|The East Coast - A grave yard for cyclists|
So, we're all agreed - there are no trails up the east coast (don't argue, just agree).
Thanks (I think) to the big efforts of the new Break O' Day bikeshop up at St Helens, we now have the SBX25 strava challenge route.
Which you have until tomorrow (as I type this) to ride.
I decided to go up and get an early time and so I stupidly took of with 17,000 other Hobartians to drive up the east coast (at what felt like 75km/hr) as I tried to overtake the other 16,999 stupid drivers who felt this was an adequate speed (except when they got to an overtaking lane and sped up to 120km/hr).
I don't care what you say about Hanlon's Law and the homeostatic risk response to wide open straight overtaking lanes that leads to this speeding up in overtaking lanes to occur - I know that all of those drivers were doing it simply to annoy and frustrate me.
All of which meant that I was righteously pumped when I pulled into Scamander at around 2pm, ready to ride the SBX25 and score myself a top five finish.
Yes, you read that right, I was going for a top five finish ...
I will caveat this slightly ambitious target by noting that when I'd downloaded the strava track the day before I did notice that only four other people had actually ridden the route to this point making a top five finish a reasonable goal to aim for.
I was quite nervous about pinging the start because I'd read the caution on the facebook event page to make sure I crossed the 8,137th grass blade on the right of the beer garden (and not just start on the road) to ensure that I was actually on the strava route, but as it turned out this was made rather easy by the presence of a big ruddy sign that said ... SBX25 START.
So I started there.
I wasn't in a rush (I had this fifth place in the bag) and so I cruised down onto the road and then across the old bridge taking photos as I went ...
The track (which I was thrilled to see appeared to be signed) then followed the highway briefly before turning left up Thomas Street where I discovered something altogether horrible and unexpected.
A steep, short, hill.
If I hadn't been so certain of a top five finish I would have turned around and headed home in disgust there and then.
Fortunately the climb was truly short lived and so I was soon at the end of the street and heading through the sort of track that brings a big smile to my face ...
Unfortunately it finished approximately 3 seconds after I entered it, dropping me out on the oval for my first "where the heck do I go now?" stop.
Fortunately I had downloaded the strava segment into Gaia GPS on my phone and so was able to figure out I was just supposed to skirt the oval on the left (clockwise direction) and from there I saw another SBX25 sign as I was coming off the oval with the golf course on my left.
I was soon back on bitumen, making good time, and to be honest drifting off a bit into cycling brain numbness when suddenly I say a sign on the side of the road pointing off into the bush on my right.
|Unfortunately there is actually a track right where that arrow is pointing.|
If you're on the bitumen then just keep going straight ahead.
Which is where I did the most intelligent thing I've done all year.
I stopped and checked my GPS trace ... and sure enough I wasn't supposed to turn off onto this bush track.
Thankfully I'd only lost a minute or so doing this little detour and was soon back on track heading down the road.
The bitumen turned to gravel and just as I was coming down one of the first hills, I heard this strange noise like a leaf or twig scratching something everytime the wheels turned. Having lost a deraileur to something like this in the past, I quickly stopped and did a search for any foreign objects, but seeing none I carried on, only to immediately hear the sound again.
Bemused, I stopped and this time I heard the ominous sound of a deflating tyre. A little more investigation found a half centimetre gash in my front tyre with tyre sealant pouring out of it, but not sealing.
Thus commenced a fun five minutes trying to get the gash to reseal, which I did several times only to have the seal break again when I tried to put air back in, so eventually I let it reseal again at a lower pressure, and figured that although it was around 15-20 PSI, I might, still be able to ride it at that pressure.
Remember - I only had to get around the course to get that top five place.
So off I set again.
After a short confusing moment when I passed a couple of SBX25 signs together ... one pointing down the gravel road and the other down a quarry beside the road (on the right), I figured out that the quarry route was part of the return route and so continued on.
I eventually came upon the (very well signed) turnoff from the gravel road and commenced a wonderful section of riding along a plantation firebreak.
The only thing that could have made this better riding would have been if I wasn't nursing that front tyre (and hence was very nervous about every rock and puddle), but I still really enjoyed this section and I started to get a hunch that all the pink tape I'd been seeing along the route may actually be for this route (turns out it was, and that's a useful tip to know as it is often used as 'comfort' tape letting you know you're going the right way).
I was kind of pleased to get to the end of this firebreak as I knew this was sort of, kind of, the furthest point out, and all I needed to do was loop up onto the ridge and fang it back again (hint - I was wrong - in effort terms you're only about a third of the way there).
