This was my first time climbing Mount Baw Baw. Looking at the gradient profile I knew that it was a monster. I decided to park at the top, and descend down to Tanjil Bren. It would have been easy to panic and when I saw what I was in for. I smiled, and didn’t let it bother me. I wanted to dominate this climb.
The descent was pretty dangerous, and I took it easy. The climb leading back to Tanjil Bren I decided to have a crack at. I didn’t know the specks on it, and was riding really well. But after a couple of km’s a little voice told me to slow down. And save some energy for Baw Baw. Taking the foot off the accelerator, and found a comfortable tempo to climb. This of course is one of those frustrating things with Strava. You’re riding by an invisible clock and can have no idea of how you’re doing. The 3.8 km @ 5% climb leading back to Tanjil Bren I missed the KOM by 30 seconds and finished 3rd on the leader board. If only I had given it some gas…….
Domestique Baw Baw ride
There was a good sized crowd with close to 180 riders for the Domestique ride. We were blessed with perfect conditions. I waited back till right at the end to go, and cruised down the hill. Giving it hell on the climb. I didn’t hold back and the 5.2 km climb (4%), to the base of the steep bit I averaged 23.3 km/h. Overtaking most of the field leading up to the base of the monster and were 33rd on that leader board.
I had pushed myself too hard, and as soon as I hit the steep section couldn’t keep up at that pace I was setting. Thankfully I was able to ease the accelerator a little and found a steady rhythm. I was still catching riders, but it took me a lot longer to catch up to them. I overtook a guy, who I could tell had that competitive streak. You could almost hear him saying “you passed me just because I was going slow”. He put on the gas, and got 100 meters up the road. I stuck with my pace and let him go. Highly amused when with 2 km’s to go saw that he cooked himself and glided past him.
I got to the top, and felt that I had a fair bit of energy left. Pondering whether I could have pushed myself harder. I finished in 52 minutes 27 seconds, and there was only about a dozen riders at the top. I finished in the top 5% of riders on the leader board. All of the riders ahead of me had completed it in a race, so I was stoked with the time. Only one rider, Darryn Benn finished faster than my time on the day.
Two Roads lead to Baw Baw
I was aware of a gravel road called South Face Road. There weren’t many who had climbed South Face on Strava None had ever climbed Baw Baw from both sides in a day. How could I resist the challenge? I decided to descend down to Walhalla, and climb back to the top. The descent down South Face was a nightmare. There were some very steep sections, and although it was really wide. There was gravel everywhere. Quite often I wouldn’t have a racing line to descend, and would have to bounce over the gravel on my tiny 23 mm tires. I do not know how I didn’t puncture during that section.
I glided down to Walhalla which is just a dream to ride through. Soabsolutely wrecked and had 45 km’s of undulating climbing to go to get back up to where my car was parked. I bumped into a few riders who had done the Domestique ride. They said I was crazy and couldn’t believe that I had ridden down there. South Face up to Baw Baw is a HC climb, so I decided to try and push on it with what little I had left.
Australia’s longest climb
Boy there was some hard pinches there, and I had to go into my happy place to keep pushing. The descents were harder than the climbs, as there was always the risk of puncture. With 6 km’s to go I punctured, and was cursing as was riding brilliantly at the time. I got back on the bike, and 600 meters down the road I punctured again. Oh shit! This was my last inner tube. I had 6 km’s of gravel to get through then the 6 km climb up to the top of Baw Baw. If I punctured again I would have to walk up there……….
I rode on egg shells, and that 6 km’s of gravel was not a pleasant experience. There was no phone reception either, so I was completely on my own. My mojo left me, and I was smashing it before, but it all got let out now, and I felt drained. I had to stop at the turn-off for Baw Baw. Those final km’s up Baw Baw were not pleasant. I was in my pain cave the whole way. I found it ironic that just that morning I was smashing this climb that now smashing me.
Done and dusted
I am the only one to ever ascend both faces of Baw Baw in the one ride on Strava. And would not recommend it, unless you could do South Face on a Mountain Bike. Today was truly epic, and I did a whole lot better than I could have hoped for. I still have problems with pacing myself, and really hurt myself on the last third of that ride. Using so much nervous energy on that 30 km descent down the gravel of South Face Road. Even to today, that is one of the most horrible experiences I’ve ever had on a bike.
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here: