The Gippsland Gold is an Audax event set in amongst the Strzelecki Ranges. 200km with3,250m of climbing and the offer to take you along the paths less travelled.
Along this adventure there’s 120 km of unsealed road, hills and rolling valleys that Gippsland is famous for.
From Yarragon, Mirboo, Foster, BooLarra & Thorpdale, prepare to see some amazing sights. Hosted by Addax Australia’s Gareth Evans, this was the third edition of this incredible ride.
A fair bit of luck is required to get through a ride like this in one piece. You’ll hope to avoid punctures or mechanicals. It’s exciting to try something adventurous, bast the boundary of what you’d normally do.
Each ride is given a map, and being able to orientate is essential… sitting back in the group and allow others to lead the way could be a recipe for blind leading the blind.
You show up for a ride like this and see a bunch of strangers, but those strangers are likely going to become your best friends as you all have a common goal in purpose, to survive the Gippsland Gold. You will likely experience many emotions from joy to pain along the way.
A 3 degree start, but the day was forecast to warm up. Straight up was a Category 3 climb up Yarragon South Road, a welcome way to warm everyone up. It was the most amazing sunrise, the valley was enshrouded in mist.
The first part of the climb was paved for 2.2km. The 5% gradient was pretty steady and it was easy to get into a rhythm and enjoy the views on offer at every corner.
When the road turned to gravel, the Gippsland Gold begun in earnest. With a decent racing line to either side of the road it was easy to maintain a rhythm, and over the next 2.7km’s the climb continued to average 5% with riders enjoying the stunning views that just got better the higher you climbed.
It was a relief to finally get to the top of the climb, and get some respite on the descent. We started to ride through rolling open countryside that offered the occasional pinch.
Ten Mile Road
Ten Mile Road was the second big challenge for the day. With close to 5km’s of undulating climbing, it was a relief to reach the cross road at the Stzreleki Highway. Across the highway, the road turned to crap. With loose rock everywhere if you were going to puncture, this was the place. With no riding line and gradients heading up to 12% this section was insane. There was a nasty little 600 metre climb which you had to battle the bike & the elements the whole way.
After reaching the top of the climb there was an incredible view of the pine forested valley below, and you know that you're no longer in Kansas any more! The terrain through here varied considerably, and offered more stunning scenery.
The first check point was at Boolarra. Gareth & Helen were on hand to welcome everyone with a great selection of food to help get to the next checkpoint in Foster. The next few km’s were paved, and there was a rare flat section to ride on which offers a relief after the difficulties faced over the first 40km of this ride.
We were in the Queen stage of this ride. With only a small amount of sealed roads there was around 65km's of gravel, including some of the toughest and roughest sections of gravel.
Morwell River Road kicked off a 45km section of gravel that included the hardest climb of the day. Morwell River Road offered amazing views throughout. Over 18km there was a false flat with an average gradient of 1%. This road had was wet from recent rain, with corrugated corners…. offering a lot of bumping making the section harder than the average gradient suggests.
At Livingston Road came to the Queen climb. This ride is all about pleasure and pain, no matter how much you love your climbing, this one’s going to hurt.
The only way to get up some sections of this climb are by battling the bike over loose rocks. Long stretches with no racing line mean uou’ll be hanging on for dear life. At times it is really challenging to get traction. The average gradient is 5% over 5.1km, but there's a short descent after 3km's into the climb and the average gradient is highly deceptive. You will be glad when you’re over the top of this one.
The Climb delivers one of the best sections of this ride. Grand Ridge Road. Winding its way through the Stzerlecki Ranges State Forest, you will get to experience some amazing forest. Breaks in the trees show the valley below. Grand Ridge Road is one of those roads that I couldn’t recommend highly enough, and well worth fitting a ride around.
You turn onto Boolara Foster Road, and the surface turns to loose gravel. Large sections of this road have impressive views to the right, as you work your way towards Foster.
The second checkpoint is at Foster, we are again greeted by the Audax hospitality. With 120km’s completed it was a relief to reach this point. As we had gotten closer to the bay, the wind picked up. Thankfully most of the trip into Foster had been downhill so we weren't wasting energy battling the winds.
There were only four climbs remaining for the ride. From Foster, you head straight up Amey’s Track climb which is 3.2 km at 3%. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the scenery couldn't improve but the views over to Wilsons Prom are just amazing.
The next big climb headed into Mirboo North and is 2.6km averaging 6%. It’s a shame that this one wasn’t gravel, but was still an incredible challenge at this stage of the ride. With tired legs, any vertical hurts after riding over 160km's over mixed terrain.
It’s quite undulating to Mirboo, and a major relief to make it to the very last checkpoint of the day, and to top up those lost fuel stores.
The volunteers Ronnie & Merideth had prepared selfmade Anzac biscuits and fruit cake and they had cold coke which is a favourite of mine, rice pudding, fruits, and a nice chat about just anything.
After Mirboo we hit the last section of gravel and returned again to a great section of Grand Ridge Road. This was another quality section of gravel. You travel past the Tarwin River toward one last nasty surprise to survive, A category 3 climb.
Mirboo-Yarragon Road is 5.3km's in length with an average gradient of 5%. If you had any life in your legs before this climb, well just keep telling yourself there's a beer waiting at the end for you at the end of the ride.
And with the final climb over and done with there was the sense of achievement. It was all downhill from there, and with the remainder of the roads sealed it was a far cry from all the craziness of the gravel.
Rolling back into Yarragon you were greeted with a smile from Gareth & Helen and a Beer from the Grand Ridge Brewery. You finally truly get to taste true Gippsland Gold.
Everyone came out from this ride with different experiences, yet what everyone had in common was the great words they had about the organisers. The great dinner provided definitely hit the spot after a long day in the saddle.
You could argue that a ride like this is almost, if not tougher, than riding Three Peaks, and you’ve got to be willing to put your bike through the grinder to survive the Gippsland Gold. All that finished should wear the label “tough as nails!” with pride. No other ride could you see so many great sites and truly appreciate the nature around you. This was a truly epic day, and hopefully one day you can try it as well.