A pleasant stroll in the Dandenongs

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To say winter has not gone to plan for me is a major understatement.  Autumn I was knocking out 150 km rides comfortably and then of course I started getting sick.  I’ve been sick a total of  5 weeks over the past 3 months, and had a a couple of forced weeks off the bike due to holidays with the missus.  It would be nice to get back on the bike.  Then get my fitness back before Spring time, and I am trying to ease myself back into it.

I’m feeling healthy now, but knew it was important not to go too hard on my first decent knockout.  Matt Ayres was organising a group ride in the Dandenong’s.  I’m due to have a baby at the start of November.  So have been trying to get as much exploring in as I can and catching up with mates any chances I get.  I put the message out through my Strava Club “the Dandenong Ranges”.  Was thankful to get Larry Bird, David White & Matthew Shanks come down to ride with us.

My alarm was set for 6:00 am with the aim of getting to Boronia by 8:15 am.  I hate to admit but it’s a lot harder to get out of bed early during winter.  The house felt freezing.  I looked up the weather & that nice warm 5 degree morning the weather man promised was full of shit.  It was little over a degree outside.  I grabbed extra gear & headed off.  It’s not nice riding through Scoresby which is one of the coldest parts of Melbourne.  The thermometer dipped below zero degrees & was a tad bit cold.

A group of 9 of us headed up from Boronia up the 1:20.  Several of the riders had never ridden in the Dandenong’s before, & it was nice to be able to help show them around my favorite place.  The weather had warmed up to 3 degrees, and there is something special about climbing in the Dandenong’s on a cold day.  You don’t see as many riders up there on these types of days, and mornings like this bring out the fog which can be stunning to ride through.

David White at the top of the 1:20

It was casual pace and we were able to spend time chatting.  From the 1:20 we descended down Sherbrooke Road which had a bit of water on it, and we needed to take care on the descent.

Sherbrooke Road

We took Grantula Road to get to Emerald, and the sun came out and except for the cold was a beautiful morning.  The story of the day was the cold.  Even with the sight of the sun it just wouldn’t warm up.  It was still under 4 degrees and there was a particularly nasty pocket of cold around Emerald where the fog was quite heavy.

We stopped at the Emerald Bakery, and the image below says it all.

The Emerald Bakery
After our break it was harder to stay warm.  We had to ride through some very thick fog which was quite stunning, and cold.

Everyone was gearing up for the hardest climb of the day.  Climbing from David Hill Road all the way up to Sky High which is close to 13 km’s of undulating climbing.

Everyone enjoyed David Hill Road.  Its a special climb to me having Everested it with Stryder earlier in the year.  We moved onto the Wall, and it wasn’t easy.

I wasn’t 100% today, and feel that I’m lacking power at the moment.  I was able to climb ok, but it was a bit of a struggle.  We worked our way up to Sky High, and enjoyed a brief respite at the top.

Most of the group had never descended down the rear side of Mount Dandenong, and everyone enjoyed the descent.  I couldn’t keep up with the pace they were setting.  Working hard to keep the group in my sights.  I had helped Matt develop a route for today, and the plan was to head up Sheffield Road to get back to Boronia.  Given that there’s a pinch that is nearing 20%, I kept this to myself.

Of course there was a bit of cursing behind when they saw what they had to get up.

It was a shame that the descent on the other side is incredible fun.  Unfortunately a motorist pulled out right in front of us on this really steep descent and then pulled into a house several doors up.  Given they lived at the base of a really steep hill you would think they’d show a bit more caution.  Our momentum was lost, and the guys missed out on an awesome descent.  Putting on the poker face I tried not to show it, but I felt a bit wrecked.  I still had to ride home, and knew I didn’t have much in the tank.  Sadly I  wussed out & decided an easy option down the Eastlink trail to get me home.

At this stage I had 100 km’s in the bag when I left the group.  Thoughts of doing 150 crossed my mind.  As mentioned I’ve had a turbulent time of late & to get something big like that was desirable.  Trouble with this was my body had other ideas.  Each peddle stroke became a grind, and my left knee didn’t like getting up any hill.  I pulled the plug and headed home with 140 km’s & 2,500 completed for the day.  Given the circumstances I couldn’t have asked for more leading in to the day, and with such a cold day.  The temperature only averaged 5 degrees for the whole ride, was a great workout.

I met a few new riders, and got to ride with some great blokes today.

Here is a link for my Strava Activity here:

Larry & Matt


Matthew Shanks
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