The Dirty 130
Actually, it was 136kms and that last 6kms really counted.
This is a Festival of Craft Beer, with a little bit of dusty, dirty riding beforehand to get you thirsty.
I drove to Wagga Wagga on the Saturday, a 5.5 hour drive from Sydney, the last 2 hours are through idyllic farmland and rolling hills, very pretty. It rained quite a lot during the drive and I wondered whether the gravel roads and trails be muddy…. or polished smooth from the rain?
I realised my D12 wasn't working Saturday night when I took the bike for a quick spin and friends tried to fix it, with no luck. Panic stations. I was kinda resolved to riding the race Single Speed -but the gear it was stuck in was quite high and the hills would be tough.
I went to the race at 6am Sunday morning hoping I might be able to get help. ‘Bundy’ the race mechanic/sag wagon had just arrived and said he couldn't fix my bike BUT would I like to ride his bike as we were the same height & build. Yes please! My knight in a white mechanic’s van.
We sped to his house in his van on the outskirts of Wagga, got his bike, changed the pedals over and were back at the race at 6:50am for the 7am start. It was a cold morning but the forecast was for sunshine. The bike felt good, twice the weight of mine, but comfy. BANG, we’re off, riding over the curving, misty Murrumbidgee River.
There’s a bit of bitumen at the start, we ride outta town and up thru the Charles Sturt University then out onto the glorious gravel roads. Fluro yellow Canola and hyper green lush fields contrast against a brilliant Cobalt blue sky -everyone was smiling, the volunteers waving and happy. The previous day’s rain had dampened down the dirt & dust and it was perfect riding conditions with the creek crossings deep enough to ensure you got a good wetting down, a laugh and cold feet.
The course is a big loop with a lot of long straight country roads, some single track and one stunning section through a field of canola on a private farm that had everyone exclaiming with joy, the scene of half obscured cyclists in bright coloured jerseys pedalling up the hill and disappearing into the wild blue yonder was magical & surreal. Life doesn’t get better than this.
At the 75km pit stop at a little town called Coolamon the lovely volunteers had cooked 1,000’s of Anzac cookies, plates were piled high with fruit cake, watermelon and banana and I was lucky to find a lovely lady who gave me some Panadols - which quickly sorted the arm/shoulder/Quad pains out for the 2nd half, possibly the very different saddle and geometry of my wonderful, borrowed bike.
The 2nd half of the ride is just as spectacular, we dodged a turtle, horses were playing in paddocks, there were sheep to dodge, a fox, bees and an aggressive magpie that attacked me on the way back into town, a bit of everything. Someone had said it was all downhill from Coolamon. There were plenty more climbs.
In a back laneway of Wagga lined with stunning murals, cyclists disappear into a brewery for a quick beer before the final 500meters to the finish line. Afterwards the Festival of Beer had a lovely, relaxed atmosphere with live music from local talents, many types of Craft beers & ciders from various local brewers’ line one side of the park, while the other side has every sort of culinary wizardry you could possibly want after 136kms of gravel, in food vans. Unforgettable event, adventure and people. Wagga Beers and Gears rocks. The Dirty 130 makes you thirsty….for more gravel adventures like this.