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The Hitchikers guide to an Everest

If you choose to do an Everest, then prepare yourself to possibly undertake the hardest experience of your life! It’s a pretty simple concept. You go up the hill, then down the hill, up the hill, then down the hill……..

How successful you are can be determined by your preparation. You need to:

  •  Realistically work out how long you will need to complete your Everest
  •  Have more than enough food to last through the ride
  •  Have a nutritional plan
  •  Have more than enough fluids to last through the ride
  •  Have portable batteries to ensure that your Garmin lasts the distance
  •  Bring additional comforts to make the ride more enjoyable, i.e. change of kits, music etc.
  •  Have adequate lighting for any night stint
  •  Work out how many laps you will do in-between breaks


On the day time can really fly, particularly on your breaks. You find you don’t really rest much when you stop as you’re constantly doing something such as topping up water, eating, changing clothes, going to the toilet etc. It is important to set-up your car so that everything is nicely organised. The quicker you can get in & out of your pit stop, the more successful your ride will be, and if everything’s cluttered, then you can also find yourself feeling cluttered.

What sort of hill should you look for?


Here are some things to look for when selecting your Everest:

  • Is there a place you can go to a Toilet? You may know a great back street climb, but it’s no good to you unless you can take a dump in someone’s front yard
  • How narrow is the road? (the closer cars need to be to pass you the more uncomfortable the day will be, and the higher the risk that one of them may hit you which will end your Everest pretty quickly)
  • Is there any wildlife that you need to keep an eye out for?
  • What is the road surface like?
  • Does your climb experience fog? You should be mindful of fog when there is no wind, and this is where it is important to know your climb in all sorts of conditions
  • What is the traffic like? If you can pick a climb with virtually no traffic, you will be doing yourself a major favour
  • Is there a good place to park your car at either end of your climb? I personally prefer to park at the top, but it’s a personal choice
  • Are there shops nearby?
  • Do you get reception for your phone?
  • How well shaded is the climb?
  • Is the wind likely to affect your climb?
  • Does your climb experience abnormal temperatures? i.e. does it get really cold overnight?


Tips for making your Everest easier:

  • Know how long your Everest will realistically take. If you’re working out your average lap time, don’t use stats of when you are climbing fresh. You really need to know what pace you will ride on exhausted legs & go from there. I would also advise to set-up a climbing & descending segment to work out how much one full lap takes, but it is better if you are able to set-up a longer segment, such as a 5 x segment, 10 x segment etc. Once you’ve set those up, will give you a realistic idea of how long you will need to complete your Everest.
  • Know your climb. Go and do a lot of repeats before you Everest it.  I can guarantee after doing an Everest you will know every bump in the road
  • Don’t trust the weatherman! Pack extra clothing for any contingency
  • Avoid social media. It may help improve your spirits getting support from others while you are riding, but this will cost you time, and anyone could easily spend hours texting, facebooking, Instagraming, commenting on Strava etc.
  • If you have friends ride with you, don’t stop riding! When they say goodbye, you could easily spend 10 – 20 minutes reminiscing, and if you get to the stage where you’ve been on the bike for 20 hours, then every minute wasted will hurt more & more
  • Change your kit at least once during your Everest. May cost you a couple of minutes, but in the later part of your ride when you’re exhausted, the extra comfort will be worth it
  • Don’t stop riding. Sounds pretty straight forward, but later on, you will get really exhausted and may feel like taking more & more breaks. For every minute spent off the bike in the later part of your ride adds exhaustion so be smart and try & ride through it
  • Make sure you keep eating & drinking though out the day
  • Keep your car neat & tidy
  • Most important is to stay positive throughout.  You need to be as enthusiastic on lap 60 as you are on lap 6


Preparing for an Everest:

Originally I believed the best training for an Everest was to climb as many hills as I could. I was staggered to see a number of non-climbers who only would climb around 2,000 vertical per week complete an Everest. In hindsight I’ve found that the endurance & pre-preparation is key to an Everest. The choice of your climb is also paramount to your success. Obviously the steeper the hill, the shorter the distance, but then you need to be able to climb really steep hills easily, or you pick an easy climb,& then you’re looking at doing a ride of over 300 km’s, which is exhausting by itself.

