Hells 500 Ol’ Dirty 2015

Posted on Updated on

Photo taken by Marlon Bautista

When I strained my Achilles late July I pulled myself out of a number of rides. The one I didn’t want to miss was Ol’ Dirty. I enjoy to push myself on the Hells & Domestique rides.  But back when I committed to ride this event I didn’t know if I’d be fit enough to do it. I made the decision to do the press thing & put together a piece for La Velocita & bring my SLR in my backpack.  Endeavoring to get a tonne of photos on the day.

Ol’ Dirty 2015

Hells 500 Ol’ Dirty 2015

It was actually challenging for me at the start. I met so many people that I have known on Strava for ages & caught up with so many friends.  But I was preoccupied looking for that photo.  I apologise to anyone that I may have seemed a bit vague on the day.

We set off at a gentle pace down the Lilydale Warburton trail. It had rained heaps through the week & the trail was quite muddy.  I was cursing using my 23 mm tires. I was chatting with Ian Michelson early on in the piece. Ian helped me put together an article about this amazing ride he did several years back.  Where he climbed all 7 Peaks in under 24 hours.

Mount Bride

When we hit the start of the climb up Mount Bride I had no idea what I was in for. I was expecting something really hard & I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday was the first day that I had been able to do any hill work since straining my Achilles.  I am yet to recover my climbing strength. I was a bit surprised that I was climbing smoothly & overtaking large groups at a time. The road was quite muddy.  I had to work to get traction on my thin tires but seemed to be going well.

Along the way I stopped half a dozen times to get photos.  I must have annoyed the hell out of a lot of riders. I would fly on by them. Stop & get photos. Get back on the bike. Would fly on by them. Stop & get photos……   Some riders I passed four or five times.  It was a surprise that I didn’t hear anyone cursing me. Surprisingly after each stop I thought it would rest me & would really take off.  But was the opposite today. Every time I started back the lactic acid would hit & I’d get more & more tired. It was cold & muddy and this was my kinda scene.

We hit this truly nasty pinch of a climb that was clearly 20% for at least 300 metres.

I could also see that it was covered in mud. Flying up it quite well, and was waiting for the tyres to spin on my slicks. Not wanting to get off & walk but was forced to when the rider directly in front of me fell off his bike. Guess it was time to get photos of peoples walking their bikes up a ridiculous hill.

There was carnage on the lower slopes as a couple of riders crashed.  This was truly a nasty climb in the conditions.


(This video was taken just before the crash)

13.7 km of climbing later & I make it to the top. The funny thing was the descent. It was over 9 km in distance & it was fast & furious. Now I’m world renown for my descending skills. Amongst all of my friends I’m usually the slowest one down the hill. I have to work extra hard to get my skinny frame to descend. Today I was flying. I overtook dozens on the descent, & was reading the lines beautifully.

A little voice was whispering “this is where you can puncture & screw up your ride”. “this is where you can crash & not get to ride again before the birth of your son”. I knew I needed to remain confident & just read the lines well. There was one section where I had my arms ripped out of their sockets due to heavy corrugation.  Apart from that I was having a blast.

When we turned onto Little Joe you had the option of this muddy single track or descending Little Joe. I tried the single track but just got wheel spin on my slicks.  Pulling off the track & of course fell over. Thankfully was a soft, if not embarrassing landing. I headed down Little Joe 7 this was the first time that I had returned here since Everesting it in the end of March.

Little Joe

It was nice riding on sealed roads, but I knew something was wrong as I started to slow down. I had passed hundreds of riders up Mount Bride. But now I was getting passed & I could still pedal well. I just didn’t have any energy to move fast. A combination of being wet & muddy.  Riding mud on slicks & carrying a semi-heavy backpack on my back started to wear down on my.  I was reminded that I wasn’t back to 100% yet.

I was now pulling over to take photos as an excuse to recover.  Enjoying riding solo so that I couldn’t show others how stuffed I was feeling.


I was hanging out to make the rest stop & was hoping that a feed would give me the energy to make it to the end ok. I was really hungry & I completely forgot that I had thrown in some food in my backpack.

The Hells 500 party

The rest stop was pure Andy Van Bergen. Great food. Music. Great atmosphere. No one knows how to throw a party in the middle of nowhere like Andy. I met more people that I had never met before, & was spewing that I was a bit blotto & still thinking of taking photos. Apologies again if I seemed vague.

We went into this amazing forest & got some great photos. I knew I was a little gaga as I wasn’t going crazy taking photos, & definitely a spot I want to return to on a good day.

O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail

All that remained was the O’Shannassy Trail. I have history on this thing. Back in 2012 when I was still discovering cycling I ventured out here on a muddy winters day. This was before I had any wet weather kit.  I had one of the hardest short rides that I’ve ever endured on a bike. This track scarred me & I’ve not been able to return.

It was all that stood in front of me to finish off the 2015 Ole Dirty.  I was intrepid to start, & when I hit long sections of mud that on my 23’s felt like I was riding on ice.  Expecting to drop the bike & was just hoping not to injure myself. I don’t know how I kept the bike upright, & was able to ride through most of the mud. All that energy I was able to replenish quickly diminished.  Admitting that I was exhausted & there was a long climb ahead of me.

It certainly was an adventure

I stopped quite a few times to get photos, although honestly it was as much as an excuse to get a rest. There was a course photographer.  But I knew they wouldn’t be travelling through here.  Hoping that I could get some decent shots.

This was no place for my road bike & 23mm tyres. It was my kinda scene & wished I would enjoy it more, but I was exhausted.  All I could think of was the 7 weeks I have left to ride before my son comes along.  The last thing I needed was to crash & injure myself.

Martyr Road

I survived & even managed to get up Martyr’s Road which peaks at 27%. It was frekin hard getting up that thing as my legs felt like lead.  But I’ve made it up too many crazy climbs before not to be getting off & walking this one.

I survived Ole Dirty & had a fun time. After uploading my photos to Facebook & did my write-up for La Velocita & was blown away by how viral it all went. I couldn’t have asked for a better result. Having the chance to catch up with so many mates & met so many wonderful people today. Would love to name you all, but worried that I may miss a name or three.

Martin English & Matthew Shanks


The boss

Many thanks to Hells 500, Andy Van Bergen & all the great volunteers that made this such a great ride. Hells 500 & the Climbing Cyclist Matt de Neef have been such a major influence in my introduction to the world of climbing.  Without a doubt I wouldn’t be where I am now without those guys. I was able to do Donna Done Dirty several years back, & if Andy reads this hope that he does this one again (hint, hint).

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here


Ol’ Dirty 2015
(Visited 119 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.