Leader’s Lowdown – 2019 Tumut Classic – Greg Boyd

100Km – Sunday 13 Jan 2019

Following on from the Christmas/New Year no-cycling eat-fest and associated gain in Kilograms it was time to saddle up and get the legs turning. I believe this was the third running of the Tumut Classic and offered kids, 20Km, 40Km, 75Km and 100Km options. The thought of entering this ride was tempered with the consideration that January in country NSW is usually HOT. Hopefully it would not be stupid hot as it was with the Clare Classic in 2018.

Saturday morning, I tossed some clothes, bike and stuff into the car and headed down the Hume Highway toward Tumut. The countryside was picture perfect green under crystal blue skies. Some tourist stops along the way and we finally cruised into Tumut during the late afternoon with the car dash reporting 40C outside temperature. The old home town was certainly looking good, but HOT. Dinner included a catch-up with my brother at the Kinaree Thai restaurant located at the rear of the Commercial pub. Whilst the front bar was setting up for live music later in the evening. Curiously the Thai was in what used to be the Ladies Lounge back in the 1960’s. Anyway, IMHO, our Thai dinner was probably one of the better country pub meals I have eaten in ages.

After dinner a quick bike check, fill the bottles with water/electrolyte and shove them into the freezer. Then to bed, with the thumping of the live music in the distance. Note to self: don’t stay near pubs with live late-night music. The plan (flawed) was to try for a decent amount of sleep before an early wake up, brekkie and few km of riding to the 06:15am start at the Bull Paddock. It didn’t seem like much of a sleep before the alarm rattled away dragging me out of a pleasant slumber. Firstly, a bleary eye check outside – dark, 23C and clear sky. Then a check of the weather forecast, which was predicting a max of 42C! Hmm, some apprehension about the expected heat, however with the early start I was hoping to get back by say 09:30 – 09:45 or at worst 10am and avoid the peak heat.

The morning glow was starting to emerge as I clipped in and headed down the main street of Tumut. Several riders were also commuting toward the start at the Bull paddock. Said bull Paddock, in my youth, used to be a grotty old swamp, now nicely grassed with sporting fields. On the Bull Paddock road, there was a long line of parked cars with riders extracting their bikes. I guess these would be riders from nearby Wagga, Canberra, Yass, Adelong, Tumbarumba etc. I was hoping there would be a coffee cart at the start and sure enough there it was with a suitable queue of riders seeking an early espresso for an early ‘heart-starter’.

After the usual safety briefing, we rolled off up an initial bump or two along the Snowy Mountains Highway. A lead group populated with (I guess) young whippets zipped off into the distance and I settled into group #2 and we rattled along into a light headwind toward Blowering Dam. I chat with quite a few riders who are from Tumut, Adelong, Tumbarumba and Jindabyne and in no time, we reach the Tumut river, which btw has a lovely free campsite on the river, then we turn right. The river is running full and fast and water is on its way to provide drinking water and irrigation further downstream. We kind of follow the river path for a few Km and in no time, we are at the base of an impressively large pile of rock-fill – Blowering Dam wall. Turning right, we pass by the Hydo power station with water surging from the outlets and then the road starts climbing – thankfully, through shady trees. The road is not in great condition and I make the mental note to show due caution on the descent. Near the top of the climb a couple of riders are walking and I guess their early speedy enthusiasm has worn off. At the top of the dam wall, a quick photo stop with the sun just peeking over the mountains. Sadly, my group is not interested in a photo stop and powers off into the distance. In years gone by you could drive across the top of the wall, but it was blocked off when the wall was raised a few years ago.

I rode solo back down the descent whizzing past others riding and walking up, dodging gravelly bits and the occasional pot hole. I decide to press on and pass the odd straggler who also tags on. In the distance I can see my previous group #2 and I am slowly but steadily gaining on the them. Soon we are travelling on Tumut Plains road adjacent to the Tumut river and (I think it was Ben from Adelong) who pulls alongside and says after the past few km of towing it is his turn to cut the breeze – awesome! A couple of rotations and we are soon somewhat conveniently on the back of the group just as we turn into a headwind travelling up the Little river road. It is not too long before I bubble up toward the front and into the breeze. By now the road is briefly trending upward and the group falls apart before a steep little descent and technical whoop-de-do over a low-level bridge that crosses the Little River.

A km later a rest stop on the left, but I press on knowing the next section is an out and back up the Goobragandra Valley. I plan to use this rest stop on the way back as I still had plenty in my bottles although the ice in my bottles melted ages ago. The Garmin was indicating 25C, but with the warm breeze and sun climbing up it was feeling quite warm. On one of the first pinches I pass one rider who says he is thinking of turning back as it is now too hot, too hard, too much headwind and too far – oh dear! FWIW the Goodragandra Valley is a beautiful spot for camping, fishing and walking, however the isolation of the valley means no phone signal and for that matter I think radio and TV is also a problem. Another quick photo stop near the trout farm and onwards into a growing headwind that is being funnelled down the valley.

By now a few of the lead riders are zipping past in a blur in the opposite direction – somewhat depressing. I think just a few more km of undulations before the turn-around point at the Thomas Boyd campground on the river and then I can be zipping back. I count 35 riders, so I feel that I am making reasonable pace among the approx. 150 riders on the 100Km route. A quick U-turn at the campground, which also happens to be a trackhead for the 440Km long Hume and Hovell walking track, I also note the Campsite sign with pricing and think this would be a nice place to get away from the rat-race. A lovely grassed area, no frills campsite on the river, no phone signal and $8pp a night.

Anyway, enough dreaming, get on with the ride. Now heading back on a fun rollercoaster with the breeze now blowing us back down the valley, which explains why the earlier riders zipped past in a blur. Much of my riding is now solo(ish) with the odd ‘how are you going’ as I pass other riders. It is a quick run back toward the junction of the Goobragandra and Lacmalac Valley with the previously mentioned rest stop to stop for a top up of the bottles with the Garmin indicating we have covered over 64Km – not far to go. Thence another rollercoaster run back into the Tumut Valley. About halfway back toward Tumut I met up and ride along with a fellow Sydney-sider in blue Italia kit, who is also retired, who is concerned about Wyangle hill with his gearing. He says he must get better gears for climbing and is admiring my granny gear cassette equipped with lots of teeth for climbing steep hills.

By now the temp is heading toward the 30’s and we briefly ride along the beautiful Tumut river before turning into a hot cross-head wind for the last out and back section along the Brungle Road and Wee Jasper road up the steepish Wyangle hill. After a while we amalgamate into a group of four riders, including my Italia kitted acquaintance and we work our way past the Tumut airport and soon we are looking up at Wyangle hill. Initially some lumps and bumps and then the last 4 Km is a narrow tight winding 10-12% and now the hot sun is well and truly up! Another mental note – remember to show suitable caution on what is a technical descent!

At the top a quick water refill and later a photo stop on the descent for a pic looking back toward Tumut.

My bro has been watching my progress on Garmin livetrack and later commented that the tracking dot went slowly up Wyangle hill and then whoosh-ka back down in one jump – obviously a speedy descent! Near the airport I pass a few riders including the Italia kit guy (he must have snuck by during the photo stop) and I thought he would jump on, but later back at the finish he said he couldn’t make the jump. Thence a quick run back to the Bull paddock and perhaps obviously the ‘scent of home’ had lifted my effort. I was happy to roll back through my old home town and pleasingly near the finish it was good to see a bunch of kids engaged in a ride around the Bull Paddock. Great to reach the finish before it became too hot and grab a drink as well as chat with a fellow riders’ I had met during the ride. One of the organisers said they had approx 500 riders – pretty good for a ride in the middle of summer just after Christmas/New Year in a country town. By now the temp was probably mid 30’s and I was hankering for a nice cold milkshake and thought I would drop into a café in Tumut, but when I rode back through town it seemed that everyone else had the same idea. Not being a fan of queues, I headed back home for a long cold shower. Overall it was 96.2Km, avg 27.2kph, 3 ½ hour riding and 1200m climb – well organised, a great ride! Later in the afternoon it was scorching hot 42C. Luckily, we missed all that heat with the early start. Afterwards, thinking about it there is a bunch of great riding around Tumut – Tour de Tumut anyone?