The Dirty Dozen is one of Melbourne’s most iconic recreational bike event’s which is now in its 6th year. The concept of the ride was originally conceived in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA way back in 1983. Riders were challenged to climb hills so steep that they wouldn’t normally dare to ride up! The Melbourne version began on a wet day in May 2012. The Climbing Cyclist, Matt de Neef and David Blom put together their own version of the Dirty Dozen based around Upwey in the Dandenong Ranges.
This event challenges riders to get out of their comfort zone and climb 13 hills that are so steep that even a car would struggle to get up them. The first three editions of the Melbourne Dirty Dozen were held in the Dandenong’s. The last two were held out at Warburton. This year ride will be held in Dromana, which is a town on the Mornington Peninsula. Approximately an hour south of the Melbourne CBD.
2017 Dirty Dozen
I’ve always loved this event. The vision that Matt de Neef and David Blom have brought to cycling community has helped many riders believe that they can climb, and has brought awareness to a number of climbs that most riders would never have known about.
Or dared attempt!
The course they put together is without a doubt the most scenic of all of the Dirty Dozen coures. Which is good for me, as I was here to snap some pics and catch up with mates. Honestly I was gutted not to be able to do the ride this year. I’ve made the starting line-up since 2013. Nothing I can do though, due to a near fatal crash late June I’m off the bike indefinitely. Thankfully, my love of cycling hasn’t waned, and whilst I couldn’t ride I really looked forward to getting down to the Peninsula to discover a whole new world of climbs.
The course was roughly 65 km long with about 1,600 meters of climbing. There are 13 designated ascents predominately up narrow back streets. Plus one easier transitional climb along the way. The ascents are clustered around three main areas:
- Mount Martha (climbs 1 to 5)
- McCrae (climbs 6 and 7)
- Dromana (climbs 8 to 13).
The toughest climbs of course are left for last.
Riders are given a course map, and hope that they don’t get lost.
Journey to the centre of the storm
On the drive up, I went through a storm of biblical proportions. Visibility was so poor I could barely make out the hail and thunder that was crashing down everywhere. I had to wonder whether the event would be going ahead? Sure there are those that would ride in anything. But there is a fine line between being a ‘cycling nut’ and just a plain ‘nut’. Guess the weather was there to test peoples resolve. Many sat it out in their cars wondering whether it would end.
YouTube clip provided by Martin Emptage
Given Melbourne’s reputation for crazy weather it was no surprise that the weather did a 360 and by the time I reached Dromana we were surrounded with clear blue skies and a stiff tailwind to push the riders up most of the climbs
I was joined in the photographers car by Jeff Servaas, who has had a similar misfortune as me injuring himself quite badly. Whilst we can’t ride, there is still that love to get involved with grass roots cycling and we were super pumped to be at the 2017 Dirty Dozen.
We had no idea what to expect of the course, and as soon as we headed into the foothills of Mount Martha we were salivating. The climbs were super extreme and every street had a pinch that looked like it went in excess of 20%. The road was either straight up or down. I wanted to climb!
The roads looked just as fun to descend as they were to climb.
The event attracted riders of all ability. Many stepping well and truly out of their comfort zone to pit themselves against the super steep slopes. We were a bit surprised to only see one rider get off to walk. And there was no postman delivering the mail (whilst we were around).
We moved from climb to climb. Each climb had a stunning panoramic view of the ocean below, whilst we had an unbelievable view looking past the riders. They were going in the opposite direction, and all they could see was these incredibly steep climbs that looked ultra painful. Especially as most would often have a long dead straight sections which no matter how good a climber you are, does your head in.
Riders were fortunate that there was a schweet tailwind coming off the ocean and it was giving the riders a much needed invisible push. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a number of KOM’s were to fall on the day.
There were a number of riders I knew and had a chance to say g’day. Though often the only reply I’d get was;
“huff, huff, huff, huff, huff!”.
The climbs were pretty extreme.
There were plenty of smiles all throughout the day, but started to notice towards the later part of the course a really deep seated look of concentration. Usually associated with being in the Pain cave. A place that I am all too familiar with. Guess that’s par for the course of doing an event like this, and the only way to get through it is to have a spoonful of HTFU!
An event like this certainly attracts riders who are tough as nails.
The final climb of the day was up Arthurs Seat. The Mornington Peninsula’s most iconic climb. Overall its steepness doesn’t compare to any of the other climbs of the day. But at 3 km in length and some very steep pinches along the way, this was going to be tough for all of the riders to get up.
The day was really heating up, and you could see sweat pouring off a number of theriders. Many opted to wear their winter kit after the arctic start, which looked painful to see riders grinding up Arthurs still with arm warmers in the hot conditions. One of the biggest challenges of the ride would have been to adapt to the spike in temperature from start to end.
Some seemed to cruise, others dug deep to survive to the summit. Others popped wheelies whenever they saw an UP sign on the road. Kudos to all that survived the 2017 Dirty Dozen.
The thing that I took from the Dirty Dozen 2017 was the amazing scenery, which was truly unbelievable. Everyone I spoke with thoroughly loved the course, and many are already looking towards DD18.
I have driven through this area a tonne of times before and had no idea how good it was to ride around the backstreets in and around Dromana.
Many thanks to the organisers; Matt de Neef and David Blom and to all the amazing volunteers for putting together yet another amazing event, and an event like this has done so much for the cycling community. It encourages riders to get out of their comfort zones and to believe they can climb.
Guess the big question now is where will DD18 be held?
The climbs for the ride included:
- Ellerina et al: 1.7 km at 7.8%
- Hearn Rd: 1.8 km at 7.9%
- Park Rd: 800m at 9.6%
- Stanley Cres: 1.1 km at 8.2%
- Bradford Rd: 1.7 km at 7.8%
- Three Laneways: 1 km at 9.4%
- Cairn/Somers/Cook: 1.4 km at 7.1%
- Mary/Manna: 1.4 km at 8.3%
- Scott St: 500m at 10.8%
- Hillside Ave: 600m at 11.3%
- Caldwell Rd: 700m at 12.9%
- Tower Hill/Bracken Ridge: 900m at 10%
- Arthurs Seat: 3 km at 8.1%
Please enjoy a selection of my favorite pics from the ride: