@Harminator dreamed up the Sydney Cogal months ago and the report has just floated in. Bad weather, good attitudes, plenty of riding and malted recovery beverage, that’s how it is done. Chapeau.
So I woke up Sunday morning after a Saturday of fixing my #1 bike, bottle of red, and a going away party for a friend. It was easy to wake up because I was so excited for the ride. Being from ‘the other side of the bridge’ I don’t make it up north very often, and most of the ride was new to me. Running around the apartment I looked for all the stuff I might need for the ride, wool jersey, thermal (nope couldn’t find it) shoe covers (nope just the toe warmers), rain jacket? Don’t own one… arm warmers! Win! Tube, tools, gloves, food, and these tiny pocket instant heat packs. Feeling under dressed, I left the apartment and went to the train station. I was surprised the weather didn’t suck too much; It was a mild pleasant drizzle.
I arrived at Brewhaha just before 8am, no one was there. Checked the Velominati site, the ride seemed to be still on, no e-mails. I ordered a coffee, sat outside and slowly my table of 1 became a table of V. It was a good number, a nice start to the ride of Rules #5 and #9. Over a coffee we decided on doing the 4 and maybe 5 gorges and we set off.
The first hill was the Galston gorge. I’ve heard a lot of talk about this from friends, saying how hard it was. I was a little jittery, nervous about getting dropped. So going up, I put on a solid pace, way too solid, my legs were still cold, and looking back on the bunch, I was missing out on the delightful casually deliberate conversation that TenB, Alex, Harminator, and Il Ciclista Medio were having. But since I went I had to commit. When I got to the top, or the place I thought was the top, Il Ciclista Medio and Harminator went by and saying “Lets keep going till the top.” I had a little cry for my legs and kept going.
The next 3 hills were better. Keeping to the crusey casually deliberate pace, Sydney really put on a show; Fast descents, sweeping long climbs, fog, birds, frogs, and excellent company.
We were at 4 gorges down 1 to go. I was soggy, cold and sore. This was it decision time. The rain was getting harder, Alex was struggling, Harminator was starting to cramp, me as a track rider had done way more than my maximum of 10km, and we still had gorge #V in our sights. I cracked a heat pack, said it was heaven and we went along the highway back towards Hornsby. At the Bobbin head turn off we went for it. I love this area. So my excitement grew. I smashed it on the way down, and made the bunch do the long way to loop it back up. It felt good, hard but oh so good. We had done the 5 gorges and only saw 2 other cyclists on the day. We were bad asses. Period.
With about 2km to go, on the quiet streets of suburbia, there was a group puncture. Both TenB and Il Cilclista Medio decided they needed to change tubes in the rain. I watched’ laughed, and took photos! This made the first beer at the pub taste all that much better. Thanks Harminator for organizing the ride and a huge thanks to all for being such good company.
Il Ciclista Medio’s Take-
After months of waiting for the inaugural Sydney Cogal to come to fruition into something real, rather than e-mails between Harminator and I, it came to pass. Not quite as long as first planned due to the weather, we still did a robust 107k’s, through 5 gorges and climbs.
We met up at a cafe for pre-ride macchiatos, soy lattes and flat whites. I was definitely in Sydney. Though the weather did its best to deter us, 5 fool hardy souls departed the port of Hornsby for a five hour tour, a five hour tour of Northern Sydney and surrounds. The weather started getting rough, the tiny bunch was lost; if not for the courage of the fearless Harminator, the bunch would be lost (the bunch would be lost). Oops, wrong show but the Gilligan’s theme sprung to mind as I was recalling the weather.
Did I mention the weather? Non-stop rain but with a light wind thankfully! Rule #9 in all its glory was undertaken by our bunch. It dumped 27.2mm by 0900 with as much again at least by the time we had finished. None of us had met before in person but all had two things in common; we love riding our bikes and we were all Velominati. It was a nice mix of steeds as well, a couple of lovely steel ones (a Clamont and a ??) with the ubiquitous carbon (a Look, a Merida and a BMC) completing the mix. All lovingly cared for and all unwittingly being led into 5hrs of dismal weather.
Jellybean, Alex, TenB, Harminator and Il ciclista medio were all taking turns on the front for the most part until we reached Mt. White where Alex took a breather and waited for our return. Several months off the bike will do that to you. On our return we all hooked up again and met another couple of blokes (didn’t catch their names but one may have been “Brian”?) sitting on the side of the road who then jumped on the back for the climb back up from the Hawksbury River. Then one jumped off the front and disappeared up the hill. Until I saw him returning back down the other way, hook up with his mate and rode back up again. Fuckers had been doing intervals hadn’t they! In the rain, up and down again and again….by this time we had done 4 climbs in almost non-stop rain. All of us were drenched but nobody’s spirit had been dampened. All were enthusiastically riding back towards our starting point.
Until someone, it may have been Jellybean, asked about Bobbin Head. 5 cyclists, 5 gorges, the numbers have to match don’t they? So we ascended again, cold and wet, to ride the 4k climb back up the other side and on to the return trip home where beer and pub food awaited. Until TenB and I punctured at the same time, about 3k’s from home. Ain’t it always the way?
So the skipper, first mate, the professor, Thurston and Maryanne or was it Ginger returned from their fateful voyage. Cold, hungry, tired and happy to have been a part of a great day. Vowing to do it again, perhaps part of a greater Oz Velominati contingent, somewhere central to Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide, what do you reckon fella’s and girls; Bendigo, Mildura, Alice Springs?
For one of us, the Convict Cogal journey provided the catalyst to make the transition from hairy-legged bike rider to novice Velominatus. Still, on my arrival at Brewhaha, I still felt like something of an imposter. But as soon as I saw the carbon forks on Jellybean’s steel frame, I became a bit less concerned for the minutae of The Rules. For a couple of minutes. Cue the arrival of V-kit-clad, carbon-riding, Rule-perfect Harminator and il ciclista. Despite reminding myself of the Casually Deliberate nature of the day, I saw some pain ahead. Alex’s arrival helped matters not at all. The man had the appearance and bearing of someone who had ridden more vertical kilometres than I had horizontal. Had I remembered reading that he was recovering from an extended time off of the bike I might have felt more confident… Probably not.
As we set off into the weather, the four up ahead chatted, and I stayed on the back, out of the way with a grin from ear to ear. I reveled in the uniqueness of what the Velominati had facilitated – five complete strangers in Australia, on a cold and rainy Sunday morning that kept most people in their warm beds, joining to share six hours of cycling and suffering.
As the day went on, I knew I had chosen wisely when I decided to ride the Cogal. The guns didn’t get me to the top of any climbs first, but they never threatened to abandon me. I just knew I wanted more – more riding, more climbing, more hanging with people who loved to do the same. Even the simultaneous punctures suffered by il Ciclista and me 3 km from the end just seemed to add to the experience. Harminator bailed me out with his CO2 pump when mine let me down. And we all shared the pain of getting back on the bikes after the unscheduled break.
The post-ride refreshments and conversation were a great end to a great day. The only thing that could have made it better would have been more rain.
It was pretty wet. The kind of day I would normally abandon any hope of a long ride. The sky was grey all over and left no gap for even the brightest optimist. But a Velominati cogal is no place to shrink or waver in the face of impending suffering. So here we were – assembled, equipped and caffeinated. There was nothing left but to ride. A little push, five clicks and we were away.
The landscape north of Sydney is cut up by a corpus of ridges and river valleys. Its a grimpeur’s paradise. The abridged parcours included five of the best – Galston Gorge, Berowra Ferry, Mount White, Brooklyn and Bobbin Head. Five capital V’s on the elevation profile.
So we rode and talked and exchanged tall stories and bike bullshit. We kept going just to keep from freezing and some stuff happened worth noting:
TenB and Jellybean turned out to be Canadian, which didn’t matter, really, but it made the Cogal a little less convict celebration and a bit more hung parliament. When they started probing their origins I was secretly hoping they’d discover they were siblings. They weren’t – TenB was from sector G and Jellybean was from sector F. I had no idea that Canada was divided into sectors. I imagine they’re like suburbs but better organised.
TenB nearly broke himself before we started, slipping down wet tiled stairs in cleats at the coffee shop.
When Jellybean, (the first woman cogalist) hooked into the wet swtchbacks of the first descent I thought she was going to bin it. But I was very wrong. She was fast everywhere and handled perfectly. We all got chicked.
Alex had this cool camera without any electrical bits so he could take pics in constant rainy weather. He shot some black and white but so far has not produced them. I hoping that if I out him here he’ll pony up.
Il cilclista medio kept even pace all day, leaving the impression that he might slay us with one effort if he wanted to. He says he’s a chef but I don’t believe him. He’s far too reasonable. Chefs are crotchety bastards like the soup nazi. If il ciclista was in Seinfeld he would happily have given George his bread roll and probably offered him a free soup voucher to boot.
TenB hit the nail on the head when he said the best thing about Velominati was its mimicry of religious inclusiveness. He said anyone can call themselves Velominatus – “First you are one, then you become one.” We then wondered if Merckx washed the feet of his domestiques.
Alex was a perfect exponent of Rule #71. Returning from injury, he didn’t need to push too hard and he resisted all temptation to deviate from his plan. Then he waited at the pub for ages so we could consume foamy cleansers together. Class.