From Myrtleford to Singapore – What a difference!

DSC_1017

I guess the thing that struck me the most was how small this place called Myrtleford was.  Now being Canadian I fully have seen many small villages and rural communities.  It is amazing the contrast between rural Myrtleford and a  thriving metropolis like Singapore.  Now that in itself is not that spectacular however we have a friend from Myrtleford who we cycle with in Singapore.  When we told Britt that we were going to Bright she recounted memories of the places she used to work in the surrounding areas. It really is a beautiful part of Australia for sure and if you like cycling you will find many great rides there.  Unfotunately Britt could not come with us on this trip however we did manage to meet her parents and a few friends of hers in the local pub.  

Britt’s parents are lovely and it was great to visit them.  As soon as we met them we knew why Britt was such a nice gal.  We also understood why Britt is so good climbing those hills….it is because she lived on the top of a big hill with at least 7-8% gradients!  More to come on Britt’s cycling stories later….

Hugh and Jayne were great.  We managed to collect a few stories about Britt growing up to share with the peleton back in Singapore.  We had a nice visit with them and hope to see them sometime in Singapore or on the next training camp.  On our way out of Australia we were able to get some great local beef to bring back to Singapore. Britt’s dad Hugh chose an awesome piece of beef at the local grocer and having sampled it last night at home I can say it is the best I have ever had.  Thanks Hugh for taking the time to get that for us!

DSC_1022

Andrew, Jayne, Hugh and I – we all wished Britt was there.

04102009130

Here is Britt at 445am at SOI….fancy gloves.

Posted in Cycling Australia | 5 Comments

Day 4 – Civilized Coffee in Myrtleford – Home of Renowned Cyclist Britt Kneebone

clip_image002

We had already been to Myrtleford to visit a friend’s parents who live there. It is a small town of probably only 3000 people and a very nice place. We saddled up for the ride into Myrtleford which would be a 60km round trip recovery ride after all the days of climbing. Anxiety levels were down and I was looking forward to not eating any power bars, power gels, or power anything after three days of over powering!

On the way back from Myrtleford we were blessed with a strong tailwind which carried us at almost 40km/hour the whole way.

Packed up the bike and then headed for Melbourne Airport where I would stay for one night before flying home to Singapore.

This training camp was excellent. I learned a lot of new things about training zones, and met some great people and fellow cycling enthusiasts along the way. As I type this I still feel the burning in my legs so I am sure that is a good thing. The support riders and overall organization of the Bright Boot Camp were excellent.

Posted in Cycling Australia | Leave a comment

Day 3 – Mt Hotham – Life After the Control Gates

DSCF0556 On paper this climb is ok…there were a couple of areas we were warned about and I had them firmly in my planning process for eating/drinking and conserving energy. At kilometer 38 I should hit the Meg, a 500 meter stretch of 15-18% gradient…..I was ready. The unfortunate thing was that I actually ended up hitting it at 35km, which means I did not have time to take a gel and power-up for this climb. I actually missed the big sign labeled ‘The Meg’ so was really only aware that I was on it when we saw Ollie the instructor snapping pictures near the top. Nothing better than photos of people suffering. When we hit a more gentle gradient of probably 8% I asked David in almost a panicky voice ‘was that the Meg? Was that the Meg?’. The best thing I heard all day was a positive that was the Meg. So one hard part done, the rest of this climb should be easy until we hit the control gates. There were not many details given about what was left after the control gates but the indications were that it would be tough. There were approximately 6-7km of this climb that were very flattish which was a nice treat after the Meg and before the mystery that lied beyond the control gates. We had a three minute break to refuel at the control gates. Only 6km to go I thought as I took my last gel. (that turned out to be a very good move)….so on we went. First was a nice section of 9-11% gradients which seemed hard. We reached the top of this section and had a nice downhill before hitting what I think was the hardest part of the climb. Twelve – 16% gradients for more than one kilometer really pushed me to the limits…I was slowly cranking along again with Michael who was not very talkative at this point. Suffering along we were definitely hurting. This stretch seemed to never end…every time we turned a corner there was another kick up. When it finally did end we were given a small reprieve with some flatter terrain and a massive descent down around 100 meters. This was superfast and we hoped it would help us get up the other side which ramped up to 10% very quickly. Once again this section was very long and steep and now we had the extra bonus of the wind. My deep rimmed wheels were blowing all over the place and that added an extra element of fear on this climb. Either side of the road was a cliff so if we went off then we would be finished (for good). Michael and I encouraged each other the best we could and when we reached the top he extended his hand in congratulations…it was a great accomplishment to make it up. I was still a bit apprehensive because I had made a few mistakes already with my distances and I wanted to make sure that we really were at the top and that there were no hidden climbs still remaining. We started a slight downhill to the top of Mt. Hotham where we had some great coffee and a sausage roll…we deserved it.