The hardest part of an Everest is by getting your head around doing repeats. I came up with a training ride which I swear by. If you have to do say 60 repeats of a 6km hill it would be impossible to train for that specifically. Instead I would recommend to pick a short back street climb, around 300 – 500 metres of equal, or preferably a little steeper gradient & then go & knock out over 60 repeats of that short hill. The benefit of this will be to get your head around doing 60 repeats, and will also give you an idea of how much vertical you can push yourself to do before needing a break, and also give you an idea of what sorts of foods your body will crave when knocking out repeats.

At the end of the day it’s only a ride

If you commit to doing an Everest, it will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, and there is no such thing as an easy Everest. There are dangers involved which could prevent you from finishing, and you need to be aware that your safety is worth more than finishing an Everest, and you should never be scared to pull the pin. It’s much better to fail at 8,000vm, than to go through to the end & screw up your knee & not being able to ride for the following 6 months. Not everyone will be able to complete an Everest, but for those that do you will be seen as completely badass! Make sure you plan well, train appropriately & make the most of your Everest.



Head to the Everesting Website to find out more:

Running the Magpie gauntlet

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You’re riding along, minding your own business and then THWACK!  You feel the sharp dig of claws and wings against the back of your helmet, and there’s a horrible dry scream right in your ear and you realise that a Magpie has hit you from behind.  The attack has come from nowhere and you’re in a bit of disbelief and starting to feel terrified when THWACK!  You get hit this time from the side and you feel pain as a pair of sharp claws dig into your shoulder.  Looking over your shoulder you see that the Magpie is already lining you up for a third attack and gracefully gliding in mid air.  Its beady little brown eyes giving you the stare of death.  As soon as you turn around you know the Magpie will pounce.  Its wings extended and claws dug out coming at you like a bat out of hell.  It all happens so quickly that you hardly have any time to crap yourself.  You hope to be able to out run the feathered fury, but its like taking Usain Bolt on in a sprint.  You will loose!

Running a Magpie gauntlet takes nerves of steel, and you just never know which direction they will came at you from, or even worse.  Whether blood will be drawn.

Running the Magpie gauntlet

Running the Magpie gauntlet is just another occupational hazard of riding on Australian roads during the spring time.   Magpies see Cyclists as a serious threat to their young, and have an urge to protect its eggs and young and will aggressively defend the space around their nest.  Its usually the male who will become overly aggressive due to a huge increase in testosterone levels during mating season.  If you can’t avoid it and have to run the gauntlet against a Magpie.  Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you will lose!  There is no outrunning a Magpie.

Just hope that you’re lucky to get away in one piece.  If you’ve got any tips for surviving a Magpie please feel free to share them in the comments section below.  It may be a small consolation, but if you manage to survive a Magpie attack look at it as giving the little suckers plenty of exercise.

Special note

Magpies are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act and it is illegal to intentionally or, recklessly injure or kill a Magpie.  If you have a Magpie attack that you would like to report please click on the following link to be directed to the Magpie alert website



On the road to 3 Peaks

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With 5 weeks remaining before attempting the 3 Peaks course I really needed a big ride under my belt to have a hope in hell of getting in shape in time.  I had been sick 10 weeks now, and physically I dropped 6kg during this period which has left me really weak.  I love my gravel & jumped at the chance to ride in Audax Australia’s in Search for Bunyip ride.  A 100km loop through the heart of Cardinia & in search of the Bunyip.

Image courtesy of Melbourne Randonneur

Our wave set off & I was leading the group straight into a solid headwind of 40+kmph winds.  The going was hard & I wasn’t feeling all that great.  Cycling can be a game of poker, & the rider next to you may be hurting even more, but it’s all about hiding it.  I pushed through and kept on trying to pace myself through and survive.  I felt I could get through the day but knew it was going to be a struggle with those winds that were battering us fiercely.  20km in I was descending towards Pakenham Road when I heard a large bang.  My chain locked up & jumped off and I couldn’t get it into gear.  I looked down at my Garmin & was sitting on about 60kmph, and had to really settle the bike.  Not good.  At first I thought it was the derailer, but when I pulled over was able to get the chain back on and could change the gears easily enough.  Jumped back on and bang the chain jumped straight off, & had to descend with the chain sitting on a really funny angle & was really worried that I could do some serious damage to the bike.

