This guest report comes to Gravel Cyclist on behalf of Peter Carr of the Bendigo Cycling Network in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. Report originally appeared in the late May 2016 weekly Bendigo Cycling Network update. Remember, seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are opposite to those in the North…
Apologies in advance from Steve Fulford who accompanied Peter on this ride, about the low resolution, dodgy photos… 🙂
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was rolling through with the 7:25’s on a Saturday morning, when Steve Fulford* passed me on a new steed. A quick glance revealed that Steve had a new mount – a shiny new Focus cyclocross bike. The disc brakes and ample tyres were a dead giveaway. After a bit of banter between us about his new steed, Steve informed me that he was going “gravel grinding”. This term was familiar to me because of the many rides that were popping up in the Audax calendar using similar descriptions. I was aware that a hard core group of riders were sneaking down to Gippsland and the hills around Mansfield seeking out gravel roads with hideous amounts of elevation to test their mettle. Rides such a “Jam for Jamieson” were challenging riders to grind away for 300kms to remote places such as Woods Point.
Fast forward twelve months and I sent Steve a text last week seeking a good gravel grind. We met at Rocklea carpark at the most civilised hour of 7:30am. Steve was pleased to see that I had chosen my mountain bike over the roadie and that it was sporting a Garmin. It soon became apparent that Steve had no idea of the distances he had covered on previous rides but that he measured his rides in hours. He enquired as to how long I wanted to be out riding. With the ink still wet on my leave pass, I said “Ah whatever” and we headed off.
The first section of the ride was a sneaky little ride through the back streets of Kangaroo Flat and then onto Carcoola Drive and we were in the bush. We then passed a group of gold prospectors camped near Break of Day Hill and after some cheeky exchanges about breakfast and coffee we pushed on. We hit the bitumen near Lockwood PS and then ventured up a gravel road. It was at this stage that I took in the scenery. The farmland before us was looking fresh with a healthy tinge of green pushing through. A few puddles were testament to the rain that had fallen earlier in the week. We commented on the perfect weather conditions that were unfolding before us. Again we popped out on the bitumen for a short stint before chasing more gravel out near the Mohair Farm. We caught up with a lone sheep who decided to be our lead out in spite of the fact that it had ample reserve on each side of the road to make its escape. After what seemed an eternity sitting on our woolly friend, it bailed and handed over to a peleton of kangaroos that seemed intent on keeping us guessing.
The next couple of hours had us crisscrossing the countryside along gravel roads with me being at the mercy of Steve and his navigational memory. Road names were but a blur until we stumbled upon Pinchgut Lane. It was about here that Steve asked me ” Do you want to do Mt. Gaspard?” Why not – even if the extra elevation afforded me an opportunity to work out where the hell we were.
We reached the base of Mt. Gaspard which was a testing ascent of about 12%. Steve commented on the recently graded surface, which with the addition of recent rain was tacky and somewhat spongy. After giving the heartrate a bit of a nudge we reached the summit and enjoyed a well-earned snack. I took the opportunity to sit behind Steve on the descent and noticed the agility of Steve on his bike on the hard packed surface. It cut across corners and I marvelled at the rolling speed those 42 tyres provided in comparison to my MTB tyres. Steve seemed completely at one with the bike in the drops and gaining speed while I found myself having to pedal to keep up.
We exited Mt. Gaspard Rd onto the Freeway for a short stint to the Ravenswood Roadhouse for a well-earned coffee, before heading back along the Calder Alternative. After another stint through the bush we hit Morrison St. We’d been out for about six hours and was happily fatigued. I thanked Steve for the opportunity and made a commitment to do a few more such rides with him.
It was only when I uploaded the course to Strava that I got a good look at where we had been. We’d covered 112 kms and had climbed a bit over 1000 metres, all of which had been done with a big grin on my face. Steve is very keen to share his passion and knowledge with others and I have no doubt that he has a head full of other courses. All you need is a MTB or Cyclocross bike and an ambition to move across to the dark side for the day.
Link to Peter’s ride on Strava
* – Steve Fulford is a regular on the comments section of Gravel Cyclist… and banters regularly with JOM over email.
Thanks to Peter for his contribution and Steve for leading the way!
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