Driving close to 900 km’s down from Sydney to Warburton in Victoria to Everest a hill meant that I’d be on the bike for about the same time as I’d be in my car for the weekend. So I was a little bit worried about how my legs would feel after spending Friday doing nothing more strenuous than applying a little light pressure to the accelerator pedal. But joining Brendan and Christian to help raise money for the Lilyroo fund and the experience I would have was more than worth it.
We had a 4am start time planned and I rocked up around 3:45am ready and excited to get started. I found Brendan at the base of the climb, bike and body all set to go. Christain and John turned up a few minutes later and after a few photo’s we set off into the darkness with lights blazing and reflective strips glowing on our cycling kits. While the first half of the climb was lit by street lights, the second half had no lighting at all so there wasn’t much to see as our bike lights revealed only small portions of the world we’d be living in for the next 18 hours.
And visibility wasn’t helped at all after the first couple of descents as a fog rolled in and completely blinded us for several seconds on part of the descent, and added a little extra chill to what was already a cold morning. Going down first meant not being able to see anything on the steepest part of the descent. My headlight would just white everything out more than a meter away from my bike. And traveling blind downhill at over 40km/hr, on an descent I didn’t know very well yet, was very very unnerving. It turned out that following a rider down was far less terrifying as you at least have comfort of being able to chase their rear light while trusting it stayed on the bitumen.
To spice things up, the one and only sharp corner on the descent was made up of nothing but loose gravel on the inside of the bend. A small rideable line about 20cm wide on the outside provided at way through, but if missed meant crossing over to the wrong side of the road on a blind corner. So surving the descents became the main focus for the predawn ride.
After around 3 hours the sun started to turn the blackness overhead a lighter shade of grey and silhouettes of the trees began appearing. And as we completed the next few laps we watched as the beauty of our surroundings slowly unfolded as the sun came up over the hills pushing away the darkness. Not being from Victoria and never having seen this area, it was a magical sight. If nothing else, at least this was a scenic Everest!!
The first 3000m passed and went without incident. Then at around 9am our Everesting support personal in the form of Reese, turned up with sausage rolls! After nearly 5 hours of riding in the cold, dark and fog they were a very welcome breakfast! Reese stayed the whole day and night with us, cheering us on, taking photos around the course, running to and from Warburton for food and drinks to feed us, herding ducks and educating the locals on the finer points of Everesting.
By now the climbing weather was what I would call perfect. Slighlty overcast, around 12 – 14 degrees with no wind, no rain and no humidity. I knew the temperature would drop when the sun went down in the evening, but for now we where all determined to put as many kilometers behind us as we could while conditions were good.
We all had a few close calls with cats, cars, ducks and their families. Mine came shortly after lunch. I’d come around a small bend just before the supporters area only to be confronted by a 4×4 driving uphill on the wrong side of the road and heading straight for me. He’d had crossed onto my side to overtake some pedestrains walking uphill on his side. Needless to say he got a big shock to seeing me coming downhill right toward him! He veered quite violently back onto his side of the road and I made it through the 30cm gap he’d left me on my side. Luckily nothing got soiled and no change of kit was required, but it was a close call and certainly spiked my heart rate on the Garmin.
It was great to have my cousins Simon and Lousia and their kids turn up and support me for most of the afternoon. As well as some of my Melbourne cycling friends Mark, Warren (WAK) and Lian. WAK and Lian in their Lampre Merida cycling kit, looking pretty awesome, did some laps with us and took some great photos!
After 5000m done, the first half of the climb, which varied from around 8 -12% started to feel a little steeper. By this time Christian had dropped off deciding, on Brendan’s advice, not to push too hard but to ride at his own pace instead. Brendan, John and I stayed together and kept about the same pace as we started with earlier that morning. I was feeling a little tired at this point, but I still felt strong which was a good sign. So I felt pretty comfortable about finishing and I was happy to be on a good day. Brendan on the other hand warned me that he wasn’t feeling as good, but said he’d push through no matter what. I didn’t know how true both of these statements would be.
Christian continued to grind away lap after lap behind us. I’d pass him on the descents and each time he’d give me a fist pump! He must have been absolutely exhausted during the later stages, but every lap I still got the fist pump. I’d only met Christian a few hours earlier, but I think that those fist pumps and hollers everytime I passed him helped keep his spirits up. I know how powerful positive thought can be when you are confronted with challenges like this and Christian demonstrated that he could ride with a great attitude. I’m sure there was doubt and pain there, but it was burried under a layer of confidence and smiles. And it put a smile on my face too as we passed each other each lap.
At 6000m John called it a day as he had other commitments. But before he left he did an stellar job of sweeping all the gravel from the inside of the sharp bend so that our night laps would be safer. And it made a huge different to being able to corner smoothly and safely.
Once more, with her now impecable timing, just as we hit about 7000m at around 7pm, and just when I think we were all getting ready to eat the tires on our own bikes, Reese turned up with a home made Chicken pasta dish that I would have paid good money for in any restraunt!
This is the way to do an Everst folks! She did forget the silverware, candles and wine, but was forgiven because of how great the pasta tasted! I got back on the bike and felt so much fresher after that feed.
So, with Christian still grinding away at his own pace, Brendan and I rode off after dinner to complete the remaining 1800m or so of our ride. Unfortunately, this is where Brendan really started hitting the wall.
With less than 10 laps to go, we stopped at the summit of the climb and I looked at his face. His hair and face were saturated with sweat, his skin was a pale grey and his movements were very slow. But as sick as he looked and as tired as I’m sure he felt, he didn’t look defeated. There was still strength in his eyes and he didn’t look like he was interested in quitting. Of all my experiance in cycling I’ve never seen anything as incredible as the mental strengh he showed to finish. At one moment he sat in his car nearly vomiting, the next he was back on his bike riding a 12% gradient. But now, stopped at the summit, I could see him working out in his head how he was going to finish. We agreed to split up at that point so that he was free to do what he needed to do to recover and finish.
Doing a ride like this is difficult enough when you’re feeling good, but to do it under the circumstance Brendan found his body in is nothing short of amazing. So after 12 bottles of Power Aid, 5 bottles of a Protien shakes, a half dozen muffins, 3 bananas, half dozen bars, two quick hot noodle meals, one home cooked Chicken Pasta meal…I finished my ride! I then waited and watched Brendan and Christian both finish. They both earned it! What an awesome day with two great guys who really inspired me in two very different ways. Kudos to you both and thanks to all the other riders who turned up and rode with us on the day!
Here are a link to my Strava Activity here:
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