On the Wednesday they travelled from Tarcutta (previously described here) across the NSW/VIC border to the small town of Chiltern. The day started shrouded in thick fog, with the road being barely visible from the truckstop where we had breakfast. In this part of the world the fog can linger into the afternoon, but thankfully it cleared by mid-morning to make way for a cloudless sky. The road itself was a bit of a hard slog, some big hills either side of the town of Holbrook made sure that their legs were being tested. After that though the road flattened out, and so did Paddy's tyres, twice. The boys ended up spending an hour in a bike shop in Albury recuperating and fixing their machines.
By the time they got into Chiltern the sun had already set, which was a pity, as the town is very picturesque. It's an old gold mining town where the whole main street is heritage listed; antique shops outnumber other businesses almost 2:1. By the end of the ride though, the guys only cared that there was a warm motel room, and a pub with decent chicken parmigiana and chips.
The next morning was brutally cold, ice had formed on the support car, and the temperature when the guys set off was -2ºC. It wouldn't improve much throughout the day, with the average temperature for the segment between Chiltern and Alexandra being 4ºC. Paddy and Simon were more than glad to get off the main Sydney-Melbourne freeway and hit the rural highway that runs down to Bonnie Doon. From there, they hopped onto a bike path that runs along the remains of the gold-rush era railway line and goes all the way to Alexandra. It's a gravel track, but the gradients are nice and easy, which is an important consideration when you only have one gear on the bike.
In fact, they were so overjoyed to be on some easy track that they decided to extend the segment so that they could say they had ridden over 200km for the day. This meant riding out of Alexandra for a few kilometres and up a nearby hill. Quite frankly I think the insanity had finally caught up with them. We cooked up a hearty dinner of frittata, pasta and apple pie at the family home and had an early night.
Today was the final day and the toughest, from Alexandra to Simon's apartment in Melbourne. There's no easy/flat route between the two places, which are separated by mountain ranges. The most direct route was taken, heading back out along the railway trail to the town of Yea, then along a rural road that winds its way through the hills and down to the town of Whittlesea. After that it's relatively flat as you hit the outskirts of Melbourne, at which point the traffic becomes the biggest factor.
The day certainly proved tough for Simon and Paddy, with the railway trail being muddy in places, and the climbs unforgiving. The climb between Yea and Flowerdale was described in words not fit to be reprinted here. Given that it was tough enough driving up the climb in the support vehicle, doing it on a single-speed bike would have taken some effort (and provided some justification to the description). It eased up briefly after that, but the climb up into Kinglake West hit hard. After that it was relatively smooth for them into the finish. As a symbolic gesture, once in Melbourne they took a short detour to the concrete curves of the Brunswick velodrome to mark the official end of the journey there.
I think the guys are glad to have a day off before riding in the Melburn-Roobaix on Sunday. The plan is to head out for some well-earned celebratory drinks tonight, then catch a football game at the MCG tomorrow. I fly back to Canberra tomorrow night, in time to sell off most of my furniture before the last two weeks of work.
Doing over 700km on a bike in four days is difficult enough for most people. To do it on single-speed bikes is downright epic. Simon and Paddy have my respect and admiration. As they say in cycling, "chapeau"!