Event Recaps

L’Etape Australia 2018

LL’Etape Australia 2018

Thought I had better update with “part two” of my recent adventures (it was going to be in three parts, but time constraints have dictated otherwise).

After I finished Taupo, hubby and I headed to Rotorua to do a little bit of mountain biking. In the area of mountain biking, we are both complete novices, though I think that my road biking fitness had a positive impact on my time on the trails. Hubby is naturally skilled at bike handling and when we arrived in Rotorua, we immediately hired bikes and started exploring the famous Whakarewarewa forest, deciding to start on beginner trails. As the afternoon wore on, I started feeling more confident and even ventured onto some intermediate trails. The forest, with its redwood trees, ferns and other vegetation was a spectacular sight – which drew lots of comparisons with our relatively dry, droll landscape in Australia. Yes, in New Zealand we couldn’t get over how green everything was and how happy the cattle and sheep looked that were dotting the picturesque slopes and farmlands around Rotorua.

We started our second day of mountain biking off with a coach and guide, Jamie from New Zealand Mountain Biking Adventures. It was great to have some specific coaching about how to handle the bike – and as well as climb some steeper slopes, we got to practice bunny hopping and massive skids on the loose gravel. I loved the flowing sensation of riding some of the trails and was enjoying the smaller jumps. Our session was coming to an end all too fast.

For our final run, Jamie advised that we were heading down a trail called “Rockdrop” and true to its name, there were rocks, and yes, the ground seemed to drop off significantly in some places. Jamie warned us of this and I must admit to feeling like an Olympic gymnast when I flew over the drop and nailed the landing. Unfortunately hubby was having way too much fun on the berms preceding the drop-off that he had gained way too much speed heading over it. He thinks he must have touched one of the brakes as when he landed, the bike slid and off he came. Result – four broken ribs and a lot of pain.

We spent the next day or two after that doing touristy things including marvelling at the geothermal mud pools in Rotorua and visiting the Hobbiton movie set on the way back to Auckland.

Once in Auckland we parted company and I flew to Canberra via Melbourne, to take on the L’Etape challenge in Jindabyne. The Australian landscape was quite a shock to come home to after the lush greenness of New Zealand. The landscape felt especially dry and brown and I wondered how any sheep here could possibly be happy, grazing on what appeared to be brown tussocks of grass scattered across the land.

Once in Jindabyne, I met up with cycling buddies Gen, Ros, Phil, Bronwyn, Ian, Stephen, Russell and Ian. We stayed in fantastic Air BnB accommodation at Tyrolean Village overlooking the lake but wondered how we would find the rather steep climb up from our digs. On the way down to the ride, I wondered how I’d find the climb out of Jindabyne on the way home. Naturally I didn’t want to think about such torture after a 170km ride, so instead I focused on finding my start wave and making sure I had all the bits and bobs one needs to do a long ride in comfort.

I hadn’t thought much about this ride, but I gently reminded myself that it was going to be similar to doing 3/4 of a Three Peaks Challenge, so I hunkered down with the idea of conserving energy on the way out. The first fifteen km or so were pretty hilly and I looked for, and found, a group of gentleman that were riding a steady pace and took the liberty of sitting on their wheels. It was a strategy that paid off as once we’d covered the climbing, the pace began to firm with a spectacular downhill run into the township of Berridale.

With only 54km completed, I decided against a rest break, instead pulling out a snack from my back pocket and pressing on. At about the 60km mark I ran into Phil, who is an amazing endurance rider. He did the Taupo 320km the week prior. We continued on together until we hit the rest stop before the infamous Col De Beloka. This little hill has a pretty nasty 15% ramp for 600m or so, but doesn’t really let up too much until you’ve climbed another 3km further. As good fortune would have it, I bumped into Stephen, who put in a cracking effort passing me up the climb.

However we managed to become separated as I had the opportunity to put my head down and do a decent time trialling effort back to Jindabyne. By this stage, we’d done about 110km and I was feeling relatively good. However, I knew that the thirty kilometre climb to Perisher was about to meet us. And meet us, it did.

Unlike some of the other alpine climbs I’ve done, the climb up to Perisher is fairly straight – there aren’t too many corners to peer around and I was feeling like my pace had started to turtle. It was becoming extremely warm and I was drinking a lot. An hour had passed and I was devastated that I’d only ridden about 10 km in that time. My time trialling advantage over Stephen evaporated as he passed me on the way up. Admiring his climbing prowess, I wished him well, however I was beginning to feel rather despondent. I thought about quitting, however I remembered all of my cycling buddies and mentally rehearsed what it would sound like if I came home and told them I had decided to pull the pin. Entertaining such thoughts was just not going to do! Instead I decided to address my rapidly diminishing fluid supplies – I would take a few good sips after every five minutes of riding. This strategy worked well and soon the mid climb rest station loomed.

Seeing cups of the “Black Doctor” (aka Coca Cola) lined up for consumption at the rest stop lifted my spirits. I had come this far, I wasn’t about to let this climb beat me. I persisted onward and upward until I reached the Perisher Ski Lodge and turn around point. I was surprised to see snow perched on top of the mountain and I whipped out my phone, sent a quick text and photo to hubby saying “I’ve made it”.

It was time for the descent down the mountain. I love descending and the lack of tight turns made for an exhilaratingly fast effort. There were still a few odd hills to climb, but the thrill of the descent had me gaining a second wind up the final climbs. A short time later I arrived back in Jindabyne and headed across the finish line, exhausted yet simultaneously elated.

Possibly the worst part of the day was climbing the hill back to Tyrolean Village. My long suffering mates put up with me regaling the tale of how awful it is to climb a big hill after a massive event several times, however all suffering was swiftly put aside as we celebrated with cheese, biscuits, steak, salad, wine (well, not for me) and a nice round of jazz music.

The best part of L’Etape was the company and friendship within our group. We have all trained for the event together and it was lovely experiencing the joie-de-vivre between us all for doing a great job of completing a tough event.

I’m not sure when the next long event is that’s on the “turning 50” bucket list – I’ve been having a perfectly lovely time doing some shorter rides, extra strength training and sleeping in a bit. As the New Year looms, I’m sure the momentum will tip towards new goals and new plans.

Hope everyone has a joyful Christmas!

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