Bike packing races are getting more popular, with the rising cost of entry fees, races selling out and challenges being ticked off more people are leaning towards this new adventure style of racing. Made popular by the movie “Ride the Divide,” the self-sufficient bike packing race involves a group of people getting together in one spot, following a GPS and whoever gets to the end spot first wins. You are only allowed to use the resources available to everyone, e.g everyone can go to maccas so it’s ok, but not everyone can call in to my mums house on the way and grab some food.
GDT was created by Ryan “Rhino” Hawson, who spent many months planning, riding and mapping the route. The route was as follows:
Bendigo – Castlemaine – Daylesford – Ballarat – Bacchus Marsh – Daylesford – Castlemaine. 404km total. Grand depart was 7am Saturday 9th March, it also happened to be 36 degrees on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
16 people departed Bendigo that morning, with four of the boys taking off at a ridiculous pace the rest of us sat back in cruise mode until the 5km mark where one uber keen rider decided to attack on a not so good spot bringing down another rider. 10k in I lost a drink cage, and another 10k later I lost a drink bottle. Lots of lifting bikes over gates in this section. We headed past the res where there were a group of us riding together and I was stoked to be in the presence of the current Australian Bikepacking Champion ‘B-rad’ Mertens who tried to hook round a corner whilst looking at his GPS and hit the deck hard, cutting the top of his thumb half off. No dramas he just taped it back on, that dude is tough as nails.
Into Castlemaine where I was in a bit of a flap with my water bottle situation and decided to line up for 10 minutes to buy clean water (everyone else just filled up at a tap) and then put ice that had been thrown on the ground into my drink bottle, go figure. As we were departing I noticed I had a flat tyre. Straight over to Jake at Cycle Concepts to repair but at this stage it looked like I would be on my own from now. Luckily for me, Al and Beth had taken a few wrong turns and I was able to catch up to them.
to heat up as we took off for Daylesford. Quick stop at the supermarket and bike shop to refill with some ice water and had a 20 minute break on the other side of Daylesford. Thinking we would refill again in Creswick, we headed off on the 30k stretch with roughly 3 water bottles each. This is where we learnt it is important to study the route before undertaking such an adventure. We did not go into Creswick, we bypassed on some sweet single-track but in the heat 2.5L of fluid is nowhere near enough as we ended up in Ballarat 70k (about 8hrs) later at 10.30pm. Greeted by Al’s folks, we ducked in to the supermarket and then smashed down some Maccas with a couple of the other riders who were there. We all pushed on for a few more k’s and some riders opted to set up camp for the night in the forest, Al and I rode with Andy for about another hour until we decided to setup camp at the Buninyong Park at midnight= What. A. Dumb. Idea.
A wedding close by = drunk people, loud music, car burnouts, not much sleep. Also, a last minute decision to ditch the sleeping bag as it had been hot resulted in freezing my butt off. Grabbed an Up and Go at the servo then tackled the Mt. Buninyong climb and cruised on the bitumen and fireroad to Bacchus Marsh, this gave me a chance to sort out why my SPOT wasn’t working and a chance to spin the legs. In hindsight, should have stuck with Andy and got this section done easily at night, to get closer to Bacchus and up over the outrageous hills in the morning rather than baking in the arvo.
Stoked to get into BM Maccas at 10.27 just in time for their breakfast menu, annihilated some hotcakes and a strawberry thickshake and chatted to Ryan on the phone who advised there would be 1000m of vertical climbing in the first 20k, great, no doubt I’ll be seeing those hotcakes again soon. The next section was brutal, it was hot, open and ridiculously steep. So much climbing, so much sweat. Literally pushing my bike up a hill so steep I could lean my head on my arm well above my head. By this stage my feet felt like they had tripled in size, they were burning and blistered. Next lesson learnt- carbon soled race shoes are not ideal for massive hike a bike sections. It was so hot that I would have easily paid $50 for an icy-pole, someone could have made a lot of money if they had of set up a mini kiosk at the top of a hill in those ranges. I was dreaming of Blackwood where I was hoping and praying I could buy a cold drink and an icy-pole.
