Ride Report 2018
 
Earlier in the week I gave the bike a quick clean and check over.  I started to pick out the Umpteen little bits of glass in both tyres and then remembering doing the same thing some 3,000 km ago prior to L’Etape and just deciding to toss on some new tyres. So a new set of tyres fitted and theoretically less chance of flats on the Orange Challenge. Otherwise everything else was in great shape and the bike was tossed into the back of the car.
 
Cruised up via the back-roads on Saturday, stopping for a lunch at the O’Connell Cafe.  As is the case, for such rides a close eye was kept on the weather forecast which was predicting a hot and dry ride with max temps predicted to be 36C and possible afternoon thunderstorms. Over lunch at O’Connell, I was thinking that the valet bag for the ride lunch stop at 114Km, that I would not need much in the way of spare clothing, however the usual bottle of Coke would be tossed into the bag for the lunch stop.
 
After checking into our Motel in the central part of Orange, I cycled the few blocks to the 5pm pre-ride at Moulder Park Velodrome.  A couple of laps of the velodrome was obligatory, although this was somewhat hampered by needing to bunny hop a temporary water pipe used for the amenities and weave around several barricades. I suspect some great cycling battles have been and will be held on this velodrome. The sun was beating down and significantly less than the 1400 entrants were present and all present were trying to find whatever shade that could be found. The briefing noted that it would be very hot with 36C max temps (reminding me of the “heat carnage” in Three Peaks 2013) as well as rough and bumpy roads with a number of steep climbs and descents.  From recollections of motor-cycling around the area I thought the last 50Km from Mandurama to Orange would be worst as it is a narrow winding farm service/access road.
 
After the briefing I caught up with Chris Cutcliffe and we rode the few blocks back to town. Earlier in the week I had tried for an early Italian dinner booking at Alfios but the best at that stage was 8:30pm. We stopped in at Alfios to check our booking and an earlier booking had cancelled bumping us up 7:30pm.  As it turned Alfios provided good and generous servings of cyclist carbo loading. Yes I know at this late stage carb loading benefits are dubious, but hey it is a tradition. All good apart being fully licenced and Chris missed opening his BYO, but prices for their wine and food were quite reasonable.
 
Illustration 1: Aerial view of the start with Moulder Park Velodrome and event centre to the left 

True to forecast the day dawned warm with crystal clear skies. Just normal cycle kit, check the tyre pressure and a few warm up laps around the streets of Orange, then off to the start. I easily found Chris in his flouro pink Tour de Cure kit and we slotted into wave 3 with a plan to move a bit faster while it was still cool and finish somewhere in the 7 – 8 hour overall time. The ride briefing had mentioned 1400 riders, but it seemed far less at the start area.  It then dawned on me that the start only had 170Km and 70Km riders.   The 100Km riders were bundled onto buses to start at Canowindra and join with the 170Km riders to ride the last 100Km of the 170Km course. The 70Km riders once they reached Canowindra would thence get the bus back to Orange. I think the 70 Km option is a great option for those not up to longer distances and get to sample a traffic free ride in the country with just an occasional marshal motorcycle.
 
Wave 3 started at 07:15 and rolled out through the car-free streets of Orange at a relatively calm pace with no incident. A few initial  short uphill and decent downhill sections with speed in the 80’s on the downhill.
 
The only incident of the day that we saw occurred around the 30km mark near Bowan Park at a T-intersection. A rider just ahead appeared to not realise it was a T intersection and ran wide into the gravel and went down heavily. The marshal on the corner went to assist and I guess if you have to have an incident the corner with a Marshal is probably one of the “better” places. At this stage we were riding in the 7 hour group and cruising along in the “lounge room” of the group. One of the 7 hour group leaders was fading on the climbs and the leaders pressed on down the downhills with a varying pace often fracturing the group. At 49Km, Cargo township and a brief stop for a water top up and pick up an energy bar. Weather was warming with our average speed on the lumpy trending downhill course was around 30kph. It wasn’t long before  the town of Canowinda at 71Km with temp now around 27C. Another stop for water as the upcoming Belubula Way was going to be hot and very lumpy.
 

Illustration 2: Belubula Way - Chris leading on the climb
After Canowindra it was Initially flattish and rolling so we hopped onto the 7hr group until it all split up on the more significant ups and downs in the steeper sections. I stopped a couple of times to capture a pic or two of the countryside and Chris powering up the climbs. The countryside was very dry with beautiful views. Among one of the many chats with adjacent riders - obviously not trying hard enough if I have time to chat! Anyway mentioned the beautiful big sky country with crystal clear blue sky and being locals they replied “that’s why we live here.” I could only agree, but it was looking awful dry and heading into drought.
 
Thankfully along the Belubula Way there were some tree lined areas which was a relief from the heat and sun beating down. A couple of ambulances passed heading in the opposite direction and we guessed an incident or perhaps heat exhaustion. Belubula was relatively lumpy with plenty of significant ups and downs. At the Belubula RFS shed another stop for more water and some energy chews, temp now 30C and fresh cold water was most welcome. The lunch stop at 114Km was just another 21Km up the road and the undulations continued. I recall the Garmin was indicating something like 1500m of cumulative climb.
 
A few kilometres before Mandurama we came to a couple of Km of fresh tar. It was very course chip with a thin layer of fresh tar and just about rattled the fillings out of my teeth. IMHO I found this worse that the previous country road with potholes and other patches. Thankfully some smooth tarmac to roll into Mandurama with the temp around 33C and lunch break. The warmth was certainly energy sapping.
 
The lunch stop thankfully had reasonable shade with a good choice of luncheon. A leisurely stop to cool down and fuel up. At this stage we met up with Chris’ brother in law Andrew, who was on the 100Km ride.  Chris headed off to the local pub for a cold Coke while I made use of my slightly warmer bottle of Coke in my Valet bag.
 
Realising there would be plenty of climbing to come in the heat over 30Km I filled up my empty Coke bottle with water and popped it into a jersey pocket. We thence headed off together for the last 50Km on what would be the rough and narrow roads back to the finish.  As well as the bumpy surface the road had freshly patched sections with loose gravel. One can only guess the local council decided to be “helpful” and fix the holes a day or two before this ride. On one particular downhill tight corner the inner half was completely patched with loose gravel. A marshal was trying to point at this hazard and I hope no-one came to grief as it was not visible until you were into the blind corner.
 
Apart from the bumps and gravel patches, some hazards were marked on the road. Interestingly a very flattened kangaroo was circled in the middle of the road with road marking paint! With increasing frequency riders with pained expressions were lying and/or sitting by the side of the road in whatever shade could be found. The Garmin had the temp in the high 30’s - It was blooming hot and we pulled over under a shady tree. It certainly came in handy to have extra water from the Coke bottle in the jersey pocket, even warm water, to splash on the jersey and over the head and feel the cooling effect with the light breeze in the shade. Around Errowanbang the Cadia Gold mine could be seen in the distance which certainly looked like a big hole in the ground. Slightly further in the distance towering over Cadia was Mt Canoblis, I surmised that said volcano was instrumental in the making of the metal that was being mined. Curiosity got the better of me and I later looked up the production of said mine and FWIW the Newcrest Cadia mine in 2016 produced some 668,773 ounces of gold and 64,130 tonnes of copper worth roughly $1.3 Billion!
 

Illustration 3: Greg - Piggery Hill
The road was trending up and there seemed to be a theme among rider chat that an upcoming hill was going to be nasty and was named Piggery Hill, I thought perhaps said name was because the hill was nasty, however when climbing the steep section I noticed a real Piggery to the left of the road. A sign at the start of the climb announced a maximum slope of 18.7%. Just what you need with the sun beating down with the temp in the middle - high 30’s and 130Km in the legs! At this stage plenty were walking, though most gritted their teeth to get up the slope. The photographer taking pictures was definitely a form of encouragement. Further up the hill one rider was going back down for another run up the steep bit to get a better photo – keen or what?
 
Toward the top of the Piggery Hill climb all water bottles were empty but just a couple of Km to the next stop. Near the top we passed one of the marked 7hr ride leaders (no longer 7 hour), she said she had suffered two punctures. The next final stop at Forest Reefs conveniently had a pub with copious cooling drinks as well as cooling mist sprays under the verandah. We can only guess that it gets hot at Forest Reefs. Chatting with some local riders, turns out that they had ridden Peaks 2013 and we swapped stories of the 44C ride through “Happy Valley” and agreed as with Peaks in 2013 the organisers really needed to add an extra water stop in the heat. Seems they need some feedback!
 
Illustration 4: Orange Challenge Course and profile
 
Thence a relatively flat slightly trending downhill run to Orange. For the last 15Km we were back with normal traffic, which seemed a bit strange after the previous 155 Km free of normal road traffic. A quick run through the back streets of Orange to Moulder Park with three quarters of a lap of the Velodrome and under the finish banner to a welcome free sausage sandwich and drink.

Fortunately no mechanicals or incidents over the 168Km ride with approx 6½ hours of ride time and 2200m of climbing with leisurely stops. A successful day out, albeit a hot one! Definitely worth cycling the Orange Challenge.
 
Illustration 5: Finish on the Velodrome: Greg, Chris and Andrew 
 
Greg Boyd
March 2018