Ride Start Date: 2022-02-26
Author: Simon Gill
Wrestling The Lithgow Dog
With a Peleton of Three ( Me, Myself and I )
Saturday February 26th 2022.
Wayde advertised it as a 300 and 1/2 an Everest. I guess it’s an RO’s prerogative to guild the lily. You be the judge. 😀
All I know is there are lots of hills !
Wadye texted me on the Friday saying the other rider had withdrawn giving me the opportunity to do the same.
As it was a local ride for me I was keen to give it a go. After all What could possibly go wrong ?
I chose to start at 5am rather than 6 as I was not confident of making the time and thought it may help in finding food at Oberon, the 250 k mark and last checkpoint.
So there I was in the dark misty morning texting Wayde at 5 letting him know I was rolling out to try to tame his four legged friend.
The mist had turned to a drizzle which was enough for road spray from the early morning cars and trucks along the 4 k section of the Great Western Highway before turning onto the quieter approaches to Portland.
Climbing out of Portland to Sunny Corner which was definitely not living up to its name. At an elevation of 1200m it was no wonder the mist had turned to fog and the drizzle into a steady shower which had me wondering if the 5am start was a good idea.
Turning at the 45 k mark, before Dark Corner, which aptly described the conditions, it was downhill all the way back to the highway out of the fog and the rain in the morning light.
More downhill for a couple of kms along the highway with a safety barrier in the middle then a right turn on a downhill section. I’ve gotta say it’s a hairy section. Cars & Trucks at 100 ks/ hr constrained by a safety barrier and a narrow shoulder with varying surfaces. Note to Wayde, There must be safer options to cross the highway !
The 12 k run down Diamond Swamp Road into Tarana was peaceful and scenic with Lamas and Camels curious as to who was disturbing their morning routines.
Checkpoint 1 – Tarana- 70 ks ( elevation 800m) consists of a train station, pub and cafe none of which were open at 8.30 so it was home made rolls and buns for morning tea and a chat with Matt from Blackheath who was heading out on an 80k mixed terrain route.
The 60 k to Bathurst was undulating, scenic and car free in a cool, dry morning assisted by a slight easterly, following the rail line continued the very enjoyable cycling since leaving the highway.
Checkpoint 2 – Bathurst was alive and jumping with the sun shining, people out and about; so ever conscious of time after a bathroom and wardrobe break I elected to do The Mount then stop for food at Perthville.
Cycling The Mount gives an insight and appreciation of the skills needed to race cars around it. The 8% drag up Mountain Straight, then the grind from Griffins Bend to The Cutting of 16% I found really difficult. The reward was a stunning view and a -20% downhill through The Esses and Conrod Straight, all at a mere fraction of the 300 km/hr speed of the V8 Supercars.
A burger, potato scallops ( potato cakes as I know them), custard tart washed down with a power aid was hopefully enough to get me through the 120 ks to Oberon. What I didn’t realise was that the Perthville servo only had take away sandwiches sometimes! And today was not the day. Nor would they make any fresh. Needless to say I had plenty of time to reflect on that decision.
I had some substantial food on board with the usual pocket food bars however, enough to sustain 120 ks uphill ? I wasn’t confident.
The temperature had risen, the sun was out , the humidity high and the easterly had developed into a consistent wind. There’s no place to hide heading south through George’s Plains and into the hills the locals know as Skippy before turning east at Caloola to endure 20 ks of a stiff head wind into Rockley.
The 50 ks from Perthville had drained me. I was fatigued. The one and only pub at Rockley ( Checkpoint 3 ) was closed for renovation. Matt Moran had just taken it over with plans to turn the historic building into a must visit destination. I was one month too early!
There’s a park opposite with enormous canopy trees offering cool shade from the mid afternoon heat serviced by a toilet block. Non drinkable water – geez! Things were not going to plan. I was down to 1 bidon and 1/4 of my camelback.
For The Peleton of Three ( Me, Myself and I ) , low on both food and water, it was time to regroup. What better way than a 15 min power nap on a park bench.
It made a difference. Cleared my head and lessened my fatigue so we headed off with renewed determination to tackle the next 40 ks of half a dozen climbs and 15 ks of head winds to O’Connell. Once again, no where to hide from the elements through undulating farm land.
Arriving at O’Connell at 5 pm, 12 hours for 200 ks, I was cutting it fine with still a lot of climbing to come. I was quietly confident of finishing, but within time ???
The one and only cafe had closed at 3.30 and the meals at the only pub were still an hour away, left me questioning again the 5am start.
A packet of Smiths chips, a can of The Black Doctor a few snacks off the bike, a rest in the shade, and finally a top up my water supplies! It was time to tackle the 50 ks of climbing to Oberon.
The strength was going out of the sun as the Plains were left behind and replaced with eucalypt woodlands, maybe Yellow Box, as the tree lined road headed upwards. Once again I began to enjoy the countryside with the sun setting and the challenge of the updulations as my mind turned to trying to make Oberon before dark. The woodlands became pine plantations as the hills kept on coming.
Still short on food I needed a break with about 10 ks to go, for a snack and rest. That was fortuitous as there were some very steep sections in those final ks.
I made Oberon ( Checkpoint 4 ) just after dark at 8.00. The route called for a loop through the Main Street so I decided to do that and reccie the food options. A couple of pubs and RSL, their meals may be still on?,how long would they take? Would I get too comfortable?, I’m up against the clock, naagh won’t risk it. A pizza & pasta place and two servos. By the time I’d finished the loop one servo and the pizza & pasta place had closed so I headed back to the BP servo which had a kebab shop inside.
It was Rodeo night so there was plenty of action going on in the streets. Back up over 1100 m in elevation the wind was chilly, fog rolling in and rain showers starting. Just the sort of conditions you long for on steep descents at night !
Finally, the 5 am start had paid off, after all, an hour later and most likely no food at all !
I was struggling, as I could only eat 1/2 a small kebab, however more black doctor, preceded by a ginger beer in the hope of settling my stomach plus a coffee to keep me awake, I was ever hopeful of a successful finish.
I was able to top up my water and take onboard sandwiches so plenty of fuel for the last 50 ks, as long as I could eat .
After a wardrobe change I set off in the dark and rain for the descent of Lowes Mount Road.
Shortly after leaving, a car load of Rodeoians let me know in no uncertain terms what they thought of me being on the road.
Saturday night riding is always entertaining. 😀
I’m weak at descending at the best of times so in the dark and wet conditions I was extra anxious. Made even more so by a km long stretch of rough slippery gravel being prepared for resurfacing.
Having safely negotiated the descent, the run into Tarana was pleasant as the rain and wind were left behind.
Once again there was no life at Tarana so it was straight onto the climb through Sodwalls up to Hampden Road.
I’d ridden this section about a month earlier with only 40ks in the legs and a refuelling at the Tarana cafe. I got through it ok but I recalled some very steep hills and long climbs which made me nervous this time around.
I hadn’t eaten as much as I hoped at Oberon and the early climbs in this section took there toll. Hindsight is wonderful and I should’ve stopped at Tarana for a snack from the bike however I was pushing to make the time and I paid for it on one of the steep pinches where I physically and mentally “bonked”, resorting to the “2 foot gear”. I consoled myself with the words of one Audaxian Royalty ringing in my ears “ I’ve never found a hill too steep to walk”
So after a midnight walk, taking time out to eat and regroup I got back on the pedals for the climb to Hampden Rd. Once there it was a steep downhill to Lake Lyell across the weir then one final slog of a climb out of the valley and back to The Great Western Highway and the lights of Lithgow.
I wouldn’t say I tamed The Lithgow Dog.
It did however teach me more about myself and the dark art that is Audax.
Whilst I finished within time I did manage to extract exceptional value out of the ride with only 55 min up my sleeve.
It was certainly an adventure, one that I would wholeheartedly recommend.