The Little Van That Could……and Sometimes Couldn’t
One of the oldest Tandem Project team members is not a rider, though it does have wheels. Our as-yet unnamed faithful combi van has been hauling tandems from one side of the country to the other for as many years as the program has been running. It has certainly had its quirks, but so does everyone else in this team. The beauty of the combi, is that it can carry an impressive six tandems, plus various equipment. The tandems do not jostle around, but instead are lovingly hugged safely in the back all the way to their destination. It seems however, that there has been a falling out of love between the combi and Team Manager Victoria, or the combi is simply getting stage fright every time the legendarily cranky manager gets on board! Maybe it’s jealously? He wants Mike all to himself – you know, to bond with the boys, and Victoria’s double x chromosome simply ruins everything.
And so it was, on the way over to Nationals that the combi lodged its protest vote. The combi had been happily purring along, with Mike and Murphy on board, all the way to Horsham. There was a mere two hours to get to Ballarat, so Victoria kicked Murphy out so that he could get some sleep in the Skoda. The convoy roared back into action, all except the combi! Over and over the key was turned, with barely a shudder. In fact, no signs of life at all. This had happened before – it was simply a matter of letting the old boy cool down a bit – or so Mike said. And so we waited…….and waited……..and waited. Every time the key was turned – nothing…..nudda……zip!
Not that the lovely Horsham didn’t give us some entertainment courtesy of the local bogans. We had a vehicle park beside us, with a woman clearly off her nut – screaming away at the guy in the car with her. Doors were slammed…..more screaming……as you can imagine…….the boganess didn’t have much nice to say. Eventually the guy in the car started his retort. More screaming, until finally said boganess got her arm slammed into the door – she was attempting to scratch the dude at the time through the door, so trying to close the door on said psychopath was probably fair-cop! Screaming replaced by crying, wailing…..then more screaming.
Meanwhile, Mike and Victoria were trying to look inconspicuous in the giant, broken-down combi right beside them. On departure of the entertainment, road-side assistance was called. Enter the most useless road-side mechanic you could ever possibly imagine! We won’t enter into any details, but after establishing the battery wasn’t flat, no further solutions were considered or offered, and a tow truck was called for. This was an absolute disaster. Once up on that tow truck, the program was going to be in an absolute pickle! How on earth were we going to salvage our Nationals campaign?
The tow truck rolls around the corner and starts looking for where best to haul the combi onboard. I looked at Mike – utterly stressed out, and he decided to try the ignition one more time………..and the old boy roared into life! Victoria was literally jumping out of her skin. The sight of the tow truck was clearly an indignity the combi couldn’t handle. We chugged along without incident to Ballarat, too scared to stop even for a loo break, just in case we had the same problem again. While in Ballarat, Victoria was not in the combi again, and there were no more issues regardless of who was driver or passenger.
So it was with reasonable confidence that the convoy took to the road for the return journey to Adelaide. Three hours in and it was time to give Murphy a sleep in the Skoda again. Sound familiar? Victoria jumped on board the combi and, you guessed it, NOTHING! FFS! This time, a solution had to be found. Tony had pulled up and came over to help us. We knew it was a contact issue with the gear stick. When the gear stick was in a particular positions, then a spark could be seen. Between them, Tony, Mike and Victoria figured out how to remove the entire housing to the gear stick. To cut a long story slightly shorter, while Mike and Tony were pulling out and reinserting fuses, Victoria just sat there quietly thinking about things, correctly deducing the solution. She reached down and simply squeezed the gear stick closer to the contact plate on the other side and success! A spark, a contact, and ignition! We could now get the combi rolling regardless of the temperature – the prolonged heating up of the gear stick was expanding the ignition wire away from the contact plate. It has since been fixed!
Road Nationals Campaign
Spring has sprung and we are very excited to announce the squad will be travelling over to Ballarat to compete at the Australian Road Nationals Cycling Championship. Five tandems will be heading over with all the chaos of equipment, mechanics, pilots, stokers and support people. Our preparation training has commenced, with our teams eager to shake off the winter blues.