The next little section follows an old trail through the plantation which was just beautiful and then - joy oh joy - the trail fairies had even thrown in a short section of good old-school single track.
From here the track snaked it's way along old forestry trails, which while never the fastest way to any point, was nice riding, before dropping out onto a big gravel road.
I had it in my head that I was now in for a big grind as I headed up what looked like the foothill into the ridges, but the trail quickly switched onto another road and I found myself actually going fast (for me - with a very spongy front tyre) before, around 14kms into the ride, the real climbing did actually begin.
This next bit is where strava time would easily be won or lost as you first grind your way up what felt like a short, parabolic track which just got steeper and steeper as you climbed, then you get dropped out onto another nicely graded gravel road, but just as you're getting used to this and start singing "I am a rambling king" at the top of your voice (accompanied by the sonorous undertones of the ever present trail bikes which seemed to be everywhere) the track turns off this nicely gravel road onto an old, steep track that climbs like a goat up to the ridegeline.
To be honest, I found this section to be one of the real highlights so don't let me put you off it.
To be really honest - I did push up most of this bit which may be why I enjoyed it so much.
You start to get some nice views out to the coast from this point, appreciating just how far you've come (and how far you've got to go).
This short track rejoins the gravel road and from there it's one last (and very rideable) effort upwards, before (just as you start up a climb which has you thinking "oh, really - I have to ride up there?") you find out you don't, because a short way up, the lovely, beautiful, magnificent SBX25 signs point to the left ... and down.
It is time to drop one's seat and reposition one's weight backwards ...
It's fun time.
The next section is a combination of steep, rutted, rocky trails and some very nice singletrack. I whizzed past a few signs which seemed to indicate double black diamond sections (I didn't actually stop to read them), and there were lots of rocks and root stumps painted red to hide the blood of those that didn't quite make it, but to be honest I found it all well within my comfort zone and I'm a pretty sh*t technical rider, so don't be too scared (but be cautious).
I was almost disappointed when I got to the bottom of this section and found myself back on roads, but I should't have been as the designers of this course just kept surprising on the upside with some lovely route choice connecting old roads together with very cool sections of single track and bridges, and you just never knew what you were going to find around the next corner ...
Just before you cross your path out for the first time, you get thrown into this wonderland of jumps, drops and god knows what else, which (if you weren't in line for a fifth place) you might well be tempted to go back and ride again.
But, I was chasing that top five position (and was getting worried about not finishing before dark) so carried on.
I loved the next section of trail (which you get onto after following the road for a while). It was a soft, sandy trail and finally my super low PSI tyres were an advantage.
That quarry and ambiguous signage, which on the way out had seemed strange, suddenly made sense on the way back as it was too good a little trail section through that quarry not to use (thought note of caution - don't do what I did and ignore that double black diamond sign thinking "pah - the rest of the sections signed like this have been easy, this will be easss... OH F*#K" ... which is the sound that you make when you suddenly realise that you're going over a half decent drop completely in the wrong position.
If this final section wasn't signed, it would be easy to get lost, and don't try and read those yellow signs in too much detail - they say "SOFT SAND - BE AWARE" - which if you're concentrating on reading a yellow sign while turning around a corner in soft sand is kind of unhelpful. So just remember - yellow sign means soft sand - WATCH THE GROUND.
I still had to stop a couple of times and just verify I was taking the right track on this section, and if I were to give one piece of advice to anyone keen on podiuming this challenge it would be to do a warm up lap around the bottom part of the circuit and familarise yourself with the route as you could lose minutes here just by taking a wrong turn.
The top section (out past where you cross over your track for the first time on the way back) is easy to follow.
I also had to stop a few times and take some pics as it was a very pretty area ...
And, yes, this is my idea of racing.
The final section pops you out back at the entrance of the golf course from where you just retrace your steps around the oval and back to the start the way you came out (make sure you ride up the grass and pass the 8,137th blade of grass - this time on your right) and you've done the SBX25.
You're time to beat ... 2 hours, 22 minutes and fifty seven seconds.
If anyone can get slower than that, then kudos to you.
You might notice two key things from the strava screen shot above.
Firstly, my ride time was five and a half minutes faster than my actual SBX25 time, despite my riding an extra 2 kilometres before and after the SBX25 route.
There was a lot of dead time on my loop as I repaired tyres, took wrong turns and (let's face it) took photos).
Second key thing - I only came 6th overall.
Yep, some other rude person had come and ridden the route this morning, stealing my top five position.
I'm devasted, but I'm also hoping that there's a huge turn out tomorrow to support this great route and to push me well and truly out of the top 25.
Seriously, if you can, get out there and ride it. Just don't steal my lantern rouge!