Tour guide

I got down to the base of the climb & we found out that my rear wheel had crapped itself.  I could no longer free wheel which caused some major slack in the chain.  If I was pedalling it was ok.  As long as I didn’t stop pedalling………

I made it up the next hill ok, and then the descent just the same thing.  We were descending this incredibly steep and technical gravel descent and I couldn’t turn the wheel or else risked snapping the chain or the derailer.  Given my legs were locked in place I couldn’t use my knees to corner and I felt pretty unsafe.  It was game over.  I could ride on the flats & the hills ok, just couldn’t safely descend & given the fact we were in the middle of nowhere & had a tonne of descents in front of me I didn’t to risk crashing.  Game over & I opted to turn around at the Princess Highway which is completely flat and head back.


I’m due to get a new bike soon and that particular wheel I’ve gotten over 30,000km out of so I guess I can’t complain.  I was gutted that I couldn’t finish the course as it was such a great event & there were 100 riders show up which was an amazing turnout and a testimony to how popular gravel grinding has become.

I really needed this to get into shape for 3 Peaks.  I needed a perfect run to have a hope to get in shape to be able to ride 235km & 4,300 vert.  This has really dented those chances & I’ve conceded that I may simply not have enough time to do this now.

Time will tell……

Cycling Grand Ridge Road

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A'QTO Bibi e Gusti

Images courtesy of Andrew Clifforth photography

If you’re looking for a grand adventure on the bike, Grand Ridge Road (GRR) is one of Victoria’s most spectacular tourist drives which will take you through the heart of Gippsland.  GRR is mainly unsealed, but well maintained in most areas, and can be ridden on any sort of bike.  The road snakes its way along the ridge of the Strzelecki Ranges, covering 135km from Seaview to Carrajung.  This road provides stunning views through the La Trobe Valley, and to Bass Coast and Wilsons Prom to the south.

 A'QTO Bibi e Gusti

It is an incredible road to cycle because of the ever-changing scenery, from fern forests to rolling pastures, towering mountain ash to forestry plantations.  If you ride down Grand Ridge Road you will feel like you’ve gone back in time, as this road was built in a by-gone era.

A'QTO Bibi e Gusti

GRR takes you past the Mount Worth State Park, and into Mirboo North, which has colourful murals depicting the history of the town adorning the sides of local shops which are great to get a photo with your bike next to. If you enjoy a Beer, then Mirboo North also has the Grand Ridge Brewery, where you drop in and sample some of Gippsland’s finest Beers and Ales.  The final part of your journey will take you through the magnificent Tarra Bulga National park, one of Victoria’s most spectacular cool temperate rainforests.

 A'QTO Bibi e Gusti

You will rarely have the opportunity to ride such a beautiful road that offers stunning views throughout, and is just a delight to ride, and will offer you a adventure of a lifetime.  Whether you ride a short section, or take on the whole 135km you will be left with lasting memories.

Cycling Grand Ridge Road

Start:                                Seaview

Finish:                             Carrajung

Public Transport:          V-Line Services run alongside the Princess Highway.  Check out the PT Website for further details


As with all unsealed roads, the road surface can change depending on weather conditions.  Take appropriate equipment, and some extra spares and make sure you take lots of photos along the way.

Rocket man

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I was recently climbing the Burwood Hill on the Eastlink Trail.  The climb is about 300 metres in length with an average gradient of 6%.  I was absolutely fanging it & flying up that hill sitting on a little over 35kmph.  My legs were on fire and my lungs were bursting and I was wondering how much longer I could keep that pace up for.  I was in disbelief as a rider glided past me on my right side.  I was flying and my first thought was I was getting taken, yet I noticed the guy wasn’t even pedalling & there wasn’t a bead of sweat on his head.  He must have been doing well over 40kmph & you could hear the humming of a motor powering his bike.  Not happy Jan!

Some people will go to extreme measures for some gain and it made me wonder how long people have been looking for that extra oomph.  I began to do some research and learned that this sort of thing has been going on for a long time.  I discovered a gent by the name of Richter Raketenrad.  We’ve all thought of ways of tinkering with our bikes to get that little extra performance out.  Richter had a serious need for speed and went above and beyond to get that extra Strava juice.


Richter Raketenrad
24th March 1931: German engineer Richter and his Raketenrad (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

So in 1931, German engineer Richter Raketenrad toyed with the idea of a super powered bicycle and added not one or two but twelve rockets (yes, explosive devises) to the rear end of his bike and called his device the “Raketenrad.” A white box was attached to the frame which contained the battery used to ignite the rockets which used solid fuel (which could blow up).  You’d hope that that steel frame between the rockets & Richter was pretty strong…….

