2012

My last Criterium

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Venue; Sandown Raceway

My 4th & last Criterium was windy, with 80+km head winds on several sections of the track. We were doing speeds of under 30 km/h up the main straight it was that strong. Frustratingly the field never cracked, as we never hit speeds high enough to drop anyone. On the second last lap I got thrown at the front, and smashed out an incredible time in the conditions. I was sitting on 39 km/h up the main straight, and I knew I was hurting everyone. At the corner I waved my elbow to push the group through.  We had to smash up the group.  Not one of the fuckers behind me had the strength to do shit.

The next rider came through and the speed dropped down to 25 km/h.  All the work I did was for nothing as everyone caught up.  We were all together on the last lap. I didn’t think I was the strongest to win, but knew I could easily do top 3.  After the climb on the back straight I got trapped on the left side by slow riders.  A group of 5 broke free. I tried to push to catch them, but had burnt my matches before.  That problem I had with hitting the corners was further compounded in gale winds.  I ended up finishing 8th and not happy.

My last Criterium

I didn’t return to racing. It never fitted my weekly schedule, and I was always going to be tired on the day.  As I do such long rides on the Wednesday’s.  I figured that if I rode to work would be doing 60 – 100 km’s.  The Crits were only about 30 km’s. I guess I was shitted with that last race where I could work so hard and come out of it so badly. The first 3 positions are the only things that matter.  Anything less is a waste of time.

My last Criterium.  I didn’t have the experience.  And knew that strategically the higher grades would be more entertaining to ride.  I’m not sure if I really cared for that. 2 years on, I am a lot stronger into the corners, and better at keeping a fast tempo on the straights.  I could do really well, but the last two years I’ve based my training around doing epic rides.  Don’t think I’d give it up for the Crits again. I guess I had my win, and was very happy with the way I did that.

Lake Mountain Domestique Ride

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I was fairly new to climbing Mountains. I had only previously climbed Mount Donna Buang on two previous occasions.  Both times ended in bouts of hypothermia & Mount Buller twice in atrocious weather.

Image by Nigel Welch

Lake Mountain is 20.5 km’s @ 5%. There was a gigantic crowd show up with close to 300 riders to the domestique ride on 12/01/2013 in near perfect conditions. I was hyped as I hadn’t climbed Lake Mountain before.  The first few km’s were steep. (4.3 km’s @ 8%) and were going to be the toughest.

I waited till most of the riders left before heading off, and the legs felt like gold. Smashing the climb in the big dog, and was thinking the first steep section was pretty easy even though it was over 10%. I was flying past riders as if they weren’t moving, and passed well over 100 riders in the first kilometre.  Averaging close to 18 km/h in the first 1.1 km’s, which at the time put me 20thon the leader board for the start.

I was flying, but my inexperience cost me.

My legs had the strength to fly, but I didn’t have the cardio.  After about 2 km’s I felt really unwell. Changing into the small chainring, I found myself in the hurt locker. I was still passing riders, but not so quickly.

Image by Nigel Welch

I managed to get up the steep section, and when it flattened out I found a pace that I could stick with.  Struggling to catch my breath, I was able to keep a consistent pace with those around me. The scenery around there is incredible, but the rest of the climb was a grind. I really only recovered over the last 3 km’s of the climb, where I found an extra burst of energy & was able to fly off on all those around me.  Putting in a nice sprint at the end at 32 km/h into the carpark.

I managed to finish the climb in 1 hour & 5 minutes, and was 5th fastest on the day.  With this time I am still in the top 7% of riders on that climb. Yeah I admit that I screwed up the climb.  If I had paced myself up the first 4 km’s I could have easily climbed a sub hour.

But as I didn’t know the climb I was happy.
Image by Nigel Welch

I have met a number of great people on these Domestique rides, and have been happy to have put a number of riders in joining them. They were a defining step in me taking on some of the big climbs.  Having been so thankful to have a series such as the Domestique series run.

Image by Nigel Welch

I had the afternoon free, and considered a double Lake Mountain, but opted on trying the Black Spur instead to Healesville. What a gorgeous place the Black Spur is, but alas its far too busy with traffic especially with heavy vehicles. I was pretty stuffed, and the return trip from Healesville was spent in the hurt locker. I was glad that I rode this stretch of road, but alas this will be a once off.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

Here is a link to the Climbing Cyclists write-up of the day:

Image by Nigel Welch

My second date with Donna

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It was Boxing Day & may wife asked me to drive her & some friends up to Warburton. I wanted another crack at the beast, and looked forward to it. It was an overcast day, but not that cold.  I learned from my last experience and brought some food, and a couple of extra clothes with me this time regardless of the conditions.

