When the email landed telling me that Shimano was hosting weekend experience with Soigneur and I had been invited, my excitement levels went into overdrive.
To say it was an ‘experience’ is an understatement. Beautiful scenery, awesome riding and great company were just the beginning.
Words - Mike Boudrie Images - Jeff Curtes
I met with Daniel from Soigeur for the first time a month out from the ride. I'm there to talk about Soigneur and their fully supported cycling trips. Daniel and Jason have made a name for themselves by taking their guests on 'the road less ridden' and delivering a truly exceptional experience.
While we’re having coffee I mention that I am heading away with Shimano to check out their 2016 range… he stops in his tracks, smiles , looks at me and says, ‘you’re in for a great weekend’. He goes on to tell me that Soigneur are running the trip. We’ll be heading to Tatong in the King Valley to ride the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo followed by a fully supported and‘special’ ride the next day.
On Friday night, I’m heading north out of Melbourne for the Shimano-Soigneur weekend. I’m excited but also a little apprehensive, there’s going to be some well-known names there from Australia/NZ Cyclist Magazine, Cycling Tips, Bike Exchange and the mighty St Kilda Cycling Club.
There’s no need to be apprehensive. The group immediately gels, bought together by the common love of cycling. There’s no mobile reception where we are staying. None. No internet. No texts. No anything really. Just amazing scenery, crystal clear skies and quiet. For me it was liberating getting off the grid away from the distraction of the digital age and back to undistracted conversation.
Daniel and Jason from Soigneur put on a wonderful dinner, locally sourced and fresh ingredients. I’m a sucker for good bread and the Woodfrog Bakery offering is something else, combined with butter from Myrtleford Butter Factory it’s hard to stop at one, or two or three pieces.
Daniel then takes us through the plan for the two days. We work through the routes on large maps, no stone is left unturned and every detail has been considered by the guys at Soigneur.
We awake to a perfect morning. Our bikes have all be cleaned and serviced by Sam from Soigneur, breakfast options galore are waiting, together with a selection of ride nutrition options from the Good Fuel Co, Angela Weiard and sports drink from Skratch Labs via FE Sports.
Most excitingly, we have the latest and yet to be released Gran Fondo inspired shoe from Shimano, the RP9 set up and ready to go (Read our review here). I grab some Pearl iZumi Multisport long finger gloves and the Elite Thermal LS Jersey to take the edge of the cool winter morning and I’m ready to go. (Watch this space for reviews).
On to the ride. Day one we take on the Sam Miranda Gran Fond. 115km with 700m of climbing. There’s road and gravel that winds its way through the King Valley, starting and finishing at the beautiful Sam Miranda Winery.
The route takes in the Strade Nero, a hard packed dirt climb that takes you to the high point of the route over 4.5km at 5%. If you like some gravel there’s also a couple of additional sections that range from hard packed, to rocky, to sandy.
I’m a fairly recent convert to taking the road bike ‘off road’ and must admit that I loved the opportunity to get on the dirt. It’s so different to being on the road, you need to be in touch with the bike, focused and concentrated. It can take you to the next level on the bike. It clears the mind and I love it.
On Day two the guys from Soigneur gave us the ‘full experience’. After waking to a freshly cleaned and serviced bike (again), we leave Tatong on a 125km loop with just under 1,500m of climbing, devised by Daniel and Jason. There’s a simply stunning 10km gravel climb at between 4 and 5% that I take on with Andy. It’s a great experience and one I will be back to take on again. We regroup at the ‘Kelly Tree’ the site where Ned moved on from a bandit to a murderer.
At morning tea I have to pinch my self. As I a stand staring out at a breathtaking view down the King Valley, I am offered a cup of freshly brewed coffee from Maker Fine Coffee and more handmade food. Morning tea is packed into the Jaguar support vehicles, kindly supplied by Brighton Jaguar and we are off again.
The second half of the ride includes the challenging but enjoyable descent of the Strade Nero before working its way back through to Tatong to complete the loop.
The day two loop can be found here. I’d put it down as one of the best I have ridden in Victoria. Watch this space for our full write up of the ride.
A huge thank you to Toby from Shimano for inviting La Velocita along to the Soigneur ‘Experience’. The riding, food, accommodation and organisation were second to none.
On reflection, the thing I will take away from the weekend are the new friendships. It never fails to amaze me how cycling can bring together relative strangers and help form new friendships with ease. It’s the reason that I love to ride.
Thanks to talented Jeff Curtes for providing us with a fantastic selection of images from the weekend.