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!

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