I've been training for the Alpine Classic 200km ride and with all the mad dashes up the steep and unrelenting grades of Strickland Road on the slopes of Mt Wellington immediately behind Hobart town have taught me something interesting: training really does help. Who would have thunk it? As I've done more and more of the climbs after work I've watched my best time fall and my average speed rise. That has to be a good thing.
Perhaps then it probably shouldn't have been much of a surprise to find out that all of that hard work meant my legs were stronger on the Ash Dash than on just about any ride I've done. I'm slow in the hills and the bunch of about 20 disappeared from view on the first rise up Davey Street. I was in no rush though, the 500m climb up Strickland Road is just an appetiser and there's another pretty serious climb out of Longley not long afterwards.
What follows is a bit of a phony war. There's a long flat section as the kilometres slide by and despite a hard climb over Silver Hill around the 90km mark, the first 100km disappears fairly easily. Then the serious stuff begins. Woodbridge saddle is a horror of a climb, hitting a gradient of 18 per cent before the top. Gladly there were a couple of other people waiting in the shade at the summit so being last wasn't all that lonely. The remainder to the trip around the Channel was pretty uneventful and I rolled into Cygnet not far behind my friend Tim about 3.30pm for a cafe break.
After an interlude enjoying cake and cold drinks we were back on the road, over the bumps out of Cygnet and onward to the imposing Pelverata Saddle. Here too the steep grades forced me of the bike for a short stint afoot. After a break at the top it was eagerly off for the last 20km.
The best thing about the Seven Hills Dash is that the last 10km are downhill. The 7km immediately before them are uphill though and it was slowly that I ground my way past the Longley pub and up through Neika to Ferntree. There's a point near the Ferntree Tavern where the road turns down. I allowed myself a smile there, I knew I'd conquered the Ash Dash.