I planned on riding the 3 Peaks course with Sam Poole & Chris Cox last November 2013. Just the three of us. In the background Hells 500 were offering invites to next year’s Hells epic. You had to do 5,000 vertical in a single ride. The plan was to do the 3 Peaks course, and then a little bit more to get to the 5,000. I had a winter from hell & didn’t have great preparation leading up to the day. I felt that I was in shape but was several weeks off peaking for a ride like this. On the day, there was a potential issue with road works on the Great Alpine Road. Which we really didn’t have a contingency plan for it. We left Falls Creek late at around 6:30 am, and it was already starting to heat-up.
I’m one of the worlds slowest descenders, and I knew the boys would drop me.
I had put a whole lotta work into my descents leading up to our epic. Scary that I had to work really hard to have them only wait a couple of minutes at the base for me. As soon as we hit Tawonga Gap I wasn’t feeling good. I just couldn’t keep the pace. Working really hard and slowed the boys up. In contrast, both of them were chatting away, absolutely relaxed. I was going to be in for a heck of a day. The pace really stepped up over the top, and I was working 110%. I kept comparing riding today against what it felt like in the 3 Peaks earlier in the year.
And knew that I was in trouble.
I was starting to find some rhythm when we turned off onto the Great Alpine Road. Heading towards Hotham. Shortly after the girls in the Sag Wagon drove towards us and told us that the road was closed. That it would only be open between 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm during the afternoon. This threw one huge spanner in the works. We had so long to wait around. Both of the boys were joking about doing 4 Peaks and throwing in Mount Buffalo. I was struggling with the idea of just doing the 3 Peaks. Maybe I should have used my voice to say that if we headed to Buffalo I’d be screwed. I didn’t want to sound weak, so we headed off to Buffalo. For what now was going to be a 4 Peaks ride.
My story ends at the base of Buffalo. We were on a tight schedule to get up to Buffalo. Then get back to the Great Alpine Road for the small window we could head through there. The pace picked up, and I kept up with the boys until the base of the climbs. We averaged 34 km/h up to this point. As soon as I hit the fist bit of elevation I cracked. Watching as Chris & Sam flew off on me.
I experienced 21 km’s of pain & agony crawling up Mount Buffalo on empty.
There was a large group of cyclists that we passed at the base of the climb, and on the second half of the climb. A couple of them passed me, offering me some sympathetic encouragement that really helped. With 4 km’s to go, a third rider passed me, and told me my positioning was poor. Offering me suggestions on how I could improve my climbing technique. That hurt! I said: “I know how to climb, I’ve just bonked!”. He went oh, and headed off. There was fire in my belly and I wanted to strike back. After two pedal strokes my body told me I had no hope of catching him, and had to add insult to me misery and watched him go.
I was still dying, and this master climber went a whole 100 metres up the road and then slowed down to my pace. Game on! I mustered some reserves to lift my pace a tiny fraction and kept him in my sights. Slowly reeled him in. With 300 metres to go to the top of the climb, it ramped up to over 7%. I dug deep, and flew past him at 30 km/h up the climb. There was a descent and I was able to crank out 55 km/h on my search for Chris & Sambo.
They were waiting at a road sign as I flew at them, and they looked shocked. Chris pointed at my headphones, and asked me what I was listening to make me go so fast?
I pointed at the guy who was racing to catch up to me, and told them that this guy tried to give me a climbing lesson, so I just gave him one instead…….
I had bonked, and it was game over, & had no hope of doing 3 Peaks, let alone 4. I figured that if I headed back the way I came I would be doing Tawonga both ways, Buffalo & Falls Creek which would still be a mighty effort. I had no idea how I would get up Tawonga, & Falls, but I’d have to pull something special out. The boys, kept trying to convince me to keep going, and I pointed out that I was just slowing them down. If I went further and bonked I couldn’t get back, and would be better from here. They weren’t happy, but they left and I crawled my way back to Bright.
I felt like dog shit, and sat shell shocked in a Café trying to recover. I was so wrecked I could barely eat. After about 20 minutes, I decided to head off. As I hit the main road I saw the Sag wagon, and realised that the group were in the Bakery. Chris & Sam were still there, as the Alpine Road was still closed, and they were getting lunch. It was suggested that I take the Sag wagon home, and head up to Hotham and meet up with the guys at the top. I was so wrecked that I couldn’t say no. That was the end of my ride. Since March I had built towards this ride, and really looked forward to it, and that was it. Months and months of training all ruined. Yesterday’s warm-up ride took a fair bit out of me, but as I said to Chris later.
If I wasn’t fit enough to do that, then I wasn’t fit enough for the huge ride that they did.
I had a nice relaxing time up the top of Hotham, sleeping on a deckchair. Enjoying the views. My day was ruined, and I wasn’t going to cry about it. I had to work out how I was going to turn this failure into a success.
The boys showed up at Hotham after 4:00 pm, and it was clear that they were running out of daylight. I was the only one who had brought a light with me, and gave it to Sambo to use. Which given what they ended up going through was something I could take out of the day that I helped them in some way. I failed, but in my own little way I was able to help out. My day didn’t get any better, as I got car sick on the descent down Hotham. I wish that I had just got it over & done with and thrown up there and then. But lasted all the way to the bottom of the 30 km climb before losing my guts. I felt a little better afterwards, but I wasn’t feeling good to start with my disappointment of failure.
The boys didn’t get back till after 11:00 pm.
I was so thankful that I was able to give them some light. Unfortunately that only lasted about 3 hours, until they had to ride in the darkness. We had no idea where they were, and Chris’s wife Sharyn drove down the back of Falls. Eventually finding them in the dark, and was a hero driving behind them giving them light. They rode 323 km km’s, & just under 6,000 vertical. I could only take my hat off to them.
My batteries had recharged a bit during the day, and I felt like I needed a ride badly. At least I had another 3 days up north with which to play with, and make amends to what was an epic failure.