When I first heard about Baw Baw Cycling Classic, I was intrigued.
I learned later I had a spare time of 12 minutes.
When I first heard about Baw Baw Cycling Classic, I was intrigued.
I had the great fortune to join Cyclingtips and Scott Bikes on a gravel adventure video- and photo-shooting trip around the Victorian Alps. It was especially an incredible opportunity for me as I have never done a promotional trip before. I am humbled by the professionalism and dedication of our crew: Andy, Matt, Tim and Malcom.
Andy – Cycling model. Part of Cyclingtips. This guy has invented Hells 500 Everesting – climbing 8848m in one go. I think that says it all. No matter what the condition – too cold, too hot, too windy, too rocky, too tired, too lost – he was thriving on difficult conditions. Badass!
Matt – Cycling model. Besides that he is a top bike racer and cycling kit owner, he was always up for a good story and the challenge ahead. Never really ridden gravel before, he rode any kind of terrain – no matter how rocky or steep. Machine.The Bunch Cyclist
Tim – our photographer. There is a reason why his pictures are incredible. You will find this guy wading through the deepest mud, getting stuck in a creek or eaten by leeches. This man doesn’t fear anything. If he cant reach it, his drone will. tbsphotography
Our route: Melbourne – 1 in 20 – Warburton – Reefton Spur – Eildon-Warburton Rd – Jamieson – Mt Buller
* On the way down from Mt Terrible a lyrebird ran actually in between my wheels. That was luck to both me and the bird that we actually got out of it ok.
Tour of East Gippsland would be my first state-level race after some 3 years. I had no idea how I would do. My thoughts about the race ranged from “I-will-absolutely-smash-it” to “I-hope-I-don’t-get-dropped” depending on training, mood and randomness of day.
Australia is full of exotic animals, especially when you are from Germany where the fauna’s fascination stops short of encountering a deer or a daddy longlegs (German:Weberknecht).
Everyone knows a movie from the “old days” played in a small town where everyone knows each other. Cars are honking to greet each other, the latest gossip is caught up at one of the busy town cafes and phones are not necessary because you see each other every day anyway. Adding a strong cycling community with a famous local club race that convenes in a community hall to announce new racers or famous returning locals before every race and you think I am dreaming.
Well, maybe there is a reason for the town name but I felt like in a fairy tale when I had a chance to visit Port Fairy. This “old days” mentality is vividly ingrained in the 3000ish soul town with gorgeous beaches, beautiful architectural town structure and welcoming and community oriented people.
I, myself, had the fortune to meet one of the most active couples in the Port Fairian community: Jenny and Jeff. If they did not work on maintaining the cycling rail trail, they are leading a group ride for their fellow Port Farians or help kids new to cycling with their first ride.
A word about cycling in the Port Fairy region:
Although I havent quite recalled a Swiss climb in this region (the steepest and most vicious climb is getting out of a crater which is an experience in itself), cycling is not all fairy-talish. The wide open region (which reminds me very much of the American Midwest) gives the wind full access through the countryside like a leaf blower. A good workout is guaranteed!
And yes, there is a crater in the region filled with wild animals….basically anything that could knock you off your bike. But as an European, it is quite entertaining if a mega-duck…oh wait….an emu is running across the street.
And there is this infamous spoon race….
The local bike race called the spoon race substantiates this extraordinary community. All racers meet in a community hall before the race. The race promoter mentions every racer by its name and introduces newbies and welcomes returning local heroes. After the ceremonial introduction, the race starts casually in waves according to strengths of the racers. But dont underestimate the importance of this event as the winner receives one of the most highly sought spoons in town. Some people have been racing for years and still eat their soup with a fork.
Oh and just a word of caution, you may or may not get lost if you dont know the course. Let’s say I speak from experience. This might be the secret way of the locals to gain advantage so the spoons never leave the town. 🙂
Port Fairy has kept its small town character despite its attraction to tourists. If you seek a weekend escape from Melbournian’s hustle and bustle, Port Fairy is the place to be.
Every place has some culture-specific toughness…
In Minnesota, cyclists were their entire closet plus a snowboard mask to ride their fat bikes around the frozen lakes in -20 degrees.
In Europe, you casually ride few mountain passes in a day and just like that, you got 7000m of elevation in your pedals.
|Col De Turini, France|
Last Sunday, I found it in Melbourne. I knew that the Aussie are quite water-affine but wanting to swim in 10.5 degree water temperature in the ocean in the dark???? Isnt that a bit over the top?
Who worries about the sharks, deadly jellyfishes and all the other sudden-death-inducing monsters in the deep dark? Do I have to worry for everyone?
In any case, I had to sign up for this madness.
Three friends joined this event and the debate became not so much whether we are doing this 1km in freezing cold water. Nope. The 100% toughness score would be only awarded to the real-deal swimmers – the ones without wetsuit.
I was out. I joined the sissy category.
|Please dont get fooled by the relaxed posture of these men and women. It was COLD! I had happily worn everything from picture above.|
So, the event started. Swimmers headed out to the first cone. I was still trying to assess chances getting bit, eaten, devoured by anything around me. I decided the meat around me would keep me safe for a while.
But another problem emerged. Although I have an entire two months of 25m-calm-heated-pool training in me, I could not really apply all learned to this choppy, dark, salty water without any tile-like bearing points five meters under me. It made me uneasy.
After a this-is-real-shit adjustment phase and a few comforting breast strokes, I decided to give this whole freestyle stroke a go.
Head in the water. After about 2 seconds and a heavy load of hyperventilated salt intake I decided breast stroke would do the trick.
|On the way back to the awaiting crowd of worriers.|
Apparently, breast stroke was seen as an emergency way of moving forward because in no-time I had a rescue kayaker on my side. And no one in sight! The sharks wouldnt eat that quickly, would they?
I dabbled with my grandmother breaststroke along the ocean. Where had I to go? The kayaker told me to target the blinking lights in the distance. But he didnt tell me which of the thousand ones he meant. Thanks to my fogged up goggles the number of blinking lights was limited.
The time passed. I think.
And eventually I felt the ground under my feet.
Fazit: Great event. A lot of stuff blinks from the ocean. Sharks do not like me. Wetsuit was a damn good idea!