I’ve been carrying injury all throughout the year. All of winter was spent battling Achilles problems. This kept me off the bike for long stretches at a time. I worked hard to get myself right, and of course come down with the Flu just as I get better. 2016 has not gone well. I’m training for a three day weekend up at the Alps in November. I need to be able to ride 350km and climb over 7,000 vertical metres over these three days. I’ve got a long way to go to get myself into shape.
Geert the vert
I wasn’t 100% but needed to get out for a big one & talked my mate Geert into come out to explore with me. Geert is in training for the 3 Peaks. He has had three cracks at the course & has been defeated by the Back of Falls on three separate occasions due to cramps. Consequently Geert has not been able to complete the course. It’s a monkey on his back, & keen to finally do it in 2017. I’m hoping to do a number of training rides with Geert to help make sure that he not only smashes the 3 Peaks. But does it in a sub 10 hours (no pressure).
It was time for a fresh start. I love to explore & if there’s a road or trail which I haven’t ridden, I want to do it. After opening Google maps, I noticed an area that I’ve wanted to explore more thoroughly is around Yarra Glen. There are a number of great climbs to the north which head towards Kinglake. These have been on my wish list for awhile now.
I had never ridden up through Steels Creek. After some research and discovered that the road leading up there turns to gravel. There is a climb to the north of the town which snakes its way up to the Kinglake National Park. This road is called Mount Slide Road which is 7 km in length with an average gradient of 4%. I liked the look of this climb and built a ride around it. Geert said that he had ridden up there once in summer. He told me “Got some unfinished business on Steels Road”. He said that it was dusty and horribly corrugated and bumpy. The climb took him 42 minutes which led to him throwing up. My kinda scene.
I still hadn’t recovered from the flu. So picked a route which would allow me to easily get back to the car if my health turned pear shaped.
Mount Slide was better than I could have hoped for. The surface was packed dirt & in excellent condition. The road took us through the Kinglake National Park. Where we were surrounded by a forest. This was great as it blocked out the headwind that had been hindering us. It was a warm 3 degrees outside.
Mount Slide Road has a fairly consistent gradient and I was able to sit in the big dog the whole way. It was a good climb as it snakes its way up. Very rarely you had far ahead to see without a bend and the k’s flew. The only problems were the corners. They were a little corrugated & there was always a small rise into the corners. Thankfully for the early part I was able to comfortably push through them.
I have barely been able to climb this year. Sadly I went through all the categorised climbs in my head as I was tapping out a steady rhythm. There weren’t that many of them.
3km in & felt good. I felt like I was getting stronger as I was climbing. I almost had to pinch myself that it was all too good to be true. Which it was. When I hit 4km I went around a bend and started to struggle. I slowed majorly & had to get out of the saddle into the corners. I was determined to keep it in the big dog and went deep into the red. Every doubt that went through my mind I crushed with a reminder of a climb that I had beaten before. This is what I needed. To hurt. I have been sidelined for far too long.
This was gold
I kept pushing & pushing and pushing. Each bend I hoped to see the end, but led to yet another. At the 6km point I blew-up and could not push and slowed to under 13kmph. I just had nothing in the tank, but just kept cranking it until I saw a bit of bitumen ahead. And had to take a double take as I realised that I had reached the main road. I had completed the climb in 23:12 with an average speed of 18kmph. With no hill work behind me for almost two months I was very happy with that.
Old Toolangi Road
From here we went and descended Old Toolangi Road. A gem of a dirt road which is 9km in length. I have never been down this road before & will be certainly be back to explore this area more thoroughly in the future. We pushed down towards Coldstream. Whilst there wasn’t much climbing we found the going quite challenging. It was quite windy and the area is horribly exposed to the elements. Unless the wind was to your back you were fighting it, and the rest of the trip was a bit of a blur.
Geert had to leave, & I headed up Skyline Road to get some extra vert in the legs. A rider flew on by me & turned out to be Matthew Shanks which was great as I hadn’t seen him since his Everest on Hughes Street/Churchill Drive. We had a good ole chat & then it was time to go.
It was a very promising return to form. I haven’t been able to exercise for so many reasons this winter & surprisingly still have some really good cardio & speed. Endurance is what I really need to work on.
To be continued…….