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Chris L circles Tasmania Chris L is spending a month riding around Tasmania. Follow his progress here

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Old 12-27-03, 11:42 PM   #1
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Day 15: The ladder and the pros

Well, what a day this has turned out to be! I decided to hang for an extra day in Launceston, as there is a criterium on here tonight with a few big names taking part (Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady etc etc). This morning i set off for a relatively unladen ride to explore Ben Lomond National Park. This is the largest Alpine region in Tasmania, meaning there would be some serious climbing involved.

The first 45km or so out of Launceston proceeded through some farming country, before gradually climbing through gradually more and more imposing scenery. At 45km was a turn-off to Ben Lomond ski lodge. Signs here indicated people used this road "at their own risk". Now that's what I call re-assuring! This was a little dirt road that would climb over 1,000metres in the space of 17km.

The first 2-3km were by far the steepest. The road rose up sharply in this section, before easing off, and finally providing a false flat after about 5km. The next couple of km after this were easy, before rising again. I paused to apply sunscreen (and only for that reason) near an information sign profiling the national park.

It wrote about the infamous "Jacob's Ladder", a series of switchbacks near the summit, which it said rose around 300 metres. I did some calculations and figured that would give a gradient of around 30% on dirt roads. *****. I pressed on anyway, just for the sheer hell of it now. The dirt road continued to climb for the next few km, but no sign of the ladder. My calculations became a little more desperate, as I knew it had to be around here somewhere, and the time to rise 300 metres was rapidly running out.

I came around a corner, just clearing the last line of trees, and there it was. It looked quite spectacular, a winding stretch of road up a sheer cliff between massive dolerite columns. Apparently they've spent $1million or so on upgrading this stretch of road in recent times. On the plus side, some of the sections on the cliff-face now have fencing. On the minus side, the surface of gravel here was a lot looser than it was in other parts of the road.

I gritted my teeth and went for it. Turns out, the road didn't actually rise 300 metres in that stretch, more like 150 metres, and the scenery as I climbed it just continued to get more and more exhillarating. After hairpin #4, I completely forgot the pain in my legs in the sheer excitement of the climb. On reaching the top I raised a fist into the air vitoriously. The remaining section to the ski-lodge was really loose gravel, but there were no cliffs and little climbing here, so it wasn't a problem.

After riding to the end of the road, I took the time to climb Legges Tor and take in some of the views, which were mainly over the alpine area surrounding. I was told that the sunny, mid-summer day had now yielded the sweltering temperature of all of four degress celcius.

I then decended the mountain carefully (didn't want a slip on the way down Jacob's Ladder), and rode back to Launceston, into the face of another of these headwinds Tasmania seems so fond of. I found my way to the city (eventually) and stuffed my face with a giant feed of pasta (well-priced, too).

I hung around and watched the criterium. It had quite an interesing finish. A break-away of about six riders (including Brad McGee and a few locals) looked like getting away, before being caught on the Last Lap. Eventually McEwen jumped out on the last corner and pulled away to take the sprint. I grabbed a quick bite to eat on the way back to the campsite, and went straight to bed. I was pretty tired after that lot.


P.S. Today's update to follow tomorrow, I'm getting the wind up at this cyber-cafe.
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Old 12-28-03, 02:50 PM   #2
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whee

hi Chris,

thanks again for the updates on your trip. I'm still really enjoying them! in a few days I guess you'll pass "Stanley's Nut" -- where I celebrated my 21st birthday in a local tavern. I forget the name, just remember it had a great jukebox. Love the super fresh air there on the northwest coast.

take care

Laurel
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Old 12-28-03, 10:06 PM   #3
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Hi Lolo,

Unfortunately I won't be making it to Stanley on this trip. I tried to find a way to include it when I was figuring this whole thing out, but that would have meant not riding the passes on Strathgordon road. I'm posting this from Devonport, after which I leave the coast and head for the mountains, starting with Cradle Mountain.

Unfortunately, what I post today could be the last of my updates for a little while. I'm not expecting to be able to access the WWW again until at least Queenstown.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:17 AM   #4
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The farming landscape east of Launceston.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:18 AM   #5
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Now it's getting interesting once again.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:18 AM   #6
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My destination for today is now in sight
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Old 01-26-04, 01:19 AM   #7
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On the climb of Ben Lomond Plateau -- Jacob's Ladder is straight ahead.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:20 AM   #8
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In case anybody missed the ladder first time -- here it is again.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:21 AM   #9
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The view from the top of the ladder
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Old 01-26-04, 01:22 AM   #10
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And another.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:23 AM   #11
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Not much grows up here.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:24 AM   #12
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Across the plateau.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:25 AM   #13
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Having just reached the top of Legges Tor.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:26 AM   #14
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This photo cannot convey just how cold it was up there.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:27 AM   #15
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Wildflowers grow just below the plateau.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:28 AM   #16
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Back in Launceston, the pros came out to play
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Old 01-26-04, 01:30 AM   #17
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A breakaway that didn't stay away for very long.
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Old 01-26-04, 01:31 AM   #18
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And the group who chased them down.
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