It has been a few years since the team attended the Nationals, and without our team attending the Para-National event has seen no other competitors turn out, so it is important for the visibility of the sport that we make our way over. We also thank Cycling Australia for accommodating our pilots with a short-term license for the event. Our pilots having to purchase full 12 month licenses in previous years has been a financial barrier that has prevented our attendance for the last three years.
Eye to Eye Ball 2019
Congratulations to our friends at Eye Play Sport and all of their amazing sponsors and donors who came together to make the Eye Play Sport Ball 2018 a resounding success. Money raised will be allocated to individual athletes and teams to continue the vital work of giving vision impaired people access to vocational and competitive sport. Special mention to Fox Creek Wines, Lexus Adelaide, Grahams Jewellers, Unique Opal Mine, BBX and Refined Real Estate for their incredible contributions on the night.
New Team Member – sort of!
A little bit taller, and with shoulders quite a bit broader, Beau Wootton returns to the Tandem Project. Beau is an extraordinary talent, and one of the most naturally gifted riders we have ever trained. Beau had a couple of years off cycling when he finished school, only to realise what every other cycling nut already knows…….cycling is ‘The Dark Side’ you can’t say no to. Luckily there are worse habits to have. The team hopes to fund raise for another tandem that can more easily fit Beau’s very long legs. Well, it’s either that or reduce Beau’s femur length by about 4cm. Understandably, Beau prefers the first option of a bigger bike!
Eye Play Sport Fundraiser
Speaking of fund raising, in his role of CEO of Eye Play Sport, Kieran Murphy is currently organising their major fundraiser of the year. A dinner designed to draw people into the experience of vision impairment, Dinner in the Dark will be an ‘eye opening’ event. If you have a group of friends or a corporate group who would like to take the opportunity to appreciate the advantages of eyesight, then jump onto the EPS Facebook site for information on ticketing. The event is scheduled for the 27th July.
Pilot Update: Manager Victoria Veitch
After retiring from National Road Series riding three years ago, Victoria was debilitated with serious fatigue for nearly two years. But thanks to excellent medical guidance and more blood tests and potions than you can poke a stick at, Victoria is well and truly on the comeback trail. Armed also with a very stunning new climbing bike, Victoria has been placing in the top three of most of her races. With a second place in the epic 90km Harrogate race, followed up by first place in the Balhannah Kermese, Victoria has set her sites on reclaiming some of the more significant QOM records around Adelaide. She has already reclaimed the Windy Point record, and will now train over winter for an attempt on Norton, which is held by an international rider who used a prominent local male rider to pace her up the hill – NOT KOSHER! Best of all, the recovery from fatigue has improved Victoria’s mood no end, which will make everyone around her, not least her husband, breath a sigh of relief.
Our chief mechanic recently had the good fortune of being supplied with new bar tape for our tandem fleet from Burgh Cycling. Donated products are always gratefully received as this project does not have insignificant costs to keep us on the road. We’re even more thrilled when the product is absolutely fantastic (also a bit relieved in that we can truthfully rave about a product!). Tony reports that Burgh tape is by far the best tape he has ever rolled onto a set of handle bars – and Tony is a fuss-pot!
a unique blend of comfort, grip & performance
Our unique polymer blend creates a surface that is water resistant, shock absorbing and grippy – even in the wettest of conditions. Perfect for cyclists who love all kinds of riding – but especially for those who love to get grit, sand and mud all over their pride and joy.
With RSB having come on board as a sponsor, Project Manager Victoria has been given all the excuse she needed for a redesign of the team’s kit to include purple for the tandem division of the team. Blackchrome have given us an exciting preview, so stay tuned for updated team photos to follow. The team has used the good weather for some solid training, and we hope to see some more tandems taking on the Masters racing scene this year.
Pilot Updates – Tour of Goolwa 2019 Division 3 Race Report
Team – Alison Skinner, Greg Chivers, Luke Dingley and Simon Veitch
Stage 1 – Team Time Trial
This was a danger stage for us. Dingley was the only one with a TT bike and he had 10 mins practice before the race, while Chiv had clip-on bars and a disc wheel. We set off well, riding solidly with Dingley and Chiv putting in strong turns, and Alison and Simon doing what they could. Surprisingly we came second and didn’t lose anywhere near the time expected. Great start!
