Day 4 of Chain Reaction is often referred to as “hump day”. After three days on the road bodies are starting to feel sore and energy levels are not quite as high as the day before. On the flip side, after three days on the road the camaraderie of the bunch and our incredible support crew really starts to solidify, as does our sense of purpose.
After conquering the iconic Mt Hotham yesterday, this is supposedly our “recovery day” - a mere 148km stage from Bright to Tallangatta.
Today was like a box of chocolates, it had something for everyone.
Firstly, it had a dash of star power with world renowned cycling commentator Matt Keenan dropping in to chat with riders at breakfast and to lead us out of his home town. There was also some more serious climbing, riders tackling the 14km Tawonga Gap climb before “Hotham legs” barely had a chance to warm up. Tawonga is a deceptive mountain - the first 10km is a steady incline averaging a gradient of about 4% before whacking riders with steep ramps exceeding 10% over the final 4km. The reward is stunning views of the valley floor to Mt Beauty.
Riders then enjoyed a rapid decent before working as a cohesive unit over a rolling 45km section on the back road to Tallangatta, which snaked its way through a hidden lush valley to lunch at Sandy Creek.
Today really demonstrated how the peloton works together to help each other through the week. The stronger riders help the group get through by giving them a “helping hand” up the ascents, in addition to taking the bulk of time on the front and protecting the balance of the bunch from the wind, to help everyone get through to the finish.
Post refueling at the Sandy Creek showground, there was little to no time to digest our sandwiches before riders encountered the day's second notable ascent - the 9.6km Lockhart’s Gap climb. This sorely tested legs loaded with 100km of pedalling for the day. From there it was all downhill to Tallangatta and a bus transfer to Corryong, our home for tonight. Corryong is a small town, near the upper reaches of the Murray River, and provides a gateway to the nearby Snowy Mountains and Kosciuszko National Park. It's best known for being the region where the Man from Snowy River was based.
Tonight at dinner a number of riders spoke about what attracts them to come and suffer for a week on bike, stepping away from family and work and all that entails. In summary these are the major factors;
It is the camaraderie, it’s the health and fitness benefit and, of course, it’s to support the great work our charity partners do. You expect to hear that, however listen more carefully and you hear the delight of some of special, spontaneous moments and conversations that happen along the way. We share moments, on the bike, at the massage table and whilst breaking bread and refuelling. In these moments we learn a little about each other, we share anecdotes and we reflect: we learn about the adversities that some of us have overcome, and more often than not, we realise just how damn lucky we are. Lucky to have the opportunity to participate in such a superbly run event, lucky to have healthy children, lucky to have wonderful friends, family and fantastic support when challenges do come our way.
Of course, these moments build friendships, but they also remind us all why we ride – and why we support our charity partners and families who have not necessarily enjoyed the same luck we've enjoyed.
Stage 4 jersey winners:
Orange (Pure Storage) - Alex Pascoe
Black (LSH Auto Australia) - Torty Howard
White (Dynamic Projects) - Mark Otterman & Andrew Blake
Polka Dot (Channel 10) - Michael Marshall