The climb up to cement creek was nowhere near as hard as the first time. After Cement Creek I hit the cloud cover.  De ja vu as it started to drizzle on me, and I was getting wet. At the time, I stayed nice and warm as was really pushing hard.  Cutting a lot of time off my PB with an hour & 7 minutes up Mount D (13 minutes off my previous attempt). I noticed that there was a picnic ground at the top next to the lookout tower.

Kicking myself for not knowing this the last time I came up here & froze to death.

I considered heading straight down, but decided to stop in the shelter to get the extra clothes on & eat. As soon as I entered I started to shake, and I thought oh, oh. I quickly chucked on the top I brought, arm warmers & a beanie, but could not stave off the shaking. I ate what I could.  Moving around the shelter a lot for about 10-15 minutes until I was able to stop shaking. How I wished I had brought more clothing.

The descent was freezing. I learned from my previous experience.  Keeping the legs turning and focused inwards and concentrated solely on the corners. I ignored my wet shoes, my hands going numb, my teeth chattering, that feeling of old water spraying all up my backside. The descent was not pleasant, but at least I had the experience to know that I’ve been through worse and survived.

Two from two efforts on Donna killed my spirits.  This has been the start of a hate, hate relationship that I’ve had with her. Of the 11 times I’ve climbed Donna, 10 of these have been under adverse circumstances. I do have a wish to do a sub hour ascent on Donna at one stage.  It’s far too far to drive just for me to justify a PB.  If I give it everything I know I won’t have much energy left after to do anything else. I will return.

Maybe even come back and Everest it one day……

Here is a link to my Strava activity here:

Domestique Ride Mount Buller

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Domestique Ride Mount Buller
Mount Buller is located approximately 208 km’s north east of Melbourne.  During winter, Mount Buller is a winter wonderland, surrounded by spectacular snow-capped Mountains.  Nestled high amongst the snow gums, and is popular with snow sports enthusiasts in winter.  During summer, Mount Buller & Mount Stirling offers incredible hikes with incredible views of the High Country.  It is home to a growing number of first class Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Bike tracks.

This was the first time climbing Mount Buller.  I honestly had little experience climbing Mountains and really looked forward to today. The weather forecast was pretty dreadful, but saw that as a challenge. I parked at Mirrimbah and chatted with a number of riders before things got underway.  I had the wet weather kit on, and tried my best to stay warm.  It was freezing up on Mount Buller.  It was wet and lightly raining.

Thankfully there was a ferry service and I was able to send some clothes up to the top for the descent.

I was hoping to sit in a group & get paced up the climb, but just couldn’t find a group that could keep my pace. Over the course of the climb, I got passed by a couple of riders.  But mainly I was riding on my own. The weather was pretty foul. It rained on & off, and stayed overcast throughout. With about 5 km’s to go we hit fog, and visibility was extremely poor. Even though I was working my ass off getting up the climb, it felt really cold.  There was motivation to finish this thing.

I found the gradient to suit my climbing, and was able to get churn out a consistent speed. There were a lot of corners, and it was easy to break the climb into manageable blocks.  I wasn’t able to see much of the scenery due to the overcast conditions, and did a time of 1 hour & 4 minutes which I was happy with.  This was my first time climbing Mount B. We went through a heavy fog for the final 3 km’s, and was absolutely freezing up there. I was able to meet several new riders up there, and really enjoyed myself.

The descent was hell.

The roads were wet, and covered in debri.  It was raining and the descent was a tough slog due to the cold and miserable conditions. The road was pretty wet, and the fog lingered, and was a pretty dangerous descent.  I descended ultra cautiously and was able to get down safely. There was another ride planned for 3:00 pm in the afternoon, and I had a fair while to kill. I went down the road to a roadhouse to get some lunch.  Then came back and had a quick snooze in the car. The skies had cleared and thankfully it warmed up.

Domestique Ride Mount Buller
Photos taken by Nigel Welch

When Matt was delivering his pre-event speech for the 2nd climb.  In the far distance all we could see was a wall of black clouds.  They were approaching fast.

Matt had just finished his speech when a bolt of lightning struck. This was to set the tone for the climb.
Domestique Ride Mount Buller

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It absolutely bucketed down.  I was lucky as the first climb I did solo, this time I was able to ride with John Van Seeters who paced me through. I was tired from the mornings climb, and getting drenched didn’t help. The storm was ferocious.  We would see a flash of lightning, and hear the bolt of lightning strike less than a second later.  The bolts were crashing too close for comfort. Hail struck us hard at one stage, but I was strangely enjoying the conditions. They were easily the worst that I had ever ridden in, but I know I was doing something special.

Domestique Ride Mount Buller
The Climbing Cyclist nicknamed me the smiling Assassin after this photo
 The second ascent was a lot slower, and took an hour & twenty minutes (all spent in heavy rainfall).
It was freezing up top, and I was soaked to the skin, and started to shake from mild hypothermia. Thankfully Matt had some spare towels up the top. which helped to warm me up a little.  I had carried some spare kit in my back pockets.  These were so soaked that all of my spare kit was saturated. I had no idea how I would get down the Mountain in the wet suffering mild hypothermia. Andy Van Bergen thankfully offered to drive 4 of us down the Mountain.  I personally would have been screwed if he hadn’t. That was one bad ass-ride, that would go in one my all-time favourite rides, if not for the wrong reasons. There were 13 of us that climbed that day, and was one truly memorable experience.
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Domestique Ride Mount Buller
Me & JVS singing in the rain

Details

  • Here is a link to my Strava Files here:
  • Here is a link to the Climbing Cyclists write-up of the rides:

Ballarat Spokes Classic

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Ballarat Spokes Classic

I was starting to develop as a cyclist, and was looking to broaden my horizons in cycling.  My Aunt lives in Mount Helen.  I arranged to stay at her home in order to participate in the Ballarat Spokes Classic. I arrived early, and decided to do a lap of Lake Wendouree first.  This is is about a 5km circuit. I didn’t quite anticipate how long it would take me to get around the lake.  You should have seen the look on my face when I came around to the start line, and everyone had left. They were just letting the back markers through. Doh!

Ballarat Spokes Classic
I stepped up the pace and found it difficult to overtake.  Traffic was heavy and as I was battling through the back markers who were quite slow.  I enjoyed a game of leap frogging throughout the first 20km’s of the ride. As soon as we hit the climb heading up to Mount Buninyong I started to fly away from everyone. When we turned off onto the Midland Highway I thought that signified the end of the climb.  I was confident that I would do well up this climb as I was heaps faster than all the other riders.  At the turnoff my jaw dropped when I saw that the road just kept going skywards.  I didn’t realize how long it was and how hard the climb was.  Getting hit with a strong cross wind that made conditions really tough.  Within the first km I was in the hurt locker and had to pace myself all the way to the top.

Mount Edgerton

I was hurting, and as I’d ridden off on everyone I was now riding in no man’s land.  The next 25km’s was spent fighting strong cross winds, and sapped a fair bit of energy. I eventually was able to latch onto a group.  The relief was short lived as we hit the second major climb for the day. Mount Edgerton which is 1.1km’s @ 8%.  Even though a bit of a blur, I felt I rode this well, but sure was hurting. From there it was a fair bit downhill, but I struggled to find groups to latch onto. Due to leaving so late, the riders that were at my pace were well & truly down the road.
I enjoyed the section going down to Gordon, but as soon as we turned left it was like turning into the eye of a storm. It felt like we were fighting into a 50 – 60kmph head winds, and I struggled. I jumped onto the nearest group that I could find, a group of 5 riders. The trouble was that I was the strongest rider in the bunch. All except for one of the riders would go to the front for such a short time.  None of them could handle the winds.  I was left to do much of the pace making for about 90% of the final stretch. This was new to me. I was used to going in events and leeching off others wheels. It was very difficult conditions, but I was enjoying myself. The section back to Ballarat was close to 32km’s into a very strong headwind.  I can’t remember much of the trip. The group stayed together the whole way, and I wanted to go for a big sprint at the end. I got beaten by two of the riders that sucked my wheel for the last 32km’s.  But I wasn’t too disappointed considering all of the work I did. I was exhausted, but glad I did this one.

Aftermath

On the ride back to my Aunt’s I got lost. This was lucky as I discovered a short 1.1km climb through Mount Clear.  Which at the time nearly wiped me out. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and it was a strange event for me. The first third I did really well, but then hit no man’s land and really struggled. I was able to pull something special for that head wind on the way back.  Coming to dislike riding into head winds. Maybe that’s why I spend so much time in the hills.
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

My first and only Criterium win

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My first and only Criterium win

I was wondering whether the Criterium at Sandown was going to be cancelled as it was 39 degrees. Who cares, and I showed up with a 50/50 expectation, and thankfully it was on. I did a couple of light laps.  Given the heat, wasn’t feeling 100%, but felt strong. I had no expectations of doing well & started at the back of the field. It was a really dry heat, and wasn’t sure how my body would react to the heat.  The other guys around me may have been feeling crap as well. A rider darted off from the front, and no one chased him down.

I was still new to the crits so wasn’t sure what the right course of action was. Maybe it would be nice to push out, catch up to him & work together as a breakaway.  Would ahve been my first breakaway. I figured I would work my way to the front, and decide then. When I went to overtake the Peleton I absolutely flew past the entire them as easy as you like.  Which I thought was too good to be true.

I pushed off and paced myself out to the other rider.  It took me half a lap to catch him on the main straight. When I caught him, I’d figure I’d rest a little on his wheel.  Then see about working with him. He suddenly cracked and died in the ass. I was suddenly wondering what to do. Looking over my shoulder, we had about 300 metres on the Peleton.

I could drop back, and feel like an ass, or I could go for it……

I went for it. Dropping the hammer and TT’d it, and after a lap caught the group in front of me. I had caught the B graders who were actually slowed than me at that stage. Frustratingly I couldn’t tailgate them or overtake them.  So had to keep about 30 metres behind them for 3 laps. After lap 7, I fell away. I was riding in no man’s land on a 39 degree day and was fanging it.  There was clear skies behind me. I had a feeling I could do it solo and win this day. After a few more laps I started hurting, and wasn’t slowing down.

But hurt more and more to keep up the same pace.

I had no idea how far ahead I was as could not see anyone behind me. With two laps to go, when I went through the main straight I made the sign begging the marshall to wave his bell with a grin on my face. I thought I had it, but was sure going to be glad when it was over.

Soon enough the bell rang and I was running on empty. At the top of the hill on the back straight, I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of half a dozen riders fighting away.  Around 300 metres behind. I had no idea which grade they were in, and hoped they were in one of the higher grades. Keeping the intensity high just in case it was my group. All I had to do was keep a lead and I had it.

My first and only Criterium win

Coming into the main straight I looked over my shoulder and the group were a little over 50 metres behind me. Given my speed on the straight I knew I could hold them off.  As I crossed the line cockily did the no hands.  The Dumb & Dumber salute made famous by Robbie McCewan at the Tour de France and got yelled at by the Marshall in doing so. The group crossed the finish line just behind me & were my grade.  We pulled over and most of them were almost purple in the faces, and I couldn’t believe how much they were huffing and puffing. One guy said “I couldn’t believe we couldn’t chase down that guy!”. I was on cloud 9.

I ride well in the heat, and knew that was a large factor. It wasn’t a windy day as well which helped me be able to ride solo. Was a nice ride though.

2012 River & Ranges Winery Ride

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Here is a post which I published as a guest through the Climbing Cyclist Website:

It’s not often that recreational cyclists get the opportunity to mix with the best cyclists in the world. But just a few weeks ago, Brendan Edwards had one of those opportunities.  Taking part in the River & Ranges Winery Ride in central Victoria with riders from Orica-GreenEDGE. This is Brendan’s account of that ride.

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I was recently sent an invitation to ride in the inaugural River & Ranges Winery Ride.  A recreational ride put together by Gerry Ryan and the GreenEDGE team in Nagambie. 90 minutes north of Melbourne. The event offered a choice of a flat 60 km ride or a 150 km ride.  Which boasted a Category 2 climb in the Strathbogie Ranges.
For only $120 I had the chance to ride next to some of the best riders in the world.  So I got online and joined the 150 km ride.  Looking forward to the opportunity to ride alongside the likes of Simon Gerrans.  Stuart O’Grady, Robbie McEwan, Cameron Meyer and more.

The price of riding

When my 4:00 am alarm went off it felt as if I had hardly slept.  But any die-hard cyclist has to be prepared to lose a bit of sleep every now and again. I quickly got ready and donned the fake GreenEDGE outfit I had purchased online from China earlier this year. With the sun rising I grabbed my two frozen water bottles and set off.  I had a 2-hour drive ahead of me to Nagambie.

Sunrise over Yarra Glen
Arriving in town a good half hour early and I was glad I did — there was a very long line for registration. Eventually I headed out with the first group of 50 riders.  Which were led by four of the GreenEDGE team including Simon Gerrans.

River & Ranges Winery Ride

Even at the start of the event.  The weather was warming up and we headed south into a cross-headwind which hit us from right to left. The GreenEDGE boys were pushing at around 30 km/h, and with the winds I was already struggling. My scrawny 63 kg frame is great for getting up climbs.  But aim a gust of wind at me and I blow away.

Although I was suffering, I was still enjoying the beautiful scenery which surrounded us.  At the 10 km mark we passed the beautiful Goulburn River (see image below). I breathed a sigh of relief as we turned left onto the Goulburn Highway.  Out of the wind, and headed east towards Seymour.  Unfortunately the GreenEDGE boys left us a few clicks down the road which was a bit disappointing. But it was also a bit of a relief as I wasn’t sure how long I would last with them setting the pace!

Major alarm bells….

Travelling from Seymour to Yea it was a little downhill and we were able to average around 40km/h.  While I sat back in the peloton and caught my breath. With our police escort, the peleton was able to take up the entire lane on the Goulburn Highway.  It was an amazing to be able to forget about crazy drivers for a while. Almost.

The Goulburn River

The idiot

At one point a Commodore driver overtook the peleton over double-white lines into a blind corner. A 4WD came around the corner ahead.  The Commodore narrowly avoided a head-on collision. You could imagine the Commodore driver cursing us riders for the near-accident.  I would love to have seen the look on his face when he saw the police cruiser leading us out. Hopefully he will be more respectful of cyclists and road laws in the future.
I enjoy the social side of  recreational rides.  Most of the riders I tried to talk with on this particular ride were either pushing hard or were pretty snobbish and there wasn’t much talk. I sat back and enjoyed the beauty of the Strathbogie Ranges.  As I let the peleton drag me along.

With the only climb of the day fast approaching, it was already over 30°C and things were really warming up. Our group had been joined by a second group of around 40 riders. This other bunch had a number of really strong riders who worked their way to the front and lifted the pace somewhat.

The climb

We hit the main climb of the day — the Ghin Ghin to Highlands climb.  The whole peleton slowed to about 18 km/h. I was determined not to get stuck in traffic trying to fight my way up the climb.  When I saw the base of the climb I overtook around 30 riders to be in the top three up the first steep section.
I lasted about 300 metres before getting dropped.

Going into the hurt locker for the first time in the day and slowed right down to catch my breath.  I was forced to pace myself up the rest of the climb. But my legs were feeling great and I could have really nailed the climb if I had been smarter.  I still managed to end up being around the 15th.

It was a great climb, over 7 km long with plenty of twists and undulations. The 6% average gradient was very deceptive.  As there were three sections which tipped 10%, and the climb peaked at 15% at one stage.
I found it difficult to read the changes in gradient at times, and I was riding in the red zone most of the way. The heat certainly didn’t help and shade was non-existent.
Thankfully there was a forced rest stop 1 km down the road, where I threw a bottle of water over my head. One guy came up and thanked me for the lift up the climb  I was surprised that I had had someone sitting on my wheel without realising it.

The rest

The rest stop featured a smorgasbord of fruit.  Sandwiches and energy bars but I didn’t feel like eating due to the heat. I just grabbed a single banana. We were forced to wait 50 minutes until being allowed to leave.  As there was a delay in sealing off a large section of downhill road after the rest stop.

2nd half

According to the profile (see above), the next 20km were mainly downhill.  It seemed to be a poor decision to let hundreds of riders hit a steep descent at the same time. My concerns were unfounded.  As all of the riders I saw were very respectful and most took it easy on the descent. I found it fun to cruise in a big group at speeds between 50 and 65 km/h.

As the descent continued the stronger riders worked their way to the front and small alliances formed. We had the entire road to fly down and this was one of my favourite sections of the ride.… until I hit a pothole.
Thankfully my tires didn’t puncture, but one of my drink bottles did fly out. Given it was now over 35ºC I couldn’t really continue with only one bottle of water. I stopped and went back for the bottle.  It was disappointing to see group after group fly by me when I had been feeling so strong.

Stuart O’Grady

Getting dropped

I tried to latch onto each group that passed me but I simply didn’t have the strength to do so. At least 40 riders passed me in this section and when the ride flattened. I was left to ride on my own. It was a small consolation that this part of the course was probably the most scenic of the day.

Still, with 50 km to go I wasn’t too keen on having to ride all the way back on my own. With only my thoughts for company I ploughed on and set a steady tempo.
A car soon passed me.  One of the course photographers leaned out of the window to take some snaps of me. I smiled for the camera and wondered what I looked like.  Feeling as if I had a long, long ride ahead of me. I heard the sound of bike wheels approaching me from behind.  My loneliness evaporated as I looked over my shoulder and saw the entire GreenEDGE team riding towards me.

The Green Edge train

I recognised Stuart O’Grady, Michael Matthews, Travis Meyer and Simon Gerrans among the group as the 12 pros overtook me. Amazingly there was enough room behind Simon Gerrans for me to slip in. I went from struggling to being pulled along at 32 km/h.  You couldn’t get the grin off my face.

It was amazing watching the GreenEDGE boys ride. They seemed so fluid and rode effortlessly, casually chatting among themselves. I rode for about 20 km in the GreenEDGE train.  It was a mind-blowing experience. As we continued down the road, we overtook many other riders who slotted into our group.  The further we went, I was pushed further and further down the peleton. I started to struggle as we picked up speed and I was eventually dropped off the back doing around 40 km/h up a slight hill.  Nothing to be ashamed of there!

Getting dropped part 2

I caught up to the GreenEDGE team at the next drink stop and asked one of the riders.  It might have been one of the Meyers — ‘Are you guys actually struggling?’ He looked at me with a wry grin and said ‘We’re actually doing worse than what you think. We’re just really good at hiding it!’.

The boys got back on their bikes and headed off.  I was in no fit state to resume getting tortured by them so with 30 km to go.  Resigned myself to the fact I’d be riding alone to the finish. But I was fortunate enough to ride the remainder of the day with a guy named Chris that I had met at the Ballan Cyling Classic the previous week.  He’s a powerhouse of a rider . Who was using the River & Ranges Winery Ride as a stepping stone towards next year’s 3 Peaks Challenge.
Chris and I were both exhausted and we took it in turns to help each other out. We soon turned left onto a tiny country road and were instantly hit with a hot headwind. There were trees to shade the road, which was a blessing.  But the open farmyards to either side of the road offered no protection from the wind. We ploughed on and I was trying to constantly get water into my system to avoid dehydration.

The bonk

All of a sudden I started to get blurry vision … and then I blacked out for a fraction of a second. I slowed right down and my first instinct was to drink … but then I remembered I’d just been drinking. In 140 km of riding I’d only eaten a single banana. I quickly ate a melted Milo bar which made me feel a bit queasy but, eventually, better.

Chris provided some well-needed company in the final stages of the ride.
Over the next 6 km I ate everything I could, all the while spending plenty of time in the hurt locker. Heat stroke is far from pleasant and, looking back now, I can’t believe I kept on riding.
All I can remember of this last section was staring hard at my front wheel and just grinding away. It felt like I was riding up a mountain, not a flat stretch of road. We asked one of the marshals how long it was until the end of the ride and he told us 6km. But after six pain-filled kilometres passed the end was nowhere in site, and we were cursing the marshall. Turns out he was actually 11k m from finish line.
I don’t know how we managed to get through those last 11 km.  But the immense sense of pride as we crossed the finish line made it all worth the effort.

Aftermath

After the ride, I was able to get  photos with a number of riders including Luke Durbridge, Stuart O’Grady, Michael Hepburn and Robbie McEwan. I was able to have a quick chat with Robbie and talk with him about his inaugural bike event up in Queensland which he’d held the week before.

As I was chatting to Robbie, an old guy walked up to us with a texta and a GreenEDGE top he had just bought. He asked ‘Are you guys part of the GreenEDGE team? Can I please have your autograph?’ It was hard not to laugh.

Robbie McEwan
It was an incredibly hot day and the pace seemed quick throughout. Even after riding the last 20km at a snail’s pace I still managed to average more than 32 km/h for the 150 km course which I was very, very happy with.
We all have our own motivations and reasons for signing up for the events we do. I entered this event hoping to ride alongside some of Australia’s cycling legends and I managed to achieve that goal. Its hard to say whether this event has made me a better rider.  But of the events I have ridden over the past two years this was one of the most special.

To be continued

I know that if I work hard and train well, a year from now I could return a better rider. Who knows, I might even be able to ride hard enough to see one of the GreenEDGE boys break a sweat.

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The Strava file for Brendan’s ride can be found here.

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Have you got a climbing-related cycling story you’d like to share? Maybe you just rode your first mountain on the weekend? Or maybe you’re on holidays in the French Alps, climbing every col in sight. Either way, we’re keen to hear from you. Please get in touch with Matt via email.