Stage 2 – Finniss Road Race
A flat 66 km race that can be very windy, this year the winds were light, but the temperature was high. The team had a plan to try to force a breakaway, but a lack of wind and several strong teams determined to keep it together for a sprint finish, saw the race contained. It finished with a bunch kick with all 4 finishing in the lead pack and no time lost.
Stage 3 – Flagstaff Hill Road Race
A short lumpy course that saw us go up the nasty Flagstaff Hill twice, to finish at the top second time. First time over the climb, Alison skipped away to gain some valuable bonus seconds available at the top for the first climb. A group of 10 or so got a bit of a gap over the top with 3 of us up there, but it was quickly closed down. So, around we went again and leading into the rolling climbs before the main climb, Chivers hit the front and kept the pace high for about 4 km to discourage attacks. Onto the climb for the second time and Simon and Luke were well positioned at the front to see Alison accelerate away from the pack on the steepest section and take an emphatic win! Simon came third and Luke fifth with some good time gaps to see us take over the lead in the teams competition. It also saw Simon move up to 3rd on GC (40 seconds gap) Luke 4th and Alison fifth.
Stage 4 – Crows Nest Hill Climb Time Trial
A tough 4km hill Climb this is a tough stage to do with 3 hard stages already in the legs. Most years there is a pretty strong tailwind but this year it was only gentle and it was pretty hot. The team plan was for Chiv to tow the other 3 for the first 500-700m false flat and then peel off as it got steeper and we would see who had legs from there. Chiv set an excellent pace and Peeled off as planned, and Simon took over pace setting. Dingles then peeled off a bit further up the climb, and Simon and Alison worked together until the middle section where it flattens off briefly before kicking up hard for the last 2km. Then they both rode at their thresholds right to the top. Simon won the stage and Alison came in 3rd.
On GC, Bryan Macintyre held onto the lead by 7 seconds, Simon moved up to second and Alison stormed up to third. Luke held on to fifth, an excellent result. We took out the Team win by 2 minutes and 22 seconds from Hot Velocity, with Packard Bell in third place. Many thanks to Adelaide Hills Masters Cycling Club and all the sponsors for hosting such a great event. The event was brilliantly organised, ran smoothly and all teams competed fiercely but in a fun, friendly spirit. Best Tour of Goolwa yet!
New Member Profile – Flynn Johnson
If you were to look up the definition for ‘sports mad’ – you’re likely to find a photo of Flynn Johnson. At only 14 years young, Flynn already has the distinction of being the Eye Play Sport Sports Scholarship holder for 2018. The Tandem Project is happy to be working with young riders, and we hope to expand our reach to the next generation of vision impaired riders. In the meantime we have to share Flynn with cricket, track cycling, goal ball, public speaking, golf, rock climbing, ice hockey, parachuting, race car driving……..ok, some of that might be an exaggeration, but you get the picture. This is a young man who is making the most of every day and we are excited to help him develop further on the road tandem.
Tandems are never simple – taking the force of effort from two riders takes its toll, and tandems break. We are enormously privileged to have Tony Kemp as volunteer bike mechanic, who selflessly keeps our fleet on the road after they return to base camp limping. Between Mike Hoile and Tony, we would have to be paying for repair cost which have previously kept machines off the road. The latest addition to our equipment base, is a stunning lightweight racing tandem. The ‘Alchemy’ frame was previously raced as a part of previous Australian track and road campaigns. It sat for many years, unused and unloved in a bike shop, until it was purchased and then donated to the program by Kieran Murphy. It has since been rebuilt, with all labour donated by Tony, and the group-set very kindly given to us by our awesome long-time sponsor Ozone Cleaning Specialists. Thank you Tony, Mike and Ozone for keeping us running, one machine at a time.
Athlete Update – Kieran Murphy
This year hasn’t quite gone to plan. At times I have felt like my form has been better a week after a race rather than for the race. I’ve been sick, injured, or when I’ve been able to replicate good form, something else has come up. Shortly after returning from Italy for the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships, I was on a recovery ride when I felt a sharp pain in my calf/hamstring. This would eventually be diagnosed with the help of an MRI as a torn hamstring tendon.
