2015 Domestique Baw Baw ride

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Nathan Pasco put a post out seeing if anyone would like to ride to Baw Baw from Yarra Junction.  To join the 2015 Domestique ride at Mount Baw Baw.  This was a ride that I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years.  It’s approximately 180 km’s long with a little under 4,000 vertical.  I put some feelers out and managed to get Chris Cox & Gary Beazley to come along. 

2015 Domestique Baw Baw ride


Yarra Junction to Baw Baw

The forecast was going to be pretty darned hot.  But when I arrived at Yarra Junction it was foggy, and damp.  I pulled my bike out and the rear tire was flat.  Great!  I managed a quick tire change and we were off.  It wasn’t great conditions to ride in, but we flew off.  Between Nathan’s mate Matt, & Chris Cox there was a cracking pace.  I was wondering how long I could comfortably keep up with the pace.  After riding through Powelltown.  We came upon a hill & CC flew off on everyone, and foolishly I followed.  After about 3 km’s of climbing I managed to catch up to him.  Without knowing how long the climb went for.  I had no idea how much longer I needed to keep up the tempo.  I dropped off somewhat when some common sense prevailed to save some energy for the rest of the ride.  Somehow managed 7th on the segment board.  As a consequence of pushing too hard I managed to strain my groin.  This would give me grief for the remainder of the day.

Vespers Hill

There were very little flat sections for the day.  We were either climbing or descending.  We had to climb Vespers Hill.  I wish I knew what I was in for but knew it was going to be tough the way people talked about it.  On paper it was 4.5 km’s @ 7%, but much of it was over 11%.
Vespers Hill

This is a climb that would normally suit me.  But with my groin hurting I just couldn’t put out the power needed to smoothly climb this hill.  I was pretty much in the hurt locker most of the way.  I was surprised at our pace though.  We managed to get to Tanjil Bren, which was 72 km’s & 1,700 vertical in 2 hours & 46 minutes (26 km/h).  And had time to spare to catch up with old friends at Tanjil Bren.

2015 Domestique Baw Baw ride
Chris Cox, Matt de Neef & Andy Van Bergen


2015 Domestique Baw Baw ride

We still had the monster Mount Baw Baw to climb.  With a strained groin I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and I knew I had to pace myself.  This isn’t one of my strong points.  Chris then came over to me to let me know that my rear tire decided to blow again……..  I went over, & lo & behold I had to change the tire for the second time that day.  Great!  I was pretty speedy, and was able to get it done before everyone started to head off.  When the rider debriefing ended we waited until most of the riders left before heading off.  I rode with Gary Beazley & Nathan and really took it easy up until the Gantry. 

As soon as I hit the steep ramp of the climb.  I lost a fair bit of my power, and it was a struggle.  I had to really concentrate hard on my pedaling technique.  But with the pain in my legs I really had to fight a battle with myself to not pull over.  I was overtaking a number of riders.  I kept telling myself that if I was hurting, imagine how they would be feeling.  A number of riders on the day were doing the climb for the first time.  And a few gave up, or needed breaks on the side of the road.  It was hard seeing them without wanting to pull over myself as I was in so much pain.  

2015 Dometique Baw Baw ride
Photograph by Kirsten Stewart Photography

The carrot

I willed myself up to the halfway point, and mentally it was easier from there.  I was still in pain, but knew that I was well on my way to finishing.  With a couple of k’s to go I looked over my shoulder and the climbing cyclist Matt de Neef was catching me.  I knew he would catch me.  But it gave me inspiration to push on to the end to make it more challenging for him.

2015 Domestiqe Baw Baw ride
Photograph by Kirsten Stewart Photography (you can see Matt de Neef in the white outfit catching up to me)

With less than a kilometre to go he caught me into a nasty corner which peaks at 17%.  I waited until he was right near my wheel till I took off on him.  Had to make him work for his carrot.  I lasted another 500 meters until he took me & I encouraged him to smash the rest of the climb.

