Cycling Tips Giro della Donna is Andy Van Bergen’s brainchild. He had ridden this course a number of times before putting it out on the map as one of Victoria’s premiere events. In 2014, Andy advertised a ride around the Reefton Spur& the Acheron Way on Facebook. I rubbed my hands together as the Acheron Way was high on my to do list. 20 riders showed up in wet & overcast conditions.
It was a day that I was fortunate to meet John Beech, & Robbie Rowlands. Who is the founder of the Cardinia Climbers group. This ride was shortly before I attempted my first Everest, and I was in some of the best form that I’ve ever had. This month I pumped out 40,000 vertical metres in just 28 days. Averaging over 1,400 vm per day. On this ride I had a blinder. We left Warby, and set a brisk pace out to the Reefton Spur averaging over 32 km/h.
The weather wasn’t flash, and it was only around 7 degrees but I was feeling pretty strong.
At the base of the Reefton Spur I went to the front to pace the group. With the Reefton Spur starting on a 7% pinch. I hit it in the big dog and was cranking out some massive Watts averaging 25 km/h. After about 300 metres I looked over my shoulder. Completely surprised to see that the group was still at the base of the climb, and I had flown off on them. No one was pushing to catch up. I had that 50/50 decision of whether I slow down and stick with the group or go for gold. My legs said to go for it, and foolishly dropped the hammer. The first 1.5 km’s averages close to 7%, and I was giving it a lot of gas. Of course cooked myself. I managed 6th on the leader board into the first section so must have been flying, but at the top I was completely out of breath. Having to drop back significantly over the next 5 km’s trying to catch my breath.
The Reefton Spur is more of a series of undulating climbs, than a straightforward climb
Eventually I was able to recover, but felt that I had ridden it shockingly. After awhile, I was able to drop the hammer again, and give it full gas. Feeling great all the way to the end of the Reefton Spur. At the time I had finished 5th on the leader board. Which given that it was only 7 degrees, and I had screwed up the start I was really happy with. I knew the group behind me would take ages to catch up, and I felt strong so kept TT it up to Lake Mountain. Unfortunately the skies opened up and it poured on me. There were two steep descents that I needed to do before the Lake Mountain turnoff. The roads were greasy and I had to keep my hands on the brakes the whole way down.
I turned off towards Lake Mountain and the weather turned foul. It dropped down to about 4 degrees, and the wind picked up. It was a nightmare to ride, but I pushed on as well as I could, but knew the elements were slowing me down. I got to the Lake Mountain summit soaked to the skin, and went inside shaking from the cold. Having to stay in front of the fire for ages to warm-up. Given the weather, and the fact that I had to slow down on the descents. I couldn’t believe I still got 2nd on the leaderboard from Reefton Spur to Lake Mountain. 2 minutes 32 seconds behind getting the KOM, which I lost just in the descents, let alone the crappy weather. Guess that’s the breaks with Strava, you can win some, and you can loose some.
I still see this as one of the best individual rides I’ve done.
It was over 15 minutes till the next rider arrived, and I was still really cold. I honestly didn’t want to leave the resort. I felt like a wuss as I did not look forward to descending Lake Mountain in these cold conditions. HTFU I told myself, and bought a beanie for some extra warmth. Honestly the descent down to Marysville wasn’t too bad (don’t know if I would have said that without the beanie). We stopped at the amazing Marysville bakery for some lunch, and was a great chance to chat with other riders. I was here to ride in a group, but couldn’t see anyone doing the pace I was planning on doing.
There were about 10 riders that headed out before me, and I set a good TT pace out of Marysville. There’s a 1.2km climb which is 7% out of Marysville, and I didn’t want to hurt myself. Finding a comfortable tempo & tapped out 172 bpm up this climb. I couldn’t believe that I KOM’d it, and guess I was having a blinder that day.
I turned off for the Acheron way, and found myself struggling. There was a little bit of a head wind which made climbing taxing. Once I hit the gravel section, I seemed to have recovered, and was able to start to give it full gas and started to fly. The Acheron Way was amazing, and fairly Road Bike friendly. I hammered past the group ahead of me, and picked up several KOM’s along the way. I had a scare near the top though. Towards the end you descend towards the Mount Donna Buang turnoff. I was probably doing around 34 km/h when I came around a corner.
The entire road was covered in gravel without a single racing line. I couldn’t break in time and had to control my speed going into the gravel and expected the bike to go from under me, and lost traction. Going a bit sideways. This slowed me down, and made me nervous, but know I was doing a good time and continued on as fast as I confidently dared. The Acheron Way is 28.2 km long, with a 1% average, with most of it gravel. I averaged 27.2 km/h, and at the time finished 3rd on the Strava segment. I turned off at Mount Donna Buang, and felt the strongest I have ever done in this section.
Taking a whole minute off my PB up to the top.
I waited up the top for close to half an hour waiting for the group to catch up. I bumped into the mighty Sambo at the top. With several other guys who were training to do their first Everest at the end of the month. Eventually I gave up waiting, and descended. I later discovered that quite a few of the guys had punctures on the Acheron Way. One guy triple punctured. Given my experience on that gravel section. With how many riders I’ve heard puncture through there I haven’t been keen to return. But really thankful for having the opportunity to climb it.
Today was a blinder for me, and such a confidence boost approaching my first Everest. I did two major climbs, in crappy weather & finished in the top 5 on both of them. The fact that I showed up for a group ride, and rode 75% of it solo hasn’t sat too well with me. I had the time of my life, but would have had just as much fun pacing myself & chatting with the guys during the day. Guess it’s a what if situation, but this easily is amongst my favourite rides of 2014.
Well those top 5 time lasted until a little thing called the Giro della Donna came along. Lucky to be in the top 100 now 🙂