09 May 2021
By Sarah Hammond
Beechworth Granite Classic
This year was the inaugural running of the Beechworth Granite Classic, run by our friends at Bridge Road Brewers. A weekend long event that showcased some of the beautiful gravel riding in Victoria's High Country.
This was one of the rare times Curve as a whole team was able to get away for the weekend to ride, and enjoy well deserved time away from HQ in Melbourne.
The ride kicks off from the centre of town. Beechworth itself isn’t that large so you perhaps start after a pastry at the well known Beechworth Bakery, or perhaps try Tiny of Beechworth, a cafe that was getting great reviews for their toasties from many riders. For those that haven't been to Beechworth, this historical town is Victoria's best preserved gold rush town, and is the outer gateway to the Victorian Alps region. At 560 metres above sea level, it can get very cold here in the cooler seasons. It was Autumn at the time of this event, with temperatures as low as 7 degrees still at 9am. With frosty starts like these, it pays to pack gloves and a few layers for the morning.
The Autumn days in Beechworth are beautiful when the sun is out. A combination of that icy fresh country air, early morning fog on the river, plus those luminous Autumn leaves of fire reds, and golden yellows that line many of the roads around town. It’s a lovely place to spend a few days if you have the time. Beechworth is a three hour drive from Melbourne. Otherwise why not pack the bikes onto the train and take the Albury line to Wangaratta. From here you can take the Murray to Mountains Rail trail into Beechworth (45 kilometres).
The Granite Classic had five ride options available on the day, ranging from 5 kilometres for families with little ones, to the most popular 45 and 80 kilometre loop for those looking for something more. All these options are listed on the Beechworth Granite Classic website. Most of Curve crew took in the scenic, more challenging 80 kilometre loop, which offered up over 1100 metres of climbing in the first 40 kilometres. Oof.
The vertical haul begins as soon as you exit town, it’s a right turn onto the Yack Line and up you go. With not too long to warm up, this first climb into the Stanley Plantation was a little harder than preferred. With 5 kilometres to the top, this climb has some short ugly pinches, paired with steady rollers that will have you pushing hard as you disappear into the tall tree surrounds of this nature reserve. Over the top, and for many it was time to shed a few layers of clothing and continue further into the forest on route towards Yackandandah.
The riding stays mostly the same for the best part of the first half of this route. Big gravel fire roads weaving in and out of plantations, plus some very fun and fast descents to look out for. One on Twist Creek road in particular was steep and snaked regularly. Always go slow if you aren’t a seasoned gravel rider, some of these bends can lose traction quickly if you lack cornering skills.
Riders then skirt the borders of Yackandandah, taking in more open farm and pastoral roads, before the next long climb for the day. At close 20 kilometres this gradual climb, packed with you guessed it, more rollers, will take you up into the township of Stanley. Here you will get your first glimpse of some of the pretty apple and nut orchards Stanley is well known for. You will be on sealed roads in and out of town, so be aware of local/tourist traffic around you.
Leaving Stanley and the route stays high and rolls into Mount Stanley Forest. Out this way you’ll be treated to a few occasions where the forest opens, offering up stunning views of the surrounding Alpine region, including Mount Buffalo National Park. A few more smaller climbs to go will shake the last of what's left in your legs, then it’s the well earned gradual descent back into Beechworth for the last 20 kilometres.
Passing through Stanley once again, the route takes you down to Lake Kerferd, then onto the Pipeline Track, which is probably the most technical stretch of this ride. It’s a shared walking trail that is rough in parts, with plenty of tree rubble, puddles, and larger gravel chunks to keep you on your toes. It is a really pretty section and a lot of fun to ride on with bigger tyres. There is a tight left hander when descending to be aware of also. This trail then spits you out at Silver Creek, then it’s a sealed run into Beechworth passing by Lake Sambell and back into the town centre.
The only place to head after a ride in Beechworth is Bridge Road Brewers. There is a beer to suit any drinker, as well as a great woodfire pizza menu to choose from. There’s bike parking available on site too.
Bridge Road Brewers also runs a yearly gravel event called Tour De Beechworth, held during the Tour De France. All details are on their website.
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