Emma Flukes on the Vic Divide 2021

Words & Photos by Emma Flukes
Illustration by @leeleebefrank

6 minutes

In February, Emma Flukes made the last minute decision to head to Melbourne for another crack at the Vic Divide 550. Emma was kind enough to share here thoughts on the ride in an honest, clear and natural way, exactly what we strive for at Desire Lines CC. Thanks Emma and congrats on your Vic Divide ride this year.

Part one – the start, hike a bikes and zero winks

100-odd riders and way too much testosterone set off at a super hot pace from Wurundjeri Spur on Saturday morning.

I tried sticking with the zoomy bois for a while, but it soon became clear that they punched out more watts with their big toe than I could at max effort, so I backed off and settled into hubbard pace. Throughout the day, I chopped and changed positions with ~12 blokes who would ride past me like I wasn’t moving (it was humiliating) then reappear behind me half an hour up the road, so I guess they all stopped for yoga class or something? I was having a ball out there – lubing the fine dust out of my chain every 40km so it would SHUT THE HELL UP, drinking from the least seedy looking puddles, and generally relishing being a dirtbag.

The only thing that didn’t go so well was the snooze. My body has this really bad habit of shutting down when I’m tired and I get dangerously cold when I stop. It’s happened to me since day dot, and it sucks. The Howqua River valley traps a mass of cold damp air which you can’t really escape unless you stop before the second of two ~10km walking tracks, where the road takes a brief sojourn up into the hills and momentarily out of the dank.

I rode past a few primo roadside ditches and gazed at them longingly, but was pretty keen to get both Howqua strolls out of my system (rideable for some, 100% chance I’d end up 20m below in the river so almost entirely HABs for me). I didn’t fancy my chances of stomaching them plus Stonefly together and wrapping that up in one push.

So with all but the last couple of clicks of strollin’ under my belt, I pulled up at Richie’s Hut, tagged Matty B who was on his way out, then spent 30 mins curled up shivering violently before giving up on the idea of sleeping. @adam__lana & @buckthorpee turned up and I took that as my cue to leave. I’d just wasted an hour on zero winks, and I really wasn’t looking forward to how that played out in 16hrs time.

Part two – an ‘uneventful’ second day

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful – the little rocket was a dreamboat as always, but the combo of swollen lower limbs and the 134,000th rapid SPD eject had my feet screaming in the heat off the back of Buller. I remembered I’d packed a change of socks and did a quick switcheroo before the chonky Tomahawk descent, in probably my single best life choice yet. Sure, skimp on grams everywhere else, but foot health is king.

Aside from one bloke packing up camp on the lower reaches of Buller before sunrise, I saw nobody all day until @flinnryan caught up with me a trillion hours later on dusk outside of Myrtleford. Competition might look fierce on a computer screen, and I can’t speak for other riders, but it’s peaceful out there in my little world. ⁣⁣
Not gonna lie, the last night wasn’t the best time I’ve ever had on a bike. I noticed myself getting irate and sad with everything which is a telltale sign of sleep deprivation, but I’d been here before and know it’s not real. Now was the time to just get ‘er done. So I walked the eminently rideable 4WD washouts because my brain was too slow to pick a path through the ruts; tried a couple of 3 min dirt naps to sharpen up but quickly got too cold (it was 18C, nothing to do with ambient temp); grandma’d the singletrack; and had a bit of a whinge before reminding myself that I do this for fun and chose to be here. I’ll spare you the gory details, but if you were watching me after Stanley you’ll see I *crawled* home. Shit got pretty weird that night, ask me about it over a beer sometime.⁣⁣
Pulled up to a crowd of adoring fans (nobody) @ 4:34am on Mon morning for a 46h34m, 552km, 12,450vm little weekend jaunt. 30h later, I’m back home in Tassie, and it’s like nothing ever happened.

Part three – time for reflection

Would I do anything differently? Aside from trading for a less crappy metabolism, nah. I did what I could on the day(s) and that’s all I can ever ask for. I honestly don’t think Vic Divide is the right route for totally forgoing sleep, unless of course you’re fast enough to get it done sub-40h. The terrain is too techy, and IMO it’s a false economy because you’ll burn more time dying later. My accidental lack of sleep played out exactly how I’d expected/feared, but these rides are all about being adaptable, and you just have to play the hand you’re dealt. ⁣

Stats re last year: 1h50m faster but also ~15km shorter. The twisty pine plantation section before Myrtleford (a rad new addition) adds 200m vert so it’s tough to say. Apparently my moving time was within 8 mins of 2020 (yes really), but whereas last year I was able to finish up strong, this year I… didn’t. Reckon I probably have another hour *max* up my sleeve if all went flawlessly, which would still put me SEVEN HOURS behind @drslane’s winning time this year. Let that one sink in. Don’t worry blokes, I won’t be coming for your records any time soon. ⁣

Ultimately I’m beyond stoked to have slipped under the magic 48h mark and made it back home without being locked up in COVID quarantine (yet…fingers crossed).⁣

k that’s more than enough from me. Congrats to everyone involved – speed demons and chuggers still tootling away out there. And @xshippx – you’ve made something really special here. I really hope you recognise that, and that you’re proud of what you’ve created. You’re facilitating people to make lifelong memories, and that’s a truly priceless gift. Thank you. x

Vic Divide Total Snack Count

5 x mini hot cross buns w/ fat slabs of Duck River Butter
4 x pikelet sandwiches with aforementioned butter as MVP (jokes, the only player)
6.5 x Clif Bars (8.5 still smushed up in my gear. No regrets)
2 x Hedgehog slices
1 x snack pack salted peanuts
1 x sausage roll
1 x choccy muffin c/o trail angel Ben in Myrtleford
1 x can Solo
1 x can Coke
1 x Red Bull
1 x iced coffee
2 x Nurofen


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