Last weekend i was lucky enough to be invited to go on a cycling trip to the Victorian Alps staying in the small village of Harrietville down the road from the larger town of Bright.
The trip was organised by one of the guys who I’ve met through Croydon Cycleworks and they have been going for a few years now. We stay in a large house that has had bunk beds put in all the rooms and use that as a base for a few days of riding.
This was my first chance to try some of the climbs in the 7 Peaks challenge. The aim to to ride 7 specific climbs in Victoria during the summer season, this is something i hope to complete this season if i can.
The town is about a 4 hour drive from where we live on the East of Melbourne, on the way we met up for a lunch stop at Brown Brothers winery about 3 hours into the drive. The weather wasn’t great so it was very tempting to stay there and enjoy the wine and nice food all afternoon! We managed to get going after the stop and drove convoy to the accommodation in Harrietville.
After grabbing a bed and a bit of shuffling of rooms we got on the bikes for a short warm up ride down the road towards the town of Bright and then to the Wandi pub in a small town of Wangiligong. This was a great little pub with loads of craft beer – again we could have stayed for much longer but just stopped for a pot (basically a shot of beer) and headed back. Unfortunately it started raining on the way back so we were soaked by the time we returned to the house. The heaters were turned on, fire lit and clothes and shoes left hanging everywhere to dry. We all headed over to one of the two local pubs for dinner that evening and stuffed our faces ready for the first mountain climb the next day. [~60km; 350m gained]
Saturday – Mount Buffalo
The following day the target was Mount Buffalo, 20km of climbing with abut 1000m of elevation gain at 5% average.
The start was just over 30km from the accommodation back through Bright and out the other side, then a few short hilly sections and we arrived at the base of the climb. The weather was much better today so we could take in the scenery which was lovely, it reminds me a bit of the lower valleys in the European Alps but without the large snow covered mountains in the background.
There was a bit of a staggered start and i was the second to last to set off. I had ridden up Mount Donna Buang a few months ago but this was my first real cycling climb so i sat at a steady heart rate and cadence and enjoyed the ride. I was careful not to change my pace when i could see others up the road so i didn’t burn out and took it (relatively easy). I had the elevation profile and distance remaining on my bike GPS (a new Wahoo Elemnt Bolt which i am really loving!) so this really helped in pacing myself.
I overtook a few people in the first few kms having a brief chat on the way. As the youngest on the ride was wasn’t unexpected! As shown in the elevation profile this climb just keeps going it doesn’t really level off at all so there was no real break from peddling, i enjoying taking in the fantastic views on the way up. A few kms from the end i had another member of our group in my sights whom i passed and then saw the person who set off last a bit further down the hill. Towards the end of the climb there is a small down hill section with a turning that needs to be taken to a Chalet at the top of the mountain. Once on the downhill section i started pushing a bit more until the final short climb to the chalet at the top. I the other guy in the group wasn’t quite able to chase me down but in the end did get a time a few minutes better.
Once at the top the weather wasn’t great, the summit was surrounded by cloud so there were no views at all, there isn’t much at the top either the chalet has been closed for a number of years and given that it wasn’t a great day a coffee truck that is sometimes in the car park wasn’t there. We threw on the extra layers, took some photos and once everyone else had joined us got ready for the descent.
The descent was great fun, the road flowed well and the surface was generally very good, the Dt Swiss wheels that i was borrowing whilst mine are being changed under warranty have great breaking so i was able to break hard before the corners with confidence.
What felt like a few minutes we were re-grouping down at the bottom, one person in the group did have a rear tyre blowout so there was a bit of a delay whilst that was fixed. It was then a steady ride back into Bright for some amazing pie and cake for lunch.
We then had the 30kms or so ride back to the accommodation, with all of us just missing the rain this time, after showers and chilling out with a glass of wine we headed back to the pub for dinner. [115km; 1500m gained; Mt Buffalo time: 1:15:08].
Sunday – Mount Hotham
The Sunday climb was Mount Hotham, 30km ride up 1300m at an average of 4%, this doesn’t account for the bits of downhill. There are some flat sections though as well as some 12% steep bits:
Most of the guys set off earlier for this climb, it started just 300m from the accommodation we were in so they went straight into it. Myself and 2 others set off about 15/20mins later and did a 10km warm-up up the road and back again to get the legs working first. Again as with yesterday i took this steady sitting on a good heart rate and comfortable cadence. The first section had a few steep corners but wasn’t too bad until we got to “The Meg” which is the first steep section, at this point i wished i had a bigger gear on my bike but made it up.
The section wasn’t too long and afterwards the road levelled out a lot to allow for some recovery. At this point one of the 3 of us that started together dropped off. After a bit more climbing we came to a fairly flat section which the 2 of us left worked together on taking the lead and then ducking behind for a draft to recover.
At the end of the flatish section there was another fairly steep bit but very short, the road then weaved on at quite comfortable gradients nothing too painful. This gave more time to enjoy the views through the trees and also see the devastation of some bush fires in recent years which had left a very barren landscape, the fires were so hot that trees that would normally re-grow haven’t been able to.
After a short fast downhill section we came to the “CRB” where i managed to drop an energy gel i was eating so had to stop, pick it up and get rolling again which added an extra challenge. I was feeling very good even after these steeper climbs so was able to start pushing a little bit harder. On the final steeper section of climbing, on a fairly exposed section above the tree line the person i was cycling with started to slow down as his legs had burnt out a bit. Being the nice person that i am i carried on pushing as i had a bit left in me; we had already agreed earlier in the climb that we’d abandon each other if this did happen!
The final part of the climb was a bit windy but the end was in sight so i pushed for the end and put in a bit of an effort on the short downhill to the finish of the climb. Making it a minute or so ahead of the person i was riding with. There was then a short roll down the hill to a cafe for a muffin and hot chocolate.
The ski resort town was very much like the base/valley towns in European ski resorts, not very pretty. There were just lots of corrugated metal and concrete buildings, the opposite is true of the Australian valley towns which are very pretty (like the ski resorts in most European resorts).
There was also still some snow left. We took our photos and groups shots and started on the descent, stopping for a few pictures on the way.
The descent was much harder work than Buffalo as it had the flat and some up-hill sections but it was good fun and over super quick as well. It was nice being able to roll straight into the house as well without having to ride another 30km. After showers we went over the road to a cafe and had the biggest BLT i think i have ever had, i think there was most of a pig in it! After lunch the people that weren’t staying an extra night headed off for the drive home leaving 4 of us behind. To fill the time we went for a walk around Harrietville which was an old gold mining town and went for dinner at the other pub that evening. We also watched Australia getting beaten by India in the 20:20 cricket which was good fun! [74km; 1700m gained; Mount Hotham time: 1:48:32]
Monday – Tawonga Gap to Mount Beauty
We weren’t in any fit state to do another long climb today so we stuck with the suggested option of a ride over to the next valley to the town of Mount Beauty. Mount Beauty is actually a valley town so it is a very deceptive name.
The 4 of us set off towards Bright again but turned off up a road to take us over the Tawonga Gap which separates the two adjacent valleys. This wasn’t a particularly long climb, around 4% with a very steady gradient going up around 500m. I, as with the others, took it very easy and sat at a low heart rate just enjoying the ride. The views from the top were great and made it worthwhile. We rolled down the hill a bit more to the next viewpoint took a few photos and then enjoyed the descent down into the quaint town of Mount Beauty.
It is easy to think you’ve arrived in Mount Beauty before you have and think everything is shut, you just need to continue along the road a bit more and you arrive in the small town. The town is another example of the nice valley towns unlike the ones up the mountains. The town in the start point for the Falls Creek ride which is another one of the 7 Peaks so i am sure i will be back there before long.
The ride back up and over the Tawonga Gap from the East is a bit shorter and steeper, as we didn’t have much riding left to do i pushed this a bit harder to get a good time up. Was very tired by the top though where i got bitten by my first Australian animal, a bush fly or horse fly or wasp, not really sure. I killed it though as the stinger was still in me and it wasn’t a bee!
On the plus side though this climb meant that i broke 100,000m of climbing for the year so far, a tough target to aim for for beat next year.
We were warned to take it easy on the way down as the first few corners tighten as you go into them but it was another fun descent (the main reason to do a climb). On the flat road back towards the house again i was totally burnt out, i didn’t have any food at the top of the Tawonga gap as i had planned to so had no energy for the last few kms. Luckily i was able to keep behind the other and enjoy the tow home! [88km; 1300m gained]
I had a great weekend and looking forward to doing it again some time, hopefully with these two 7 Peaks climbs under my belt i can carry on and do the rest this summer.
There are a few extra pictures that didn’t fit in to the post: