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Seven Peaks in Seven Days 2013.
Monday 2 December, 2013.

7P7D Day 1 - Sunday 24 November.
It's Seven Peaks in Seven Days time again.

The cast for 2013 comprises:
- Josh, 29, too young and fit for his own good;
- Adrian, 34, been worried about this for months so has put the Ks in, just to make sure;
- Daniel, Adrian's brother, support car driver; and
- me, wrong side of 50, been off the bike with manflu for a few weeks but motivated by riding a brand new Roubaix!

The highlight of day 1 for me was making it through unscathed. If you've followed the exploits of those of us silly enough to attempt this week, you might remember I 'dropped the bike' just near Tanjil Bren last year in the hail and pouring rain. I kept going for a bit but had to get off the bike before the top of the climb to Powelltown. Soft. And disappointing.

Today? No problem. Still wet all day; it even seemed to rain more during the descents; but at least I stayed upright. And I finished.

A bit weary now but the 'parma' here at the Reefton Hotel (at McMahon's Creek) went down a treat - 3 & a half stars (had to explain to the lady behind the bar what a Black 'n' Tan was - so they lost half a star!)

Quote of the day is from Adrian: "You know, I wouldn't mind if it rained all week!"
The bloke's obviously mad!

Josh's highlight: being able to at least get 4 gears… his rear shifter shat itself first thing this morning. At least he got the four lowest gears so he could get up Baw Baw!

Lake Mountain through to Jamieson tomorrow. There's talk we might continue through to Mansfield but my legs currently consider that unlikely.

7P7D Day 2 - Monday 25 November.
Today was about balance.

In the morning I found it difficult to keep my concentration; a bit tired I guess. I probably didn't have enough breakfast; once we got to Lake Mountain and found the cafe is open again, I wolfed down a couple of big cookies and felt much better.

The road between McMahon's Creek and Cumberland Junction is really spectacular! After climbing for about 5km or so, the road comes out onto a small spur with spectacular views off into the distance on both sides. I should really have stopped and taken a photo. But I was climbing really poorly; and the road was descending a little and I decided I needed momentum over a momento.

The balance was about concentration. Being tired, I couldn't concentrate for long enough to keep my climbing 'form' and use my lower back muscles properly. When I got tired, I'd resort to grinding on the pedals and I could feel my back getting sore.

Highlight for me was riding some of the way up Lake Mountain with Cheryl and Tracy from Albury, two SHCCC regulars, who were both wearing their 2010 SHCCC jerseys. The descent down to Marysville was great fun (the new bike descends better than the old one!) and we decided to continue onto Buxton for lunch, where we caught up with Adrian's Dad, Wal, who's joining us for the rest of the week. Lunch was just ok so next year we might go further on to Taggerty!

Strangely, the longer the day went on, the better my 'balancing act' got and I finished off much better than I expected; especially since I've had a few weeks off the bike. After climbing up to Bald Hill Gap and then a fun descent to Jamieson, we decided to try to push on to Mansfield. The strong southerly helped a bit with that decision.
10km from town Josh decided he needed to get home in a hurry.

Quote of the day: "Excuse me boys, this train is heading for Mansfield!"
All Adrian and I could do was hang on for dear life as Josh dragged us into Mansfield at about 49km/h! No chance for any balance; just hanging on with gritted teeth.

Great end to an epic day of just over 200km. Tomorrow, some tinkering with Josh's shifter, then Buller and Whitfield. (And there's a rumour that last year's 7P7D finisher, Tim Ross, might join us…)

If you're interested, here is today's Strava file.

7P7D Day 3 - Tuesday 26 November.
Josh's rear shifter shat itself early on Day 1 and a liberal spraying of WD40 didn't seem to fix it.

So Day 3 started with a mechanical transplant… my old 10-speed Dura-Ace shifter was installed instead of his newer Ultegra model. It now looks a bit weird but it works!

After a big day yesterday, we all agreed we'd have a later start but the mechanical needed a visit to All Terrain Cycles for more cables and the late start got even later. And on a warm day, it probably wasn't the best way to begin.

Adrian made a salient point on the way out of Mansfield - he suggested today would be the turning point… today would settle us into the 7P7D 'rhythm' if you like.

The rumour mill was correct and we were joined by last year's 7P7D supremo, Tim Ross. And I thank my lucky stars he came along! I climbed like a brick and I reckon the only reason I got up Mt Buller was Tim's company and well-timed conversation; Josh and Adrian were miles up the road!

Adrian discussed his 'turning point' theory with Tim over lunch and it seems Tim felt exactly the same when he got to Whitfield last year.

Chris W and Tony H drove up from Mansfield to join us for lunch at the Apres Bar. But neither looked likely to jump on a bike to join us. (You blokes know which Rule you need to meditate on, don't you!)

Another great descent - I love my Roubaix - and we finally rolled back into Mansfield just after 4pm… with over 60km to go to Whitfield!

Bakks and Rob G joined us for the first 20km (thanks for the tow lads!) and we eventually rolled into Whitfield just after 7.30.

Huge kudos to Wally and Daniel for dinner. Nowhere in Whitfield was going to be open for dinner, so they contacted Cathy at the Cheshunt Store. She was already closed but agreed to stick around until Wal got there to buy a feast of steak and pasta for dinner. What a brilliant support crew! Thanks guys. Strava details.

7P7D Day 4 - Wednesday 27 November.
I like the 'hardness' of cycling.

Rule number 5 ( has entered the vernacular; and I repeat it with annoying regularity. My favourite pro races are the Spring Classics, not the Grand Tours. And deep down I still like to think of myself as a mountain biker at heart. But I learnt a lesson in being hard today.

Today's ride was a relatively flat start from Whitfield. It was meant to be easy but after only 'up' or 'down' this week, I found the flat of the King River valley a challenge. My bum hurt, my legs were sore, my shoulders and neck were killing me… and did I mention how much my bum hurt?

As we swapped turns nearing Oxley, I found the going tough. I slowed to flex my shoulders and neck and… BANG! Adrian hit the deck. On his face! I'd slowed too much, he'd been close behind and we touched wheels. We got off the road and inspected the damage: a very bloodied mouth, skin off elbows and knees; and a few scratches and bend rear derailleur hanger on the Colnago too.

He was swept up into the SHCCC Captiva and Daniel had him off to Wangaratta Hospital in no time.

To his credit, Adrian was keen to meet us in Myrtleford or Porepunkah and join us for the Buffalo climb. Yeah, right Adrian!

Josh and I continued, with Wally in the Merc for company, onto Milawa for coffee (Bombolini! Doughnuts filled with Nutella… YUM!) and Myrtleford for lunch. (Made a big mistake here; should have gone to the Butter Factory. D'oh!)

Meanwhile, Adrian waited as a low-priority patient at hospital. In contrast, his Colnago received high-priority treatment at West End Cycles - thanks Wes!

Josh and I continued on towards Buffalo; 2km turns each; keep the rhythm; cadence too low, shift down; how hot is it now; when will this 2km end?

Just before Porepunkah, I got a call from Adrian. He'd had his lip stitched and was getting into the car now. And he'd asked Daniel to drive him BACK TO THE SPOT WHERE HE CRASHED SO HE COULD COMPLETE THE WHOLE DAY!!!!

I couldn't even contemplate that! After a crash like that, if someone had suggested I go back again it would've had me sobbing like… a 50 year old redhead who isn't happy with the texture of the foam on his skinny latte! Hard.

Josh and I continued on and only just made the Dingo Dell cafe before it closed, so we could get our passports stamped. (4 down!) To his great credit, the bloke organised to stamp Adrian's too!

We got back to Bright just after 6 (but then had to wait over an hour to get the key to the house we rented… grrr!) had a shower and organised dinner.

Adrian rolled in at 10 to 9… his dad Wally lighting the way with his car headlights. Inspirational and bloody impressive. Chapeau!

A wet start at Tanjil Bren, just 7 peaks and over a 1000km
to go! From left to right, Josh, Daniel, Bruce and Adrian.

The road from Reefton to Cumberland Junction
and onto Lake Mountain is really spectacular.

Riding into Mansfield - I didn't expect to do that.
This is the unexpected benefit of a southerly breeze!

A old working Dura-Ace shifter on one side matched
up with a newer Ultegra shifter on the other.

Adrian and Josh (with Tim just ahead) and Buller looming
in the distance. This is a familiar view to SHCCC entrants.

At the SHCCC we promote the fact that we
usually have no traffic lights. Well… not all the time.

The climb up Buffalo is worth it for the stunning
views over the Ovens Valley during the descent.

Once we got to Tawonga Gap, we stopped for a
quick photo… then again in Mt Beauty for more coffee!

This is my third attempt at completing 7 Peaks in 7 Days. I'm soft. Strava details.

7P7D Day 5 - Thursday 28 November.
Nice to have a relatively uneventful day for a change.

Not surprisingly, Adrian was a bit stiff and sore this morning. So he decided to head out early. We met him again at the top of Tawonga Gap and stopped for a quick photo of Mt Bogong.

One of the things we've been strong on this week is courtesy… to motorists of all descriptions and especially the few other cyclists we've seen. Which is why it was so disappointing for Josh and Adrian to be snubbed by a young bloke who rode up Tawonga and wouldn't even acknowledge their friendly 'hello!' Not even a grunt of recognition. Yes, it's the Tour of Bright this weekend but lighten up son!

Once we'd descended to Mt Beauty, Adrian decided to pass on the coffee and continue onto Falls Creek. Seems he found it easier to just keep turning the pedals than the frequent stopping and starting as dictated by my excessive caffeine requests.

A view back towards Falls Creek from around the other side of Rocky Valley Dam. It's stunning country up here - although you can still see the aftermath of the bushfires from a few years ago.

Josh, Wally and I stopped at the Bakery and gave their pastries a hammering (after a mix-up with the coffee order and a looooong wait!) then headed for Falls about 45 minutes after Adrian.

Josh was polite and stayed with me till about 12km to go; then I had to 'tease' myself with the lone Torq gel in my pocket to keep a rhythm…
"One more k and you can have the gel."
"OK, let's make it one more!"
"Come on, one more kilometre!"
"Mmmmm… Banoffee…"

Adrian beat Josh by about 15 minutes and was fast asleep on the couch at QT's by the time we got there. He was absolutely knackered! He hadn't been able to eat enough with his sore mouth and appeared to have made it up on will power alone.

To make up for this, Josh and I gorged ourselves on a tasty club sandwich and lots of chips with extra salt (QTs at Falls Creek - 3 & a half stars;) Adrian finally woke up and got some food down.

It looked like the rain was imminent so we dressed for wet weather and headed out around Rocky Valley Dam and out across the Bogong High Plains and the wind! A couple of times we thought we were going to Hotham a little earlier than planned!

Once Josh and I got to Falls Creek, we found
Adrian asleep on the couch at QTs. (Great food!)

Of course, we had to make the compulsory stop for beer, and strange looks from locals, at the Blue Duck Inn at Anglers' Rest. Mmmm… Black 'n' Tan. Fueled by beer we headed out for the final 30km into Omeo and set a cracking pace. And no rain!

As we rode, Adrian told us a story of an elderly lady he treats through work. She's in a nursing home because of her ailing body but is mentally sharp as a tack. She complains that when she goes for short walks down the corridor in the home on her walking frame, most of the other residents don't say hello; some of them just grunt. So she told Adrian, "Don't grunt, you sound like a pig!" Quote of the day! (Young bloke at Tawonga, that was for you!)

Dinner at The Golden Age in Omeo is highly recommended - 4 stars. Strava details.

7P7D Day 6 - Friday 29 November.
Today's logistical challenge was to make it up to Dinner Plain, get the stamp and get over Hotham in time to make the 1pm to 2pm road opening. With all the damage to so many trees near the Harrietville Road last summer, the road is closed for work to make it safe for summer.

Adrian was worried his weary legs wouldn't make it in time so he left at 7am. Josh and I (and Wally) left just after that but stopped in town for an hour for breakfast. Then the rain started.

Once we finally got going we found a peloton up ahead! A group of blokes from Melbourne had started in Bairnsdale the day before and were heading for Bright. Josh rode on ahead but in an attempt to distract myself from the pain in my legs, I started chatting. The only sucker for an ear-bashing was a physio who also happened to be a St Kilda supporter. Once I explained the theories behind my optimism for the Sainters in 2014, even he went a bit quiet.

