It’s a hidden gem, one of New South Wales’ toughest non-alpine climbs, and certainly one to add to the ‘must ride’ list.
Located along the picturesque Bylong Valley Way and known by locals simply as The Gulph, Growee Gulph is part of an imposing mountain range reaching some 700metres.
The challenging 5+kilometre climb takes in more than 300 vertical metres at an average of 6.2%. And yes, ‘Growee Gulph’ makes up the King and Queen of the Mountain of the 170km Maxi Classic at the inaugural Mudgee Classic in May.
Strava leaderboards show Mudgee Classic ambassador Megan Scott is the current all-time QOM having conquered the climb in 18min 43sec at 15.5km/h in October 2019.
Well-known Team Bridgelane pro cyclist Ayden Toovey holds the KOM, he blitzed the climb in a time of 13min 26sec and 21.6kp/h in December 2018.
A proud Mudgee local, we asked Ayden how it feels to blast up ‘The Gulph’ and his top tips for Mudgee Classic riders preparing to take on the tough climb.
“The 170 is an awesome loop, as soon as I saw it I thought ‘yeah … I’m happy they were able to put together that sort of loop around Mudgee’ “, he told us from Canberra, while preparing for a mid-week Crit race.
“The Mudgee Classic 170km course really shows off what the whole region offers cyclists – it showcases the best of everything,” he continued. “Heading out along the Bylong Valley Way and up Growee … It was awesome organisers were able to pull that off and include the climb.”
Growee KOM At 21kp/h
Having ridden the 5km Bylong Valley Way climb at a similar speed many of us ride on the flats, Ayden said the secret for Growee Gulph was to pace it realistically and stay within your abilities.
“Like any event, there will be those who want to push hard and punish themselves up that climb,” he said.
“It’s pretty solid – it really is. It starts quite steep at the bottom, flattens a fair bit in the middle then ramps up again to hurt you at the top.
“Through the middle, you get a good advantage and can get the legs moving a little more, but for about the last four minutes it ramps up. The tip here is to pace yourself!”
“The other side of the climb is a lot of fun, then the whole way back toward Rylstone is undulating so you’re still working,” he said.
And Ayden’s local advice for all riders is this: “The key is not stressing, just taking your time, making the most of the scenery, eating and drinking properly and having a great day. There’s a lot to look at and overall it will be a very enjoyable course.”
Ayden Toovey’s Top Mudgee KOM / QOM Tips
* Before the KOM / QOM you’ll already have a fair few kilometres in the legs and two hours to the finish arch so be realistic and pace yourself.
* It’s the longest climb of the course but there are still many undulations afterwards, so don’t use all your energy reserves on the climb
* Don’t go too hard too early. Try to recover in the middle third (where it flattens off a little) or else you’ll pay a high price when it ramps up towards the final 1/3 of the climb.
* Sadly you don’t get rewarded once cresting the climb. There is a gentle downhill section but you’ll need energy for undulations and rolling terrain ahead.
Describing the 170km Maxi Classic as “epic” and “a solid day on the bike”, Ayden finished by saying “anyone who completes the 170km course – well that’s an achievement in itself.”
Born and bred in Mudgee, 25yo Ayden Toovey rides for leading UCI Continental/ NRS team Bridgelane.
He is currently based in Canberra where he balances road and MTB racing with his work as an apprentice electrician.
Looking back to his origins in the sport, Ayden credits growing up in the country environs of Mudgee as one of the keys to his success.
“We had a good training crew and some great bunches in Mudgee,” he told us.
“The country racing scene directed my career, and growing up there definitely bolstered my training and strengthened my cycling,” he said. ” It was all about good people, good attitudes, solid training and us locals having fun and enjoying our sport.”
“Older riders – for example David Payne – would help motivate and motor pace us. And those quieter country roads were very good for training.”
Ayden said the Mudgee region offers a fantastic variety of road riding but also some very good MTB and gravel options.
“There’s a place called The Common which I love, ” he told us. “You could get lost in there for hours without seeing the same track twice.”
Career-wise, Ayden told us his first UCI win will always remain a standout.
“That was at the Tour of Japan,” he said. “I had the leaders’ jersey up until the Mt Fuji stage.”
“Racing criteriums in America is also right up there. It is definitely more aggressive racing in the US .. more riders are willing to risk a lot more skin over there …. it can be brutal.”
Ayden said that although his apprenticeship is his main focus now, he wants to race again in 2021 and beyond.
“I’m very keen to do the Tour of Taiwan and Tour of Japan again,” he said. “They are very well organised events and offer top-level racing. Plus I’m also keen to get back and ride my home roads of Mudgee … I hope to be there and catch up with my old mates in May.”