Yesterday was Ritchie Porte's birthday. I was very honoured that he invited me to his birthday party! I wasn't actually aware it was ritchie's birthday when I met him at aroma's cafe in launceston at 6am, the only thing I was aware off was that ritchie and I were going to be spending a long time on our bikes! We had plotted this ride last week at TDU, we both love a long days training so decided a 300+km day needed to be done. On monday I received a message from ritchie upping it to 320km and thursday was locked in as the day for the adventure. I decided I would also ride up to launceston so did so on thursday afternoon, just a lazy 194km to get the system going after TDU. During the ride up I started receiving messages from ritchie with the distance of the proposed route increasing with every vibrate of my blackberry. First 330km, then 350, the finally as I passed cambelltown 365km was sent through. I could tell by the tone of ritchie's messages that he was getting excited and I simply said you choose the course I will ride it, Its your home turf, you get to make the rules! Upon receiving the message simply saying "let's make it a classic 365km" I decided to pull into the next shop I saw and start loading up on calories! I was going to be needing them the next day and promptly downed a massive mountain dew and muslie slice, I was now also going to taking the final 30km of my ride into launceston quite a lot more tranquillo!! Needed to save the pins!!
We rolled out of launceston around 6:30 and headed for the quiet backroads to longford. The route ritchie choose was about as perfect a route you could choose when attempting a 360km adventure. Launceston-Longford-Epping Forest-St Mary's-St Helens-Scottsdale-Launceston. Simply put a circumnavigation of north eastern Tasmania. St Helens was exactly half way and came at a mentally perfect point where you reached the coast. Basically then you head back inland to launceston via a more picture esk route than that of which got you to the coast. Along with the more interesting terrain came many more hills however after the relatively boring flat initial 180km the change in terrain was something to look forward to.
Ritchie I had not trained together since march last year when I visited him in monaco. We speak a lot but you always chat about different things when out on the quiet country roads together. As a result of it being such a long time between training drinks I was pretty confident we would have plenty to chat about. Besides we had decided to to stop talking to each other at TDU as we knew we would have plenty of time to catch up on our big day out! As it turned out I can't remember a period of more than 30seconds when we were not chatting about something. Sure I could talk under water with a mouthful of marbles so I probably spoke or kept the conversation going a little more than ritchie but I am pretty sure it was more often than not a 2 way conversation.
Just the otherside of Longford richie broke it to me that it was his birthday. I was immediately pretty touched he choose to spend every daylight hour of his birthday on his bike with me. I said mate we don't have to do it today and ritchie said "no, this is absolutely perfect, being out here on my bike the entire day is the best present ever". Probably no surprize he is one of the best riders in the world with that attitude when the ultimate gift is a free day of riding as far and hard and wherever he wished to ride! That's real passion for the bicycle.
So back to the first 100km and all was going smooth. Pretty flat, deathly quiet country roads with nothing for company other now the odd sheep or cow. Around 50km we hit our first hurdle in the form of a ripped apart gravel road. The road was that under construction that is was a combination between strada bianchi and paris roubaix. For 5km you could do nothing but ride and slip and slide and bounce around and hope you don't puncher. Luckily we both escaped without any mechanicals and we were now at epping forest. From here It a short section of road heading south on the states main hwy before chucking a left and heading toward the coast. This left turn was the start of the most mentally challenging section of road we would face. I call this section road the hwy to nowhere as you simply feel like you are going nowhere for 100km. At the end of this section is the sea and the mood changes but until that point you are flat out not falling asleep either driving or on the bike. We put our heads down and plowed on. After 100km I was already struggling a little and needed to stop. We both slammed a coke, some water and I topped up the tank with a 600ml ice coffee. As we discover we would both have many moments of difficulty on the fuel front at different stages throughout the day.
This section of road was perhaps the toughest. Almost 60km on the hwy to nowhere and a block head wind to plow into on a false flat. When all put together it equalled a demoralising few hours. We both knew it was a big mental battle this section and made an extra effort to chat away about very important issues. It was during this period that we solved any more in depth personal issues we were facing and when riding under such torturous conditions the little issues you don't feel comfortable discussing normally all off a sudden seem not so bad to share with you mates. It always amazes me how sport can change your mood so we had a good old chin wag about whatever was bothering us to the town of st mary's. St mary's was a major land mark to pass as from there it was a decent to the coast and then a short run along to st helens and our half way point.
On the decent we struck our first mechanical. After 160km we finally hit a decent longer than a few hundred m's and we were plummeting down to the coast line when all of a sudden my front tyre blew out. I had 2 choices, crash or take my chances with on coming traffic and bee line it onto the opposite side of the road and come to a standstill in the ditch! I chose the other side of the road option and luckily no cars came around the corner. We took a deep breathe and ritchie just shook his head, we knew I was jolly lucky on that one! I repaired the tyre in the blink of an eye, infact the F1 mechanics would have been impressed and we were back on our way. Next up it was ritchie's turn to get a little hungry and after seeing me spring back to life on the back of my Iced coffee made an unscheduled stop for a similar pick me up. From there it was a short run along to st helens and half way and our lunch stop. When we pulled up I noticed my tyre was split so I went in search of a repair kit. I found one at the service station that contained enough patches to see me through my career so if anyone needs any patches for a ripped tyre send them my way! Ritchie organised lunch, a cheese and vegemite scroll while I repaired my tyre. We were certainly working well together.
