Riding in the Victorian High Country does not get much better than this. In it's 31st year, this ride is one of my favourites. It's an absolute cracker and offers awesome riding and smiles all round. I take a look back at the 2016 event to give you a taste of what's on offer in January 2017.
Words - Mike Boudrie Images - Rosie Price a.k.a Miss Cadence
At La Velocita we love seeing people get out on their bikes no matter what level of riding they are at. The Alpine Classic encapsulates this philosophy perfectly. There's people that have trained for their first experience in the mountains and are focused on getting through the 60km from Bright to Mount Beauty and back while taking on both sides of Tawonga Gap.... all the way through to those trying to smash through the simply huge 320km 'Ultimate' with it's 5,500m of climbing as quickly as possible.
This year I rode the 'Original Classic'. 200km with a fraction under 4,000m of climbing. I love this ride. From the second I arrived in Bright a few days earlier I just could not wait to be on that start line.
First light, computer 'beeps', friendly chatter, the standard Frenchie policeman and maid being cheeky... it's a genuinely welcoming atmosphere, with very little in the way of egos. This ride is not a race, and once the excitement of the first 5 or 10k had passed the field broke into smaller bunches as we approched the first, and probably most stunning, climb of the day. Mount Buffalo.
Buffalo is an awesome climb. Nice and steady, easy to get into a rhythm and as you work your way up the mountain you are treated to some of the best views in the region. As I climbed higher I waited for the rocky and open section. It's my favourite section with fresh air, morning sun with a view that lasts forever in every direction... and knowing you have worked hard to earn it makes it that much better.
A quick stop at the top then it's back down to Bright in a fraction of the time spent getting there. Off the base off Buffalo I get talking to a Alpine Classic first timer taking on the 200. We ride back through Bright and Up and over Tawonga Gap together.
Tawonga reads easier on paper than it is in reality. From about 5 or 6k's out of Bright we're steadily climbing. I've worked out the 3, 2 and 1km to go points on the climb and when I tell the small group that has formed that there's '2 to go' I see so heads drop. But soon we're over the top and looking out toward the mountains ahead as we fly down to Mount Beauty.
Falls Creek is up next. 15km of up with a few down hill sections followed the 15km climb proper. I'm feeling good so keep the tempo up. I find it tough to get into a rhythm on Falls and with only 3km to go i'm not feeling great and have made the error of not drinking and eating enough on the climb. I grind out the last km to fuel up from the great food offering... 10 minutes later I'm off and loving the sweeping turns under the trees.
I don't stop at Mount Beauty, there's just one thing on my mind. Tawonga Gap. With food and hydration taken care of I manage to team up with a rider and we take turns leading the way up. The tempo's great and I'm feeling relaxed as we work our way past riders from other ride distances... some tapping it out, some grinding, some walking and some sitting on the roadside. At 7km it's the shortest climb of the day, but it's hot and many of the riders have more k's in their legs than they'd usually ride. As a result it really challenges.
Over the top and I'm home. It's 20km of down and a 5km flat push into Bright.
I cross the line feeling pretty cooked. My time is 7 hours 51 minutes and I'm cooked. Luckily for me and all the other riders there's an almost endless supply of fruit, rolls, cakes, water, sports drink, icy poles and more to recover on.... followed by a welcome recover dip in the Ovens River. Perfect.
Several hours later and there's still riders crossing the line. Big days in the saddle, some 12, 13 or 14 hours. There are some amazing efforts from riders that have given it their all and quite literally dragged themselves over the mountains never giving up. These are the riders I admire most.
A massive thanks to the army of volunteers that make this even so good. There's a reason people come back year after year for this one.
The 2017 ride offers 320km, 250km, 200km,200km, 140km, 130km, 70km and 60km distances. Something for everyone. Find out more at www.alpineclassic.com.au