The Rapha Festive 500 has become something of a tradition. As an antidote to the excesses of Christmas, Strava and Rapha run a challenge to ride 500km over the 8 days of Christmas. Last year, I had been in Adelaide and knocked it over in 4 rides. This year, I thought it would be a cracking idea to do it in two. What I hadn't planned for was for those days to be consecutive and that idea only formulated as a last minute plan in the run up to Christmas. I have aspirations of Audax 1200s so why not test the legs and head by knocking off the 500 in 2 days and not just 2 rides?
Day 1 - Macedon Ranges Grand Tour (278km)
Day 1 was shared with Mark, my never reluctant partner in crime on the epics. The plan for Day 1 was 260km, and the second running of the Macedon Ranges Grand Tour. The usual early start from Woodend was greeted with surprising drizzle and we were somewhat damp by the time we had met at Gisborne and then dropped down uneventfully to Bacchus Marsh. A moment of inattention and Mark crunched a rock and the first puncture of the day had arrived. With only one spare tube (he refused one of mine) and still 200km to go, he patched it and we were on our way, dropping into Greendale for the slog out and up to Blackwood. We pushed on through, dreaming of a quick bakery stop in Trentham. Sadly, Trentham was closed for business on 27th so we dug another bar out of the pockets and rolled through the beautiful Springhill to Kyneton where we found our pie and cake waiting! The wind was starting to pick up, blowing in a mainly southerly direction - a headwind for the homeward leg beckoned.
Off out of Kyneton and now heading east, bound for Pyalong, I dropped Mark on a small climb and had to double back when he didn't appear for a few minutes. The patch had finally popped - it lasted 100km - and the spare tube was brought out to play. Puncture number 2, our last.
Over the hill and down into lovely Lancefield where, hurrah, the milk bar was open and I had my drink and my feed! The original route was to take us up the notorious tube munching Monument Rd. With 2 punctures already, and despite the headwind, we decided to detour via Romsey to hook up with the delightful Kerrie Valley. It turned out to be a good move as we had a short tow from another cyclist before then towing him into Romsey. Mark and I parted ways at Riddells Creek as I headed up and over the south side of Macedon. With time and legs in the green, I made a quick detour to the Cross to bank a few extras kms and give myself a little buffer for the next day - that would turn out to be a good idea!
Day 2 - Our "3 Peaks" - Mt Alexander, Springhill and Macedon (227km)
The big question, could I back it up? The early signs were good. The legs were happy, the head was happy and the weather seemed to be agreeing with the forecast (light winds early, a strong northerly and then a SW change). The only clouds on the horizon were the prediction of a peak of 38C before the change and my stomach throwing me all sorts of insults if I thought about another of THOSE bars.
I was heading north to Mt Alexander, with the route to take me over that mountain twice, down to Springhill for an "all ways" on the hill and then back through Woodend for a double finish on the mount, with the comical idea of a finale on the 18% slopes of Alton Rd. Some people.
It's an easy ride to Sutton Grange, at the base of Alex, gentle rollers and quiet roads. It's one of my favourites in the Ranges and I can tell you that that is a solid recommendation! By the time I got to Sutton Grange it was warming up but ok. Sun cream applied and up and over I went, dead turning to come back up the (harder) north side at a reasonable tempo. So far so good. Mt Alex "done", I headed south in search of the first stop at the ever popular Malmsbury Bakery. I admit I was a little apprehensive as I dropped down the hill into Malmsbury as there were hardly any cars parked outside but, phew, it was open and welcoming as ever. I had had a gel and a failed nibble at a bar and with 105km under the wheels, I was ready for a feed and brief sit down.
Refuelled and ready to go I headed south through Lauriston and climbed up to Springhill. By now the temperature was climbing and the northerly blowing. My stomach, happy with the real food, was also rejecting the sports drink, so I was rationing a bottle of water and sneaking in a wee nip of the other stuff when my stomach wasn't looking. It was 65km and almost 2 and a half hours of lumps and bumps before the next water stop. The lovely rollers that constitute the "climbs" in and out of Springhill passed pleasantly enough, despite being chased by a dog at one point, but I was pretty damn thirsty by the time I was Trentham bound and it was well into the 30s now.
Ah, the lovely Red Beard bakery and a cold drink and my favourite ,the Nice buns (so much better than the Yuk bun). It was lovely to sit in the shade after 170km and kick back for 10 mins but where was that SW cool change? Brief check - stomach can handle real food (no bars), legs good, hands sore!
Eastwards to Woodend with a hot crosswind and plenty of shade and I was feeling ok. Once in Woodend, it was a quick refill and the final challenge of the day, two ways up Mt Macedon. With the extra kms in the bank from yesterday and the rising mercury, I was happy that a little over 220km would do. The climb up the north side, particularly the exposed lower section was brutal and possibly an anti-PB for the slowest time! Water was disappearing faster than snags outside Bunnings on a Saturday morning and I had to divert to the Cross for a refill before the final challenge of the day. I sat in the shade, taking a little moment to relax, told myself that this was good immersion therapy for the Audax Alpine Classic and had a conversation with a lady who mentioned that she hadn't seen any other cyclists out today. Mad dogs and Englishmen.
Alton passed by and actually, I quite enjoyed it. It's a modern classic of Victorian climbs. Lovely and shady, ever tough (whether it is the first or last climb of the day). Soon its 3km of climbing was over, the dirt was dispatched and I was swooping back home to Woodend.
Ironically, the cool change arrived about 30 mins after I had finished.
Job done. 505km, 8 400m of climbing and 20.5 hours in the saddle.
Day 1 - http://www.strava.com/activities/102120577
Day 2 - http://www.strava.com/activities/102290933