start nature of crossing and criss crossing paths was a pain. I started tipping water on myself at this point which proved unhelpful as we were stopping too much.
FINALLY we could see the velo and I surged. Because I’m cheeky and after riding nearly 850km together I wanted to “win.” A victory lap of velo was happening when suddenly my riding mate Marcus surges past me half way up the embankment and pips my lap. Hilarious. It mustve been the shittest looking contest in that velo ever!
Rolling up the side to the applause of those present and handed a frosty cold tinny of Boags we were done. 82 hours and 6 minutes.
Audax put on a great spread at the finish and we watched others roll in, and applauded their victory laps.
It was TOUGH but the Great Southern Randonee last year was physically more taxing, I even rode Giro Della Donna that weekend and set PBs up Reefton spur.
Next up is Indian Pacific Wheel Race in March. A 5500km race from Fremantle to Sydney.