Before the injury I was flying! Consistently riding Windy point in under ten minutes with a new PB of 9:40s with pilot-extraordinaire Mike Hoile at the helm. Just as the year had panned out though, this form was too late as the Road World Championships had already been raced a few weeks earlier. The injury would eventually have me sitting on the sidelines, unable to ride a bike for 3 months and counting. Currently, doctors are hopeful I will be back on the bike in January, and if all goes to plan, I will be back racing in the Road World Cups in Italy and Belgium in May 2019. Injuries are never great, however it has given me time to reflect on the past few years in the Australian team and offered me some opportunities outside of cycling to keep my head space right. I am working for Eye Play Sport which is a charity – fundraising for blind and vision impaired members of our community to participate in sport. I am currently organising a DINNER IN THE DARK to be held February 23 2019. Rehab is part of the game and I’m excited for a busy 2019!
Return of a Superstar
Thursday’s high-performance training sessions just got a whole lot more fun with the return of Scott McPhee – Kieran Modra’s London Paralympic pilot. Scott is an extraordinary young man, whose diligence and application to the tandem have seen him succeed at the highest level of tandem sport. So, what could we do for such an exciting return, other than turn on a miserable, cold and wet day to give Scott the warm and fuzzies. Luckily Scott is no stranger to early mornings like the rest of our slightly ‘unhinged’ group, but we so appreciate having him give us a hand before having to dash off to work. His skill and talent as a pilot is a valuable resource for this particular training group.
In absolute sweltering conditions our World Championships TT in Italy was the most hotly contested TT’s we’ve raced. With less than 20 seconds separating places 4th-10th, and the top 2 decided by less than a second. Our TT was our quickest yet, on a course that was challenging; both technically and physically. With crashes happening right across the weekend it was another stellar performance from superstar pilot Lachy to keep us upright. We rolled across the cobbled finish line in 9th place with plenty of confidence for the road race.
Warming up for the road race it was another hot day, with the sun’s rays burning down we were in for another testing day in the saddle. Lucky for us the clouds started to roll in as we were all on the start line, much to the relief of the close to 30 Tandems.
Unfortunately, our race came to an end on the second lap, with us well positioned in the front group we had a puncture at the start of the climb on lap 2, and with some not so fortunate luck with the tyre change our race was well and truly gone!
Thanks to all those who helped us get to Italy, now time to hit the track ahead of Track Nationals in December.
Rather than blonde moments, these updates are reserved for those little things in life that pop up for our vision impaired community – just a giggle or two! This week’s moment courtesy of Kieran Murphy.
So, I’m in Coles, looking for Epson Salts. Remembering that they were on the bottom shelf, I squat down and am inspecting pretty intensely the items on the bottom shelf around where I think the salts are. At this point I had totally forgotten that this Coles had recently changed where a number of their items were. From milk to bread, the arrangement had all changed.
The last time I grabbed a box of Epson Salts they were on the bottom shelf under where all the elastoplast stuff was, so I’m looking there, but can’t find them anywhere. It’s actually one of the easier items to locate when you’re blind because the writing is REALLY BIG! Not content with not finding them I move across to the right, thinking that maybe they were in a different spot. I’m grabbing boxes to try and read them but they are to small – front, back, and side I can’t read them but regardless, these boxes were too small for what I was looking for, so I put them back. At this point people are literally grabbing items from above my head – either lots of people wanted a soothing bath that night, or I was definitely in the wrong section. I grabbed another box to have a read what they were, take out my phone and even take a picture so I can zoom in- it was then I realised………
I wasn’t looking at Epson Salts; not even looking at Elastoplast; in my hand, and now in my iPhone photos, I was looking at TAMPONS!!! Must’ve looked so odd from all the people walking past at this guy, inspecting the tampon section! Turns out Epson Salts were on the top shelf now!!!
It is with great relief that we report that Mike Hoile, our Tandem Project Captain and the best pilot we have, has returned to racing form. Mike has been back on the tandem for a couple of months, and more recently he has returned to racing A grade with some very strong performances. This recovery from a fractured neck of femur is very impressive. We will be typing up a recovery case study to go onto out website – as getting information on possibly recovery strategies for this particular injury in Elite cyclists was virtually impossible to find.