By now I was starting to feel a bit better, in fact, the best I'd felt all week. This new found exuberance meant I ended up making a pest of myself. It got a bit hot climbing in the rain coat so I stopped the next time I saw Wally and removed a layer; then spent the next few minutes catching and overtaking the peloton. Just a bit later I stopped at the Kosciousko lookout and took a photo; then chased and overtook the peloton again! When they didn't turn up to The General for lunch like they said, I wasn't really surprised.

Mansfield bunch rides tend to be around 50km to 70km in length. So I don't often do a lot of long rides like we're doing this week. When I do, I find my mind wanders off all over the place. Once I get into a bit of rhythm, and I'm confident with my form, my mind's off! Today was no exception. Fanciful cycling-related business ventures, proposed home renovations, future holidays…

Just before Dinner Plain I saw Josh's Yellow Jacket of Authority up ahead. Try as I might, I couldn't quite bridge across to him before the Dinner Plain town sign. Believe me, I tried and I would have taken the sprint gladly.

After a quick coffee and 6th stamp at the Mountain Kitchen (4 stars - much better than the breakfast coffee in Omeo!) we headed for Hot Ham to beat the road deadline.
Great lunch at The General - 4 stars.

We made the deadline easily, cruised down the mountain through the fire-devastated forest and onto Bright for a quick look at the ITT of the Tour of Bright.

Our own 'tour' finishes tomorrow with one last stamp. I can't wait! Strava details.

7P7D Day 7 - Saturday 30 November.
We headed out from Bright at 7.30 this morning and we all complained that we needed the 22km to Harrietville to warm up our sore legs. It was slow going. Finding a 'comfortable' position on the saddle was an interesting exercise too!

Once we stopped, took off some layers of clothing and put on some layers of sunscreen; we began.

Josh had decided he would be the master of the mountain today and took off quickly. I tried to follow and managed to stay with him for all of 50 metres!

So the mental bribery began again. I promised myself a gel with 10km to go (about 44km) and a final one at 5km to go (49k.) With 'rounding' that came to 45km and 50km. After a few km though, I needed a little extra so offered myself a bar after 35km. The Torq Organic Mango (4 stars!) lasted only a few seconds so I figured I might need more later; so I scoffed down half a Sundried Banana bar at the 40km.

The other good part about riding on a weekend is the other cyclists around. Having a few carrots ahead helped the motivation a lot.

Two Torq gels, two bastard climbs (CRB Hill and Diamantina) and a few fist pumps later, I was rolling through the tunnel and heading for The General and a stamp feeling very good about myself. When I got there, Josh was looking very relaxed as though he'd already been there a few hours; it was only about 15 minutes though. After a week of climbing, he'd managed to get up in 1 hour 47 minutes - an awesome effort! I was very pleased with my 2:01 (only 5 minutes off my best time) and Adrian dragged himself up in just 2:09. Strava details.

7P7D - Summary

I haven't felt this much satisfaction from a bike ride for a long, long time.

Overall we did just over 1000km and gained over 17,000m of elevation. No wonder I'm tired! And, of course, we got seven stamps.

A couple of quick product 'reviews':
- The Force is with me now… I changed to Sram Force just before the ride and I couldn't have been happier; great gear.
- Lifetime Frame Guarantees are great! The week before the ride I took all the old Dura-Ace off my Roubaix, to install the Force, and found a crack in the frame. Even though it was over 5 years old, I still had the receipt; so Specialized agreed to warranty it. And I LOVE my new Roubaix! I can highly recommend buying a bike from your local bike shop and enjoying the support they provide - 5 stars!
- Torq Gels: 5 stars!

Three happy bike riders with 21 stamps. Adrian is still
hiding his upper lipso you can't see his stitches

Many thanks to Adrian and Josh for the great company and to Adrian again for the inspiration from Tuesday onwards. (I can't believe he did this on a 'no-carb - high-fat' diet!)

Finally, a HUGE thanks to Daniel and Wally for the tremendous support.

7P7D will probably be back in 2014. I've already spoken to a few prospective entrants who seem to have been inspired by these reports. More fool you!

Now that I've completed it I'm not sure I'll attempt it again. But then again, there are now five who have completed it… and nobody's done it twice yet!

Bruce Halket.

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