From Mansfield to Benalla, the King Valley to Wangaratta, around Beechworth and of course the alpine areas, cycling the High Country on gravel roads serves up the chance to take some quieter, lesser-known roads and climbs that connect the valleys throughout the region.
It was something we took into consideration when putting together a loop for the 2018 Soup Boys Winter Solstice ride. We wanted to celebrate, showcase and discover new cycling frontiers in Victoria's High Country, mixing up the terrain on a route that took in the Mitta, Kiewa and Alpine Valleys. But...there is so much more to explore!
Take up the challenge of a High Country gravel loop and venture into uncharted territory... you'll be justly rewarded.
Adrian Ley, Co-founder
THE SOUP BOYS GRAVEL LOOP
A stretch of road that connects the Mitta Valley with the very top of the Kiewa Valley, both sides of the climb present stunning scenery and a really manageable gradient, but it is the Mitta Valley side of Lockharts Gap that really shines. Views of Lake Hume and Albury can be seen from the top on a clear day, while the descent down through farmland into the Mitta Valley is arguably one of the best in the area. This climb could feature perfectly in a 100km loop starting and finishing in Tallangatta, incorporating some of the High Country Rail Trail along the way.
For those with a sense of adventure and a willingness to throw caution to the wind, try venturing down one of the many lanes that branch off some of the regions more known roads. A particular favourite of mine is Bullhead Lane in the Mitta Valley. Make it past the Chihuahua at the farmyard gate and you'll be treated to an amazing stretch of gravel road normally only seen by local cows, dogs and farmers on their tractors.
In the Kiewa Valley, many of the gravel lanes will climb up and connect you with the Eskdale Spur Track or one of the many beautiful picnic grounds and swimming spots along the Kiewa River. Be adventurous...pick a minor road and go for a cycle (just remember to take supplies).
Arguably one of the toughest climbs in the area, Trappers Gap normally only rolls out the welcome mat in late October for the Mitta to Mount Beauty mountain bike race. In fact, it wasn't until the Soup Boys crew took it on in the middle of a snowstorm that road cyclists etched their names onto the climbs Strava leaderboard. A return trip between Mount Beauty and Mitta is a little over 100km, 74 of which is tough, challenging gravel, so you'd do best to be a little more equipped than the 25mm tyres most of the Solstice crew had on their bikes. The rewards are plentiful; stunning, almost reach-out-and-grab-it views of Mount Bogong and the eastern fringes of Victoria's High Country, Mountain Creek Camping Ground the perfect spot to cool down, and Mitta's General Store or Laurel Hotel acting as perfect feed zones.
REDBANK & GUNDOWRING ROADS
Hugging the eastern side of the Kiewa River, this back road through the Kiewa Valley is narrow, quiet and full of stunning views for its entire length. Featuring a number of short, sharp climbs and flowing descents, the undulating profile of this road makes it the perfect alternative to a big day of climbing. Make it an afternoon up-and-back ride from Mount Beauty to Mongan's or Keegan's Bridge, or incorporate it into a bigger loop taking in any of the Tawonga, Rosewhite or Tunnel Gap climbs.