The Gippsland Gold

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The Gippsland Gold is an Audax event set in amongst the Strzelecki Ranges.  It’s 200km’s long with 3,250 metres of climbing and offer to take you along the paths less travelled.  Along this adventure you ride through 120 km’s of unsealed roads.  Hills & rolling valleys which Gippsland is famous for.  You pass through the townships of Yarragon, Mirboo, Foster, BooLarra & Thorpdale.  Be prepared to see some of the most amazing sights that you are likely to see on a bike.  The event was hosted by Gareth Evans, and this was the third edition of this incredible ride.

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The Gippsland GoldA fair bit of luck is required to get through a ride like this in one piece.  You hope to avoid punctures or mechanical’s.  This event attracts the type of rider who is as tough as nails.  Not afraid to go out and try something adventurous.  Each participant is given a map, and being able to orientate is essential for survival.  Some would like to sit back in the group and allow others to lead the way.  Bear in mind that if the rider ahead of you picks the wrong road, then it becomes the blind leading the blind.
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You show up for a ride like this and see a bunch of strangers.  Those strangers are likely going to become your best friend. You all have a common goal in purpose.  To survive the Gippsland Gold.  You will likely experience many emotions from joy to pain along the way.  Riding on dirt is unpredictable.  Road conditions can change depending on weather conditions, and no one knows what they’re truly in for.
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The Gippsland Gold
Leongatha-Yarragon Road

The Gippsland Gold

It was a little over 3 degrees, when the ride commenced.  The day was forecast to get warm, and most chose to rug up.  The ride took us straight into a Category 3 climb up Yarragon South Road.  This helped to warm everyone up pretty quickly.  It was the most amazing of sunrises, and the valley was enshrouded in mist and fog.  The first part was paved for over 2.2km’s, which averaged 5%.  Thankfully gradient was pretty steady and it was easy to get into a rhythm.  It was easy to enjoy the ride as every corner you came to offered you some fantastic new view. 
There were amazing views of the valley below to either side of the road.  When the road turned to gravel, the Gippsland Gold begun in earnest.  With a fairly decent racing line to either side of the road it was easy to maintain a rhythm.  Over the next 2.7km’s the climb continued to average 5%.  You could tell everyone was getting into it, and enjoying the stunning views that just got better the higher you climbed.  
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The Gippsland Gold
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The Gippsland Gold
 Over the climb
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It was a relief to finally get to the top of the climb, and get some respite on the descent.  The Gippsland Gold took us through rolling open countryside, and there was nothing flat.  We were either climbing or descending, and there were some steep pinches along the way.  
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The Gippsland Gold
View from the top of the Yarragon South climb
 Ten Mile Road
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The Gippsland Gold

Ten Mile Road was the second big challenge for the day. With close to 5km’s of undulating climbing, it was a relief to reach the cross road at the Stzreleki Highway.  Across the highway, the road turned to crap.  The road condition through here was very poor, and there was loose rock everywhere.  If you were going to puncture, this was the place.  With no riding line, lots of loose rock and gradients heading up to 12% this section was insane.  There was a nasty little 600 metre climb which you hat to battle the bike & the elements the whole way.  

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The Gippsland Gold
Ten Mile Road (start of hell)
After reaching the top of the climb there was an incredible view of the pine forested valley below.  You know that you’re no longer in Kansas any more!  The terrain through here varied considerably, and offered some stunning scenery.  Our first check point was at Boolarra.  Gareth & Helen were on hand to welcome everyone with open arms.  There was a great selection of food to help get all of the riders through to the next checkpoint in Foster.  The next few km’s were paved.  A rare flat section to ride on which offers a relief after the difficulties faced over the first 40km’s of this ride.  
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The Gippsland Gold
 
The Gippsland GoldThe Gippsland Gold

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The Queen stage

We were in the Queen stage of this ride. With only a small amount of sealed roads there was around 65km’s of gravel, including some of the toughest & roughest sections of gravel.
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The Gippsland Gold
Morwell River Roadfix
The Gippsland Gold
Morwell River Road kicked off a 45km’s section of gravel which includes the hardest climb of the day.  This section took us down Morwell River Road.  The road follows the Morwell River, and offered amazing views throughout.  Over the next 18km’s there was a false flat with an average gradient of 1%.  This road had not dried from recent rains, and was wet in parts.  There were quite a few corners that were corrugated.  Lots of bumping and jolting, and was a fair bit harder than the average gradient suggests.
Coming upon the crossroads at Livingston Road, and come to the Queen climb.  This rides all about pleasure and pain.  No matter how much you love your climbing, this one’s going to hurt.  The only way to get up some sections of this climb are by battling the bike over loose rocks.  There are long stretches where there simply are no racing lines and you will be hanging on for dear life.  At times it is really challenging to get traction and into a rhythm.  The average gradient is 5.1km’s @ 5%.  There’s a short descent after 3km’s into the climb and the average gradient is highly deceptive.  You will be glad when you’re over the top of this one.
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The Gippsland Gold
Grand Ridge Road

Stzerlecki Ranges State Forest

 This was one of the best sections of this ride.  Grand Ridge Road.  Winding its way through the Stzerlecki Ranges State Forest, you will get to experience some amazing rainforests.    Every now and again there will be a break in the trees & you can see the whole Valley below.  Grand Ridge Road is one of those roads that I couldn’t recommend highly enough.  Well worth fitting a ride around.
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The Gippsland Gold
 
You turn off onto Boolara Foster Road (see photo below), and the surface turns to loose gravel.  Large sections of this road have impressive views to the right, as you work your way towards Foster.
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The Gippsland Gold
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The Gippsland Gold
View from Boolara Foster Road

