Day 6 - Riders Can Feel the Finish Line
After near perfect riding conditions on Mt Hotham yesterday and the big mountain conquered, the peleton knows they are on the home stretch.
After a early morning bus trip to Mansfield, today is Mt Buller. It's a special day as we will be welcoming visitors to the ride today to experience what Chain Reaction is all about and hopefully recruit a few riders for next year. This will add a new dynamic to the ride as the peloton will double in size. Riding with newcomers means safety will be drummed into the group today, as always. Any overlapping wheels or mistimed switching of handlebar positions or drink bottle reaches can cause the group to come undone. Towards the end of the week, when everyone is weary and sore, even greater mental awareness is required.
Last night's team presentation was by team Henley, who have been fantastic additions to the Chain Reaction family in multiple states. It's great to see the focus the team had this year on recruiting diversity into the peloton with two women on their team.
Talk on the bus in the morning was about giving it a crack on the mountain today. Some of the faster ascenders were laying down the challenge, knowing their preparation and riding form had them feeling strong, and with this being the last large climb on the ride, it was time to shine. Others on the bus had a rough night sleep or tummy troubles or a twitching muscle that the massage team were keeping just under control, their thoughts were on only on completing the ride and just making it up the mountain!
Last night the fundraising hit over $1m and with the initial target achieved, sights are now set on final days to raise that extra bit that will make even more of a difference to the charities. All the riders received a special surprise in their laundry bags last night after dinner, a handmade card of encouragement and thanks from the children at Starlight Express room at Monash Hospital - a big boost for morale and a reminder why we are away from friends and family and why we are putting our bodies through this challenge.
The ride from Mansfield started with a quick safety briefing and then we rolled out as a 70-strong peloton. A slow and steady climb towards the base of Mt Buller tested weary legs, passing very dry farmland and sheep paddocks. A smoky haze filled the air from nearby bushfires, but provided welcome shielding from the morning sun.
At the base of Mt Buller the support crew efficiently refilled supplies and riders changed clothing to suit the climb. Riders then set-off in four waves of ability with slowest riders first, strongest last. This gives less time for all at the top of the mountain, where conditions can be quite cold, and also gives the opportunity for riders to see more of each other on the mountain and for those up further on the mountain, to see the battle unfold for those fastest Strava segments.
The ascent was tough. Legs just don’t want to respond after 6 days straight in the saddle. Many of the day visiting riders struggled and commented on how, after 5 solid days, could the Chain Reaction riders be moving up the hill at all!
At the top the haze lifted and a fine lunch selection was served in the sunshine as the riders restored their energy levels and put on some warm clothes for the 15km descent and further 30km back to Mansfield, and rest. The group descended safely, regrouping at the bottom. The impressive 70 rider peleton made good speed mainly downhill back to the hotel in Mansfield.
With an hour or so relaxing in the shade around the pool resting weary legs, getting sore muscles massaged the riders definitely know that at the end of tomorrow, families and friends await and the Challenge is completed. For the day visitor riders, many are committing already to being part of the amazing fundraising challenge next year!
Blue (Kay & Burton) - Damon Krongold
White (Domain) - Kaine Lanyon
Polka Dot (Rialto) - Jeremy Bree
Black (LSH Auto Australia) - Alex King
Green (Newmark Capital) - Will Cooper
Orange (Pure Storage) - Justin McDean