Next we hit Lederderg Gorge. I honestly feared for my life here. It was a bit of single track that wound around a cliff face with a 100m drop off. You would die if you slipped off. This shit just got real crazy, is all I could think. If I had of known about this before- hand I never would have signed up, but then I vaguely remember reading about this on the facebook site months ago, I had thought they were over-exaggerating. They weren’t. I was dizzy, hungry, thirsty and trying not to slip off of a cliff to my death. I remember thinking to myself if I died I’m sure people would say “It’s ok, she died doing what she loved-riding her bike” however I want you all to know I was in no way loving that!!! I had pretty much only seen Al two times since we left Bacchus Marsh, I was hoping he made it through this section alive and I would see him in Blackwood.
Thankfully I did, and we also met Andy there. We hoed in to a massive vegetarian lasagne and decided we would not sit down to eat at Daylesford, we would try to push on to Castlemaine to finish by 7am Monday morning.
Along the way to Daylesford we caught up to Andy again and rode with him for a bit, until I got a flat tyre and had to stop to fix it. Al decided to take the opportunity to eat some more food whilst I repaired it and then we were on our merry way. It didn’t stay merry for long. It started to get dark, navigating was starting to get harder and there seemed to be more ridiculous and unnecessary hike a bike sections. I was getting ready to slap Ryan in the face when I saw him next.
About an hour from Daylesford I managed to lose my SPOT gps. This was not ideal. This lead to a bit of an argument when I caught up to Al to tell him. This then lead to me losing my shit completely. I was a blubbering mess, trying to push my bike up stupidly steep hills and sobbing like a baby out of sheer exhaustion, I thought maybe the best option would be to call Al’s dad to come and collect me at Daylesford. I decided to spent 10 minutes composing myself at Daylesford, ate some chocolate, chocolate milk, coke and Gatorade I rang Ryan who told me it was ok that I lost my spot, he would still give me a time. I decided to push on and to see how far I got. I thought I knew the track, I thought the route took us on the GDT from the chocolate mill straight home, a track I’ve ridden a dozen times or more, that why I decided to push on. I was wrong. The track didn’t take us that way. At one stage I thought I’d ridden over a cat, turns out it was a log. Another time I went to talk to Al who was waiting at the top of a climb, turns out Al was in fact a tree. The last 10k along the water race I had ridden 100 times and is one of my favourite tracks, not today. I hated it, it just went on forever. Al and I rode the last 5k together, I even stopped at midnight to sing him happy birthday, on his “birthday ride”
We both got to the end, at 2.52am on Monday morning. Saturday we rode for 16.5 hours plus 2 hours of stops all up, plus 7 hours overnight, the second day we rode for 19hours plus 2hours of stops. I had originally hoped to have it finished by late Monday afternoon, so to come in at this time felt pretty good. We had ridden straight past mum and dads house and now had to ride up Wheeler St, we sat there at the train station pondering how we were actually going to muster the energy to ride up the hill. Thinking only of how glorious it was going to feel to get out of the stinky, dirty gel encrusted 1 kit I had just spent the last 44 hours in and to have a shower and rest my head on my pillow I made it home. It was definitely much harder than I had anticipated, having to navigate, not knowing the track, not knowing how much water/food to take for each leg, having to make decisions and be self-sufficient was pretty hard!
A big thanks to Ryan Hawson for creating this amazing event, thanks to Aaron for helping map it out, thanks to Jake at Cycle Concepts for telling me to stop panicking, thanks to Al for getting me through the last 10k’s of the race, thanks Andy, B’rad, Jarrod and Beth for giving me some company along the way, thanks Ay-up lights the lights worked superbly, thanks HSR Seeds for helping me get to races, and thanks to Liv/Giant, my XTC did not miss a beat.
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