The chicks take the challenge!
Five 2020 novice program graduates and one 2021 new-club joiner, participated in the Snowy Valley Challenge on Sunday the 28th of March 2021 down at Adelong.
The ride starts at Adelong, continues up through Batlow, through alpine country and winds back to Adelong. The ride itself has various distances dependant on rider ability and fitness and we chose the 72km distance.
Around the new year, a social media post advertising the ride was seen and it was decided that the girls would give it a go. It would be the longest ride for some of us and our biggest climb. In comparison to some bigger rides, it might be small change, but we all start somewhere and it was a challenge and a great achievement for us all.
Leading into the race, Tuesday’s tended to be the day for morning training rides, as well as the Norman and some longer weekend rides. Not everyone could commit to each one, as we all had our individual commitments to conduct, but overall training was strong and team oriented.
Closer to the race date we could feel the trepidation mixed in with excitement amongst the bunch. Mount Pleasant, Black Mountain and the Arboretum slowly developed as the training grounds for incline laps and hill training and one of us even managed a Starva wreath at the Arboretum for most climbs completed in the last 90 days. Hilarious for the not-so-experienced, or returning-to- cycling cyclists!!
Closer again we came to the race and we began to be to think – have we done enough, can we do it, am I ready, who’s good idea was this, but it was all mixed in with the blind faith that this was going to be great and a lot of fun!!
We had a zoom meeting the week prior, where we decided what we were taking and who was driving with whom. The day before the race, we all piled into the cars and made our way to Tumut. Two of us had completed the first day of the skills sessions associated with the Women’s development program. A blessing or a curse it was, as the skills sessions focused on ascending and descending. Great skills to have and to take into the ride the following days but hill repeats the day before – come on now, who’s going to be fresh for our longest ride ever??? Ahhh… not some of us!!
So it’s not called the Snowy Valley Challenge for no reason. Snowy, generally indicates mountainous and cold, and well part of the title also says valley, so we can suffice to say it was going to go up and down but only time would tell! Tumut it was for our overnight stay and on arrival many of us remarked that it wasn’t that warm here – Um, yep, we’re definitely in the colder regions now ladies. We all checked into the Oriental hotel with our twin rooms, feeling like we were on a girl guides expedition, without the badges.
Off to the other pub in town for dinner so as to support as many local business as we could. We had the whole pub in stitches laughing at us though. One of us would say a joke, we’d all laugh and then the locals would laugh at us.. Very odd but quite funny. Various meal choices were chosen for dinner. Carb loading for some, wine for others with the quote of the evening being ‘your dinner looks like compost!’ Hmm.. cheers!! Lol!!
Sunday morning race day finally arrived, after rather an interesting night staying above a country pub on a Saturday night. Ahh, the dulcet sounds of swearing, doors slamming and Whitney Houston wafting through the ceiling. Whilst we do love you Whitney, do be quiet, we have a race on in the morning! So you can imaging in the morning some of us were sprightly and some of us were.. well, not so!! Quick, coffee, stat!!
So.. The ride.. yes, the ride!!!
We drove to Adelong all kitted up, and readied our bikes to the starting line. One last pit stop, a bit of bike faffing and the obligatory team huddle; do we have enough lollies, can I have some now, are we warm enough, am I ready for this, yeah we’ve got this team but internally thinking geez it’s a long way. I’m glad we only looked at the elevation profile last night so there wasn’t too many sleepless nights leading into it.
We started our ride in the second wave and rode together in a group like we ride at home. It was great to be able to ride together from the start. We loosely rolled around, some of us rode further head with the inclines, but the same as always, we’d regroup at the top. We were all taking the scenery in and saying how beautiful it was, including the first part out of Adelong which was the first 12% incline – some of us noticed it and some didn’t.
It seemed to be a long slow steady climb to Batlow where it just went up and up and got colder and colder as it went on. Yay Batlow, a few of us thought, the first food stop! Whereas some of us also thought – great, Batlow we have ages to go!!
Batlow wouldn’t be Batlow if they didn’t have all things apples, and the food stop was certainly great. Apple pies as far as we could see. Yes please, we’ll have some apple pie from the lovely old ladies that baked them. Batlow was a fun sleepy little stop with quite a few locals out for a wave and a few supportive words. We needed all we could get at that stage as we hit the yellow lines on the road and said things like – look out ladies we’re in alpine country now and yes we were!! Cause straight out of Batlow again we climbed. This climb really spread us out and the incline just kept coming.
Into the second food stop, the time checkpoint, and a chat with the volunteers, as this stop was definitely very remote. This part of the ride was quite a turning point for us, where in terms it began to become psychological. We’d been riding for about three hours (including stops) and we were itchy to get to the end and well, it was every person for themselves at this stage. So as much as we were a team, it really because our own individual challenge. We’re sore, we’re tired, we’re sunburnt, we’re having a great time, but we need to get this done. Just clear your mind and just ride. So off we all went at our own pace. The last part of the ride had some fantastic descents and for those of us who had done the Women’s Development skills sessions the day before, it really help integrate those skills (despite the sore legs) into the ride. Down into the drops some of us went, covering our brakes, pedalling through corners, picking the right line, looking further ahead. What would have been terrifying winding, downhill sections was ridden much more confidently putting our new skills in action.
Some last few looks at our race trackers, 55kms, yep big chunk done, 60kms, feels like we’re coming into town, 65kms, oh really, not more up hill, 70kms, we see the Adelong sign, yes, we’re going to make it and we didn’t flake!! Felt like the only flat section was crossing the finish line but we all made it and trickled over the line 1st of team, then 2nd and the more of us that crossed the line the more excited we were! Come on gang, let’s get a celebratory beer and make sure we’re back at the finish line by the time our final team member crossed the line. We saw her coming and just about flanked the finish line with our massive cheers and beers to let her know we were all here, we were all together, we had all finished and were back together.
The Adelong show was also on at the same time so we had a good sticky-beak at what was for sale and indulged in a few goodies along the way. One must refuel of course after a big ride. Good to see some fellow riders and friends that we recognised too and had taken on the challenge. Some a shorter race and others, much, longer (but we can train for that).
We took our time getting ready, basking in the fact that it was over and laughing and recounting some of the times and moments we had had on the ride, but ultimately glad it was over. We then all piled back in the cars and returned to Canberra.
All in, it was a fantastic experience. From the Novice course, meeting new riders, being part of the Women’s development skills sessions, establishing the confidence in our bikes, training and building our team spirit to finishing our first road ride. Had we not stuck together as such cohesive and supportive group at the start, we don’t think we would have rode as well as we did for the whole ride. So it was a great team ride overall.
The Snowy Valley Cycle Challenge itself was fantastic and the organisers are trying to grow the event and make it bigger and better. It’s so close to home and in an area where the bushfires went through, so we would urge everyone to consider registering for next year. Be part of the challenge, in a beautiful part of the country, with an exciting ride, supporting a great local area.