Today the thought of attaching explosive devises to the back of your bike may seem a tad bit dangerous, and you’d probably want to make sure your will & testament were filled out before you try this.  Apparently rocket propulsion was all the rage in Germany back in the 1930’s. People actually attached rockets, which as mentioned may be considered slightly dangerous, to skates (both roller and ice), cars, boats and bicycles.

Richter Raketenrad
March 23, 1931 German engineer Herr Richter and his Raketenrad Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Well as the story goes “don’t try this at home fellas!  I’m a trained professional!”.  Richter tested his rocket bike at the Avus racetrack in Berlin.  The rockets ignited and he went flying at incredible speeds and reportedly managed to reach a speed of close to 100kmph.  You could imagine the adrenaline rush that this would have given Richter.  The world would have been flying by at a million miles an hour and Richter was living the dream.

That was until he lost control and was thrown off as his precious rockets exploded (see images below).

Except for his pride, thankfully Richter wasn’t too seriously injured

Rocket Bicycles, ca_ 1930s (6)
Your mother always said you’ll have days like these Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Link to source:

Author:  Aaron Cripps



9 weeks of the man Flu

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In just under 7 weeks I will be heading up to Bright for a cycling weekend that was to involve 5 peaks, 350km & close to 7,000 vertical metres of climbing.  To prepare for this I’ve managed to cop virus after virus after virus.  5 of them all up and a day hasn’t gone by over the past 9 weeks where I haven’t been sick.

Hells 500 collapse
Image taken by Doc Ryan

I am still sick & only able to get out for a short ride this week and the enormity of what I’d need to do to get in shape has hit me hard.  I’ve performed numerous miracle recoveries in the past, but given I’m still not 100% & the weather has been shocking with Melbourne recording one of its wettest Spring’s in history I don’t know if I will get there this time.

I’m a firm believer of staying positive, and I will need to find my chi pretty quickly.  I’ve been averaging less than 50km a week since April & for a ride like the 3 Peaks course which is 235km & 4,300 vertical, I would normally look at pumping out 250 – 400km a week with quite a bit of vertical in-between.  At best most of the k’s I can do now and November could be commutes which are pretty much flat.

Wish me luck…….

The Devils Elbow

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Length: 5.1km
Average Gradient: 8%
Total Ascent: 415m
Climb Category: 3
Finish: One Tree Hill Road – Ferny Creek

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

– The expression “Devils Elbow” has been used since at least the 1860’s to describe a difficult bend or curve in a road or river.

The Devils Elbows is considered the gateway to the Dandenong Ranges and one of the true icons for climbing enthusiasts. The climb is deceptively steep and includes two sharp hairpins as it winds its way through the Dandenong Ranges National Park, and passes by the 1,000 Steps which is the Dandenong’s most popular walk.

The Devils Elbow

The traditional start to the climb starts at the corner of Burwood Highway and Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, however there is a fair bit of climbing up the Burwood Highway to get to the start.  The Devil’s Elbow takes you up the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road until you reach Churchill Drive and make a left turn onto this road until you reach One Tree Hill Road where you make a right hand turn. The gradient drops on One Tree Hill, however the final stretch is undulating, and can be quite challenging depending on how much fuel you’ve got left in your tank to get to the top of this climb, which is one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs & also one of the most difficult.

The Devils Elbow
Churchill Drive

The Devils Elbow offers a really good challenge, and riders are rewarded with great views as you move from the steep slopes of Mount Dandenong to the wet temperature forest of One Tree Hill which provides a welcome relief on hot days.


The Devils Elbow is part of one of the Dandenong Ranges biggest challenge rides; the Crucifix which challenges riders to take on the 1 in 20, The Wall, Inverness Avenue and the Devil’s Elbow in the one ride. The challenge was named due to the fact that on a map these four climbs look like a cross.

The Devil's Elbow


Hubert Opperman

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Sir Hubert Ferdinand Opperman
29 May 1904 – 18 April 1996

Hubert Opperman is a legend of Australian cycling, who earned the nickname “Oppy”. He had an incredible 21 year career where he won  a record four Australian Road Championships, and more than 50 major road races and hundreds of track events in Australia and Europe, breaking dozens of world records in the process. Opperman continued riding all the way up until his 90th birthday until his wife convinced him to stop.

HO @ St Joseph's College State Library of NSW

Hubert Opperman travelled to Europe during the late 20’s and early 30’s where he achieved much of his fame.  

Bol d’Or 24 hour classic

Hubert Opperman’s has done many amazing rides, but the most legendary ride was in the The Bol D’or (Bowl of Gold).  This was a prestigious French 24 hour event which he participated in 1928.  This was held at the Vélodrome Buffalo in Paris, and early on Oppy took the race lead until his chain on his Malvern Star snapped about an hour into the ride. He rolled to the centre of the track where his manager quickly gave him his spare bike, but the chain soon broke on that one too. Sabotage was suspected, and they figured that the chains may have been filed down which caused them to break.

Oppy’s manager had to scramble to find another bike for him to race on, and they were able to use Oppy’s French interpreter’s bike. This was a heavy touring bike and as race bikes go was a piece of shit! It had heavy mudguards and wheels, a lamp was attached and the handlebars were upturned which made riding it awkward.  Worse of all was that it had very low gears so he was unable to sustain the kinds of speeds that other riders were achieving.  This didn’t deter Oppy from giving his heart and soul to give his mechanic time to fix the chain.  By this stage Oppy had lost over an hour to this tragedy and was 20 laps behind the leaders, and things were looking grim.

He was not happy at all about being sabotaged and this fuelled him to pull something special out and rode 17 hours straight, smashing out an incredible 950 km’s and not only won, but won by a staggering 30 minutes in front of a 50,000 strong crowd who were screaming out “Allez Oppy”.  The legend was born.

The French fell in love with his spirit and tenacity on the bike and in 1928 he was voted Europe’s most popular sportsman in a poll of more than 500,000 readers from the French sporting journal L’Auto.

HO 24 hour unpaced world record ride, Sports Arena State Library of NSW

Paris-Brest-Paris tour

The Paris-Brest-Paris tour is one of the oldest bicycling events and was first run in 1891. Paris-Brest was an “épreuve,” a test of the bicycle’s reliability. It is a long-distance cycling event which was once a very prestigious event.

Oppy raced in the 1931 edition which was 1,162km in length.  The weather was horrible with riders encountering gales and heavy rain throughout the first day. Opperman later recalled: ‘I was wretched with fatigue….For hours I fought against the insidious onset of sleep. I whistled. I shouted; I strove to think of anything so that Morpheus would not clutch me too fiercely…it was agony.’  On the second morning, five men including Oppy had managed to break away. Oppy made several attacks until one finally succeeded and with 56 km to go was hoping to win the race solo. He managed to get a 3 minute advantage at one stage but his lead slowly dwindled down and he was caught with 5km to go and sat back in the bunch as they approached the Velodrome Buffalo. Oppy’s manager, Bruce Small, had been screaming from the car: “Oppy, ride like the devil!

Oppy sprinted 200 metres from the line and held enough momentum to win by two lengths. There were forty thousand spectators screaming adulation. Opperman was the first non-European to win the Paris-Brest-Paris race and set a course record of 49 hours & 23 minutes in the process cementing his reputation as being one of the greatest endurance athletes of his time.

HO 24 hour unpaced world record ride, Sports Arena State Library of NSW 1

Tour de France

Hubert Opperman participated in two editions of the Tour de in 1928 and 1931

He managed to finish in 18th place in the 1928 tour under difficult circumstances. Oppy was already at a disadvantage against many of the strong European teams as Australia only fielded 4 riders that year, where most of the other teams were able to field 10. It was a tough race and there was a high attrition rate with only 39 riders out of the original 169 riders finishing that year’s event.  Opperman said that the Tour was the hardest ride he’s ever done and nothing ever compared after.  He could easily match the pace on the flats, but it was the Alps that brought him undone.  He had no experience climbing at altitude, and remarked at how poor the road conditions were an without local knowledge all he could do was watch as riders flew off down the road.

De Latour wrote: “It is the sight of the poor lonely Opperman being caught day after day by the various teams of 10 super-athletes”.

In 1931 Australia teamed up with Switzerland to form a much stronger team. Even though Oppy suffered several accidents and experienced dysentery during the tour he came 12th overall

HO 1932 State Library of NSW

 With the outbreak of World War II, Hubert Opperman enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and served between 1940 -1945 where he rose to flight lieutenant. He raced briefly after the war but retired from racing in 1947 and moved onto politics. He joined the Liberal Party and in 1949 was elected to the Victorian electorate of Corio in Geelong, and served in parliament for 17 years. After his retirement from politics in 1967 he was appointed as Australia’s first High Commissioner to Malta, and was knighted in 1968. In his retirement, Oppy published his autobiography “Pedals, Politics and People”, and was recognised by his achievements being inducted into the Sporting Hall of Fame.

Hubert Opperman Nullarbor
Hubert Opperman crossing the Nullarbor Desert

Sir Hubert Opperman passed away a month before his 92nd Birthday whilst riding his exercise bike.  His son Ian Opperman said: “They reckon he had a smile on his face. It’s how he would have wanted to die. In the saddle.”

Hubert Opperman

Hubert Opperman died a true cycling legend!

Here is but a small list of Hubert Opperman’s amazing achievements:

  • He is the only rider to have won the Australian National Road race title four times
  • He won the Warrnambool to Melbourne Classic on three occasions
  • In 1927 he won the Dunlop Grand Prix which is a 1,111 km race over four stages
  • 18th overall at the 1928 Tour de France
  • 1928 won the Bol d’Or 24 hour classic
  • He won the Goulburn to Sydney Classic on three occasions
  • 12th overall at the 1931 Tour de France
  • In 1931 won the 1931 Paris-Brest-Paris tour (1,162 km) setting a then record time of 49 hours & 23 minutes
  • Completed 1,000km’s in 24 hours at the Melbourne Motordrome in 1932
  • In 1935 he won a 24 hour ride called “The Cycling Ashes” in England, which coincided with the 1935 cricket ‘Ashes’ series’.
  • In 1933 he was given the honour of being the first cyclist to ride over the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • In 1940 Opperman set 100 distance records in a 24-hour race at Sydney. Many of these were not broken until decades later.
  • In 2000 he was honoured by leading the Sydney 2000 Olympic cycling team through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel

HO at Peters Factory, Redfern State Library of NSW

The Sir Hubert Opperman Trophy

Since 1958 the best all-round performing cyclist each year has been presented with a trophy for the Australian Cyclist of the Year. This is awarded to the cyclist who not only has an excellent performance during the year but also displays a high level of sportsmanship and is an ambassador for the sport of cycling. Previous winners include Robbie McCewan, Simon Gerrans & Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.

Australian Sporting Hall of Fame

Sir Hubert Opperman was Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 as an Athlete Member for his contribution to the sport of cycling and was Elevated to “Legend of Australian Sport” in 1993.

Cycling Australia’s Tour de France squad of the century

 Sir Hubert Opperman was not only included in this prestigious squad but was named team captain in recognition of all of his cycling achievements

 Fleche Opperman

 Audax Australia runs an annual event called the Fleche Opperman All Day Trial aka “the Oppy”. This is a 24-hour team time trial for teams of three to five bicycles. To finish each time must ride at least 360km and finish at a designated location in each state.

Online Sources:

WOW Wiki:
Museum of Victoria:
Sports Australia Hall of Fame:
Cycling Australia:
The people and Environment Blog:
National Museum of Australia:
Fox Sports:
Audax Australia:
Sydney Morning Herald:



The Belgie

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The Belgie was a mixed surface ride put on by Curve Cycling  in honor of the Melbourne Spring classics.  Close to one hundred riders turned out at the Rapha Club house for what turned out to be a great ride.  I still was unsure as to what the Belgie was.  I knew that it was a mixed surface ride, but what was I in for? There were two groups to choose from.  The Belgie (full gas) and the Dutchie (we will wait), and if you fall off the Belgie train, the Dutchie can pick you up. I opted on riding the Dutchie train which was being led by one of the world’s best enduro riders, Sarah Hammond.

The Belgie

There were over 40 riders in the Dutchie group and we set-off and headed through an urban maze of back streets.  After weeks of rain we were finally treated to perfect riding conditions.  I was rolling along with ease and foolishly wondered whether I would be getting much of a workout.  We rolled along to a bike path which took us up to the Yarra Boulevard, near Walmer Street.  The group went straight across the road, over the curb and onto this narrow scrappy steep walking trail that was clearly not suitable to ride on.  WTF!

