Tour of Bright Training Camp 2017
It was a later than usual departure as the team sat around waiting for the pre-empted 10am ESDT announcement of the cancellation of the Tour of Bright due to a severe storm forecast. While some of the boys decided against the long-haul drive across the country from Adelaide to Bright, there was still five that wanted to gown the raincoat and go storm chasing. Whilst in hindsight heading towards what was described to the amusement of the crew as a “10 out of 10” storm by BOM forecasters was not the brightest idea, it was certainly the best. As it turned out, all was okay and we live to tell the tale.
A very wet Friday (1st December)
After a late-night arrival, the boys were greeted with as promised torrential rain Friday morning. For the Bright first timers Jason and Lachie Darch, the mountains were more of a myth than something that was actually visible with such heavy cloud cover. An intelligent call was made to ergo the morning and see what the afternoon brought. After 10 minutes of ergo, the boys decided that a road ride in the horrendous conditions through Bright would be better than any ergo session. This was essentially brought on by team 2nd in charge Andrew Clarkson who became known as “Vitamin G” throughout the trip for his constant pumping up and boosting of everyone’s morale. While our first of many Tawonga Gap ascents of the week was very, very wet, the ride was a memorable one. Later in the afternoon the team felt ‘obliged’ to support event sponsor Bright Brewery and go trial almost a full range of the beverages available.
(Definitely not Fridays view from the top of Tawonga, no cameras were coming out in that rain!)
Surprise Ride Saturday (2nd)
It was a later than usual get up essentially brought on by probably a little too much support for the Bright Brewery, but since the day was supposed to be a complete write off with the worst storm in many decades, it wasn’t expected to be a road training day anyway. To the team’s surprise, a 3-hour afternoon ride was achieved without a single drop of rain. Some ‘storm’… The highlight of the day going to team helper Immanuella ‘Ladette’ K while planning to meet the boys around half way up Mount Hotham in case of torrential rain events, managed to drive 100km in the complete opposite direction through flood waters and evacuated towns to check out Wangaratta, Kudos.
The keen 4 lads in blue (L-R): Jason Thomason, Andrew Clarkson (wannabe apprentice manager), Ethan Egglestone, Lachlan Darch.
Falls Creek Sunday (3rd)
As the accommodation in Bright expired this day since the tour was expected to be finished, the crew planned to stay on for the improved weather to come and enjoy some mountain climbing the following days. This prompted a location change to Mount Beauty in the morning after some successful AirBnB scrolling. The afternoon allowed the boys their first proper mountain ascent; the 30km climb from Mount Beauty up Falls Creek. While essentially no one knew what to expect for the climb, it laid a path for how every climb would go for the rest of the week, full gas! Over the first 15 more undulating km’s the pace slowly lifted and lifted until it became clear it was a race, as should have been expected when you put 4 bike riders on an epic climb side by side. The defining moment of the climb is when Ethan dropped his chain and Clarko while continuing to deny it, completely upped the pace. It all re-joined with 3km to go and the boys battled it out to the top but a tone was set for following days.
Figure 3 – Halfway up the Falls Creek climb near Bogong Village
Reco Monday (4th)
After 3 days of hard riding, everyone agreed that an easier day was required to tune the legs up for the next days debut annual VDR Mount Buffalo Handicap. Café rides were on the agenda and having accommodation that leads onto the first tee of a golf course resulted in the crew following a small white ball around for a few hours. No pars were made but plenty of hook shots and extreme slices were experienced.
Figure 4 – Ethan (Tiger) Egglestone (NOTE: the ball not going down the fairway, but instead into the trees, that sums up most of the afternoon)
VDR Handicap Tuesday (5th)
The debut annual VDR Mount Buffalo Handicap was run from about a kilometre out from the base of Mount Buffalo to the crest at the plateau near the chalet 18km later. The handicaps were a massive topic of discussion at the pre-ride coffee stop with gaps in the vicinity of 7 to 10 minutes being thrown around by De Vroet. Eventually it was agreed that Matt would be at 3:30, Lachlan at 3:00, Clarko and David at 1:30, and Jason and Eggy off scratch. Matt started off strong, holding Lachlan off until around the 10km mark, until he emptied the tank and cracked. David put in some hard work early trying to hurt Clarko, but with Clarko just ‘going tempo’ David also cracked and left Clarko on his own as the two scratch boys caught up. Jason, Eggy, Clarko and Lachlan all came together around 5km from the top with Clarko trying his standard mental tactics of sitting on asking how everyone was going, getting responses such as “if you can talk how about rolling some turns”. Eggy and Jason started to light things up, but Eggy had just come back from being ill for a week so didn’t have the legs to hold an attack, and Jason rode away to hold Clarko off by about 30s at the top.
Tawonga Wednesday (6th):
Destroying ourselves the day before up Mount Buffalo and having the idea of doing the Three Peaks loop the next day, everyone had planned to meet up to do an easier ride of the gaps loop. However even after being G’d up by a super colourful bird (pictured below) outside our accommodation, most of the boys weren’t feeling too keen on 120km of rollers. So everyone agreed on a quick hop over Tawonga Gap into Bright for coffee before Jason and David soldiered on completing the Tour of Bright race loop whilst everyone else returned home for what was an equally as hectic return ascent of the Gap.
The stellar views heading up the Mount Beauty side of Tawonga Gap
This bird had the highest sense of ‘G’ ever seen in a bird to date
Three Peaks Thursday (7th):
An excessive level of ‘G’ was present approaching the 7th and final day of bikes with Clarko greeting the not so G’d team with a 13 out of 10 G at breakfast. This was anticipated to be the ‘most intense’ ride for the week. The warm up climb from Mount Beauty over Tawonga Gap remained a cruise with minimal talking and a lot of hurting ensuing due to previous days. The team’s patience was tested riding along the valley floor (accompanied by new2018 recruit, David Randall) as grumpy Ethan was yet to have his morning caffeinated brew. To everyone’s relief, Harrietville provided stellar brews to prepare the boys for what was to be a fast and full gas 80minutes up Mount Hotham. Ethan guaranteed this by going full-tilt 1.5km up the mountain to everyone’s dismay. We continued on. Jason finished first with Ethan closely following, 40 seconds adrift.
Mount Hotham done! Pheww only one more to go!
Following this tough climb of which Lachlan expressed his suffering just 2km in, the boys enjoyed a quick lunch stop at the peak of Mount Hotham and were very much looking forward to a ‘cruisy’ descent. Much to their quads’ disappointment, this descent comprised of multiple climbs and was a ‘false flat’ (Ethan’s specialty). Luckily the sun made a desired appearance and the views remained nothing short of spectacular.
The stretch from Dinner Plain to Omeo provides some amazing rolling terrain in East Gippsland
When it’s 30C and you wear 4 layers, leg and arm warmers….
While Jason and Andrew were determined to continue ‘the day of extreme bikes’ in the saddle from Omeo, Ethan and Lachlan accompanied Immi ‘Ladette’ behind the wheel. The windy roads between Omeo and Anglers Rest provided some refreshing mountain and river views, and for those travelling by car, the drive was a highlight in itself. Ethan revealed his inner Steve Irwin by insisting he get up close and personal with a tiger snake on the road to show the Instagram world just how adventurous he was. For Lachlan and Immi, a highlight was the opportunity to see snow for the first time following a long barefoot walk trudging through ice cold, swampy grass. Although many would probably consider the pocket of snow as just ice, this did not stop the car crew from throwing many snowballs at each other.
The aftermath of 200mm + of rain in the Victorian High Country
‘The back of Falls’ as it’s affectionately known is home to some early summer snow from the brilliant 2017 ski season
The back of Falls Creek was evidently the toughest and most gruelling ride of them all. Both Andrew and Jason demonstrated their finest pain faces yet, while exhibiting an exceptional level of perseverance and fitness. Jason smashed this segment, achieving the 4th fastest time on Strava, beating the challenge set by a teammate 4 days prior by an impressive 17 seconds. At the finish, Jason indulged a good and well deserved few minutes lying comatose on the ground beside his beloved bike.
A very cooked swanny, Clarko, as he crawled back to the car for refills and jackets 15minutes after compatriot JT.
It was arranged that Andrew and Jason would continue riding into Falls Creek where the car crew would meet them at the reservoir car park. Mother Nature deemed this a prime opportunity to demonstrate her best effort at producing torrential rains and thunderstorms, leaving the two remaining riders soaking wet, cold and demonstrating signs of borderline hypothermia upon reaching the car.
After what Ethan describes as “the most eventful day of his life”, the five ‘storm chasers’ descended down Falls Creek in the pouring rain piled into one compact car and concluded their final evening with the third Monopoly War by the warm log fire.
Thanks to the Alpine Cycling Club and Cycling Victoria for organising such a professional event. It is certainly a pity when weather events such as this occur out of the blue! Nevertheless, the correct call was made to cancel the 2017 edition and consequently all riders, officials and staff remained safe in the extreme weather.
Van Dam Racing shall be back in 2018 for another week of bikes and the 2018 Tour of Bright!