In the quiet, sleepy mountain town of Blackheath we rendezvoused at 8am for the first RCC Sydney Satellite ride. Apprehension and excitement showed on all our faces as we made final preparations for the day. The morning mountain air had a stabbing chill but a clear sky above made clothing selection a bit tricky.
12 RCC Sydney riders joined our local ride host for the day, Nigel, who assured us with his pep talk that the route would have something for everyone: some long stretches of gravel, climbs to test the legs, sweeping descents, rolling flats and everything else in between.
Descending down into the valley the crispness in the air had a few of us wishing we’d put on an extra layer but as soon as we turned off and the road began to flatten out and head upwards we all knew the cold was going to be a short lived discomfort.
The farmland throughout Little Hartley was a welcome escape from the wall-to-wall traffic most of us experience every day, with the only obstacles on the road at this stage being the rather large ‘roo’ who had chosen the wrong time to cross. Some small stretches of gravel – all intermediate in technicality and length were to prove a short introduction for what lay ahead.
With my road bike currently in another state I was able to take the opportunity to use one of the RCC bikes and, although not advisable to use a new bike on such a technical and challenging parcours, the ride passed without any issues and the process of getting it setup and organised was symbolic of everything you would expect from Rapha.
Mid morning we came to our first real climb of the day, 10km of gravel up Marsden Swamp Road, with sweeping views across the valley to distract us from the constant grind on the gravel. The legs quickly knew they were in for a different kind of day altogether.
Through Hampton after a brief refill stop and we headed back inland towards Cut Hill Road – a much longer climb than it looks! We continued onto the next notable stretch of gravel, which allowed us to recreate our own version of the Strade Bianche, testing both legs and handling skills.
A sweeping descent past Lake Lyall allowed us to take in the beauty of the region before we arrived at our lunch stop at Lithgow. As a group we talked about searching for that sense of childlike escapism when out riding and here in the Blue Mountains we were sure we’d found it.
Post lunch and the reality of easing back in and letting our food settle didn’t seem to be the plan as we quickly hit three climbs as well as another short test on gravel again. After the effort up McKanes Falls Road we were able to re-join the sealed beauty of the main road, enjoying wide-open sweeping corners as we descended back towards the small historic town of Hartley.
We all knew that the final stretch would involve the climb back up to Mt Victoria and our host Nigel had become extremely coy in his description of the route, with a message of ’it goes up and goes down’ being reiterated throughout the day.
It was fitting that the final climb was the hardest of the day in terms of length, surface and steepness and the several hours pedalling had taken its toll. Those with anything left in their legs pushed up the forest-lined road before the short journey back down to Blackheath and the chance to enjoy the beauty of sealed roads once again.
With 2700 metres of climbing during the 130km, including 30km of gravel, the ride provided a test for all involved. Not that we didn’t allow for moments of reflection, getting lost in the countryside and constant reminders of why we love the challenge of riding and discovering new routes.
Best of all, this ride was just a two hour drive from Sydney – I feel many of us will be back sooner than later to further explore the untamed roads of the Blue Mountains.
Tim’s Strava link - https://www.strava.com/activities/275683335
Luke O’Shea RCCSYD #1627