New Partnership – Royal Society for the Blind
We are happy to announce a partnership with the Royal Society for the Blind in SA. The RSB are committed to improving the everyday lives of people with vision impairment, recognising that sporting pursuits are an essential component of well-rounded community participation. For those in the RSB community who are unfamiliar with the Tandem Project, we are a volunteer organisation that trains vision impaired cyclists from beginner level, right through to elite participation in paracycling.
New Member Profile – Justin Jones
Justin has been riding with the project for approximately three months now, which means he has had to brave winter conditions for the most part. Here is what he has to say about his involvement in the project so far.
I believe the Tandem Project in SA has the ability to change lives for those with a vision impairment. For myself, I have finally found an outlet that I can build my skills and hopefully reach my goal of becoming a Paralympian whilst enjoying the training and development of cycling in general.
The team consists of well-rounded athletes who are more than willing to give up their own time to train those who are dedicated to making their dreams come true. Since joining, I have gradually seen my strengths enhanced by the guidance of key members of the club. A major reason I think the club is successful is that it is like a little family and we all look out for each other whilst getting the job done. Everyone is extremely willing to make you better as a cyclist whilst not putting you down as a person unlike some other sports I have been involved in. This team treats you like an able-body person rather than a disabled person defined by a set of limitations.
For me it has greatly helped me in my personal life as well as my professional life at a time where I’ve felt life start to get on top of me. This team of people with different backgrounds allows me to vent and have a sense of belonging. I’ve felt like I have finally found a group of people whom I can trust, and spend time with both on and off the road.
Since starting cycling, I have managed to drop approximately 30kg after getting some great lifestyle changing ideas from a few of the members and now I’m feeling as fit as I have ever felt. I’m greatly appreciative of the effort that everyone puts in and how they all band together to support each other. I’m looking forward to what my future brings with those people around me to push me when I need encouragement and I’m looking forward to seeing my development over the next few years.
Base Camp Renovations and Equipment Upgrade
Four years ago we started with three tandems that were well past their use-by date. Those tandems were stripped and rebuilt and form the work horses of the program, being ideal for teaching new comers the art of riding. New tandems were purchased both for the program and by some individuals within the program, and more recently, we have added another rebuilt tandem to the collection. This brings our collection of tandems to 12. It is with deep appreciation that I thank Captain Mike Hoile and Chief Mechanic Tony Kemp for their tireless efforts in keeping these machines on the road, and to all our wonderful volunteers, a big thanks for the numerous times we have done base camp clean ups.
2018 Santos Tour Down Under
The Bupa Challenge Ride was a major feat of organising for the tandem project as we were hosting guest tandems from QLD. The project was happy to provide a loan tandem to one pairing, while we provided a number of pilots to another stoker who arrived with his own equipment. Unfortunately, the event itself was cancelled due to very extreme heat, but that didn’t stop our guests from enjoying an amazing week of riding.
Australian Road Race Championships
The hot weather certainly didn’t get young hot shot Kieran Murphy off the hook during the January heat wave. Following his gold medal rides in the Australian Road Race and Time Trial Championships, Kieran returned for a three-week intensive training block with the Tandem Project. On the back of his Australian Championships performance, Kieran was selected for the Australian Team heading to Belgium for a World Cup Championship. Kieran’s results at the World Track and World Cup Road Races will be in our next project update.
The Project Takes a Hit
Two years ago, Tandem Captain Mike Hoile was out of action with a broken collar bone – sustained during a tandem criterium. This time, Mike fell victim to completely benign set of circumstances when his front wheel slipped out during a simple u-turn. There was no speed involved – just the very unlucky presence of a cat’s eye, and down he went. Mike broke his neck of femur right below the ball of the hip, and was taken into surgery that day. Mike is currently back on the trainer, and will begin pool rehabilitation now that he can drive. We hope to have him back and faster than ever for the spring racing season.
Italian Training Camp
Representing Australia in their first ever trip overseas together, Tandem Project Athlete Kieran Murphy and pilot Lachlan Glasspool attended a training camp in Italy to prepare for a tough couple of months of domestic and international competition. Don’t be fooled by the photos, the constant sunshine and Italian coffee was hard work for these athletes, but apparently the Italian gelato compensated them for their hardships.
