We started the ride and the energy was high as Matthew Keenan, commentator of Le Tour de France, welcomed the riders across cross the start line. Talk about pro level!
Riding along knowing there wasn’t the hassles and stress of cars passing you was super cool. Having the roads closed was amazing and is one aspect of riding us amateurs rarely experience. This is a special atmosphere that L’Etape offers, which emulates Le Tour de France. We reached Dalgety and local supporters clapped as we passed the 120-year-old pub on the corner. Dalgety is a small village situated on the banks of the Snowy River near Cooma, in southern New South Wales.
The first KOM was Col de Beloka, which is 3.5km long at 9.9% average gradient and was brutally hard. I grinded to almost a standing halt. It pinched over 13% at times and as I tried to climb up it the signs, much like Tour de France, counted down my agony. I applied more effort but lost touch with a few riders that I’d been marking. After another tough 1km I finally reached the summit. Instead of taking the aid station water, I pedaled hard to regroup with the eight riders that I lost touch with and got back on. Phew, I could recover! I must note though, that the aid stations are pro level with everything you need as well as being coned off and have marquees; you can see the Tour de France pedigree.
The final KOM was Col de Kosciuszko, which is 23.5km long at 4.4% average gradient and reaches 1720 metres above sea level. This would be one grueling task, I needed to make sure I had enough reserved in the tank as it had the potential to blow my day apart. We finally hit the base of the climb and a steady pace was established. As we wound up the ascent, we left the view over Lake Jindabyne as the road opens up to long switchbacks. As you get higher and higher into the high country it eventually opens up to a rocky landscape that’s beautiful and pristine. I’m about 12km into the climb when the legs start to feel it but there’s a certain sense of achievement when you keep getting higher and higher up the mountain. At the top of the climb there was an aid station where I loaded up with a few oranges, two cokes and some more water.
I started the long descent back down as this is an out and back section of the course. With the roads being closed it meant that you could get up to speed, own the road and the descent wasn’t too technical, so I didn’t need to use the brakes too much. I hooted and hollered as I hit high speeds. I got to the bottom and I only had around 10km to go. A few more pinches took everything out of my legs and I could hardly wait for a Kosciuszko Pale Ale. I finally reached the finish line and Matthew Keenan welcomed us back. I was exhausted, and quickly turned up to got stuck into some oranges and water whilst giving a few high-fives to the guys that I’d been riding with.
A large article will also be featured in New Zealand Cycling Journal Volume 9.
Words: Liam Friary
Images: Marcus Enno
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