Chocolate Foot

Putting our best foot forward

Newcrest Orange Challenge - 170km road ride

RubyAt the end of last year, while helping a friend work out which size bike she should buy, I discovered that despite being under the impression that my road bike is a medium frame, it is actually a small. From that moment on, I felt like I was too cramped on my bike and that (for the sake of my riding position) I should probably get a new bike!

I popped into Manly Cycles just to have a look and a chat to the guys and after a few visits and a few more chats, Steve recommended the new Specialized Ruby. Once the big decision about which bike to get was made, I then had to decide whether to go for the Expert or the Comp (sadly the S-Works was never in the running). Initially, the Comp was due to be in stock first but I preferred the colour and spec of the Expert - decisions, decisions!

When I was finally ready to place my order, both the Expert and the Comp were due to be delivered to Australia at the same time so I decided that as I had spent 4 years riding my trusty (too small) $600 second hand bike, and I was only going to buy a new road bike once, I would get the best that I could. So decision made (Expert), I placed my order and was told that it wouldn’t be in the country until the end of 2016. This meant that I wouldn’t have my new bike in time for L’Etape in early December so I started looking for an event in 2017 that I could aim for with my new bike.

The Ruby was designed for endurance to improve smoothness and speed and has ‘Future Shock’ which is essentially 20mm of travel in the head tube and suspension in the seatpost. So when I saw the Newcrest Orange Challenge on 4 March advertised as a ‘European style ride’ on uneven country roads, I knew this was the ride that my new bike was made to do! My new bike arrived at the end of December and although it felt a little different to what I was used to, I soon got used to the new geometry and ride feel. I had a bike fit with Pat at Manly Cycles and armed with new footbeds, wedges and a personalised set up, I was ready to go! 

Ruby 2

Suddenly March was around the corner and I felt like I hadn’t ridden my road bike enough to be prepared for a 170k ride. There were a few factors at play - a week’s holiday in NZ, ridiculously hot weather followed by torrential rain. Luckily I had managed to get out on the mountain bike pretty regularly and get a few races under my belt, which I was hoping would be enough preparation for this challenge. In fact the gruelling Willo Enduro 75k race the previous weekend hurt so much that it must have been good training and the Orange ride couldn’t possibly be as painful!

My husband Joe and I drove to Orange the day before the race through some horrible weather. We could hardly see the roads through the Blue Mountains due to the mist and rain but it started to brighten up as we approached Orange. We duly attended the rider briefing where the organisers made the road surface and hills sound awful along with worrying us about roos and emus! Just as we got back to the car, the heavens opened and it rained really heavily for a few hours. Luckily it was clear and dry when we woke up the next morning and headed to the race start. There were over 1,300 people riding so there was a great atmosphere at the start line and at just after 7am, we were off!

I’m not hugely confident riding in big groups, especially with people that I haven’t ridden with before and don’t necessarily trust, but I knew that riding in a peleton was the key to making a big ride that bit easier. Although the road surfaces were rough, I still felt confident descending and kept a good pace so that by the time we were on the undulating roads (and out of the fog!), I was with a good group of riders and managed to stay riding in a pack with a few different groups for about 30k. At around the 80k mark, I caught up with Warren (from Karmea) and we ended up riding together for the rest of the ride. It makes such a difference having a friend to chat to and take your mind off your legs and before we knew it, we were at the 114k rest stop! We met Joe at the rest stop and after refilling with water, electrolytes and having something to eat, the 3 of us headed back out to take on the hilliest section of the ride. We started off riding together, having a chat and a laugh until the fatigue in our legs and the hills took over and the chat became less and less. Warren (always in coaching mode!) suggested that we worked together and took it in turns at the front. Once Joe and I learned to peel off from the front rather than putting in extra effort to overtake the front rider, this worked really well and we were overtaking rider after rider and knocking off the ks. 

And then we hit Piggery Hill and the subsequent 15k of climbing…

Piggery Hill

Piggery Hill wasn’t pleasant but it wasn’t as bad as Col de Beloka in L’Etape (there’s always something worse!), it did however take a lot out of the legs and made the next 15k of hills tough. I was really pleased to be with the guys and we kept a pretty decent pace despite the hills and the fact we had over 130k in the legs already! Once we had safely navigated the gravelly hairpin descent, we were into the final 20k of rolling roads. We got into our paceline again and were soon averaging 40kph and absolutely flying! I felt like a proper pro and it was awesome! Throughout the entire race, everyone was really friendly until the last 10k. While we were riding in a paceline and overtaking quite a few riders, one guy couldn’t handle being overtaken by me. He was absolutely fine when Warren and Joe went past but when I tried to go past, he wasn’t having any of it and wouldn’t let me past! We overtook him a couple of times and he got away from us by running a red light, not cool L I’m not sure why some men have such an issue with being overtaken by women, especially in an event like this which is a challenge rather than a race and even if it was a race, we would be in a different category!

Orange finish

Before we knew it we were nearly there and finishing the race on the velodrome was great fun! I was a little cautious and didn’t want to survive 170k of gravel and uneven roads only to fall off in front of everyone on the final straight! Joe, Warren and I crossed the line together - we had made it! It took us 6.13 hours and apparently I was the 4th woman to finish! I felt really strong for the majority of the ride and really enjoyed it. I love my new bike!

Orange finish