clip_image002Linked to the lack of climbs in Singapore, there is obviously a lack of descending opportunities. I really worry about descending because when you see pros hitting 90-100km flying down hills it makes you wonder what happens to your body and your bike if you go down. I have hit 77km before in Italy and there were guys flying by me…scary stuff. Anyhow I was jittery about the descent with all the wind up top and knowing that I would be going down the steep grades that we had to climb to the summit. While we were eating our sausage rolls and drinking our coffee, David also announced that we had a rider down who crashed over the railing at the Meg. He announced ‘Andrew from Singapore had gone over the edge’ and my nervousness immediately shot up. One my mate Andrew could be hurt, and two I know how fast he normally goes down hills so I was very concerned. David then announced that he was ok but that his bike was a write-off. This elevated my nervousness and really I wanted to get back to see how Andrew was really doing. Going over the railing is never a good thing. I started down the descent which was littered with a few climbs of 12% again…this time it was much hotter however as I had my big bulky jacket on. The descent took me almost an hour and I maxed out my speed at 62km/hour…fast enough for me but nothing compared to the guys who hit 70-80km/hour on this descent. Aside from my worrying about Andrew’s condition, I was feeling great knowing that I had conquered the hardest parts of the Bright Boot Camp. After the killer day of climbing on Day 2, and now topping up Mt. Hotham and surviving the descent, I felt great.

Arriving back at the camp I saw Andrew’s cracked bike, broken seat, scuffed up legs and his cheerful smile. I guess he also knew he was lucky to be alive. We got back in the van to go and see the area where he crashed and to look for his S$1500 glasses which came off during his crash. In addition to wrecking his bike, he also unfortunately lost his Polar watch…luckily Lucinda his wife found his expensive glasses.

There was a course that evening however I had to give it a miss for my massage therapy with Marina. I had heard rumours of how painful the ‘treatment’ was given that it was a massage designed to help athletes recover versus a spa treatment that you normally get in Asia. I am sure the massage did me some good after so many hard days of riding however I was in extreme pain. Marina kept on remdingin me to breathe and said that I really need more body work given all the pressure I put on my body. After 30 minutes of suffering I jumped off the table and thanked her….the next day I felt much better.

That evening we went to the Star Hotel in Bright for a celebratory team dinner. I think everybody was very happy to have completed the major milestones and also that there were no serious injuries on this trip. There was one other fellow who fell on the descent and he had to get his road rash taken care of….he was back on the trainer the next morning so I think he also got away with some minor injuries.

Overall this was an incredible day. Only one day left and that is all flat!

Posted in Cycling Australia | Leave a comment

Day 2 – Tawonga – Falls Creek – Tawonga Again – Most Climbing in a day ever

I am from Singapore which is very flat. Our highest climb in Singapore is called Mt. Faber which has an astonishing 92m of elevation. Singapore’s flatness and my lack of experience climbing mountains were the main reasons I wanted to come to this camp in Australia. While I suffer through mostly every climb I do, there is nothing better than the feeling you get when you cross the top of a mountain after struggling up the gradients to get there. I realized from the lesson the evening before my challenges climbing were due to weighing too much and producing too little power J

DSCF0578 Today was to be the hardest day of cycling. No snags, no wine and plenty of sleep. I was in group two and I knew there were many good climbers who would set a challenging pace. The first climb was only 7km and was fairly easy with gradients mostly around 6-7%. After that climb and a quick descent we were making our way to the big climb of the day at Falls Creek. We refueled in Mt. Beauty and then started up the 26km climb to Falls Creek. This climb was not too bad and at around kilometer 20 we saw a massive gate that said ‘Falls Creek’. Great I thought…we are done. Well unfortunately that was not how it worked out and that was where the fun really started. The last bit of the climb was definitely the hardest. I was riding alongside Michael, a good rider from Adelaide, most of the way. Almost near the top we were joined by Anthony and Neil and the four of us finished this climb very close. With only 150 meters to go, Michael said ‘anybody want to give it a crack?’. At that point I could respond with very few words but the message was clear: I was cracked. I could not push anything else out of my legs at that point. I only realized the next day that the KOM jersey was awarded to Anthony for giving it the best crack and crossing the line first. That was the closest I have ever finished near the KOM winner…and may be the closest ever in my cycling career!