2012 Around the Bay in a Day

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I was excited to do the 2012 Around the Bay in a Day (210km edition).  Really training hard leading up to the event. The start of the ride through the city were annoying.  You either got stuck in slow groups or constantly got stopped at traffic lights. The West Gate Bridge. Now that was an experience to climb. I gave it a lot of gas, and flew by group after group of riders. Not too many climbers would enter an event like the ATB.  Normally I wouldn’t be drawn to such a flat course, but back then it seemed to be one of the premiere events that you’d like to have on your resume.

The trip down the Princess Highway was quite surreal and time flew.  I was actually enjoying myself, as the pace was quite comfortable to ride. You couldn’t really pass safely on the Princess Highway so I just had to sit in whatever bunch I was in. After we rode through Geelong, the groups splintered.  I was lucky to join a group which was pushing quite a good speed. One guy was happy to do all the pace making from Geelong to Queenscliffe.  I was lucky I could sit on the back and conserve some energy.

I made it to Queenscliffe very relieved, and in ok shape. When I waved my pass at the gate and was told that I’d gone the wrong way. I booked my ticket 3 months before.  Guess I just assumed this was the way I had booked and screwed up. There were several other riders in the same boat who had gone the wrong way.  We were hoping to sort something out with the organisers.

The guy we talked with was a total prick.

We asked the question of what can we do, and he pointed the way we came and said: “see that road you came down, head back up it! You’re not going on the ferry!”.

I was fuming. We had booked in for a 210 km event, and it was 115 km’s to Queenscliffe, so to go back added an additional 20 km’s to what I was expecting to ride today. I met this guy who had flown over from South Australia to do this event. He said that he didn’t know Melbourne, and didn’t know which way to go.  But got the same reply that I did. We agreed to ride back together. I was riding so well before, and now that that spark was gone I really struggled.  On top of this we encountered hellish head winds from Queenscliffe to Geelong which almost killed me.

I wasn’t having the best of days.

When we got back to Geelong, I was cooked and was struggling to breath. This was one of my first rides wearing my new heart rate monitor.  I didn’t realise that I had it on too tight. When I loosened the strap, I realised that it had been so tight that it was cutting off the circulation underneath.  My skin was really pale all around the strap. After I took it off I felt like I could finally breath & headed off with some confidence that I could finish this thing. The wind changed directions and we had a perfect tailwind behind us on the Princess Highway. Even though I was completely spent, I was able to ride at speeds up to 55 km/h on the flat section heading back to Melbourne.

A deuschbag in front of me avoided a large piece of metal at the last second and didn’t warn me.  At the time I was almost kissing his rear wheel, then suddenly I was going to hit this piece of metal that was about 40cm wide whilst riding at 53 km/h. I bunny hopped it which was purely instinctive and felt cool.  To this day is one of the favourite moves I’ve ever done on a bike.

I struggled towards the end, but made it.

I had ridden 230 km’s (my first ever double century).  Although the day turned to shit, I had a lot to be proud of. Instead of taking the train home I chose to ride home from Alexander Gardens. Foolishly I went to the bike expo at the Bike Expo.  Buying a tonne of items, as well as picking up a fair bit of freebies.  This seemed good at the time, but I had to carry them back home. I had to wear three tops that I bought.  Completely filled my pockets and filled a bike bag which I carried on my back which weighed a tonne.

My legs felt good to ride, but I felt so hot wearing all the extra clothes, and carrying a bag on my back after 230 km’s of riding wasn’t pleasant.

I set a then record of 276 km’s.

I sent an email to the organisers, and told my story & admitted that the fault was mine, and offered some suggestions. Bicycle Victoria like all mass events treats you like a number, not a person and didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to my email. I felt ripped off to have paid so much for the experience I got.

That wasn’t a bad trip up from the city to Quenscliffe return. I was so close to 300 km’s, that I wanted another crack at the 300. I figured that I paid so much for nothing, that next year I would return and do the same trip again and pay nothing. If they don’t have the decency to treat me as a person, well screw them!

I had 300 on my mind next time……….

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

Ride4Epilepsy at Calder Park

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This was the second year that I rode the Ride4Epilepsy which is a 6 hour enduro. This year’s edition was at Calder Park.  The organisers chose a very poor day to run the event as Amy’s Gran Fondo was on at the same day.  With numbers heavily down on last year. I had the Flu, and was struggling to breath properly, and felt like crap.  You could question why I would be riding in a 6 hour Enduro given the circumstances. I had talked my wife into riding this year, so couldn’t not go.

