#whatwasithinking was my social media tag for the two days. I am generally pretty awful at hills, and this route had around 6,000m of climbing in 320km - in only two days. With blind faith, optimism and a sense of adventure, I signed up. Knowing only two people out of the group, we set off on the Friday morning at an ungodly hour.
The following two days were the most wonderful I’ve had on a bike. The support was phenomenal - from April driving, pumping out the tunes, and offering never-ending encouragement, to the RCC team (Gina and Angus) for planning the route and the associated logistics. Here is what I remember (minus the wheel in front and dodging the pot holes):Day One
The group was led out by the stronger boys at the front keeping the pace steady. We all knew how many kilometres we had still to go and no one was going to push the pace or blow up the bunch. Doing something like this reminds us of the reason we ride together - the camaraderie was immediately obvious.
We hit our first stop at Richmond as the sky turned a dark, menacing grey. As the planes flew over and we fuelled up on chocolate bars, snakes and fizz pop, we wrapped up in our rain jackets. The heavens opened as we reached the top of the first major climb at Yellowmundee.
As the day progressed, the hills rolled and the rain came down. Riding the final stretch along the Great Western Highway took every ounce of energy to hold my line - avoiding the cat eyes on one side, the gravel verge on the other, and the dirt splashing from the wheel in front. On reaching Blackheath, the relief was apparent in the eyes of everyone. It was a long day and we all just needed a hot shower.Day 2
The day started with more climbs than I can remember. Our tyres ate up dirt roads before most people had risen from breakfast. The off-road section to Hassans Wall was worth the gravel climb as the view was utterly spectacular. The descent was as thrilling as it was terrifying. Spotting potholes was a challenge between the sunshine streaming through the blue gum trees and the shadows. The only option was to sit in the drops and absorb the vibrations, quietly praying for no flat tyre…
At 100km my knees were hurting. After a dose of painkillers and some pep talking, we set off for the final 60km. Conscious not to hold the bunch up, I positioned myself in the front section of the group. One of the blokes came up to me and said, “you are going to make this, even if we have to push you!” That spurred me on; I didn’t want to let myself, or the others down. 2km from the end and up the last hill, someone yelled “why are we still climbing?!”- I was glad not to be the only one with that thought.One final sprint to catch up with the bunch and we arrived in Orange, safe and sound.
Thank you to everyone that participated. It was tough, and at times we struggled, but we all made it, and in the process, we laughed and became mates. It is a privilege to be a part of the RCC. From this journey we are physically stronger, mentally more resilient, and closer as a group.