- Day 1 230km Collingwood – Jamieson
- Day 2 220km Jamieson to Tawonga
- Hal, James, Scotty, Ben, Matty J, Nick, Rueben, Sam, and Myself (Ray) departed the studio, some of us wearing backpacks, while others opted for saddle bags, we were all pretty full of enthusiasm. We rode out through the suburbs, picking up Dan along the way, making our way to Lilydale. Dan, Rueben, and Nick had done the first day of the ride before, and had told us how tough and long of a day we were in for, but they were old slow riders compared to Hal and Myself, How hard could it really be?
- Answer; Way too fucking hard
- The weather on the day had threatened to pour, however we were spared much of the rain, yet the roads were still soaking wet, the sun yet to come out. This caused the first problem of the day, just 30 minutes from the house James’ rear wheel slipped out while crossing tram tracks, ripping a hole in his knicks, and scratching his bike up a bit. And while this was happening Dan also punctured, an ominous start to the day. Thankfully James had a spare set of knicks in his bag and we pushed on
- Once we reached Lilydale we entered the Lilydale – Warburton Rail Trail, and what followed was undoubtedly the most enjoyable hour of riding from the entire day. The fairly forgiving gravel, added with the beautiful views made for great riding. The only downside being the recent rains had a created a lot of mud, most of which ended up on either Ben or Myself.
- After stopping for a quick coffee break at the COG café in Warburton, we started our ride up Mt Donna Buang, already a hard hill, the addition of large backpacks made it an especially hard climb. Eventually we turned off onto Acheron Way, a predominantly gravel decent. The group split up, with Dan, Rueben and Nick up front, Ben and myself bringing up the rear. Eventually we all regrouped at the bottom of the climb, taking a small break for Ben to repair a puncture.
- Following the Acheron Way section was a few small undulating hills, leading into arguably the hardest climb of the day, a 3km section of steep climbing just before Marysville. Although short, it was made additionally hard by a short but intense band of rain, soaking us all and making getting out of the saddle almost impossible.
- We sat down at the Marysville bakery for some lunch, with most opting for a pie or sandwich, while I chose a bowl of dim-sims and a rock hard jam donut.
- The stop at Marysville had been a useful refuelling stop, but it did very little to help with everyone’s body heat, the sun was still hidden behind clouds, making for a cold 20 minutes out of Marysville. We rode out as a bunch, but within minutes we were strung apart due to an intermittent ferocious headwind.
- At this point we were coming onto the least enjoyable part of the trip, a 20km section riding along the degraded highway shoulder. It wasn’t the worst section of road, but the 150km already in my legs, headwind, and 2 rear wheel flats in 500m made it a pretty shit experience.
- Eventually we turned onto the quieter and better road leading into Thornton, a road which on any other day I would call a beautiful riding road. The road consisted of small uphill pinches followed by small downhill sections, eventually culminating in a long downhill stretch into Thornton. In true fashion though, Ben got a puncture 10 km before Thornton.
- As we arrived in Thornton I was pretty beat, we all were, for me it was the low point for trip morale, at least up until that stage. However it got worse, once Rueben and Dan filled me in with the details of the remaining 80km, I seriously considered walking over and booking a room at the Thornton hotel. There was a 9km climb followed by an additional climb between 11 and 18km (Dan and Rueben couldn’t decide which one)
- At this point Hal, Ben, Matty and I decided split up and form a back group, not wanting to keep holding the others up, eventually making our way to the base of the first climb. Honestly in retrospect it was a pretty easy climb, akin to a Tawonga gap climb, but on the day for some reason (probably having already ridden for 180km) this hill fucking broke me.
- We were about 1 half of the way up, Hal, Ben, Matty and myself, we had already stopped for a break once and we were literally crawling up this hill. It wasn’t a lack of food or water, nor was it any particular part of my body that hurt, I just felt like I had nothing, every pedal stroke sent immediate feelings of fatigue throughout my body.
- I mentioned how Thornton was a morale low point so far in the trip, it was, until we reached this point. We were still 5km from the first summit (or so we thought) and I had just stopped on the side of the road and lay on the dirt, once up I checked if there was any chance of catching an Uber, contemplated building a tent with my rain jacket, and the most promising thought; ride back to Thornton.
- Turns out we were actually 500m from the top, we all grouped back together for the slow, and sometimes uphill descent, eventually stopping at the base of the last and most gruelling climb.
- We started the climb as two groups; Dan, Rueben, Nick, Harry and Sam as one group, and Hal, Ben, Matty, James and myself. It was weird, I don’t know whether it was the long resting descent or what, but I immediately felt twice as good as the previous climb
- We were about 2-3 km up the climb when it really started getting dark, we all had lights on, but none of us were really looking forward to a ride in the dark. As we pushed on, Matty and Ben went ahead, only for us to find them sat down at a corner with Matty devouring a few gels, just 500m up the road. From that point on we decided to stay as a group for the rest of the climb
- The light was now completely gone, and the rain had started falling, normally this would be a recipe for disaster, but it wasn’t, in fact it was almost surreal, it was pouring, dark, and we were completely alone on this one last challenge of a hill.
- By this point all enjoyment to be found was now gone, and after numerous stops on the road, and countless times Hal had proclaimed we were “at the top” we finally started rolling downhill without assistance, a godsend.
- By this point I the thrill of descending had well and truly subsided, all our hands were frozen making descending both unenjoyable and dangerous. But eventually we rolled into the humble town of Jamieson, finally finding the mythical pub I had been thinking of all day.
- Thanks to the others in the group warm plates of food (Parma’s for me) were already on the table, and what followed was most likely the greatest night of sleep in my whole life
- At the coffee shop the next day James, Hal, Ben, Sam, Harry and myself all unanimously agreed there was no fucking way we were riding another 200km+. So as Dan, Rueben and Nick rode their bikes, headed back for Melbourne, the rest of us packed our bikes into the back of the Minivan Driven by Melita ( the Hunterbros - Mum ) and drove back to Melbourne.
To say we gave up would be correct, but honestly I don’t care. We learnt a lot of things from the ride; Dan, Rueben and Nick are not slow old Men, I don’t think I’ll ever be an endurance road rider, maybe dim sims and chocolate bars aren’t good ride nutrition, and if it looks hard on paper, it’s going to be way fucking harder in real life.
Below video by Matty Jays