For cyclists in the Chain Reaction peloton today, the meaning may have varied between dread and inspiration, because Hobart’s well-known mountain peered ominously down at us as we gathered in the forecourt of our hotel. The clatter of our cycling shoes on the pavement broke the morning, as the breeze drifted in from the quay where the fishing boats bobbed quietly while alongside peak hour traffic inched its way into town.
A week has gone since we started the CR Brisbane ride in Launceston. The signal theme of raising money for kids in need has furnished the peloton with serious endeavour, but the story of this ride has been friendships reignited, new friends made under the spell of Tasmania, enchanting riders with new vistas and plenty of challenging days on the road.
There is something about the riding terrain here that reflects life. The giddy rush of downhill descents, some long, some short, some smooth, others that buck and kick. There is the grinding drag of an uphill climb, where the race is on when the “free ride” call comes and the quicks launch up the hill as the packs close around slower riders, protectively coaxing their charges to keep pedalling.
Like life, it’s all up and down, seldom constant and the rewards all come from effort and commitment.
That is how it was today.
We rode out through Battery Point, after a leisurely late start, another reward for the week. Down then up. Through Sandy Bay riding the Hobart equivalent of our river loop, this coldish start showcased the broad dark water of the sea tide, as it made its way into the Derwent.
We climbed from Sandy Bay to Long Beach into Taroona, climbing Bonnet Hill from the historic Shot Tower into Kingston Beach. No time for coffee there.
Following the line of the Huon highway (near but not on it) we found a safe crossing across the busy route, from a gravel stretch (another surprise for some) which Pete had told us was recently graded but which wearied some and muddied the tyres. Constant as ever and to keep us on our mettle, the lead car steered us from there, upwards, towards the mountain until we reached Fern Tree Tavern
The gas heaters hissed and warmed the limbs and hands: preparation time. Fill water bottles, adjust clothing and grab the goo’s and the bars. With a staggered start, the faster riders were restricted to allow those who take a more economic approach to the hills time to get away. Finally, all were summoned to the mountain, with local lad Nick leading the fray.
The fasted recorded time for this climb is 31:45 That is not by a mere mortal. Strava has recorded that the mountain has been climbed 4700 times. Some gallant fools even think riding it twice in a morning is a good idea but the trolls’ goblins and gnomes that live on every big mountain persuaded the mortals amongst us to return from whence we had departed, once the top was reached.
Since the mountain presents an 11km climb from Fern Tree on a narrow road with an average gradient of 7.5 percent to an elevation of 1120m’ the descent is tricky. As clouds part, you can see every metre down to the sea but all eyes are on the road, the cars, the bends and curves of the mountainside.
Safely down at Fern Tree, soup and hot chips replenished the souls. Then another flashing descent off the mountain’s lower reaches took us the outskirts of the city where we organised the peloton into teams and to recognise the kudos to those in orange and other jersey winners the final slow pace ride into town.
As we crossed into the welcoming arms of the enthusiastic crowd of families and friends, many from Brisbane, ending this fairy tale ride, those who rode, supported and planned this ride could proudly proclaim the biggest success of all: a record sum raised by any Chain ride, ever. Not even the droplets of champagne raining on the happy throng could be sweeter than that.