Unlocking the mysteries of the North

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I have traveled extensively around Victoria.  The one area that I have not explored extensively is the Northern Suburbs.  It’s nothing personal, but I’ve rarely had any good experiences up North.  Somehow I seem to pick days where its cold, wet & windy, and usually on the same ride.

How can I claim to be a climber, when I’ve avoided exploring some of the best areas to climb around Melbourne?  This winter instead of knocking out epic after epic I’ve vowed to explore more, and visit more extensively areas such as the Northern suburbs, the Brisbane Ranges, French Island, Gippsland and Walhalla to name a few areas.

Dave Smith

The plan was to meet up with David Smith in Warrandyte.  Dave only had till 11:30am to ride, but I was happy as I haven’t really had a chance to ride with him in many a month.   I didn’t plan a route.  I figured all I’d need to do was to ride and pick the off roads that I’d never done before.  My hope was to cover 150km’s, but I have been out of shape, and was up half the night with food poisoning, and had doubts as to what I was going to be able to do.

Unfortunately we started egging each other on, and what started as a social ride, turned into a smash fest, and I’m afraid I cooked myself within the first 5km’s.  I didn’t slow down, but had to work overtime to keep up with Dave who was riding brilliantly today.  He took me to some great new climbs including Mount Pleasant Road which was amazing, and kept suggesting that we dart down this and that backstreet to see what was on offer.  Dave was like a kid in a candy store with climbs left right and centre that he’d never done before.

Before we knew it was time for Dave to get home to the missus, and I was a bit relieved as I was already stuffed after only doing 60km’s, and was wondering how I would get through the day.  I fluffed around over the next couple of hours taking photos, and cruising.  I was stuffed, and a I was thinking that the smart thing would be to cut my losses & head back home, but alas I had a yearning to ride up Skyline Road though, which I knew to be gravel which comes out just behind Yarra Glen.  I knew it would be hard, particularly as I’d need to get through Pigeon Bank Road first.

The start of Pigeon Bank Road

The wind was picking up, and the ride north was tough going.  My legs were dead when I turned-off onto Pigeon Bank Road.  Pigeon Bank is 500 metres @ 17%, and a pure monster.  I didn’t have to do the u-turn and head up it, but couldn’t help myself.  Consequently my knee started to ache, and I had to ease up more and change my riding technique.  I still had over 70km’s left to ride, and some very challenging climbing ahead.

I had never climbed the other side of Pigeon Bank Road, and looked up the profile and the overall climb was 3.4km’s @ 3%.  I thought no dramas.  I can tell you that I have never cursed so much on a climb before.  This wasn’t a climb, but a horrible set of undulating climbs, and all of the climbs were around 12% in gradient.  My exhausted legs were working overtime, and I painfully slowly ticked down the kilometers.

Skyline Road

After I passed the bend of islands things got nasty.  The roads became more undulating, and the gradients were insane.  As soon as I hit the dirt it turned into a roller coaster, and every single climb had at least a 12% gradient, some peaked at over 20%, and I had great difficulty getting up several insane pinches.  I couldn’t get out of my seat and dance my way up as the wheels would just spin.  I was close on a couple of occasions to get off & walk, but as long as I have some measure of spirit I refuse to walk up a climb.  I was on my tether, and had to ask myself the question.  How was I going to do this?  I had hoped to visit Mount Worth next, and return via the hills, but I just didn’t have enough juice.  I resigned myself to the fact that I could still push as hard as possible until the end of Skyline Road, but that was it.  I worked out that if at Yarra Glen I headed south and returned via the relatively flat areas I could do it, albeit painfully on an empty tank.  I was just drained, and I guess losing my guts the night before didn’t help.

The views from the top of Skyline Road looking down on the whole of the Yarra Ranges was incredible, and the closer I got the greater I felt.  I still had 40km’s left to ride, but I knew this was it.  With a whole lot of flats ahead of me, and a much needed tail wind the rest would be a blur.  When I got down to Yarra Glen, I found this park bench next to a man made lake & I just laid on it for close to half an hour.  I had a tonne of time to get back to the car, but what I lacked was energy.  Its funny when you do these big rides and you get the odd comment which says “you make it look easy”.  I can assure you it bloody well hurts at times.  This wasn’t my finest moment, but I had ridden some amazing new roads today, and it was well & truly worth it.

With a tailwind behind me leaving Yarra Glen, foolishly a little voice whispered in my ear to go for a PB on the segment out of town.  It’s a 3km segment & my previous PB was 36kmph.  I nailed 43kmph, without having to go into the hurt locker much, but alas it sapped all that strength I’d regained on my rest.  I basically crawled from here.  I’ve done so many crazy rides over the past few years, and with the onset to winter are hoping to continue to do rides like this where I explore & discover.  The clock is ticking, and winter is here.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

https://app.strava.com/activities/296414529

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