Walcha 70km Mountain Bike Challenge? Why not!
There’s a guy, let’s for the sake of the story call him “Ralph”.
Anyway, it is suggested to Ralph that having a crack at the 90km “Extreme” mountain bike challenge at Walcha would be a fine idea by a (fitter) cycling friend and that all these two characters needed was another team mate to make three. Ralph figures he works with a guy with a mountain bike who was interested in riding more, it sounded like the perfect challenge.
So Ralph and his two buddies formulate a training plan (well, they ride mountain bikes up hills at lunch time) and after a couple of weeks figure they’re in pretty good shape because they no longer gasp for precious air and have head spins when they reach the apex. It all looks pretty promising. However, a pre-weekend trip with some more experienced mountain bike riders from the club proves fairly devastating, so they lower their sights to the 70km. Only 70km? That’s a snack. That’s a couple or three hours of pleasant pedalling, sniffing flowers and enjoying the view, right? Right!
This of course is where the story goes horribly wrong. Ralph and his mate head to Walcha the afternoon before the race, figuring on a fresh start in the early morning. They head to the Walcha bowling club to register, pick up their free t-shirts and bask in the smugness and self satisfaction of helping a worthy cause like the Westpac Rescue Helicopter (and it is a good cause!). To celebrate, these two characters order a schooner and play a little pool. Followed inevitably by another schooner. Only Ralph is kinda thirsty and has an in-betweener. Then, they move to another pub in search of food but only find schooners. No trouble, they think, there’s at least one more pub. Must have another schooner.
Third pub on the horizon and Ralph is feeling pretty confident, a little buzzed and settles into the well stocked bar to sample the wares, Followed by a nice meal of lamb sausages and a massive pile of peas. All, of course, washed down with a nice soothing schooner. Ominously, the bar slowly empties of mountain bike riders until our friends are faced solely with an interesting local with a pocket full of gambling winnings and in need of somebody to tell a story to. The story is interesting and the beer is free! Oh oh, the spirits are too!
The next sound they hear is compadre #1 having a silent hurl out of the side of his swag, unsure of how he got in his swag, waking Ralph who was equally unsure how he ended up in his tent. A little water will fix it.
Then, dawn. A foggy, cotton mouthed, headache inducing dawn filled with cloudy skies and portent, the grey clouds crowd the air like blood in a throbbing temple and the dim realisation of the horror these two have inflicted on themselves comes gradually to light. It’s only 70km, right? Right. With wobbling mountain bikes, they set off to find their 3rd team member who looks remarkably fresh for a man who was at a wedding the night before. The two idiots confess their sin. The third one laughs. Ralph no longer thinks it’s funny.
Waved off and the course is actually tolerable in the first instance as asphalt gradually gives way to gravel, then to rutted track, then to some occasional mud puddles and then finally single track. Bouncy, horrible single track. Some of it covered in slippery turnips as it heads through farming paddocks, some of it climbing through rock gardens that catch pedals and force people off bikes and onto their feet. Ralphs stomach says “enough with the jiggling” and vomit number one ensues – hey look, peas! No matter, we still aren’t last, back on the bikes.
About 25km in, Ralph decides he’s hungry and reaches for the Vanilla flavoured gel, inducing vomit number two. Hmm, not good. Ralph starts to slow. His companions (the other evil one having rapidly improved following a poor start) ride on. A kilometre passt the mountain shaking hurl, Ralph breaks a spoke and sits in quiet contemplation of the wheel for a good 5 minutes before deciding to ride on with it wrapped around another spoke. So it continues to the half way mark (spectacular view) where his buddies are waiting for him with that odd mix of pity and concern on their faces before deciding to drop Ralph like a bucket of poop and leave his sad and sorry corpse like body to the crows.
Ralph ploughs on. Now the mud starts in earnest, the bike slips, slides, stops dead, threatens to throw him off like he threw up his dinner, covers his entire shoes and most of his bike. The climbs are slippery through the forest, the rocks bash on pedals again. A massive, bumpy downhill upsets his delicate innards and extracts one final vomit for good measure around the 40km mark before the death march home. A long, literal march through stuff Ralph simply couldn’t ride up. Or down. The welcome sight of gravel roads at least signal the day is nearly over and prompt a last minute expenditure of energy, the final indignity a trip around the outside of the lumpiest showground in NSW.
Ralph is truly, truly sorry. Worse than that, the inexperienced member of the team has smashed him by over 30 minutes and looks like he’s still jumping out of his skin. Everything hurts. Talk excitedly turns to next year…are you gonna ride it Ralph?
Silence. Then a grin. Of course! …but we might come down on Sunday morning instead, hey?