It was quite a ride. I made a good start and was over Tawonga Gap and up Falls Creek (60km) in good time and good style. A short break at Falls for a snack and I was back on the road, cruising through for the climb up the other side of Tawonga. The descent back into Bright (130km) is one of the better parts of the ride, and after seven hours of elapsed time I was pretty happy with my progress. A short break in Bright to cool down and have a bite to eat and it was off to tackle Mt Buffalo.
Here's where things became slightly more challenging. It's a tough climb and it was the hottest part of the day. I slowed considerably on the way up, stopping every kilometre or so to catch my breath. At this end of the field, at this time of day, at this distance into the ride, many of my fellow riders were feeling the same pinch, as onward and upward we ground, aided by the occasional shouts of encouragement from riders returning at speed from the summit.
By the time I made the control at the top, time was getting on. I knew from my previous descent of the mountain that Bright was at least an hour and ten minutes away, although likely longer for a tired rider. I had an hour and thirty minutes to beat the cutoff.
As spectacular and as speedy as the descent is, it was largely lost on me as I counted down the minutes remaining with no sign of the bottom. My heart went out to the poor buggers still struggling up the grade, many of whom had no chance in hell of completing the ride in time. I was pretty determined to avoid that fate. Porepunkah finally drew near and it became apparent that I had about 20 minutes to cover the remaining ground to Bright. But how far was it? My best guess was ten kilometres, which was clearly going to be beyond me at that time of the day.
So I was pretty relieved when I rolled past the sign flashed past saying "Bright 6km". I was back in the game. Another rider sensed my plight and dragged me along for a bit at speed before he flagged and I took a turn thundering along the final stretch. Eventually Bright drew into view and I knew I was going to make it. The actual finish was a bit of a blur, partly because I was completely spent and partly because my eyes seemed to be a bit misty for some reason.
I've wanted to do the Alpine Classic 200km for years, and have never thought I was up to it. I'm tremendously happy to have finally done the ride, even if I did finish by the barest of margins. It was a fitting finish to a tremendous week of riding. As for next year, well the 130km distance is looking pretty good.
721km so far this year.