After we all made it up they snapped a group photo and we were on our way down. One more climb up the other side of Tawonga, this time around 8km long and up steeper gradients, and add some hot sunshine to boot, this was going to be hard. At this point we had more than 37km of climbing in our legs and by the time we hit Tawonga steep side we had 100km of riding in that day. I rode with one of the instructors Danny Carr until he got bored of me and hammered it up the hill. He was super fast. So I then just pedaled my way up to finish this climb and descend back to the camp and rest…the next day was supposed to be the hardest climb of the trip (Mt. Hotham) and I wanted to get all the rest I could!

Posted in Cycling Australia | Leave a comment

Day 1 – Mt. Buffalo

Well this was supposed to be the easy day of the four day training camp so I thought nothing of having a few glasses of wine and a few ‘snags’ the evening before the climb up Mount Buffalo. According to Andrew, my friend and Australian translator, a snag is the name given to a sausage rolled up in a piece of bread. Being the good cyclist, I wrapped all three of the snags I had in whole wheat bread and sampled at least as many glasses of good Australian wine. It was great to have a BBQ where we were able to meet all of the other riders from different places. There were four of us from Singapore (Andrew, Lucinda and Rene who we met at the camp) and the remainder of the riders were from various places in Australia. Including the instructors, there were around 47 people who were there to saddle up for four days of riding just 300 km northeast of Melbourne Australia.

clip_image002Day one started at 7:15am. We were given a nice ride briefing by David Heatley who runs the camp and who is a very good cyclist. Mt. Buffalo was the easiest climb we would do during the four day program and we would be time marked to see which group we would be put in for the remainder of the trip. No problems. We took a casual five kilometer stroll over to the base of Mt. Buffalo where we were given a nice briefing on the climb and some advice on both climbing and descending. After the briefing we started the climb and it was evident that there were some very good climbers in the group. After they had disappeared from my view I settled into a nice pace and was slowly plowing up this climb. As per usual, thoughts started rolling through my mind such as ‘Why did I eat three snags last night’ or ‘Why did I drink all that great Australian red wine?’. Needless to say I found my rhythm and kept my legs turning. Jodie, David’s wife and supporter of this training camp, pulled up beside me in the support vehicle to pass on well wishes for me to make it up this climb. Needless to say, I was very much in the short answer mode you get into in cycling when you are short of breath and working too hard!

Jodie: how are you going?

Jeff: Ok

Jodie: That is a very colourful bike you have

Jeff: Yes

Jodie: Is that a Pinarello?

Jeff: Yup

After realizing I was not much of a conversationalist on the climb, Jodie drove off ahead to find more stimulating conversationalists in the more capable group. I was huffing and puffing all the way up this 18km climb and really regretting all the snags and wine from the day before.

I finally made it to the top and created a mental list of all the behaviors I would adopt for the remainder of the trip: less wine, no snags, early to bed, and less wine!

All the riders made it safely to the top of Mt. Buffalo where there are beautiful views of the valley below. I snapped a few pictures and chatted briefly with some of the other riders before starting the descent down our first climb. The descent was not too technical so we were able to fly down this climb with relative ease. After a regroup at the bottom David provided us with a nice overview on some additional climbing techniques and some descending techniques before we headed back to the base camp in Porepunkah.

That evening we would have the first of our classroom sessions. The two hour session was very useful and will definitely help me use my Garmin 705 more effectively. There was a lecture on core exercises and stretching provided by a fellow named Marcus Speed which will encourage me to get my exercise ball out again…if I can find it. Marcus also provided a demonstration on how to stretch your cycling related muscles which I am sure will come in handy in the future.

Posted in Cycling Australia | Leave a comment

Bright Boot Camp – 4 Days of solid hill climbing!

I signed up for the Bright Boot Camp to improve my climbing skills and to see a beautiful place in Australia. My friends Andrew and Lucinda were already signed up and asking me to go. After getting the necessary approvals from the wife I packed my bike and headed to Melbourne from Singapore. Ahead were four days of cycling in the Australian Alps, just 300km north east of Melbourne.

DSC_0975

Check out the details here

Posted in Cycling Australia | Leave a comment

Bintan V – Much Better

Well there is no doubt that this trip to Bintan was better than the previous one.  During our last trip you may remember that we had more than 20 flat tires and that not many of us actually managed to finish the ride since we ran out of spares!  Well this time we had more riders and more finishers and only a total of two flats for the entire group.  Many people achieved the ride for the first time and there were a few newcomers to the usual group.

 

  Here is a video of a few of the key moments from the ride.

  Next ride January!

Posted in Bintan RIdes | Leave a comment