An early departure from Melbourne saw us arrive into a sleepy Euroa on a really cold, misty morning.
The anticipation in the group was building and our ride prep was in full swing. Tyres were being pumped, bottles filled, bars adjusted, jackets on and a couple of coffees and sausage rolls from the local bakery were consumed for a little extra fuel.
As we went through the routine of getting ready, the little country town was coming to life around us, with Burkes Bakery definitely being the ‘go to’ place at this time of the morning.
We rolled out of the main street and were quickly out of town. Our first stop was to be Mansfield via Merton and the final destination, Whitfield. This would see us skirt around the Strathbogie Ranges and then over them.
It didn’t take very long at all before we were going up. With the climbing starting early this was going to be a long day, and I had already scoffed my first home-made apricot and cashew energy bar at the 40 minute mark. The landscape of rolling hills and granite rocks with the ranges in the distance is some of the prettiest in Victoria. It was up, down, up, down and a nice fast descent into Merton before we opted for a little gravel goodness, taking the rail trail all the way into Mansfield.
I love riding the road bike on the dirt. It’s probably not the purist’s choice but it’s a really nice change, flying over the loose gravel, tight cornering around the gates and no cars.
As we all rolled into Mansfield, we were starving! We enjoyed a little picnic lunch of ham and brie baguettes in the botanic gardens, which came not a moment too soon as a couple of us were on the verge of bonking.
The first baguette didn’t hit the sides but the second restored our vigor. We were ready to take on the second half of the day.
It was now 12.30 and it was still cold. We meandered out of Mansfield and it didn’t take long before the up and down routine changed to just up. The group had now split with everyone rolling up at their own pace. It took me a little while but I eventually found my rhythm and this ended up being a really nice climb with the gradient hard enough, but not completely breaking you.
The road and countryside were quiet, and the landscape was new. Amazing views. This was another great adventure.
The guys at the front stopped at the top of every major rise for everyone to regroup before we descended for a bit, and then started climbing again. True camaraderie. Thanks guys.
It was a relief when we reached the top of the range as the tough part of the day was over and it was all down hill from there. A very fast and free flowing descent it was. What a joy.
We arrived into Whitfield at the bottom of the hill and as we dropped off part of the group at their B&B at Jessie’s Creek, all I could think about was a hot shower. A couple of us still had another 4km to roll on the flat valley floor in the fading sunshine before making it to our B&B at Politini Wines, Cheshunt. I was thinking to myself ‘’is this the nicest part of the ride because I’m finally in the sun or because I am nearly in the shower?’’
Thanks to our awesome support crew, our bags were already in our rooms so it wasn’t long before I was out of the kit and under the hot water. Ahhhh…..the simple pleasure of a hot shower. All I needed now was a little wooden stool and some time to finally thaw out my body.
Freshly showered and with some warm clothes on, it was now down to the serious business of rehydrating and re-fuelling next to the fire. Italian country style, of course.
As a group, we shared a little antipasti of home made olives, frittata, cannellini bean dip with rosemary infused oil, and accompanying Peroni and Prosecco, while debriefing on the massive ride we’d just done.
Our amazing food and cultural experience with the Politini family
With only the edge taken off our appetites, we wandered over to the Politini cellar door where the food part of the weekend was about to commence. Over the next few hours, Nonna Josie, Nonno Sam and the Politini family showed us how to make hot salami, pork and fennel sausages, and also what it means to be in an Italian family business. Everyone chips in, nothing is too difficult and we were welcomed like we were part of the family.
It was fantastic to experience how easy the process of making salami actually is and how much fun can be had with a group doing it together. Mid way through, it was time for a little wine tasting and some home made Sicilian style antipasti, which included the same salami as we were actually making. The Politini wines were sensational, with the standouts being the Italian varieties of Vermentino, Grecanico, Sangiovese and the now very popular Nero d’Avola.
Everyone had leant a hand in the preparation, and in no time at all we had managed to make three salami and enough sausages for fourteen people which were about to be cooked as part of our rustic Italian dinner. This included polpette in sugo, Sicilian polenta, and our pork and fennel sausages with zucchini and broccoli. My mouth is watering as I write this… it was so good. This was then all finished off with an espresso, a little home made mint liquor and the best cannoli we have ever eaten. Light, delicate and the perfect size….to go back for two!
As we all sat around in complete contentment, and with still a great deal of fatigue, talk turned to the ride for Sunday and how far and how many hills we would tackle. The decision made was to defer the decision until the next morning.
What a day! A total of 135kms ridden, with 2075 meters of climbing and helping to cook our own Italian family dinner. No wonder I was a little tired and it was only 9 o’clock. It was time for bed.
Day 2…country riding and dining at it’s best
We were greeted to a sunny, crisp morning on the valley floor and after a coffee at the Whitty Cafe, it was decided that an easier ride was in order.
We headed out to Lake William Hovell on a virtually deserted road that was incredibly picturesque, with hills rising off the valley floor and the King River running beside us. Just another magical day in the country and with only a small 500m climb at the half way turnaround point to tackle, this was great Sunday riding. Country riding at it’s best.
After showers and a late checkout it was off to Dal Zotto Wines for our Italian Sunday lunch. The first glass of prosecco was a delight and set the tone for the next few hours, with amazing plates of antipasto and pasta shared in the winter sunshine.
A really great finish to a couple of days of awesome riding, food and friendship.
I did not want this to end………