Ritchie as me how I was feeling over lunch? I said awesome, I have convinced myself I have finished my first 190km training session and it was now time to start the 2nd 175km haul. Mentally its important for me not to think of it as 360km but merely ticking off check points. We had passed 2, the end of the hwy to nowhere and now the halfway point, next we making it to scottsdale, 100km away. Ritchie shrugged his shoulders in approval and we got back aboard our bikes. Everybody has there own way of dealing with these types of days and I am sure he did it differently.
During this section ritchie finally voiced a crazy idea we had both been thinking over. If we are going to ride 360km why not 400km?? Turth be told I was never going to let us stop before 400km but had been afraid to voice this suggestion. I had figured we make it to launceston then just keep trudging from there, first things first. Anyways ritchie is always one to speak his mind and said bugger it, we are definitely doing 400km. We will ride from dusk till dawn!! He rang his mum and informed her he would not be home for birthday dinner and that dilemma was now simply the plan. This 100km saw us enter some very hilly terrain and it was great to actually use some different muscles for a change. The trip to scottsdale seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were at 300km and slamming down yet another coke and iced coffee. This time we also threw a mars bar in the pocket as we set of on the 65km trek to launceston. Scottsdale is part of the cycling folklaw in the north of the state and ritchie probably rides through it 4 times per week. Consequently everybody at the IGA wanted to chat with the local star but were curious why he was there at 6pm?? When he said he had already done 300km they went from being star struck to simply in awe of there local star, it was also at this point I realised we still had 100km to go so was going to need to section it out very strategically!
As we rolled out of scottsdale ritchie I have certainly never done the feared sidling climb with 10hrs in the pins before. We decided to cruise up but of course we didn't. While we went steady we knew once at the top we were pretty much home and hosed to launceston with predominantly down hill roads. As we crested the top ritchie simply said, "well I have certainly gone up there a lot slower than that". We dropped down the other side like stones and could smell launceston now less than 40km to go. Ritchie looked at me and said let's drop the hammer and we gave it some revs. We were both had a big spring in our step with the final climb behind us and the finish line insight. Ritchie even commented that all was going well and we were humming along. I simply said I am fixated on launceston and until I am there I don't want to think about how surprizingly fresh I felt. I had 11hrs on the clock, 330km and had averaged 230watts so we were really flicking along on. With that being said I did not want to relax and explained to ritchie it feels like I am having a good game of golf and I know but don't want to count my scorecard, that can wait until then end, don't count your chickens before they hatch!
With all the enthusiasm we barrelled toward launceston. We kept dropping the hammer and before we knew it we were in launceston and on the other side of in search of the final 40km to make up the magical 400km. First we had some logistics to organise and we both turned to our parents. I called my dad and asked him to bring an energy hit and please follow us to ensure we are safe on the road. It was now 8:30pm and we would definately be finishing this adventure in the dark. Dad arrived and we loaded up on coke for the final time and a few jelly snakes. The clock was at 12hrs 45min so we simply had 38km and 1hr of riding to hit our target. Since the 200km mark we had been dreaming of hamburgers from burgers got soul. These burgers are an absolut must eat if you visit launceston. Anyways our problem was it would be closed when we return so ritch now had to call his mum. We put our order in and now officially after being such big brave boys all day we had turned to our parents to nurse us and motivate us home. Dad led with the safety car and we rode with the fun and confidence and security that we would in a race.
In the final 10km we started to count our chickens! We could smell the finish line and knew we would make it. It was now pitch black but we were having an absolute ball. We could not believe we had pulled of this crazy challenge and felt a huge amount of satisfaction. We sprinted into launceston and straight for ritchies house and the burgers! Dad got sent via the bottle shop to pick a cascade for me and a boags for ritchie, the north v southern tas stable beers. Our diet during the day was certainly your usual race or hard training diet plan but hey it was ritchie's birthday! We had to have the party food and I must admit the biggest regret I have is that we didn't go the party pies and sausage rolls for lunch in st helens!
We had survived the journey. The funny thing was we could now admit to each other that all along we both wanted to hit 400km but were both scared to think out allowed and actually lay that down to early! The key to the day seemed to be the mind games with spacing the ride out into objective check points which were upon reflection pretty simple. Make it to the road to nowhere, stop at st helens for lunch, role along to scottsdale, charge into launceston, and finally an and back spin along the tamar river. I had convinced myself the final 40km were free km's as we would be so close to home that no matter what the body will keep going. And you know what, it really wasn't that hard a day. I did not feel anymore drained than I would after an actual hard training day. I am sure that seems strange but the power of the mind is pretty powerfull and I certainly realise that now as upon reflection if you told me to do what we did yesterday before we started I would have said impossible! Not because of capability but because it was so unknown. But like I said to ritchie on the sidling climb "if we always do what we have always done we will always get what we have always gotten"!
Looking forward to ritchie's birthday next year!
Time: 13hrs 30min
elevation gain: 4500m
Ave Power: 230watts
Ave Heart rate: 115
Kcal Burnt: 11400
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