I’d drawn the short straw, and had the task of ferrying six bikes across Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania — a road bike and mountain bike each for the three of us riders. With heavy rain lashing much of the southern states, the swell between Tassie and the mainland was building to as much as 3-5 metres. It may have been fear that initially put me into the foetal position, but the rocking of the boat kept me there for the night, lulled to sleep. In the morning I woke to clear skies as we pulled into Devonport.
After a short and easy drive across to Launceston, Dan, Paul and myself assembled at the James Boags Brewery with our photographers Tim and Sean to map out the trip over a frosty ale. We’d been given a VF Sportswagon from Holden for the week, and we needed every inch of it as we racked and packed bikes, parts, tools, camera gear, and kit.
We had a quiver of Trek carbon bikes at our disposal: two disc-equipped Domanes and a featherwright Emonda, plus three Superfly 9.0’s MTBs, all itching to show what they were capable of.
With all the hesitation of a cyclist on a new set of wheels, we clipped in and heading out through the quiet CBD of Launceston under blue skies. A rolling road took us out through dairy paddocks towards the imposing, craggy massif of Ben Lomond and, high above us, the much-photographed Jacobs Ladder (see image above). The casual catching up we had been doing on the roll-out quickly disappeared as the gravel road snaked upward through the eucalypts.
The rutted corners would later shake our bones on the descent, but for now they bounced us from one cambered corner to the next. Soon enough we had reached the small boulder field that marks the unmistakable switchbacks of Jacobs Ladder. The difficulty of the climb was easily surpassed by the wonderment of being in such an incredible and yet inhospitable environment.
Organ pipe-like rock structures towered hundreds of metres above us, first reflecting the heat of the setting sun on one switch, before sucking the warmth from us on the next. As the shadows chased us we rounded the final bends to be greeted with the remnants of snowfall only days earlier.
Click here to see a Strava route from day one.