The Brindabella Challenge wrapped up on the weekend with the more extreme cycling races such as road cycling crits, bmx, mountain cross, downhill and the Brindabella XC epic.
The Epic XC race was supposed to have two options for either 50Km or 100km, although when we arrived at the Cotter early on Saturday morning we found that these had changed to approx 60Km and 80km due to road closures in the forest. This year 112 masochists entered: 83 riders opting for the 60Km option, and only 29 guys were insane enough to opt for the 80Km option. So ladies enter for the big ride next year – you’ve got a good chance of winning.
Starting at a low point like the Cotter ensures riders are able to drag themselves back to the finish line after they have destroyed themselves climbing the peaks of the Brindabellas. Starting just before 09:00, we headed off from the Cotter up Brindabella road for a nice steady 1Km climb to warm us up on the bitumen.
We soon turned off onto the dirt and skirted around the Cotter dam, over a few little rolling hills. On one of the hills I gave a bit more of a burst, but my heart rate monitor indicated that I was going a little too high (if I wanted to last the race), so I backed off a bit – after all we had barely covered 10Km.
After a cruise along the smooth dirt of Bullock Paddock road, we turned out onto the bitumen of Brindabella road again. This time we were on a relatively flat section at the base of the Brindies, so we tucked in roadie style and formed a small peleton, drafting down the road. On the downhill run towards Blue Range I glanced down at my cycle computer to see I was going 63Kph! Soon we were back onto the dirt and climbing again – it was a slow steady climb up into Namadgi National Park, but at least it was nice and cool under the cloud cover. About the 20Km mark we started to descend, and reached the legendary Two Sticks road, which provided about 10Km of high speed twisty corners and many silly grins
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After ambling through the foothills of the Brindies we soon hooked onto Blue Range road, flying past Blue Range Hut, then briefly along Brindabella road, then more speed down Warks road before the flats of Bullock Paddock road. I made the mistake of briefly stopping to eat (instead of eating while riding), a huge swarm of flies quickly zeroed in on my sweaty body and the sugary sports drink spilled down my front. Refuelled, flybitten and back on the bike I was soon skirting past the Cotter dam again, and back down to the complete the first loop.
Back at the start/finish line I restocked with water and food and headed out for the second loop. Again the only way out of the Cotter is up – this time out towards Pierces Creek Settlement. The slow climb up was starting to hurt, the afternoon sun started to burn, and sweat dripped constantly. Luckily the second loop included a few water crossings, which really helped us to keep cool. The race started to become a blur as fatigue and dehydration started to take hold.
Another water crossing at a beautiful water hole in the upper reaches of the Cotter river gave us some brief relief before more severe punishment. The eroded rocky trail up from the crossing was virtually unrideable, so we had to push our bikes up the steep slope. After an eternity of pushing, lugging, and carrying our bikes we emerged out onto Pipeline road.
After 70Km of riding, the climb up Pipeline road was slow and painful – I almost wished for something on my bike to break so I could stop. After riding up Pipeline road for an age, I rounded a corner to see the road continue climbing for another few kilometres and over ridgeline high above. A voice inside me screamed in despair – or maybe I screamed out loud, I’m not sure as things were a little fuzzy at this point. Anyway, I kept the pedals turning and somehow crossed over the ridge to a very welcome descent back towards Pierces Creek.
Rounding a corner I noticed the Pierces Creek Settlement ahead, all of a sudden my legs found renewed vigour, reeling me up the last hill of the day. A quick descent, and I was soon sprinting my way over the finish line.
Within minutes the painful memories had faded, leaving behind a great experience, and I was on my way for a well earned beer and pizza. Huge thanks to Steve Hanley and all the volunteers for putting together a great race. I’m already looking forward to another epic next year – hope to see you there!