The Upper Hunter is home to some of the most scenic countryside in the country — which is part of why there are so many Gucci horse farms out there. It’s also home to the third and final event in the goodnessgravel series — Gundy.
Running this past weekend, according to event organiser Will Levy, goodnessgravel Gundy drew 30% more riders than last year. With the 135 km long course sporting a whopping 2,700m of climbing, this is not one for the faint of heart — there’s also a shorter 75km route available.
It’s been pretty dry across NSW this year, and the conditions were dusty.
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“We reconed the course on Wednesday before the event and were just dumbfounded how good the gravel was — to steal a term from New Zealand, the conditions were mint,” says Levy.
When the field rolled out of Gundy bright and early, it was about 8ºC, but according to Levy, you could tell it was going to get hot.
“When the 75km riders came back, there were a few salty dogs, and it was only 11 o’clock,” says Levy.
Chris Visvis was at the reins of the Flow Instagram for the event and said he saw the temp on his Garmin reach as high as 36ºC riding the 135km course.
“It was classic Australian countryside at the beginning — light blue sky, pale greens scrub, and rolling hills over there in Gundy, which is lovely,” says Visvis. “Before the first rest stop (40km in at Timor) was still cool early in the day, the light was awesome, and there weren’t any really big climbs. Everybody was chatting, and it was a really nice time of day.”
goodnessgravel feed zones
With a scorcher on the way, the feed zones were a bit of an oasis for the riders — especially the second one at 80km.
“Goodnessgravel knows how to do good rest stops. There’s live music, they’ve got nutrition you can pack away with you — all the SIS (Science in Sport) stuff — and then all the good stuff like snakes and doughnuts,” he says.
These posts are looked after by locals who donate their time to support the event.
‘It’s not just the riders that come back with smiles, even our volunteers come back and are like, you have the nice people — everyone so thankful, there’s no litter on course.’ We couldn’t run these events without volunteers, and when they come back saying, ‘we had a great day out there,’ that’s a definite perk,” says Levy.
Levy tells us that the Scouts looking after the second rest stop in Ellerston, in between the shifts, were out on the river that runs past catching trout.
“Maybe next year we’ll have smoked trout at the second aid station,” laughs Levy.
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So hot hens are laying hard-boiled eggs
According to Visvis, one of the most challenging climbs of the day was at 60km. They hit the base at about 11am — when the first of the salty 75km riders were pulling into the finish.
“The climb is super steep, and you’re just grinding in your bailout gear. There’s no wind and no reprieve — it was just hot,” he says.
But the payoff for this brutal ascent — and the other climbs through the day — was, of course, going down the other side.
“When you’re bombing down the country hills, and you can see all the rolling hills and all the rolling countryside ahead. It’s just dry and dust, and the way that it unfolds in front of you — you can see it all because you’re at elevation — I really like that. And when it’s so hot, the descents are cooling you down. It’s such a big highlight. The countryside out there is beautiful, even if it is brutal at the same time,” says Visvis.
With the heat being so oppressive on the day, Levy tells us that aid stations were well stocked with water and drink mix, and the motos were roaming checking on the riders — even dropping bottles for folks in need. Visvis and the group he was with had many a check-in with the motos, and one even stopped by to help when they were fixing a puncture.
“One thing that I thought was really cool was the event support guys on the motos were just checking that everyone was ok. I liked how they checked in on us regularly, and even though you’re really out in the middle of nowhere, in the heat, you still felt more or less taken care of,” he says.
goodnessgravel is a fondo-style event, meaning there is no prize for finishing first — they don’t even have a clock running. Traditionally when you cross the line, they hand you a chocolate and a beer. But after so many hours out in the sun, Levy swapped the finish line chocolate for icy poles.
“We had like the Zoopa Doopas, but not Zoopa Doopas, the natural ones. They didn’t totally freeze overnight, so they were just like a super cold slushy — I think we went through 200 of those things,” says Levy.
They also had a BBQ, an esky full of cold drinks and live music — good times!
With this event being bigger than last year, Levy tells us the field was 20% women — which is up from last year. The oldest rider was 74 years old and was among the top ten to finish the 75km event. The youngest rider was 14 and was apparently towing his dad all the way on the short course.
goodnessgravel is still a smaller event, and Levy thanked everyone who signed up and kept coming back. When you sign up for goodnessgravel, you get your number for life, and they have made it up to 1,016. He also wanted to thank the volunteers and event sponsors, as they are the lifeblood that helps to keep small events like this running.
Better still, the 2024 dates for the first two goodness gravel events — Mogo and Glen Innes have been announced, with Gundy to follow soon.
For more information, head over to the goodnessgravel website.
Photos: Outer Image / goodnessgravel