On day 3 of my Alpine adventures I managed to wake up with fresh legs. All of the aches of yesterday miraculously had gone and I was optimistic of having a good climb up Mount Buffalo. We started climbing at about 9:30am and it was already in the 30’s and going to be an absolute scorcher. I was riding well and hoped to be ride with the fast group but as soon as we hit the base of the climb they sailed off into the distance. I was able to climb ok, but was struggling with the heat and had to hold myself back somewhat. I looked over my shoulder and had dropped the group behind me. I was going to be climbing solo by the looks of things.
Mount Buffalo I always see as quite ominous. As your approaching the base of the climb you can see the peak up ahead and it can be quite daunting. I like this climb. Its considered one of the most popular of the 7 Peaks climbs through the Mount Buffalo National Park. It’s landscape is truly unique, and offers imposing granite outcrops, towering cliff walls, waterfalls, snowgums and wildflowers.
I was dying in the heat and in my own little world. Over the first 10km the group behind me was slowly reeling me in, and I wasn’t feeling in form but at least was climbing well enough. The climb then flattened out and I was able to drop down a few gears to pick the pace up, and after about 600 metres of climbing noticed it was getting cooler and I wasn’t dehydrating as I was on the lower slopes. I felt good & looked over my shoulder and the group behind me was nowhere to be seen. Either they were slowing down or I had sped up.
I was in cruise control and stopped half a dozen times to take photos and was really enjoying the scenery. I found my rhythm and was really enjoying myself. Even with the stops and the fact I was fluffing around I set a pb for the second half of the climb. Lucky I didn’t know that at the time or I would have really given it some gas and probably hurt myself.
I overtook several riders that had left much earlier than our group and could tell I was riding strongly and was surprised that I rounded a corner to see the end of the climb. 22km of climbing and I felt strong and had heaps left in the tank. I had only ever climbed to the Chalet and had never been up to the Horn and knew nothing of what lay in-between. I saw a sign indicating that it was 11km and given how I was feeling felt like I could give it some gas and went for it.
There was a bit of a descent where I recharged the batteries before hitting the first climb up the Horn. It’s tricky pacing yourself when you have no idea how long or how steep a climb is, and I loved the challenge. The km’s flew and I had to reel myself back in, and my legs were hurting. The climb was spectacular with switchback after switchback and the higher I climbed the more stark the scenery became until it became a rocky outcrop. There was almost 4km of climbing up to Cradle Peak & I loved every minute of it. The scenery up there was to die for.
From here there was a really sharp descent and I was conscious of the fact I would have to climb back up this monster on the way back. The Horn was 3.5km up ahead and I saw a sign indicating that it was Gravel road. I’m an experienced gravel rider & arrogantly thought how hard could this be…….
It was unbelievably hard, and was like an oven. The road was quite rutted in bits and you would be shaked to the core. The road was littered with loose gravel and the surface was very dusty and offered little in the way of traction. There was switchback after switchback and the corners were steep, rutted and I copped a bit of wheel spin. The road was narrow and several times I had to pull off the road to let cars past.
The road surface was scorching and I ran out of water on the way up, and even though I was suffering throughout the whole climb I was loving every minute of it. I had no idea of what the Horn was and when I came out to the carpark to see the views I was on cloud nine. This was easily one of the best rides I had done for 2016.
On the return trip, I wanted to have a crack at beating my pb down the Mount Buffalo descent. I really gave it some gas, and within a few km’s I saw a car down the road and corner by corner was reeling him in. He must have seen me in his rear view mirror as he sped up and I had to put the foot down to keep him in my sites. He was a carrot and I was wondering how he was feeling about a cyclist descending as quickly as he was.
I was reading the corners really beautifully and sailing down, until I hit the flattened out section. I slowed down and really had to work overtime to keep the speed going. The car flew off and I reckoned that was going to be the last I would see of him. When I hit the descent in earnest again I was reading the corners better and felt that I was going faster and was like a kid in a candy store. A couple of corners later I see the flash of white as I caught up to my friend in front of me again. He must have slowed down again when he thought that he lost me, and when he saw me again he put the foot down. It must have been a matter of pride, but I wasn’t letting him go. The lower slopes had more and more technical corners that I could take at faster speeds than him and even though he would drop me on the straights I would reel him back in. I chased him all the way down to the toll booth and was only 20 metres behind him on the finish line.
I averaged 50kmph and didn’t realise how much effort I had put in until I was gasping for breath and sweating uncontrollably at the base.
I had just spent 3 days riding around the Victorian Alps. Much of 2016 has been spent injured or sick, and to finally hit some form on the slopes of Mount Buffalo was a dream come true. A special thanks to John Mogavero who put together this weekend and did an amazing job planning and getting a great bunch of guys together, and thank you to all the support and well wishes I’ve received since.
With luck I will be back in 2017.
To be continued……..