Cycling Tour of the Victorian Winter - Day 5, Bendigo to Echuca

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Cycling Tour of the Victorian Winter - Day 5, Bendigo to Echuca

 

It never stopped raining overnight, and there was no sign of it abating either.

I remember now as I recall that morning, hearing the sound of rain on the tin roof, looking outside to check it was actually raining and then checking the BOM to see the rain radars until finally walking out to feel the real deal.  

I walked back inside our room and said to Norm, “It’s not that bad; once we start moving, we won’t even notice so long as we put on the right clothing.”

And with that, I never gave it another thought or let any words escape from my mouth. 

But we both knew we were sucking on lemons today and all I had done was dip it in sugar before we had to get on with the job.

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A quick pack of our gear and onto the bikes; we just needed to get going. 
Very grateful for the chance to connect with some old cycling friends, and then we were off to breakfast.  

It was so good to get out on the bike again, rain and all, but it was wetter than my sugar-coated version. 
Norm and I avoided the taboo topic over breakfast, instead choosing to get on with our team meeting on the logistics of the days riding.

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There was something we were both excited about, losing 150mt of elevation over 100km on very flat terrain.  How naive were we?

After breakfast, we skirted our way out of the north of Bendigo via a bike path along Bendigo Creek; it was a flowing river today. 
I had given Norm full authority to map and plan our route; he loves doing this, but today I wish I had taken more ownership to know what wet weather options we could take.  The roads were pretty straightforward to Echuca, with many lesser-used bitumen roads tacking their way through property boundaries.

Instead, today the plan was to use what would have been a perfect dirt road that followed the train line and the Midland Highway, from Goornong to Rochester, approximately 40 km.

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After our approach on Old Murray Road, we were able to see the effects of the rain overnight and this worried Norm about the condition of Railway Road.  From all the research he had done, Streetview and the like, he felt strongly that this road could turn to shit if too wet.

To give him credit, he was right. 
It was slow going, and after 5 km, I cracked it and refused to ride the quagmire anymore.  

Norm was riding ahead of me, and I followed his lines. My wheels were now pushing through his mud, and my bike became coated in red clay, making it almost impossible for the wheels to move. 
I stopped and simply cracked it.

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I knew we were riding parallel to the highway and told Norm I didn’t care what he did, but I would ride this, and he could ride the mud.  

I was so over it; I didn’t even see on the map that not far away was another secondary road that would take us to Elmore. 
Thankfully at this point of the highway, there was a very generous shoulder.

But every cyclist knows that riding the verge of busy bitumen roads after rain is where all the debris moves to, adding to the potential of a puncture. 
Of course, this is what happened to Norm today.  We both run our tyres tubeless, and often they will reseal by themselves, but this was a vertical slice in the tyre about 2-3 mm in length.  Rather than put a tube in, Norm used a plug and was able to get the tyre inflated again, and all was well. 

Don’t you just love getting a puncture in the rain? 
And aren’t we on holiday?

On arrival to Elmore, I spotted a carpark and a tap and spent the next 10 minutes clearing mud from my bike before we headed to the bakery for veggie pasties, jam donuts and lattes.

It was time for another team meeting, as we discussed how to get to Echuca.

The shoulder to on the highway had been good, so we hoped it would continue like this to Rochester rather than take secondary roads, and we also agreed that free camping in the mud had zero appeal tonight.  I took charge, found a motel that was next to a car wash and laundromat and booked ourselves in for tonight.

The promise of this luxury bolstered my enthusiasm. Which I very much needed after a day of rain and mud. 
But it wasn’t over yet.

We still had 45 km to go, and it was pretty well flat.  The rain was starting to dry up, and that was because the wind had begun to pick up. 

We were heading north, the wind was northerly, and there was nowhere to hide in the highly farmed flat landscape.

The only choice we had was to keep riding and find joy in small things, any small something.

Over breakfast, Norm and I had discussed our excitement over the downward trending flat day of riding but now realised the truth of this terrain. 
It was plain hard work.  Any cyclist knows this, we talk about hills with hushed tones, but we know that what goes up must come down. 

But what about flats?

What I know about flat terrain is that it becomes a time trial; the mentality is to chow down on the kilometres, tick it off, and get aero out of any wind that will impede your progress.

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The highway lost its shoulder from Elmore to Rochester, and we decided just to ride the gravel verge, which was wide and nicely hard-packed; we still managed 17 kmph loaded and in a headwind.  A quick hello to the Rochy Silos, and the final slog awaited us.

25 km of dead flat straight gravel roads, sometimes hard-packed, mostly muddy, occasionally fast and smooth.

Yes, today I had reached my limit; perhaps it was the culmination of days on the bike, or spending the bulk of the day in the rain, or encountering way too much mud for my liking, or the dead flat straight roads that offered no respite? 

I just had to vent with a rant and a whinge with 10 km to go; I knew I could do nothing about it and that the only way out was to keep pedalling. We have all been at that point where we just have to say how it is and stop being strong and positive and then we can move on.  

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I did feel good after my hissy fit like I could laugh about it and make fun of our situation instead of shielding myself with armour to get through the day.

On the outskirts of Echuca, we were gifted a little roller that had a slight uphill exit. Norm and I were squealing with excitement. 
We were definitely celebrating the little things.

We found our motel, but washed the bikes first. 
Checked in, took the luggage off, had showers and sorted out all the dirty gear.  I got the washing done whilst Norm logged ono a Zoom meeting for work.  Showers had, clothes washed and dried, bike washed and dried, we decided on Indian for dinner.

 

Now that I was warm and dry, with the prospect of a good nights sleep I was able to reflect on my mood today and try and work out the lessons for myself.

I used to race 24hr solo mountain bike events and was pretty well versed in suffering and I remember that feeling when it's hurting and all you want to do is stop.  But you can’t, well you can, but the idea is to push through and see what you are really capable of.  

Today was so small in the big scheme of sufferfests, but it was simply an off day.  
A lacklustre experience which just was. 

Not every day could be lollipops and rainbows and all I had to do was ride and get from one spot to the next. 
This did not have to be a mind blowing explosion of experiences.

Some days just suck a little, it does not define your tomorrow.  

Some days are harder than others and that is just that.

Today was one of those days.

 

Covid was going crazy in NSW, and Victoria was definitely going to lockdown, but when? 

With the promise of sunshine and friendly winds Norm and I had decided on a short day, late start and camp on the Goulburn River for the night, and then we feared we might be needing to go home the short way, via a train trip from Shepparton.

There was nothing we could do so we slept well knowing we had a plan regardless.



STATS:

  • Bendigo to Echuca 98km
  • Moving time: 5:12
  • Elevation: 113 mt
  • Ave Speed: 18.2 kmph
  • Temperature: 7 degrees
  • Wind: NE 16 kmph light headwinds
  • Sleep 9/10
  • Food 9/10
  • Song on repeat: Bad day, no juke box in my head.

 

EXPENSES:

  • Bendigo Breakfast $45
  • Elmore Lunch $20
  • Echuca Motel           $120
  • Laundromat $10
  • Car wash $10
  • Indian $50
  • TOTAL $255

 

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Riding in the rain had is good moments
  • Jam donut at lunch
  • The mild downhill we found on the way into Echuca
  • Washing our bike
  • Washing our clothes
  • Electric Blanket



THINGS WE WOULD CHANGE:

  • Look at the maps over lunch and use a different route to Echuca. 



My Strava link to today’s ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/5624434623

 

Norm’s YouTube video of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL4f20WJ-C8&t=621s

 

Jess’s YouTube video diary of the trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxZLl6MuPoA









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