After a quick trip down Tawonga Gap (beating my PB) we hit the valley floor with a large bunch of about 30 riders. They were moving quickly so Marek kept with them and Andy and I dropped off to ride at out own pace.
Unfortunately Andy’s Garmin 500 had been playing up since the Tawonga gap descent with it doubling his speed and the gradient !!! I find really irritating to see the number of problems people (including myself) seem to have with these units such as corrupt files, haywire altimeter readings, random resets and lost chunks of data. If there were more alternatives I wouldn’t recommend anyone get a Garmin bike GPS unit if they wish to regularly record large rides. If you log a Garmin support ticket for these sorts of problems and they will tell you reset to factory defaults and try again. Great advice except having to ride Three Peaks again to see if their buggy software causes problems again isn’t really going to be practical. I think they are made and tested for people who do shorter rides of under a few hours in good weather. Anyway I digress……….
After being dropped we cruised along by ourselves knowing that we weren’t planning for a long stop in Harrietville we would end up ahead of most people anyway. After a quick stop in Harrietville we caught up with Marek again and started the climb. It was still rather cool at the bottom but the sun was out and there were plenty of riders around to keep pace with.
We started up through the treed section and there seemed to be masses of motor bike riders also hitting the climb at the same time as us. After we got to ‘The Meg’ Marek took off at his own pace while I rode with Andy. Luckily the Meg is early enough in the ride that anyone can get up it. I was concerned for a couple of people who were struggling up it and I wondered whether they knew what lay ahead.
(Back down to Harrietville)
As we climbed higher it appeared the day was going to be a total reversal from last year. I was feeling great, we could actually see the top of Hotham far across the valley (which had been covered in fog the previous year) but Andy was not feeling stellar. I was relishing the thought of climbing Hotham and putting in a bunch more km’s but I think Andy was thinking the total opposite. Outside of a small headache I felt great and was keen to go faster. After what happened last year I was happy to keep pace with Andy and be passed by other riders (for the moment). The advice given to us at the riders briefing from the first place finished from last year was clear in my mind…… it’s a massive day so don’t burn all your matches too early. If only I had of followed this advice the previous year.
We soon reached the half way point after the rest stop where the tree’s thinned and the gradients got hard again.
At this point last year Andy was easily riding up ahead of me and I was suffering from dizziness and leg cramps were starting to make themselves known. On this occasion however I was feeling great so left Andy behind and I started overtaking other riders through the steeper sections. He was doing ok so said I would wait for him at the top and get some photos.
I waited at the top for about 10 minutes and then we rode through the Hotham village onto Dinner Plain for lunch. Marek was missing but we ran into most of the other guys we were staying with so it was good to catch up with everyone again and see how they were faring. Everyone was happy and confident which was good to see. We left all our excess food and change of clothes to be sent back to Falls Creek since there was plenty of food around and the good weather meant I wasn’t going to use the colder weather gear I’d left for this section. I was however hoping that I wouldn’t regret leaving the food but it would have added an additional 10 minutes so in the end I’m glad I didn’t.
After lunch I was stuffing around putting sunscreen on (amongst other things) so Andy took off to Omeo knowing I’d catch him up after not too long. In the end I did but I certainly put in a big effort to do so riding by myself in what was turning out to be a hot day. I knew if he got too far ahead of me in a large pack I might not catch him up for a while. Lucky for me he was taking his time up all the numerous bumps that make up the Dinner Plain descent. This is my least favourite part of the trip to be honest. Hot and exposed, lots of rolling paddocks and a couple of small climbs that only seem to annoy.
I also have a video of about 20 minutes of the climb take from my helmet camera. Lots of the video is in fast-foward so hang in there for the early part and then it gets going at about the 10 minute mark once we start reaching the top.