For the past six consecutive years, a group of families and wider friends have departed on a three-day cycling adventure through the Victorian Alps. In rocket-fast time this fairly casual social getaway involving a dozen or so people has evolved into a well-oiled riding extravaganza that this year clocked 27 adventurers.
No surprises – it’s the best weekend away all year! Welcome to our annual Tour des Alpes.
The itinerary has been tweaked over the years, but it a nutshell the group climbs Mt Hotham, the back of Falls Creek and then Tawonga Gap in three days. Sure – super sporty types pretty much do this plus Buffalo in one day for the Audax Challenge, but we take things on a more civilised pace. Way more civilised.
Umpteen vehicles converge on Bright early Friday morning. We get ourselves sorted and then begin a very cruisy ride to Harrietville. After this point, things get spikey. The group naturally splits as the mountain goats charge ahead to The Meg and beyond and those who just want to smell the eucalypt as they go take a more relaxed pace.
We’re followed along the way by an absolutely outstanding support crew; a series of vehicles not only carrying our luggage, but stopping along the way to feed us home-made slices, biscuits, energy balls and re-filling bidons. They’ll even serve as sag wagons if need’s be. Those who’ve climbed Hotham know it has its fair share of challenges – especially around the CRB and Razorback. Doing the ride in late spring is a bonanza for any native flora lover – the road (at least up until the ticketing box) is chock-a-block with beautiful flowers, thick bushes and stunning trees. What a way to enjoy our landscape.
We make it to Dinner Plains for a picnic lunch and from there I’d like to say it’s a cruisy ride to the sleepy town of Omeo, but in fact it’s pretty undulating and a shock for the legs given the Hotham ascent just an hour or so earlier. Once in Omeo – thank goodness – we make a bee-line to the local swimming hole, which is a quiet creek (complete with jumping platform) running alongside the town. Here our Alpha Support Crew meets us with refreshing beers and we head straight into the water – kit and all – to relax the hard-working muscles.
Once we’ve all recovered (kind of) we head to the nearby Omeo Golden Age Hotel – a step back to retro country town living in all its wide-balcony, double-brick glory. The food here is fantastic – home-made gnocchi, ‘real’ chicken breast parma, plenty of fresh veggies, quality beers and local wines; the kind of menu that is absolutely perfect for weary cyclists.
The Hotel looks after us with a cooked brekkie the next day, and then we’re off for what I think is the most challenging route on Tour – the back of Falls Creek. This road was resurfaced a few years back and provides some of the steepest gradients and longest stretches of riding in these parts. It’s tough. But before you make that dreaded left-hand turn straight into a 15% gradient (which I think turns into 17% at the first bend), the riding is spectacular. It’s all easy bends and spectacular vistas as you follow the winding rush of the Mitta Mitta on one side, and rocky outcrops on the other. But once you make that left turn, it’s a hard, hard slog.
A few hours later and all our camp arrives into the village, and it’s here we have a cruisy afternoon doing whatever we want; from sleeping, to walking to Huts, to reading in the afternoon sun. The next day is logistical madness as 27 people have brekkie all at once and then attempt to get the lodge cleaned and the cars packed. It’s then a long roll down the front of Falls into Mt Beauty before smashing it on Tawonga Gap. Once we’re down the other side of the Gap we usually have a sprint challenge back into Bright, where we recover for lunch and get ready for the drive down the Hume Highway and back to work the following day. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
5 Steps To Your Own Awesome Riding Long Weekend
1/ Appoint a Tour Director
There are a LOT of logistics that go into organising a cycling weekend; from catering and pulling together awards nights (it’s a must-do for our group at least!) to organising vehicles and booking groups with ‘special needs’ (e.g. secure bike storage facilities!) and everything in-between. Our group appoints a new Director each year who handles the surprisingly full-on event management.
2/ Love Your Support Crew
There are riding weekends away, and there are riding weekends away. Our group ranges in age from very early 30s to mid 60s; from super strong daily riders who love a smashfest to those who are literally just starting out. A dedicated support crew is the glue that keeps groups like this together and makes it possible to run a weekend for such varied levels of skill and fitness. They’re also priceless when it comes to support along the route; from mobile feeding stations and cow-bell ringing to sag wagon collecting and luggage pick up/drop offs. Without our support crew of six+ vehicles we wouldn’t have a weekend anything like the one we do.
3/ Get Together With Like-Minded Riders
Our group is diverse in terms of age and skills, but outside of that we’re all very much on the same page. Our Tour des Alpes is all about getting together for great exercise in stunning landscape, enjoying good company and sensational food. If you pull together part of a bunch that wants to absolutely run themselves ragged on the bike, and another part that’s happier to just do a café-to-café spin, then it probably won’t take long for conflict to brew.
4/ Get Away From the Crowds
One of the many, many reasons our TDA remains each year in the Vic Alps is because of the roads. Sure, it’s a motorcyclist’s mecca and the odd luxury car thinks it’s a rally race, but relatively speaking the Victorian alpine roads are quiet in spring, so sharing space with motorists isn’t that big a deal. This also means that newbies feel more secure tackling the ride without also having to tackle crazy traffic.
5/ Give Yourself Some Recovery Time
We take the Friday off and head up from Melbourne on Thursday night in order to make a three-day getaway of it. However, each time I do this I hit myself for not also organising to have the Monday off as well. It can be a big weekend in the saddle. Add to that the slog back down the Hume Hwy, not to mention the mega unpack and clean-up once you get home, and it’s no surprises you wake up on Monday morning feeling like a freight train just ran you over! But hey, I’d do it all again next weekend!