After a nice steady start to the week, Day 3 signified the beginning of the real work with Mt Hotham looming - a truly iconic Australian climb 31kms in length with a vertical gain of nearly 1300 metres. Not for the faint hearted or the undertrained.
Riders and crew assembled on a crisp 5 degree Bright morning with the full ensemble of cold weather gear on show - gilets, jackets, arm and leg warmers - even balaclavas in some cases...
The peloton rolled out of Bright towards Harrietville, a steady 25km cruise giving the group time to warm up the legs and debrief on the events of the last couple of days. The start of the beautiful Autumn colours of the region were on show with shades of green, amber and auburn surrounding the group on the relatively flat and straight ride out.
Less than an hour later the temperature had risen several degrees and the group stopped short of the start of the day’s major climb to purge the cold weather gear and break into groups designed to get everyone to the top of the 31 km climb at roughly the same time.
It was a real day for each of the teams to show how well they could ride together and look after each other to ensure no-one was left behind. The first group left with a 20min gap to the next, before the final group (who had sneaked off for a injection of caffeine at a local cafe) departed about 45 minutes later.
The climb started with a nice and steady 11 km section with grades varying between 5-8 percent, other than a single short wall called “The Meg” - only a few hundred metres long, but ramping to around 12%. The temperature was perfect for climbing, with the sun rising steadily and soon most riders were warming up nicely. Stunning scenery surrounded us and we were shaded by tall gum trees as we climbed up towards the tree line.
23 kms into the climb the temperature dropped rapidly and the wind starting to whip up and buffet the riders. It was around this point we hit a significant wall - a section called CRB Hill, a couple of kms of 12-13% and a brutal reminder that Hotham needs to be treated with respect. Legs were tiring and this was the point where the Chain Reaction spirit really kicked in, teams surrounding those who were suffering to get them up the final 7-8 kms.
But the views were magnificent, and everyone was determined. With the wind getting stronger and the temperature dropping, eventually the last group arrived into Mt Hotham and a very welcome lunch and some warmth at one of the local mountain lodges.
Suitably fed and watered, a now very well dressed up group of riders assembled for the roughly hour long chilly descent back down to Harrietville. Within the hour, everyone arrived safely and soundly to reassemble for the last flat section back to Bright - rolling turns for a small group at the front of the peloton kept the pace steady and the 45 minutes later the team arrived home - extremely pleased to have completed the toughest climb of the week on what had been a truly spectacular day.
As always we are being incredibly well looked after by a very professional support crew. And despite the hard days ahead as we approach the middle of the week, everyone is buoyed by the knowledge that we are supporting the amazing work that Starlight Children's Foundation does to bring hope and fun back into the lives of very ill children and their families. It’s quite simply the main reason why everyone comes to support the event year on year and why we are so grateful for all your support.
Stage 3 jersey winners:
Orange (Pure Storage) - Stephen Carpenter
Black (LSH Auto Australia) - Alex Mufford
White (Pure Dynamics) - Gavin George
Polka Dot (Channel 10) - Ben Shrimpton