Dirty Dozen 2016 was always going to be one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. The course was a lot harder than last years course, and there was 3 – 10mm of rain forecast. I was coming off 5 weeks of illness, and with only a handful of rides under my belt I knew I was completely out of shape. .
I only managed a couple of hours sleep before heading up to Warburton at 6am. I was in desperate need of Coffee, and tried not to think about what I was in for.
I headed out with the organisers of the event Matt de Neef & David Blom. It’s comforting to know that on a ride like this you can’t get lost if you’re riding with the guys who put together the course. I started out well and paced myself quite well, and we flew up climb after climb, and it was a relief to get one of the most challenging climbs of the event Story Road out of the way.
When we hit the bonus climb of the day; Clarke Road. It wasn’t even a goat track. WTF! It was a walking track that went straight up and must have been close to 30% in sections and in horrible shape. What was worse was the fact that the path was quite muddy, and on my 28mm slicks, I didn’t hold much hope of getting traction. It looked impossible to climb, and half a dozen riders didn’t even try and stopped at the base of the climb. There was a small gap in-between and I fanged it and split the middle. There were several riders up ahead, pulling over to walk. I kept going determined to make it. I hit some mud, & copped wheel spin. It could have been game over, but I danced on the pedals and kept it moving, and hit the next section of mud. The gradient was 20% and I got wheel spin again, and again and again. More and more riders were pulling over above me & it was a matter of time. David Blom pulled over in front of me and I managed to climb a couple of metres ahead of him before almost falling sideways after hitting a deep puddle of mud. It was time to walk. The gradient was close to 30% of mud, so I didn’t feel too bad. Everyone else walked.
What a relief it was to reach the tourist road. Pushing my bike up such a steep gradient burnt a lot of matches, and things turned south pretty quick. Blommy was talking to me & I wasn’t taking a single thing in. Early signs of bonking! I took it as easy as I could, and with the easiest part of the course up ahead I hoped to be able to recover.
The best laid plans of mice and men………
We hit Milners Gap & I felt really, really hungry, and made it halfway up before imploding. The lights went out. I was running on empty and suddenly I couldn’t manage any speed at all and went into a very, very dark place. All the riders I was easily keeping pace with flew off up the climb, and my head was spinning. I seriously had to consider pulling the plug on the Dirty Dozen. I went through a lot of soul searching. This year has been horrible with injury & illness marring the whole year. I’ve cherished the few times that I’ve gotten to ride & all of a sudden a fire burned within. No matter the cost. No matter the pain I wanted to finish.
I managed to crawl to the rest stop where one of the events sponsers “Winners” were set-up with a table full of goodies. I stuffed my face with a Gel, two energy bars & a whole heap of lollies. Energy flowed back into my wrecked body, and I felt there was hope. There were 5 more climbs up ahead, but knew that 3 of them were amongst the hardest of the event.
We made it to Dees Road, and I was in fairly good shape but realised early on into the climb that I wasn’t fine. I struggled, and Dees is a road which gets steeper the higher you go, & peaks at 27%. I had to go into my happy place to get up this one. This climb utterly Deestroyed me, and I now had 4 climbs left to survive. The next was really hard, but I survived and then we hit Hooks. I’ve never done this climb before but had seen it many times and it is a very vicious piece of work. I had great apprehensions about the climb. We turned onto Hooks and immediately the road goes to the wrong side of 20%. My legs felt like lead, and I gave it everything I had, but halfway up the lights went up & I had nothing to get up it. For the second time that day I got off my bike. I never get off to walk on a climb. This was quite humiliating. I had no energy to walk up the climb so turned around and headed back.
It was tempting to head straight back to the car, but with 2 climbs left I wondered if it was possible. The next climb I’ve been up several times and felt I could do it. Albeit slowly. I figured if I could at least get up Surrey Road would give me a small measure of pride back. I made my way up very, very slowly. I was quietly confident, but foolishly had not read the climb profile. Dave & Matt had thrown a variation of this climb. We headed up a dirt road which went skyward. It had well in excess of 20%. I went as high as I could, but was just going too slow. I didn’t have any ascendancy, and for the third time during the event had to get off and walk. This was embarrassing. I knew this could have happened, and I’m not one to hide behind excuses.
I was a wreck a the top and there was still one climb left. Martyr Road. I had no confidence that I could get up it. I was already coming up with excuses and did not look forward to the fact that most likely I would be walking up its extremely steep slopes. When I turned off onto Martyr I tried not to look up. It is one scary climb. I had a couple of riders up ahead, and didn’t last long until my legs felt like lead. I had no hope of riding straight up this monster. There was a course photographer Kirsten Stewart halfway up the climb. I didn’t like the thought of getting photographed walking.
I started to zig zag from side to side. I went into a zone, and found I could climb. It wasn’t pretty, and it was excruciatingly slow but I was doing it. One of the riders in front of me got off and walked. This was not going to happen to me. I kept going until I got past Kirsten. I couldn’t make it up the last two climbs. Which is why I had to get up the hardest. Soon my hamstring cramped. I never get cramp and it frekin hurt. I was so close to the top that I couldn’t give up.
Getting a chance to redeem myself was pure gold. I averaged a shocking 6kph up Martyr Road but I made it! The feeling of jubilation when I crested the top of Martyrs was unbelievable. I did it. I finished the Dirty Dozen. This is the fourth year that I’ve attended this event and is one of my favourites of the year. It rained most of the morning, and I was glad to get into some dry clothes.
I personally believe this was the hardest of all of the Dirty Dozen rides that I have done. The weather was shocking, and we were all soaked the skin & coated in mud.
Who knows what they will have in store for 2017………