Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Snowy Mountains TD Training Ride - Day 1


Time is ticking down to the start of the 2015 Tour Divide. Quickly. Too quickly. 

With a race of this magnitude I am sure there can never be enough preparation. My training feels to be going to plan but I won't really know until a few days into the race.  As part of my preparation I had organised to have a week off work for a bikepacking trip around the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales.

To do this I finished a 5 day stint away at work, patted the wife and kids on the head, then jumped in the car and drove 14 hours straight to get to my jumping off point of Canberra.

 To say I was a bit underwhelmed to be starting out on this ride was a slight understatement. I was worn out from a looong week and I admit to resetting my alarm and sleeping in a bit on day 1.

It didn't help that sunrise in Canberra is about 6:30am so when I eventually got up, just after what felt like sunrise, it was 7:45! Time to get cracking and finish packing the bike. I skimped on breakfast and downed a museli bar while I packed. Something I would later regret.

After an iffy forecast in the week prior, the weather had dawned crystal clear and cold. Like almost 0C(32F) cold.

I decided to start out with just my merino undershirt, jersey and arm/leg warmers(and knicks of course!) to see how I would cope with the cold.

Rolling through the new suburb at the foot of Mt Stromlo had me marvelling at how fast these open paddocks have been turned into urban sprawl.

Heading out Uriarra rd through green paddocks, with views across to the range that I would soon be climbing lifted my spirits and determination to do this ride.

I have never left on such an exciting ride in a downbeat mood before. I think this was due to a combination of the long work week, the long drive, a certain nervousness about the remote country I was about to tackle on my own with little more than a gps line to follow, the prospect of riding in the cold and the fact that it would be my daughter's 13th birthday tomorrow. Here I was selfishly pedalling through the Snowys to practice for a silly race. This Tour Divide monster has a lot to answer for in terms of absorbing one's time and energy.

I soon pedalled into a fog bank and to avoid getting soaked through I put my rain jacket on for the first time in the 2 years that I have owned it. All of a sudden I was toasty warm! Awesome! But I may have blinded passing drivers because this thing hurts your eyes to look at, it is that bright!

And I then kersplunked again. As I bombed down to the crossing over the Murrumbidgee River I had to brake reasonably hard and the stuff sack on the handlebars ground onto the front wheel, tearing a small hole in it and the dry bag inside. Grrr.... I couldn't seem to get reasonable clearance over the front wheel with the aerobars limiting how high I could lift my gear. I would have to take it easy on the descents.

The next few kilometres(metric miles) were very pleasant, if very uphill.

I was soon through 4000ft elevation for the first time which meant I had climbed 2200ft above my start point already.

 As it was a slow uphill slog I had plenty of time to look around.

 I noticed all of the jets plying their way from Melbourne to Sydney, almost nose to tail as this is something like the 5th busiest route in the world. Then, along came something with 4 engines which I couldn't help trying to snap a shot of.

The entrance to Namagi National Park soon loomed large.

The road wound it's way through the gums for a while before I had to turn right and head west. It then bombed downhill for several kilometres and I did my best to hang onto the bike as the road was bone shudderingly rough.

The road turned to sealed surface and I litterally zoooomed down to a creek crossing. My first opportunity to fill up my water supplies. I didn't though, as I had carried a full tank of almost 4 litres out of Canberra and in the cold weather had hardly drank any at all.

A friend had put together this morning's route from a 4wding trip he did a bit over 12 months ago.

 Lets call this friend Gaz.

 Now Gaz likes to explore and exploring in a 4wd can be fun and interesting. Why? Well because they can take on some tough terrain with ease. Much more ease than a mid-life-crisis-on-a-bicycle. I dropped down this track with a feeling of dread......

Gaz had found a power line track that really wasn't too bad, as long as the ground wasn't too wet. I was lucky in that the recent rain had dried out juuust enough that the track up this powerline wasn't a total bog, just close to one. Much pushing ensued.

I sure was glad to see some proper road again and be looking back at the powerline track.

I soon saw another sign announcing my entry into Kosziusko National Park. This meant I was making progress despite feelings to the contrary.

I had a rough goal today of making it to at least Rules Point. This is the intersection of Long Plain Rd and the sealed Snowy Mtns Highway. At best I hoped to get up near Mt Selwyn, about 20km(13mi) past Rules Point. A combination of lack of breakfast leaving me feeling depleted(or again, the hectic week leading up to today) and my gear rubbing on my front tyre, robbing me of any speed on the rough downhill sections and the slow progress on the pinchy climbs saw me making much slower progress than I had hoped. When I saw that Rules Point was still 36km away I thought "I will never make even that point tonight". This was tough going and I was starting to worry about refilling my water.

I shouldn't have worried as very soon I rode into a pretty little clearing with a stream running through it.

Time to fill the bottle and drop an Aquatab into it. It would be good to drink in 1 hour. This was such a nice spot that I briefly contemplated setting up camp but it was still too early to call it a day after my late start.

Exiting Broken Cart Fire Trail onto Long Plain Rd I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of the surface and my speed shot up. This was more like what I had in mind, not the rough dips and pinch climbs of the previous few hours.

I soon crossed what were the headwaters of the mighty Murrumbidgee River.

I again topped up my bottle in the icy water.

 It was getting very cold now as the sun had slipped below the horizon.

I decided that I needed to be flexible with my distance expectations and not beat myself up for falling short.
 Tomorrow would be another day. 

 Long Plain is just that, a long, shallow plain. It is treeless because it collects the cold, dense air and no trees grow on it. It is lined with trees on it's upper edges though and I now scanned this edge a I pedalled along, looking for a small flat area to pitch my tent before it was completely black. I found a likely spot about 50m(yards) off Long Plain Rd but it was about 5m out from the shelter of the trees. Oh, well. This will have to do. 

 I quickly set up camp and boiled some water to rehydrate a  Moroccan lamb meal. Mmmmm... It was just after dark and very cold now. Luckily though it was a clear and calm evening. I dived into my sleeping bag to stay warm while I ate. I wasn't too concerned to be camped right next to the road because I hadn't seen another human since 11am and wouldn't see another until I got onto the Snowy Mtns Hwy at 09:10 in the morning...........


  1. Nice write up, looking forward to the rest! You should have come and stay at our place, we live right next to Mt Stromlo. We could have talked TD, but hopefully we will catch up in Banff or the next 4000km after that :)

  2. Hi Bethany. Now you tell me! Don't pick too many holes in my write up as my mind may have been blunted by day 4. ;)
    When are you landing in Banff? I have just booked at the Y on the 9th. See you there,

  3. The day is edging ever closer.

    You started off with a damn chilly temperature this morning, but the day looked beautiful though. And I can't believe your daughter is 13 already, wow.

  4. Yes, just 34 days to go now! Too close.
    When you look back a few years and see the photos of a little, grinning red head on a bike I can't beleive how time has flown!

  5. Only just saw your reply comment. We are at the Y the 4 days prior to the race. Taking it nice and slow to drive from Vancouver. You should come to the Banff screening of Inspired to Ride (night before the race). You can buy tickets online!


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