2015 Domestiqe Baw Baw ride

I made it to the top, and my thoughts turned to the 90 km return trip.  And 3 major climbs in between.  I took stock of my injury, and took a very long break at the top chatting with a number of Hells 500 riders.  My injury had recovered somewhat but I needed to tread on egg shells.  Nathan was feeling the heat at this stage.  I was lucky as this was great that we’d need a number of rest stops on the way down.  We still had well over a 1,000 meters of vertical on the way back.  And the day was heating up rapidly.

2015 Domestiqe Baw Baw ride


Return via pain street

The other side of Vespers was the first major challenge.  The steep section was 1.6 km’s @ 8%, and there was little shade on it.  Somehow I managed to fly up it in good shape.  My groin seemed to had gotten a bit better in the heat.  And I was able to pump out a good tempo.
Two down. One to go

Oh Oh!

On the other side I put the hammer down and went into TT mode on the descent.  I was absolutely flying, hitting speeds well over 70 km/h.  One rule I used be strong on was to not push down a hill unless I knew it well enough.  Foolishly was going was way too fast, and was heading into a tight bend at 67 km/h.  I squeezed the brakes and the whole bike went sideways on me.  I risked dropping the bike at an incredibly fast speed.  And knew I couldn’t brake in time to negotiate the corner.  I let go of the brakes to get back control of the bike, and option two was to run off the road at god knows what speed into the bushes.  I had a fraction of a second to assess what dangers lied ahead.  There was a cliff face about 15 meters in, but I should have been able to pull up before then.  I was heading straight at some grass which was about 25 cm high, and there was major danger that I couldn’t see what was in it.  I knew if there was a rock or a hole in the ground I could possibly go flying.  Then I’d be totally fucked.  And had to calm myself as much as I could so that I could do the Superman if I had to.  I pulled as hard as I safely could on the brakes, and there was nothing more I could do.  Running off the road at over 60 km/h was something I wish I had never experienced.  I relaxed myself as best as I could.  It took me close to 5 meters of riding through the grass before I came to a complete stop.
I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t hit anything. 
I was expecting a puncture at the very least.  I jumped straight onto the road, and tried to calm my beating heart.  The section I was on was steep, I straight away I was flying.  A couple of hundred meters down of course I came to another technical corner.  I don’t know what I did, but somehow locked up the front brakes.  The front end of the bike slid out on me, and I crapped myself for a fraction of a second as I was going at about 45 km/h, and had to fight the bike to right it.  I hit the panic button and I slowed down from here.  I tried my hardest not to crap myself.  Two bad situations in less than a minute.  No harm no foul.  Then a blow fly that was over an inch long flew into my mouth and landed in between my lips.  I could feel it crawling there before I could spit it out.  This descent really sucked.  I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t punctured or crashed.  Of course then I hit a small pothole, and punctured my front tire.  And had to roll slowly the last couple of hundred meters.  Great!  The descent was 4.5 km’s @ 7%.  I don’t know how fast I was smashing it before all of the craziness.  But even with all of these disasters I averaged over 52 km/h. 
I was lucky that John Van Seters was driving past when I was changing my tire.  Three separate tire punctures in the one ride really sucks, but he had a pump in his car.  This saved me wasting a CO2 cylinder.  I used the last of my spare inner tubes, and had to be careful for now.  We were only a short distance from Noojee & headed there to get some lunch, and to get out of the heat.  It was roasting, but we only had about 45 km’s to go, with only one major climb remaining
The last 45 km’s went fast, but as a real struggle. 
It was hot, we copped a crosswind, and my groin was giving me grief.  I went into the hurt locker and grinded it out.  I guess the quicker you ride, the quicker the pains over.  It was an incredible ride, and some of the roads out there are simply amazing to ride on.  I got to spend the day with a great bunch of mates.  And also got to catch up with a lot of other riders who I hadn’t seen for awhile. Given how hard I had to work during the day.  I was happy with how well I was able to ride.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

Here is a link to the Climbing Cyclists write-up for the ride.  I was honoured to get a mention in it:


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