I was heading up the rear, and there was carnage in front of me as rider after rider struggled to get up this steep hill.  I had to dodge and weave, jumping over roots, rocks and ruts, and dancing over the grass when I ran out of road.  I could hear the clank as chains were jumping off and riders were running out of gears, and jumping off their bikes.  Game on!  The path ahead offered little in the way of traction, and a tree had fallen over near the top and pretty much everyone had to get off to walk over it.  It was pretty full-on to the top, and we were just at the start of our ride.  Ok so this is what the Belgie was about!


The Belgie

I was lost right from the start.  We were darting and weaving in among an urban jungle and would suddenly come out onto this incredible walking track which were clearly not designed to ride a bike on.  Every turn seemed to lead  to a short-sharp hill that had the word ‘evil’ written all over it.  Plenty of egos were shattered as pretty much everyone had to get off and walk their bike uphill at one point or another.  If you didn’t like a challenge, then go back to Beach Road.

“the Belgie is a ride where you can expect the unexpected.   Every turn offered a new challenge.  A new experience”  

We’d be riding up a residential street and suddenly turn onto a narrow lane way.  You’d be asking “how the hell did you know that was there?”.  These paths would be in all manner of disuse.  Sometimes dirt, sometimes no path at all, but always mighty fun.  I discovered to my delight that in a mixed terrain ride there were no rules.  A bike could travel anywhere and everywhere.  The Belgie

There was an allure to this ride.  The Belgie seemed an escape from the mundane of everyday riding and challenges you to go well and truly outside your comfort zone.  There was no machoism.  No pissing contest.  We were simply out for a good time.

The Belgie

Nearing the halfway point, we found ourselves on the Main Yarra Trail, and crossed paths with the Belgie group. They were riding like a bat out of hell, and there was some serious firepower in the group and a whole lot of smiles! We picked up a handful of riders that were spat out from the Belgie group, however there was no time for chatting as the clock was against us.  We had to be back by 11am, and with the additional firepower the pace stepped up quite a notch.  Those that were struggling before on the Dutchie train,  would have been digging deep into their happy place. Every time I looked over my shoulder, I would see the riders behind me really strung out, but hanging on.  Booyeah!

The Belgie

We made it back to the Rapha Club house and it was a real shame that the ride had to end.  Living in the outer south-eastern suburbs I miss out on a number of great group rides in and around the city.  The Belgie was a great mixture of roads/bike tracks/walking tracks & hills.  I went into this ride completely oblivious of the fun that I was about to have.  The Belgie gave me a chance to discover a side of the city that I never knew existed.

A ride like this you’ve got to be willing to throw your bike through all manner of torture.  If you’re interested in doing any of their rides in the future head to their website and sign up to Curve Cyclings newsletter for all the latest info:

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Just be prepared to walk……

The Belgie

Dirty Dozen 2016

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Dirty Dozen 2016 was always going to be one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done.   The course was a lot harder than last years course, and there was 3 – 10mm of rain forecast.  I was coming off 5 weeks of illness, and with only a handful of rides under my belt I knew I was completely out of shape.  .

I only managed a couple of hours sleep before heading up to Warburton at 6am.  I was in desperate need of Coffee, and tried not to think about what I was in for.

Dirty Dozen 2016

I headed out with the organisers of the event Matt de Neef & David Blom.  It’s comforting to know that on a ride like this you can’t get lost if you’re riding with the guys who put together the course.  I started out well and paced myself quite well, and we flew up climb after climb, and it was a relief to get one of the most challenging climbs of the event  Story Road out of the way.

Dirty Dozen 2016

When we hit the bonus climb of the day; Clarke Road.  It wasn’t even a goat track.  WTF!  It was a walking track that went straight up and must have been close to 30% in sections and in horrible shape.  What was worse was the fact that the path was quite muddy, and on my 28mm slicks, I didn’t hold much hope of getting traction.  It looked impossible to climb, and half a dozen riders didn’t even try and stopped at the base of the climb.  There was a small gap in-between and I fanged it and split the middle.  There were several riders up ahead, pulling over to walk.  I kept going determined to make it.  I hit some mud, & copped wheel spin.  It could have been game over, but I danced on the pedals and kept it moving, and hit the next section of mud.  The gradient was 20% and I got wheel spin again, and again and again.  More and more riders were pulling over above me & it was a matter of time.  David Blom pulled over in front of me and I managed to climb a couple of metres ahead of him before almost falling sideways after hitting a deep puddle of mud.  It was time to walk.  The gradient was close to 30% of mud, so I didn’t feel too bad.  Everyone else walked.

