I was staying at the Bright Caravan in dormitory style accommodation with a group of riders who were up at the Victorian Alps for fun, adventure and who planned on taking on some of Australia’s most challenging climbs. This cycling weekend was organised by John Mogavero, who was planning to ride up to the top of Falls Creek with a group of six riders, and then play it by ear from there. There was also a couple of riders attempting to ride the 3 Peaks course. Given the heat, they were incredibly brave to even think of doing such a crazy ride.
It was an early start, but who needs an alarm when one of your roommate’s rips a loud fart at 6:00am! I left the cabin to smell the fresh, crisp air . It was already in the mid 20’s and set for a very, very hot day. I had volunteered to be a support vehicle, and had no regrets about not riding. My quads were screaming in pain from yesterdays climb up Mount Hotham, and was also hoping to climb Mount Buffalo the next day, and needed the rest.
My car was loaded with food & drinks and given the heat that was forecast, I had a feeling that I would be busy. I set-out at 6:45am for Tawonga Gap and had a chance to sit around at the top waiting for the group to catch up. There was such an amazing view from the lookout and a glorious sunrise and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was already warming up, & riders were making use of the car jettisoning unwanted weight in preparation for the climb up Falls Creek. The climb from Mount Beauty to the top of Falls Creek is 31km in length and one of the longest climbs in the Victorian Alps and the climb offers plenty of breaks with quite a few descents and false flats to catch your breath. For me it was an easy climb. Music pumping and the air conditioning blasting. Not so easy for those out riding in that insane heat. I spent the climb leapfrogging the group and getting plenty of photos along the way. It was around 8am at this stage and already approaching 30 degrees.
There was a downhill Mountain Biking event on the day, and there was a bit of traffic with Shuttles running non-stop throughout the morning ferrying riders back up and down the mountain. We would constantly see riders to the side of the road descending at crazy speeds. Give me a climb any day over the week.
I headed up the road to meet Luis Lopez & Mark Spratling up at the top of Falls. They were doing the full 3 Peaks course, and were riding pretty strongly, but given that at this stage it was already in the 30’s they were going to get baked over the open planes. They had already copped some bad luck with two flats & gave them a couple of spares which was lucky as there were more punctures to come. I loaded them with drink and gave them some food and bid them farewell, wondering if they would make it. Given how strong they were riding was no surprise that they did.
Even with the air conditioning going full blast, I was sweating uncontrollably. Have I mentioned that it was bloody hot! A part of me was yearning to get out there on the bike, but I was glad that I wasn’t riding in these hot conditions. It was an oven and the upper slopes of Falls Creek offer little in the way of shade and I could see everyone working overtime getting up the climb. Henry (pictured below) is an asthma sufferer, & the thin air played havoc with his lungs and he said that he was really struggling to breath and the climb up Falls Creek took a heavy toll on him. He provided one of the most impressive rides of the day, knocking out an impressive 203km & 3,700 vertical. #ridelikeaboss
Everyone rested at the top and it was decided that everyone turn around & head back to base. I managed to talk a small group into heading out to the dam which is only a short ride out from the Falls Creek resort for some pics and was treated to some truly amazing scenes. If I had the time, the bike would have certainly be taken out for a short ride around the lake.
The descent down Falls Creek was fast and furious and I needed to use all of my driving skills to keep the bikes in site. There were some very talented descenders amongst the group, and you could see they were having fun. We regrouped in Mount Beauty for some brunch, where a waitress tried to charge me double for my food, and took a bit of work to get her to charge me the right amount. Made me wonder whether they taught math up in Mount Beauty?
The heat was intense & Gerald Aglipa decided to pull the plug. He was really feeling the heat and had already ridden one of the biggest rides of his life. He told me that it was the hardest ride he’s ever done and had no regrets. We loaded his bike in the car & I was great to have someone to chat with the rest of the way home. It was lucky we were still in Mount Beauty as we received a call from Stuart Turner who had blown a tyre just before the turn-off to Tawonga Gap. We drove there & lent him my rear wheel, which gave him a chance to ride home. He said later that I was “the modern day Jesus”.
From here, the group split and some chose to return via Rosewhite Gap, others headed straight back up Tawonga Gap. I made sure everyone had enough water & headed back home via Tawonga Gap and back to Bright. The view up the top was just as brilliant as it was first thing in the morning.
One of the traditions of these rides is to jump into the river afterwards. I’ll have to come back next year to complete the epic so I can.
Even though I didn’t ride, it was an incredible day, and happy to be of some use as a support vehicle. I got a chance to meet a heap of new mates and see some truly stunning scenery.
Tomorrow I will be climbing Mount Buffalo. Who knows with fresh legs I could blow everyone away.
To be continued……..