We are heading for Hamilton, a three and a half hour drive from Melbourne in the beautiful Western District of Victoria to ride with some of the crew from Hamilton Cycling Club (HCC).
The roads around Hamilton make for some very different riding to what we are used to. There are no big climbs here. You’ll find rolling hills, long straight roads, awesome vistas of the Southern Grampians, all with the pleasure of almost no cars to disturb you.
We start our ride in the centre of town where meet up with the local guys. HCC has rides every day of the week and racing on Saturdays. As we wind our way out of the town I chat with Mark who tells me he is preparing for the upcoming Melbourne - Warrnambool road race. He’s been training solo, punching out 250km-plus rides every weekend and riding most days of the week. One of his mates has been helping him out by driving the car in front of him. This in an epic effort for anyone and even more impressive when we find out that he had a crash on track in March 2014 resulting in a broken shoulder, keeping him of the bike for over 12 weeks.
As we head out of town to the North we are hit by a solid headwind. We all tuck in for rolling turns on the front knowing that we have 20km of this to deal with. After a couple of km's we are passing the outside of the town. Houses give way to bright yellow canola crops lining the road. The road rolls ahead for km on km before we see a haze on the horizon. As we approach, we realise it's a herd of sheep complete with farmer and dogs heading towards us. We dismount and say 'g’day' to the farmer before continuing on.
Soon after passing the Hamilton CFA sheds we make a 90 degree turn and swap the vicious headwind for a tricky cross-wind and a road that is roughly three metres wide but a good smooth surface…. More farm land. More trees. Then, ahead, the entire horizon is taken up by the Grampians. They look amazing rising up for hundreds of kilometres out of the dead flat surrounding area.
Before I know it, we make another 90 degree turn to the right and we are heading South. Massive tailwind! 25km is covered at an epic pace. We’re all pushing big gears on the flat, sitting at around 60kph. Awesome! I realise how amazing Jens Voigt's recent hour record was, averaging over 50kph for an hour. What a champion.
We power along for about 20 minutes past endless canola crops and pine plantations before crossing the main highway. It's then just the last few kilometres into town for a great coffee at Tosca Browns.
Ride – Hamilton North loop.
Terrain – Rolling hills with long flat sections. Open and exposed.
Roads – Good roads, quiet… over 50km we saw just one car.
Distance – 55km loop with options to extend.
Hydrate – Tosca Browns - 211 Gray Street
Tips – Join a ride with the local guys, they will show you the best back roads.