What a relief it was to reach the tourist road.  Pushing my bike up such a steep gradient burnt a lot of matches, and things turned south pretty quick.  Blommy was talking to me & I wasn’t taking a single thing in.  Early signs of bonking!  I took it as easy as I could, and with the easiest part of the course up ahead I hoped to be able to recover.

The best laid plans of mice and men………

Dirty Dozen 2016

We hit Milners Gap & I felt really, really hungry, and made it halfway up before imploding.  The lights went out.  I was running on empty and suddenly I couldn’t manage any speed at all and went into a very, very dark place.  All the riders I was easily keeping pace with flew off up the climb, and my head was spinning.  I seriously had to consider pulling the plug on the Dirty Dozen.  I went through a lot of soul searching.  This year has been horrible with injury & illness marring the whole year.  I’ve cherished the few times that I’ve gotten to ride & all of a sudden a fire burned within.  No matter the cost.  No matter the pain I wanted to finish.

Dirty Dozen 2016

I managed to crawl to the rest stop where one of the events sponsers “Winners” were set-up with a table full of goodies.  I stuffed my face with a Gel, two energy bars & a whole heap of lollies.  Energy flowed back into my wrecked body, and I felt there was hope.  There were 5 more climbs up ahead, but knew that 3 of them were amongst the hardest of the event.

We made it to Dees Road, and I was in fairly good shape but realised early on into the climb that I wasn’t fine.  I struggled, and Dees is a road which gets steeper the higher you go, & peaks at 27%.  I had to go into my happy place to get up this one.  This climb utterly Deestroyed me, and I now had 4 climbs left to survive.  The next was really hard, but I survived and then we hit Hooks.  I’ve never done this climb before but had seen it many times and it is a very vicious piece of work.  I had great apprehensions about the climb.  We turned onto Hooks and immediately the road goes to the wrong side of 20%.  My legs felt like lead, and I gave it everything I had, but halfway up the lights went up & I had nothing to get up it.  For the second time that day I got off my bike.  I never get off to walk on a climb.  This was quite humiliating.  I had no energy to walk up the climb so turned around and headed back.

Dirty Dozen 2016
Running on empty

It was tempting to head straight back to the car, but with 2 climbs left I wondered if it was possible.  The next climb I’ve been up several times and felt I could do it.  Albeit slowly.  I figured if I could at least get up Surrey Road would give me a small measure of pride back.  I made my way up very, very slowly.  I was quietly confident, but foolishly had not read the climb profile.  Dave & Matt had thrown a variation of this climb.  We headed up a dirt road which went skyward.  It had well in excess of 20%.  I went as high as I could, but was just going too slow.  I didn’t have any ascendancy, and for the third time during the event had to get off and walk.  This was embarrassing.  I knew this could have happened, and I’m not one to hide behind excuses.

Dirty Dozen 2016

I was a wreck a the top and there was still one climb left.  Martyr Road.  I had no confidence that I could get up it.  I was already coming up with excuses and did not look forward to the fact that most likely I would be walking up its extremely steep slopes.  When I turned off onto Martyr I tried not to look up.  It is one scary climb.  I had a couple of riders up ahead, and didn’t last long until my legs felt like lead.  I had no hope of riding straight up this monster.  There was a course photographer Kirsten Stewart halfway up the climb.  I didn’t like the thought of getting photographed walking.

Dirty Dozen 2016

I started to zig zag from side to side.  I went into a zone, and found  I could climb.  It wasn’t pretty, and it was excruciatingly slow but I was doing it.  One of the riders in front of me got off and walked.  This was not going to happen to me.  I kept going until I got past Kirsten.   I couldn’t make it up the last two climbs.  Which is why I had to get up the hardest.  Soon my hamstring cramped.  I never get cramp and it frekin hurt.  I was so close to the top that I couldn’t give up.

Getting a chance to redeem myself was pure gold.  I averaged a shocking 6kph up Martyr Road but I made it!  The feeling of jubilation when I crested the top of Martyrs was unbelievable.  I did it.  I finished the Dirty Dozen.  This is the fourth year that I’ve attended this event and is one of my favourites of the year.  It rained most of the morning, and I was glad to get into some dry clothes.

Dirty Dozen 2016

I personally believe this was the hardest of all of the Dirty Dozen rides that I have done.  The weather was shocking, and we were all soaked the skin & coated in mud.

Who knows what they will have in store for 2017………