Foster

The second checkpoint is at Foster, and we were greeted by the hospitality of Mal & Lynn.  Who offered a delicious selection of rolls, fruit and baked goods from one of the many amazing local bakeries.  Most riders found a bit of ground to lay on wondering how they had survived the Gippsland Gold this far.  Wondering how they would get through the rest of this ride.  With 120km’s completed it was a relief to reach this point.  As we had gotten closer to the bay, the wind picked up.  Thankfully most of the trip into Foster had been downhill so we weren’t wasting energy battling the winds.  It was a nice thought that the wind would be pushing us home.
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The Gippsland Gold
Lance Cupido & Sarah Hammond leaving Foster

The return home

There were only four main climbs remaining for the ride.  Heading out from Foster, you head straight up Amey’s Track climb, which is 3.2 km’s @ 3%.  You can be forgiven for thinking that the scenery couldn’t improve from what we saw on the firs half of the ride.  The climb was paved, and it hurt, but you knew you were heading home.  Looking over your should you could see an amazing view of Wilsons Prom from this climb.  You had to pinch yourself that this ride couldn’t get any better.
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The Gippsland Gold
Photograph by Stephaan De Smet
We travelled through Ridge Road, which is yet another pearler with 17km’s of dirt to look forward to.  This section is quite undulating and this road follows the eastward ridge of the Tarwin Valley.  With some stunning scenery throughout this section.
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The Gippsland Gold
Photograph by Stephaan De Smet

Mirboo North

The next big climb headed into Mirboo North is 2.6km’s averaging 6%.  It’s a shame that this one wasn’t gravel.  Still an incredible challenge at this stage of the ride.  With tired legs, any vertical hurts after riding over 160km’s over mixed terrain.   

It’s quite undulating to Mirboo, and a major relief to make it to the very last checkpoint of the day.  And to top up those lost fuel stores.  The volunteers Ronnie & Meredith were a lovely older couple.  Meredith had prepared self-made Anzac biscuits and fruit cake and they had cold coke which is a favorite of mine  Rice pudding, fruits, and a nice chat about just anything.

The Gippsland Gold
Photograph by Stephaan De Smet

After Mirboo we hit the last section of gravel, and returned to get another great section of Grand Ridge Road.  This was another quality section of gravel, and you travel past the Tarwin River.  Of course there was one last nasty surprise to survive, with one last Category 3 climb.  Mirboo-Yarragon Road 5.3km’s in length with an average gradient of 5%.  If you had any life in your legs before this climb.  Well just keep telling yourself there’s a Beer waiting at the end for you at the end of the ride.

The Gippsland Gold
Photograph by Stephaan De Smet

The Gippsland Gold

The Gippsland GoldAnd with the final climb over and done with there was a sense of achievement.  It was all downhill from there, and with the remainder of the roads sealed it was a far cry from all the craziness of the gravel.  With a 6.5km descent to finish on the end was hard & fast.  Rolling back into the Uniting Church in Yarragon you were greeted with a smile from Gareth & Helen.  And most importantly a Beer from the Grand Ridge Brewery.  You finally truly get to taste true Gippsland Gold.  Everyone came out from this ride with different experiences.  What everyone had in common was the great words they had about the organizers, and I offer a big thank you.  The great dinner & desert provided definitely hit the spot after a long day in the saddle, and made me yearn for more of these types of events.
A ride like this is a far cry from riding Beach Road.  You could argue that a ride like this is almost, if not tougher than riding Three Peaks.  Plus you’ve got to be willing to put your bike through the grinder to survive the Gippsland Gold.  All that finished should wear the label “tough as nails!” with pride.  No other ride could you see so many great sites and truly appreciate the nature around you.  This was a truly epic day, and hopefully one day you can try it as well.

I will be back

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The Gippsland Gold
Dave & Jane on hand to lend a hand & to get some great photos

If I was asked to say what my favorite part of the ride was, it would be difficult to say.  You just see far too many amazing sights, you ride half the day and don’t see a single car, and tackle some incredibly challenging climbs. To top it off there are two insane descents into Foster & Yarragon that will leave you with a smile on your face well after you finish.  What’s not to like about the Gippsland Gold!

Many thanks for my mate Stephaan for helping me to finish this piece.  I was forced to abandon the event at Foster due to some bad luck through the ride.  Stephaan was able to share his experience with me to help me finish this piece.  Thanks to Mal & Lynn for giving me a lift back from Foster to Yarragon, and again wish to extend my thanks to the organizers and volunteers that made this such a special day. 

The Gippsland Gold
Stuart Fuller & Brian Stent
The Gippsland Gold
View from McDonald’s track
The Gippsland Gold
Matt Brough
The Gippsland Gold
Mwa
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5 thoughts on “The Gippsland Gold

    Jon Thornton said:
    March 26, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Best ride ever.

    Brendan Edwards said:
    March 27, 2015 at 1:29 am

    It was an experience!

    The Gippsland Gold « The Dandenong Ranges said:
    December 12, 2015 at 8:46 am

    […] to move more towards being able to write for a professional organisation & focused on doing a blog write-up that I was hoping could be used by the organisers in future […]

    The Gippsland Gold (21/03/2015) « The Dandenong Ranges said:
    December 12, 2015 at 8:48 am

    […] to move more towards being able to write for a professional organisation & focused on doing a blog write-up that I was hoping could be used by the organisers in future […]

    dandenongranges said:
    March 17, 2016 at 10:50 am

    […] South Road is used in Audax Victoria’s Gippsland Gold event and is one of the premiere climbs in the […]

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