A transformation occurs on Day 2 – from the moment we organise ourselves to move out, through to the end of day formalities. To many, the process and the rituals of Day 1 were a new experience. Being part of a 60 person team requires many, many things to work to what is quite literally a military style process. But what a difference a day makes.
By day 2 we are a different group of people. We’re up in time, eating together, bags get to where they need to go, and roll out happens without a fuss. Bikes are running smoothly, and rider behaviour has settled down in a peloton that knows the only way this is going to happen is if we all get there, together, safely.
But that type of rider unity doesn’t just happen by accident. Such a key part in the bonding process is the evening dinner, jersey awards, video presentation, ride briefing and above all, Wazza’s Weather! Now stamped as one of our true ride rituals, Warrick Gard brings a unique style to the noble art of weather forecasting. Graham Creed would be in awe of Warrick’s uncanny ability to translate the myriad of forecasting tools into the vital elements of the weather that we need to know for our ride. The forecast – clear skies, cool, with both a headwind as we climb followed by a head wind as the wind swings and we head home – but would he be right?
Victoria contains seven iconic climbs and Mount Buller is one of them. Today it would be our objective.
An unrelenting mass of granite, it is, for the first 9km a consistent 7-10% incline – no harsher pinches but equally no relief – just pure climbing. Through towering eucalypts, a perfect road surface guides us smoothly upward.
Then you hit the final 3 kilometres.
Now we’re out of the tree line, into the ski field zone, and it’s abundantly clear that the terrain here just doesn’t allow an easy path for the road to follow. Switchback hairpin turns, scrub, exposure to wind, steep pinches. Having already climbed for one hour continuously, being greeted by each of these at the very end takes on a whole unique form of pain. But two very common riding thoughts prevail – don’t stop, and don’t get off the bike. So we don’t, but there is nothing like that feeling of cresting the final climb and seeing that small welcoming township in front of you. Rider bliss.
Now whilst we make a very determined attempt to ride as a group in a safe and orderly fashion, the long climbs are where we allow ourselves the opportunity to climb at our own pace. “Free play” is the call from our ride leader that signifies we can take the stretch that follows – usually a very long climb – at our own pace, and with this the group will stretch out to a long line. It’s at times like this, that the competitor lurking within most of us is let off its leash. With Strava as our time keeper, judge, and jury, each of us will eagerly explore the results of the long efforts we just put in, and many hours post ride will be filled comparing times and devouring statistics. Mt Buller provided ample opportunity for this to occur, but tomorrow’s ride will raise that bar higher still.
Tomorrow we head to Mt Hotham. Arguably, Australia's longest, hardest ascent for a cyclist, and while we might think we can manage it on fresh legs, we are doing it after two solid days of riding. That’s the whole new dimension that the Chain Reaction ride brings to our normal riding experience. How will we go? You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out.
- Andrew Harvey
Jersey winners stage 2:
Orange (Pure Storage) - Jason Bettles
Black (LSH Auto Australia) - Mark Clough
White (Dynamic Projects) - Mark Pickerill
Polka Dot (Channel 10) - Richard Lewis