Australian Paracycling Road Championships
The training camp in Italy was to prepare Kieran and Lachlan to contest the Australian National Paracycling Road Championships. They were able to turn around their track form and prepare for road endurance in eight weeks. They started by taking the gold medal for the Time Trial in emphatic style, clocking an average speed of 49.5km per hour. For those people who don’t know much about bike riding, that is epic power! The Tandem Project has been hunting for a National Gold medal in the road race since our last win with Kieran Modra in 2014. We’ve grabbed silver for the last two years, but this year, Kieran and Lachlan went one better, taking the gold medal with a crushing breakaway.
UCI World Road Championships
Report by Kieran Murphy
20 tandems lined up on the start line in thunderstorms and the race was on from the start. As soon as the 300m neutral zone was over the speed instantly went beyond 50kmph. The rain was so hard we thought about letting the stokers pilot as they had more experience in seeing when conditions aren’t that great. The road spray was chest high and roads slippery. The bunch was starting to splinter early, spitting anyone who couldn’t ride at 60kmph out the back. And the end of the first lap (there were 15,) there was a crash when 2 bikes came down at a corner shortly after the start/finish line. A group of riders made a split and we were in a pretty good position, working hard in a group that included the current World Champions, and the super-strong tandem from Rio. Shortly into the 5th lap (still raining) we threw our transfer chain and had to stop to put it back on. This would cost us more than a minute and a place in the front group. We worked with the Irish pair to bridge the gap which we had down to 30 seconds, however the lead group would prove too strong and we rode on to finish 12th. A massive experience and great learning opportunity for us. Now on a plane to Belgium for round 2 on Friday
It was contrasting conditions to last week’s race with blue skies and warm conditions for our race in Belgium. The start was about 100m from the technical part of the course which included a series of corners that would eventually lead to a long stretch of road with a u-bolt to come back around and complete the lap. By the end of the first few corners a break had formed when 3 bikes were allowed off the front…never to be seen again. We found ourselves at the back of the bunch and moved up the field to try and bridge the 30 second gap. A fourth tandem had gone up the road and after the initial 50-55kph lap the bunch didn’t want to work to reel in the break. By about lap 4 all our attacks and attempts to bridge had been marked with the bunch coming back to us and nobody pulling through for any turns. It was an eventual Polish and Irish team that would work with us and we made a break from the main field. We held off the bunch and it was a sprint to the line for 4th-6th with the Polish just getting us on the line. Absolutely shattered after the 104km race but thrilled with a 6th place and looking forward to South Africa.
World Track Championships
Report by Kieran Murphy
While cyclists are quite accustomed to early starts, the flight to LA pushed the ‘friendship barrier’. An 0230 alarm and a 4am check in, guaranteed some bleary eyes on the flight to Sydney. The 14 hour flight to LA just helped to make everyone feel truly deflated by the time we arrived.
We had 6 days until our first race and as the UCI World Cup was still running we didn’t have track access for the first few days. Jet-lag combined with ergo sessions didn’t exactly contribute to our sense of joy, but the excitement was beginning to set in, and we had the space we needed to begin the recovery from our journey. Once we were able to get on the track, it all started to sink in, as this being my first competition representing Australia was becoming a reality.
The 4km pursuit was the first race up for us, and it was made a little bit more special by our race being the first Australians to ride at the championships. Considering this was our first time riding for Australia I thought that was pretty cool.
On a slow LA track, our qualifying ride was a solid 4:23sec and we qualified for the gold medal ride off against Spain – the silver medallists from the 2016 World Championship won by team member Kieran Modra. With a hard fought final ride the Spanish were too strong for us, and we rode away with the silver medal. Not bad for our first ever ride.
The 1km Time Trial is a 4 lap dash around the track where the quickest bike wins gold. Bikes are started one at a time and it can be a nervous wait to find out the final placing. We were 3rd to ride and posted a time of 1min 4.512sec. Knowing there were quicker bikes to come we didn’t have any expectations of medalling. We were pretty sure both Great Britain teams would post the quickest times which left only the bronze medal up for grabs. At the 500 mark both the Russians and Malaysians were quicker than us.