From the outset I joined a group of around 20 riders who were smashing out great times for the first 15 laps. There was a huge difference in the riders abilities.  We seemed to be easily able to lap the entire field. For the first 15 laps we averaged close to 37 km/h, and lapped the whole field over and over again. Me, I was hanging on for dear life, and was fighting for breath.  Suffering a fever.

Everyone was rolling turns at the front except for me. I had no hope of getting out the front, and just held on for dear life.  Every time I got near the front I would pull over to the side to get out of the peleton and blow snot out of my nose.  Then coincidentally joining up at the back of the pack. I held on for dear life, and was wondering how long I could hold on for.

Lucky that the group splintered before I had a chance to crack.

I was in the hurt locker, and it was a cool day.  The winds picked up as the day went and conditions were tricky to ride in, and I started riding solo.  Occasionally jumping in on groups. I rode until I had done 100 km’s.  Then seriously considering pulling the plug on the day. I had done far better than I could have possibly hoped to given my flu.

There was a free massage service in pit lane.  I went and got some work done on my legs which brought some life back into me. Then I went out and slogged out another dozen laps before I collapsed again.  Needing further treatment on my legs. One more pit stop at the massage centre got me through the day, and I ended up riding 148 km’s & came 8th overall whilst pretty crook. I pulled out a Michael Jordan type ride today & was immensely proud. I had high hopes of returning the following year, but sadly the organiser came down with throat cancer and this was the last year that this was run.

The greatest part of the day was the ride my wife pulled out. She hadn’t ridden a bike in months before this ride, and pulled out 68km’s in tricky conditions. And really helped me push through my own troubles on the day.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

Kinglake Ride part 2

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(06/10/2012)

One year later.  With a whole lotta climbing experience under my belt I felt a lot more confident with this year’s edition of the Kinglake ride. I was shocked when I showed up for the Tri-alliance rides. Since last year I was a whole new league ahead of where I was. I was, able to go a lot faster than I’ve previously been able to, and was always leading out the front. We did a massive session at the Yarra Boulevard.  Part of it they had us race 5 laps of the first part of Yarra Street. Even to this day I’m still 2nd on the leaderboard, and don’t think I was giving it full gas at the time.

Two days before the actual event it was a sunny perfect day with 28 degrees, and I was feeling great……..

Of course being the Kinglake Ride the weather turned sour.

I still hadn’t learned to work out how to read the weather forecast.  Which almost cost me big time again this year. The weather forecast for Melbourne was 15 degrees, and possible rain.  I brought some warmish clothes and a rain jacket.  You think I would have figured from last year that this was an incredibly cold pocket north of Melbourne, with its own weather patterns.
Kinglake Ride part 2

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The ride started well, and I smashed it out, and was always pushing out the front. As soon as I hit Kinglake I pushed off on everyone.  Only getting passed once on the climb.  Whilst leap frogging dozens of climbers on the way up. I pushed on, and at the very point last year when I copped the hypothermia, de ja vu occurred. The weather turned sour and it dropped down to 6 degrees on course and started to rain a bit. I was soaked, and really cold, but I pushed through and was hoping that history wouldn’t repeat itself. When I was nearing the turn off at Glenburn, I started shaking a little & was absolutely freezing.

Kinglake Ride part 2

I had a feeling that like last year, this might just be a very cold pocket and if I kept riding, it would warm-up. It did, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t pleasant conditions, and I felt really bad riding through the last 50km’s of the ride. When I came through Kinglake West, I started to pass the 70 km riders.

This buoyed my spirits somewhat.
Kinglake Ride part 2
Last year I finished in 5 & ½ hours. This year I finished in 3 hours 52 minutes, averaging just under 30kmph, and was one of the first back. From the nice weather we had Thursday, it dropped 20 degrees which isn’t healthy for the body to cope with. I got wet again, but had a bit better clothing for the day, but the day could have gone sour. I sent the organisers a suggestion to change the title of the ride to the “Kingrain ride”. They moved the ride to November the following year, desperately trying to avoid the crap weather. I did better than expected, and really wanted to come back to prove myself. I asked myself the question “at what cost?”.  Two bad experiences had made me a tougher rider, and this year’s edition gave me confidence that I could ride through some very temperamental weather. I haven’t returned to this event, even though it is a fantastic course, and it would be great to revisit it to see how much I’ve improved as a cyclist. One year…….
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here: