[quote_center]My power meter is reading 350, my heart rate 190! I’m red lining and about to blow up! I’m in trouble. [/quote_center]
I am five short kilometres into an 80k journey to Montville, a charming town in the heart of the hinterland on the Sunshine Coast. Something’s not right. I’ve had a sore back for the past week and have had a rubbish sleep… This could end badly.
My journey commences under cloudy skies, which keeps the temperature down but the humidity up. I hit the hot mix at 5.30 accompanied by two strong riders who love to tap out a serious cadence. We head south through Yandina towards Nambour, where the climbing and my troubles begin. I manage to jump on my mate’s wheel and tag a lift for ten minutes trying to reduce my heart rate. I’m not panicking, but I’m concerned. I haven’t even hit the hills yet and I’m in the red. As the climbing proper sits up in front of us, I decide to stop watching the computer and concentrate on the road. If I go out, I’ll go out in a blaze of glory, or fall off my bike. As the road kicks up, I click through the gears and start to find my rhythm. I’m feeling a little better. The gradient starts to creep over 10% yet the switchbacks offer some relief. I find it easier to ride a switchback road, as opposed to a long straight climb. I can’t see the pain around the corner, so I stay motivated. On a long straight climb, the torment lies in front of you and the feeling is often over whelming. These climbs seems to mock you and your mind says you can’t do it. I decide to take a peak at my heart rate… 175bpm, still racing, but a little better. At least I’m not going to fall off the bike, at least not yet.
As I reach the apex of the first major climb, I express my doubts to the boys. We decide to take it easy for five, which lasts for two and we’re straight back into it.
At the Dulong Lookout in Kureelpa, the road heads through the Eudlo Valley along Blackall Range Road. As my mates smash the descent, I take on a gel and try to compose myself. The road drops suddenly down a 20% cliff and I’m thanking all and sundry that I’m going down this road and not up it! I try to bridge the gap but can’t. There’s nothing in the tank. The road dips and rises along a ridge for several kilometres through magnificent country. Rolling hills and open countryside. Million dollar mansions and horse studs a plenty. Spectacular. I focus on my cadence and try to stay positive. I think to myself that it’s too late to turn back now; I’m not going back up that road! I look at my Garmin and my heart rates dropping, maybe I will get through this after all.
Before long we are in Palmwoods. A pretty little hinterland town, easily referred to as a sleepy hollow. It’s early and aside from a coffee shop owner sipping a latte in front of his store, the streets are empty. In front of us lies a 6km climb. I mention to the boys that the view always looks better from the top when you’ve reached the summit. Right now the summit looks menacing. I’m feeling a little better and my heart rate is under control. No turning back now. Minutes later we settle into the climb and I dig out all my old tricks. Focus on my breathing, work a steady pace, pick a spot ahead of me and work towards it. Small steps at a time. Just keep turning the pedals.
I recently watched a documentary on the history of the Tour de France. In it was an interview with French cycling legend, Raymond Poulider. Filmed in the late 50’s, the doco was recorded while he climbed a brutal ascent in northern France. It was epic. Poulider is training in heavy cloths on an old steel bike. Facing terrible visibility and a cold wind that seems to chill him to the bones, he battles on. I recall the doco and look for inspiration from it. I find it.
Back in Palmwoods, the climbing is constant but manageable. The switchback road climbs through dry Eucalypt forest, offering sporadic glimpses of Mooloolaba and the Sunshine Coast. Stunning. A wallaby sits on the high side of the road, offering a quizzical look as we trudge up the climb. A sign lets me know that there’s less than three kilometres to go. I decide to put the hammer down a little and see how I go. My power meter climbs rapidly and so does my heart rate. This is fun. My gluteus is screaming and I’m breathing hard, but there’s plenty in the tank. The skies above start to open up, as the tree canopy clears and the top of the range appears. Nearly there. I decide to get out of the saddle and finish hard. I hit my lap button on my Garmin at a little under 23 minutes. Not bad. Considering my dodgy start, I’m relatively happy. I’ll be back to beat that time sometime soon.
As the climb proper comes to an end, we take a quick right turn and enter stunning Montville. This gorgeous little town sits on the roof of the Sunshine Coast. Filled with quaint shops and buzzing cafes, it is a pleasant place to stop. We decide to grab a quick caffeine fix from the local bakery before continuing our journey.
From Montville it’s a lumpy ride across the ridge to Mapleton. The road ebbs and flows across the range, offering breath taking views of the coast and surrounds. The range contains several short sharp climbs, which are more than willing to make the lactic acid in your legs stab you like daggers. A short sharp rise near Kondalilla National Park, although familiar, has me looking for all 28 cogs on my rear cassette. It’s at this point one of the boys declares that he is ‘over hills’. Luckily for us all, it’s pretty much all down hill from here!
Minutes later we cruise through Flaxton. In the middle of this village is a locally famous French restaurant. I stop by the restaurant and take a quick photo. For a brief moment, I’m dreaming of France and wishing I am in the middle of an epic days ride up Mont Ventoux. Not to be! Before long, we arrive in Mapleton and prepare for the short, sharp descent. I motion to a 4WD to pull out in front of us. I’d prefer to have him in front of me than behind me on this roller coaster! For a moment I hitch a quick lift in his draft and build up speed quickly. I sit in the drops and seconds later I’m hugging the left hand corner and searching for tight lines. I know the road well and am confident in the bike and the tarmac. I let the bike go and trust the technology. I’m flying. I feel my muscles start to flap, at which point I know I’m really moving. I take a quick peek at my Garmin. It reads 92. I’d better concentrate. I improve my centre of gravity; tuck in any loose extremities and focus. I’ve got a kilometre of fresh uninterrupted hot mix in front of me. The dopamine is squirting like crazy and I’m feeling good. What a rush. As the road levels out and my speed drops, I flick through a screen on my Garmin. 95.6km. Wow, that’s moving. Crazy to think that only 23mm’s of rubber separates man and machine from the pavement. I love the speed.
We now find ourselves riding through a patch of rainforest, which is unseasonably dry but notably cooler. Popping out of this pocket of paradise we now climb back over another ridge and return to the Dulong lookout and the start of my troubles. I’ve been riding for a couple of hours now and I’m feeling much better. Things have come full circle. We drop off the range and charge the switchbacks. My wheels are humming and my rims are squealing with the sound of rubber heating alloy. I’m locked onto the bull horns and having a real crack. My mate’s carbon rims are smoking and there’s that gun cap smell in the air. What a buzz. Minutes later and we are tearing into Nambour and wondering where the past few hours went. It feels like a hot lap in a Ferrari. Hours of expectation, over in the blink of an eye.
On the tailwind pedal back to Yandina, I consider the roller coaster of emotions I have faced throughout the ride. It definitely hasn’t been one of my strongest rides. Yet despite the doubts, the racing heart rate and lack of power, I’ve still had a magnificent ride. It’s been awesome and that’s the way I always feel after a pedal. Despite the myriad emotions that I deal with on a ride, I always get off the bike excited about the prospect of getting back on it. Riding is exhilarating, it’s motivating, and it’s just plain old fun.
Haydn Thomas: email@example.com