Spain were just behind but finishing strong. As each team started to fade our nerves grew and so did the possibility of us snatching a medal. In the end we took the bronze, with the second quickest final lap in the field and a very exciting end to our first Worlds campaign.
My pilot Lachlan and I now head to Italy and Belgium in a month for some Road World Cups. You can keep up to date with all our updates by following our Facebook page Formula Tandem.
Audax Alpine Classic
Report by Simon Wong in collaboration with Steve Hampton
I was lucky enough to have Steve Hampton as pilot for the 2017 Audax Alpine Classic challenge/charity ride which was held on 28th January. This was the first Alpine Classic for both Steve and I, and we completed the 200km ride on Steve and Rebecca’s Duratek tandem. It was an amazing ride, and an impressively well-run event on beautifully smooth Victorian Alpine roads with sweeping bends, fresh air and peaceful surroundings. Steve and I worked diligently all day especially climbing the four major peaks. We stuck to our plan of not letting our heart rate go too far above 150bpm for extended periods of time, and it was a delight to discover we still had the legs to roll back to Bright like a steam-train over the last 20 km.
The ride started at 6:20am from Bright, Victoria. The first 13km was mainly flat with some slight downhill sections. The first peak was a 19km climb up Mt. Buffalo followed by a short downhill run, before a final 2km steep climb up to Dingo Dell. Mt Buffalo looked incredibly intimidating in the car when we drove up it on the previous day. Riding up this impressive mountain on a bike proved surprisingly manageable. There was a sense of relief and achievement when we got to the first check point. After refreshments, we enjoyed a long fast thrilling descent back to Bright.
The second peak was a climb to the top of the Bright side of Tawonga Gap. It was a 7km climb but steeper than Mount Buffalo. Both Steve and I had to work our heart rate above 160bpm for most of the climb in order to keep on top of the gearing. There was a picturesque lookout on top of Tawonga Gap, where, along with many other riders, we stopped briefly to take a photo and have our photo taken. The downhill run to the second check point at Mt. Beauty was fast and furious. Descending such a steep hill on a tandem gave us a tremendous sense of speed and power as no single cyclist could hope to get onto our wheel.
After a break for lunch at Mt. Beauty, the 31km climb up Falls Creek started as soon as we got back on the bike. This part of the ride was perhaps the most testing. The slow, long, grueling climb in the hot afternoon sun seemed to go on forever. The field had spread so much that we came across very few other cyclists heading in the same direction. We stopped half way up at a water station to fill up our drink bottles and we had to take another little break to take in some gel and food before reaching the top. The temperature was at least a dozen degrees cooler up there, and we were convinced given the amount of climbing we did, we had to have reached the top of the World.
During the break, one of the Audax volunteers took photos of us with the bike and was really interested in our story. In fact, along the way, many riders shouted cheerful hellos and words of encouragement at us, particularly from the high number of women participating in the event. Steve was adamant it was the fact we both had dashing haircuts prior to the ride that attracted people’s attention. I thought it was the immaculate and classy looking tandem that was the real chick-magnet.
After the break, we enjoyed a long fast descent back to Mt. Beauty, during which Steve’s bike-computer recorded our top speed as over 90kph. The final climb back up Tawonga Gap from Mount Beauty was pretty tough, and by this time we had ridden 160km and had very tired legs. We had to dig deep to push to the top before rolling back down to Bright. Steve’s bike computer suggested we did a total of nearly 39,000 pedal revolutions on the day; our actual riding time was about eight and a half hours, but overall, we competed the ride in just less than eleven hours.
According to the event organisers and volunteers that we met along the way, I might have been the first blind/vision impaired tandem cyclist to have completed an Audax Alpine Classic ride. No one could recall having come across another vision impaired stoker having participated in the event before. We believe there were about 1500 cyclists that took part in the 2017 Audax Alpine Challenge over various distances. I was one of a group of nineteen participants who also took up the challenge of fundraising for the Audax Alpine Classic charity partner – The Kids Cancer Project. With great support from Steve, as well as wonderful support from family, friends and work colleagues at Guide Dogs SA/NT, I was the third most successful fundraiser; managing to raise over $2,000 for kid’s cancer research.