The Bicycle Network Newcrest Orange Challenge provided an excellent weekend escape with perfect weather, a challenging course and first class organisation. This is a weekend that is worth putting on the calendar whether you choose the 70km or 170km option.

Located just under 4 hours out of Sydney, we decided to head up mid morning from Sydney after a few riders wanted both a sleep in or the option of turning the legs over on the Saturday morning. The week leading in had been pretty miserable in Sydney with plenty of rain and so there was the hope that crossing over the Blue Mountains would bring some dry roads and better riding conditions.

A preview of what was to come

It is a fairly easy drive to Orange which is located about 30 minutes past Bathurst. For those not riding they have the option of taking in some of the wineries that are spotted around Orange. With a growing reputation of quality wines in the region, this also brings with it some gourmet food options and a choice of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes. So whether you are riding or coming along for the adventure, there is something for all to enjoy.

The added benefit of the wineries makes this an easy sell to non riding partners, being able to wine taste will the riding is on, is a more appealing option than some of the other smaller country towns we visit throughout the year for other races and rides. If you want our pick of the bunch, our personal pick is De Beaurepaire Wines located 182 Cudgegong Rd, Rylstone which due to their location produce a very French styled wine and a very good sparkling wine –

Back to the riding, we had riders doing both the shorter 70km and the 170km on the Sunday and so after a very seamless check in we headed out to do some exploring over the local town.

Pre race the riders mill around

There is always one rider who forgets an item and sure enough, late in the afternoon we realised we were a helmet short. A quick dash back to the expo, allowed us to purchase a helmet and then we were all set for Sunday. Just as we were heading out to dinner, the heavens opened up and the rain certainly came down. It was bucketing down and it stayed that way for the next few hours.

With rain comes difficult choices that every cyclist faces – what colour sock choice do i go with for the ride? What colour lenses will be optimal in my sunglass frames? Do i go a windvest and accept the inevitable cold or the full rain jacket but it may get a bit hot? I lay in bed listen to the rain outside as these difficult decisions ran through my mind.

We woke up a little late I think because we were apprehensive about the weather facing us, however very much to our surprise the rain had cleared and the sky looked clear – Bicycle Network organise everything!

Suited up, we rolled the 1 kilometre to the start line and then wished each other well before going into our various waves. There were plenty of nerves in the air and riders either looking forward to the challenge of just finishing their distance or going for a personal best.

The first 30kms of the day was covered in a fog and mist, which added a nice dramatic touch to the day and a few riders experienced the Orange version of the cobblestones with a few patchwork roads rattling lose a few waterbottles and even whole bottle cages!

All smiles at the finish line

For those doing the 70km it is an overall down hill run into Canowindra with the riders then chauffeured back to Orange in buses. This distance is just right for those who want a challenge without being in the saddle all day. Once they make the finish line, they can enjoy a lunch before hoping on the bus.

For those on the long course, the ride rolls on and the hills and climbing really start around the 100 kilometre mark. Just at that time that many start to feel a little tired and want a break. For the next 50 kilometres riders will face a number of pinches which will continue to sap the legs,  before they face a downhill run back into Orange in the final 20 kilometres.

The course provides some excellent country views and it had a lot of local support on course, with the locals cheering on each of the riders as they pass, whether you were riding in a group or enjoying some solo time.

The post race complimentary beer

Once the riders return to Orange, Bicycle Network had organised a local food and wine festival for riders to try some local produce which included a complimentary beer to riders at the finish. This gave the riders a great chance to just relax at the finish while they shared their battle stories or waited for other riders to come into the finish chute.

The local food and wine festival along with kids entertainment is a great way to keep partners and kids entertained while they wait for their riders to finish. Because for some the wait can be an extended period of time.

Overall their were smiles all round for all of our riders, regardless of the distance covered. Everyone had stories about what happened to them out on course. I think we all look forward to going back and doing it all next year.

Thanks to Bicycle Network for putting on a great event, which no doubt will build into something much bigger. Bicycle Network are responsible for the Peaks Challenges on the Gold Coast and in Victoria, the Around the Bay in a Day and Ride the Night. If you want to join Bicycle Network, remember that if you join through the MWCC website, you get a discount on membership and join MWCC at the same time.