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My Alpine Classic Experience

Filed under: Staff Stories

On Sunday 23rd January 2011 Michael Nguyen (National Project Manager at ACS) rose to the challenge of attempting what few would dare to, and this is his story.

The Alpine Classic is an annual cycling event held in the Victorian alpine regions, a magnificent and beautiful part of the country. The event supports the Oncology Children’s Foundation (OCF). There are various riding distances for different levels of riders; ranging from 60km to 250km. This year I participated in the 140km ride and hoped to raise money for the flood disasters.

The day started at 5am after the alarm went off. Not too keen to get up and wondering “Did I have enough sleep? Should I have a few more minutes? What if I can’t get there in time for the start?” Given that I’m staying at Mt Beauty approx 45min from Bright and the official starting time was at 7am.

I woke up eventually, quickly showered and stuffed my face with food. They say you should eat 2 hours before an event so I decided to follow this scientific approach and hope for the best.

It was cool, beautiful Sunday morning, maybe in the low 20 degrees which is ideal for riding. As I reached Bright I could feel the buzz in the air and butterflies in my stomach as scores of riders began to roll out in the opposite direction probably doing the 200km challenge. But I was excited about getting there.

I met with my riding mate at one of the Hotels in Bright and we walked to the starting line, Howitt Park. The place had a European feel with people talking in French, an old style French policeman controlling the traffic and a woman dressed in one of those dress-hat-feather combinations; appropriate for a fancy dress party. But perhaps this is the party, many riders with all different types of uniforms ready to let their legs do the dancing! A party for some, but for others … a suffer fest.

A final check of my bike and pockets filled with the essentials and I was ready to go. (Picture to the right is of Michael Nguyen on the right & friend)

7am and we’re off. Large groups begin rolling across the starting line triggering beeping noises. What’s this? Every rider registered for the event is required to fit an electronic tag to their bike so they can be tracked at various control points along the journey. Two obvious reasons I can think of were rider safety (ie. track your last position) and to measure personal performance (wow, they think of everything!).

The flats out of Bright give a chance to find rhythm; legs turning quickly, effortless circles, wasting nothing. The first climb looms. My mate slowly drops back. “Just keep going, don’t wait” he shouts. I think to myself, “am I going too fast? I keep spinning. Are my gears too high? I feel good. Can I keep this up for the whole trip? I hope so”.

The sweat begins to drip and the climbs at Tawonga Gap seemed to never end. Suddenly the top comes under my wheels, one climb done two to go, and the view is truly awesome. Zip up the jersey and wind jacket and gulp a large amount of fluid. The descent down the other side of Tawonga Gap is an amazing experience; at times reaching speed similar in the comfort of a car and breaking hard to negotiate 20-25km/hr hairpins (corners). I stopped at the Mt Beauty rest point for a breather and my mate arrived shortly after.

We began the return trip. The route up the other side of Tawonga Gap is just as nasty, probably tougher. Near the top I notice some tightness in the leg and my heart rate races. “Oh no! What’s happening? I still have a long way to go and I trained for this. Am I overexerting? Have I consumed enough food and drink?” I forgot the fears for a moment as I plunged down the mountain (the side I came up the previous hour).

Riding up a hill requires strength and endurance and a lot of hard work. However coming down one is a different situation requiring a lot of courage. Losing concentration just for one second could result in a terrible accident. But it’s a real adrenalin rush and keeps you awake.

I tag onto a group of cyclists and continue back to Bright Football Club into a slight head wind. Emerging between the hills I see my biggest challenge in the distance, Mt Buffalo. The fear returns. Dingo Bell the final rest point of the journey located at the top of Mt Buffalo is approx 30km from Bright and has an elevation of almost 1400 metres. Then it’s all downhill after that.

After a short break at Bright to refuel, I push on to Porepunkah, through the roundabout and then on to Mt Buffalo Road. As the climb began I saw my mate, maybe he’s been following all this time.

At this point the sun chased all the clouds away just to show it’s authority. The heat was dry and intense and reached at least 30 degrees. It felt worse than that though! The cramps bite one leg and then the other, a vicious cycle lasting over an hour. My heart rate jumped possibly due to the body reactions (170+ bpm). I stopped to rest and hoped to manage my condition and my mate continues. Perhaps I exhausted all the salt in my body, remembering what someone told me once – who knows?

The volunteers do a wonderful job and assist. Without them the ride would be much more difficult.

Due to recent rain in Victoria several sections along the mountain roads had collapsed requiring major repairs. Large machinery and equipment are working to stabilise and construct new ones. Surrounding situations seemed minuscule compared to the task at hand. Even this could not stop the show, it must go on.

It’s a long climb to the top, time and distance passed so slowly. I passed many natural springs and daydreamed what else I could be doing … the pain continues.

Dingo Bells … “oh finally!” The euphoria gets the better of the pain. My mate waits for me.
We descend down Mt. Buffalo, pass cars along the way as some struggle with the winding roads. Cross the finish line at Howitt Park (Bright) to the cheers and encouragement from a large crowd. Ah I did it! We congratulate each other for a job well done. This ride was no doubt more challenging and difficult than the 210km Around the Bay In A Day Classic.

Some interesting info about Michael:

Bright (start): 07:00:57 AM
Bright Football Club: 10:00:57 AM
Mt Buffalo – Dingo Bell: 14:02:34 PM
Bright (finish): 15:40:32 PM

Total Distance: 135.8km
Total Calories (expend): 5500
Body Weight Reduction (kg): 2.5


Congratulations Michael on a fantastic ride for a great cause! You can still donate to help those affected by the devastating floods. Visit the Red Cross website or the Queensland Government website for more information.

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