At 5:30am, the world is still dark as it rains cats and dogs. Five of us are crazy enough to turn up for the Lumpy 2 Audax ride on what has the potential to be a miserable day in the saddle. After a brief discussion about calling off the ride due to concerns about riders’ safety on the climb and descent from Mt Glorious, we set off into the grey dawn light, made darker by the cloud cover and incessant rain.
Here’s a video of the ride. It includes both photos and video footage.
We stay together as a group for about two kilometres before the two faster riders peel away. By the time we reach Mt Cootha, just 9km into the ride, the three of us at the back are all riding alone too. Over the course of the ride, the three of us will see each other momentarily but we effectively complete the ride solo.
I’m nervous about the ride. As part of the Polka series, this ride promises a lot of climbing. Mathematically, I’m not sure I can make the 13:30 cut-off, given that I know I’ll have to walk some short sections of the climbs. But I set off on the challenge anyway, deciding to enjoy the ride as an excuse to explore the world by bike.
By the time I reach the top of Mt Cootha I feel more confident. While it’s a challenging climb, I feel strong. A few kilometres later I realise that my descending skills leave a lot to be desired. I’m not the best downhill road rider in good conditions. In the wet, I feel like the biggest Gumby on the road; I’m sure my brake pads will wear out well before the finish. This feeling stays with me as I struggle to descend the other preliminary hills leading to Mt Glorious. I’m so scared that I decide to ask the ride organiser for a lift down the hulking mountain that looms over my home city; I rationalise that a DNF is better than a D-E-A-D.
I spend much of the first 40km of the ride too scared to enjoy the scenery. I’m sure that once we got out of the suburbs and into Upper Kedron that it was quite pretty. But all I could think of was how poorly I was getting down the hills and how stupid I was for setting off on this ride. I really got myself worked up into a tizz.
The turning point in my mental state comes when we reach the 10km climb from the base of Mt Glorious to Checkpoint 1 at the summit. I settle in and just start climbing. I feel comfortable up here doing what most hate: climbing. The slow pace of climbing allows me to really take in the sights, sounds and smells. Small waterfalls have formed on the high side of the road and their rushing fills my ears, along with the reverberating sound of bell birds’ calls. My nostrils fill with the sweet minty scent of lantana, a weed with deceptively pretty flowers. We reach the 15% grade near the top of the climb. I do my best but only make it about 1km up this stretch before I have to get off an walk. But I don’t mind. I was only riding at 7kph and my walking pace is 5kph so, in the scheme of things, I am not losing time and I’m still feeling happy.
Checkpoint 1 is a welcome sight at the 60km mark. There’s heaps of food, hot drinks and dry towels. The checkpoints on supported Audax rides rock. You can always be guaranteed of good food, cheerful company, encouragement and the little things like a dry towel on a rainy day.
I’m still scared about the descent off Glorious but I’m determined to continue the ride. So I set off in the rain and fog. We still have about 9km of rolling climbing at the top of the mountain and then the hairy descent begins. It’s only 3.5km long but drops about 600m, with sections of descent that are 22% gradient. My knuckles are white and nerves on edge as I drop down the first kilometre. I know that I should be relaxing into the drop, rather than sitting tense but there’s little I can do. I walk the second kilometre because it contains the sharpest bends and steepest gradients. It must seem odd to the cars to see someone walking downhill but I don’t care. I remount my bike for the final kilometre and reach the bottom of the descent in one piece.
I smash out the next 10km at 28-35kph, trying to catch back up to the rider in front of me, knowing that I’ll need to make up time for the slow start to this stage. The world flies by as I flatten my body down into the drops and crank out in a big gear. There’s one big hill to climb at the 90km mark before checkpoint 2. I hit the wall part way up but mentally tell myself that I have a choice: I can get miserable or I can sit back and enjoy the views. I chose the latter. Before I know it, I’m turning into checkpoint 2 at 115km to eat a heap more food, and enjoy the company of the other riders and ride organiser.
The third section of the ride is brutal but beautiful. The headwinds along the Clarendon Road that flatten the grass into a pretty ocean of seed heads also makes forward momentum hard work. But it’s worth the effort to ride through the contrasting paddocks of long grass and plowed earth. The Glamorganvale Road reopened today, making it possible to take a shortcut from Lowood to Glamorganvale. The downside is that the shortcut crosses two big hills and takes the shortest route: straight up and down. Again, I have to surrender to the need to walk as my legs run out of puff and my rear wheel loses traction on the newly sealed road, which is covered in loose gravel. The views from the top are amazing; I see where I have ridden and where I am going.
I am almost totally spent when I reach checkpoint 3 at Kholo Gardens (160km) but my soul is singing after riding through some amazing country. It’s enough to keep my body moving as I eat yet more food and set off to ride the final 43km. I have 3:20 remaining on the clock so I know that I’m going to make it.
The final section of the ride is fairly easy. There’s one steep hill that rises like a wall that I walk up, but for the rest it is fairly well just rolling roads. The gravel section of Lake Manchester Road is a challenge on my 23mm tyres but I get through it okay. Before I know it, the sun is setting and I’m riding along some of the busiest roads in Brisbane. It’s certainly a challenge to be alert to drivers after riding almost 200km but a challenge that makes these final few kilometres interesting. Besides, I’d rather take the main roads and spend most of the ride in the countryside than have to waste too much mileage on urban back roads.
There is no fanfare as I arrive at the finish. No big finishing tape or marching bands. The two men who finished before me are loading their bikes onto their cars and the ride organiser is in his kitchen making sure food is ready for riders’ arrival. I have ridden most of the ride alone and finish on my own. I have a shower, put on fresh cloths and eat some very delicious lasagne. The ride organiser gives me a special Lumpy 2 buff, which I think is just awesome! And then, I load my bike onto the ute (pick up truck) and drive home happy.
Total: 203km road cycle (200km brevet)