Few gravel rides in Victoria are as fun and beautiful as Gippsland Gold.
Ran by the legendary Gareth Evans aka melbournerandonneur, the Gippy Gold is part of an Audax gravel series that has been running since 2011!
Way back then, the 200 km mixed terrain loop would consist of a handful of riders running 28 mm tyres and fenders on their road bikes.
Since then, it has grown to almost 150 riders. And you will sight everything from road, gravel and MTB setups tackling the entire distance.
It isn’t just about the riding, though. It is about the incredibly well-stocked resupply stops on the course and the fantastic group of Audax volunteers. These events would not run without the tireless efforts made by long time Audax members.
How many rides do you know that you can eat salad rolls, hot cross buns, homemade biscuits and cakes, fresh fruit, drink icy cold cans of coke and more at every feed stop?
All for the cost of a fraction of what significant organised events charge. You’ll also need to pay $15 if you aren’t an Audax member.
The ride starts in the small town of Yarragon, a 90 min drive from Melbourne. Accommodation here is limited; there is a pub or motel if you are lucky enough to snag a bed the night prior.
Riders gather at the town hall, and a light breakfast is on offer. YES, more food included in your registration. Then, after collecting your brevet card and listening to the rider briefing by Gareth, it’s time to roll.
The classic route is 200 km, but, there is a 160 km or 110 km option for those still building up to that. Regardless, you’ll still get a tasty slice of what Gippsland has to offer.
The climbing starts right away, splitting the group (thankfully) and giving you room to enjoy the climb. The temperatures are always fresh this time of year, and if you’re lucky the low cloud will be visible through the valleys and vast surrounds of The Strzelecki ranges. The first section is mostly rolling pastoral backroads, countryside and forest plantations. A nice way to settle in and get your legs working. The gravel is always in great condition, and outside of a few puddles to detour around this was again the case on route to Boolarra.
A sweeping descent into the first resupply, and two hot cross buns later, we are off and heading onto Morwell River Road. This stretch is a gentle gradual climb along the river, very lush and green. A highlight of the day. The climbing continues for sometime as you riders make their way up some chunky gravel climbs, and onto Grand Ridge Road. Grand Ridge Road is a long tourist drive through Gippsland, in Victoria, Australia. As the name suggests, the road primarily follows ridgelines through the heavily undulating Strzelecki Ranges.
More views, giant ferns and big lush forest offerings before taking a long descent off the ranges and into Foster for the second resupply point. This stop consisted of a salad roll, lemonade and fresh fruit.
The next stretch from Foster to Mirboo North is probably the hardest of the day. With over 100 km in the bag, legs are starting to feel a little tired and the heat is kicking in for the day. WE had hairdryer winds adding to the already warm temperatures. It’s a long climb back up, and this stretch has some longer sealed sections, including a steep road climb out of Mirboo followed by some punchy gravel rollers that will see you into Mirboo North, ready to seek out that cold can of coke.
Mirboo North is also home of Grand Ridge Brewery, for those looking to take a ‘longer’ lunch. For others the resupply point has plenty on offer, this time the ice cold coke worked a treat!
The final stretch back to Yarragon is probably the most fun. Leaving Mirboo North it’s a quick climb back to Grand Ridge Road and then some fast sweeping descents to tick through those final kilometres. The final gravel section is a gradual climb, more gentle than most of the days climbing. Soon enough you will rejoin the main high road out of Yarragon, treated to a 10 km fast sealed descent back into town. This is a big highlight for the end of the ride. The views from this road are huge! Depending on the time of day you finish, sunset here is spectacular.
Back at the town hall, riders are greeted by cow bell for finishing, and more food! Dinner is offered, a huge curry plate, plus desert and a finishers beer/soft drink.
Gippy Gold is part of a full gravel series hosted by Gareth and Audax.
If you were lucky enough to ride last Saturday then I encourage you to try the other rides in the series.
Searching for Bunyip 100 km - Saturday, 14th October 2023
Grand Ridge Road 200/145 km - Saturday, 11th November 2023
Jam for Jamieson 300/400 km - Saturday, 9th December 2023
Once again a big thankyou to all that make this event happen!
Written by Sarah Hammond.
Photos by riders on the day.