Cycling Tips Giro della Donna is Andy Van Bergen’s brainchild. He had ridden this course a number of times before putting it out on the map as one of Victoria’s premiere events. In 2014, Andy advertised a ride around the Reefton Spur& the Acheron Way on Facebook. I rubbed my hands together as the Acheron Way was high on my to do list. 20 riders showed up in wet & overcast conditions.
It was a day that I was fortunate to meet John Beech, & Robbie Rowlands. Who is the founder of the Cardinia Climbers group. This ride was shortly before I attempted my first Everest, and I was in some of the best form that I’ve ever had. This month I pumped out 40,000 vertical metres in just 28 days. Averaging over 1,400 vm per day. On this ride I had a blinder. We left Warby, and set a brisk pace out to the Reefton Spur averaging over 32 km/h.
The weather wasn’t flash, and it was only around 7 degrees but I was feeling pretty strong.
The Reefton Spur is more of a series of undulating climbs, than a straightforward climb
I turned off towards Lake Mountain and the weather turned foul. It dropped down to about 4 degrees, and the wind picked up. It was a nightmare to ride, but I pushed on as well as I could, but knew the elements were slowing me down. I got to the Lake Mountain summit soaked to the skin, and went inside shaking from the cold. Having to stay in front of the fire for ages to warm-up. Given the weather, and the fact that I had to slow down on the descents. I couldn’t believe I still got 2nd on the leaderboard from Reefton Spur to Lake Mountain. 2 minutes 32 seconds behind getting the KOM, which I lost just in the descents, let alone the crappy weather. Guess that’s the breaks with Strava, you can win some, and you can loose some.
I still see this as one of the best individual rides I’ve done.
Planning to fang it all the way from Marysville to the top of Mount Donna Buang:
Taking a whole minute off my PB up to the top.
I waited up the top for close to half an hour waiting for the group to catch up. I bumped into the mighty Sambo at the top. With several other guys who were training to do their first Everest at the end of the month. Eventually I gave up waiting, and descended. I later discovered that quite a few of the guys had punctures on the Acheron Way. One guy triple punctured. Given my experience on that gravel section. With how many riders I’ve heard puncture through there I haven’t been keen to return. But really thankful for having the opportunity to climb it.
Today was a blinder for me, and such a confidence boost approaching my first Everest. I did two major climbs, in crappy weather & finished in the top 5 on both of them. The fact that I showed up for a group ride, and rode 75% of it solo hasn’t sat too well with me. I had the time of my life, but would have had just as much fun pacing myself & chatting with the guys during the day. Guess it’s a what if situation, but this easily is amongst my favourite rides of 2014.
Well those top 5 time lasted until a little thing called the Giro della Donna came along. Lucky to be in the top 100 now 🙂
Pacing myself isn’t my strong point. My plan for the day was to start quite a bit back in the field and sit in a slow group and let them pace me. I needed to make sure I never got to the front to the pace making.
When I’m at the front I only have the one speed.
I headed out in the 6th group & had Luke Durbridge & Cameron Meyer pace us out. There was also a lady from the Orica AIS squad that I was able to chat with for the first 10 km of the ride. After spending the week at altitude I was surprised at how easy it was for me to breath. Even though I was exhausted I could keep up the pace easily.
We hit the first drink stop and the thing I didn’t want to happen happened. I was up the front looking at a hill. I tried to go slow. Cruising up it in the big dog & halfway up looked over my shoulder and the Peleton was 100 metres behind me. WTF! I dropped them like a sack of spuds and was in no mans land. Did I want to drop back or go for it? Without trying I had dropped the field easily and wasn’t exerting myself and thought why not.
Without hurting myself too much I put the foot down.
Making some incredible time and single handily overtaking two of the groups that had left before us. Somehow easily overtaking riders. I didn’t know if this was going to be one of those blinders. Or potentially a really bad one when I eventually bonk from exhaustion.
I turned off for the main climb of the day, and a couple of km in I sensed riders behind me. There was a Peleton closing in on me. I felt I must have been riding bad and picked up the pace a little but was caught 4 km down the road at the base of the climb. Cameron Meyer was leading the group so I didn’t feel so bad about getting caught.
I knew I couldn’t afford to cook myself on the climb.
Really lowering my tempo at the start and surprisingly was keeping pace with Cameron Meyer & the Orica AIS lady. We dropped everyone I kept up with them for the first 3 km of the climb. Cam said to me “you’re a pretty decent climber”, and I told him that honestly was wrecked from doing 10,000 vert over the past 5 days. He asked me where, and I told him Koszkiosko and it was nice to hear him say “yeah that’ll do it to you!”.
I went into the hurt box shortly after and dropped off on them. They pushed about 500 metres up ahead of me before I managed to get a second wind. From here I was able to drop it into the big dog and crank out some extra Watts and I kept them in my sights for the remainder of the climb. Somehow I ended up nailing 4th spot on the second half of the climb, and just wish I hadn’t struggled up that middle bit. I wasn’t giving the 2nd half full gas & how I wish sometimes you could know the invisible time of Strava.
I would have given it some gas and could have possibly nailed the KOM on the day……
At the lunch stop I kept an eye out for when the Green Edge boys were leaving. Trying to jump into their group but I know I can’t descend well and never was in the hunt. I dropped off and started to ride solo. With the heat of the day picking up was starting to struggle with 60 km to go. I rode 15 km solo before a group caught up to me and I jumped onto their wheels. The pace was fast, and I was doing everything I could to hang on.
I had ridden incredibly given my level of exhaustion. My ride ended about 7 km from the finish line when I just couldn’t hold onto the group anymore and dropped off. When I dropped off I wasn’t worried with such a short distance to get back to base. I definately could not have anticipated the hell I was about to go through. I didn’t account for the fact that it was incredibly hot and I soon ran out of water. Bonking from dehydration.
The miles seemed to drag on forever and it was hell grinding back into a head wind.
Here is a link to my Strava file here:
I was physically & emotionally wrecked from riding over 300 km’s around Mount Kosziosko two days earlier. Chris & Sam had family commitments and with a full day to myself how could I not go out for a big one? Temperature wise the day would be perfect. There were heavy winds forecast, and I knew that I would be likely to cop them on the way back.
The scenery was breathtaking, but right from the outset my legs had little punch, and I was forced to pace myself. On our epic loop, I had to pull the plug in Jindabyne, and was let down that I couldn’t finish the epic. To get the chance to return and finish off this leg was part of the motivation of getting out there today. I flew through Jindabyne and was incredible to see Lake Jindabyne to the left side of town.
Lake Jindabyne is one of the largest fresh water reservoirs in New South Whales. Having a reputation as being one of the best places to catch Trout in Australia.
In between Jindabyne and Berridale, there were a number of categorised climbs which gave me so much grief the other night.
At the start I lined it up and got out of the seat. Sprinting all the way up to the top of the climb. I honestly wasn’t expecting to average 44 km/h, but I’ll take it. From Berridale to the next town Dalgety I was expecting some form of tail wind, but alas it wasn’t to be. I copped a strong cross/head wind through this long section and my average speed dropped dramatically.
This was one of the most breathtaking areas I had ridden through as I was heading towards the Snowy River.
Fighting the winds through here was more than worth it. I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached Dalgety. Stopping for a Cake & Coke. From here I then crossed the Snowy River and headed straight into a wall of wind. Battling headwinds of over 60 km/h. At times I was punching out 15 km/h on flat sections of road and was suffering. There were a number of rolling hills along the way which are normally my bread and butter, but had to fight every inch of the way.
Ultimately it broke me.
That last bit hurt!
This year I was sick with a chest infection. I was starting to get better, but was really struggling to breath. I originally wanted to do a 300 km ride on the day. But during the week was looking like I wasn’t able to ride at all. As usual there were heavy winds forecasted. I decided on the morning that I would go into the city, and just do a short loop. Consisting of just climbing the West Gate Bridge.
I showed up really late, and was amongst some of the last riders heading off on the ATB. Everyone was slow, and I was gliding past riders with hardly pedalling. The first 10 km’s was slow going. I was a tourist, and didn’t want to ruin others days, so sat in the packs. Waiting till there were safe areas to overtake. Two police officers pulled alongside me at the traffic lights on Mountain Bikes.
I took great pleasure in flying off on them.
When I hit the Westgate bridge. There was a strong cross/head wind, and I was climbing through back markers. None who were climbers. I flew up the climb, wheezing a bit, but was able to pump out a good amount of watts. Holding but somehow was 6th fastest on the day. I don’t know how many I overtook. But wondered what they were thinking when they were struggling up that climb, to have someone fly past like they weren’t moving.
I was going to continue up the freeway afterwards and do a short loop. At the last second decided to go left, and follow the field. This committed me to doing the 50 km distance. It was very windy, and I was either battling a strong head wind, or flying with a massive tailwind. After turning off to Altona, I averaged close to 50 km/h on a flat section over the next 1.5 km’s. Expecting to get a top ten finish, and somehow managed only 17th. Guess there must be some mighty winds through there.
I had a rest before tackling the other side of the West Gate bridge.
I wanted a PB, but didn’t know how the winds would be. I went out hard from the start, but just felt like I was lacking the pace. I started to wheeze about 2/3rds of the way up the climb, but could keep a steady tempo. I averaged just under 30 km/h up the climb. This was fastest on the day and 9th overall on the leader board. There was a very strong cross wind that I had to fight to keep the bike straight so was happy with my time.
I had a ferocious head wind coming back, and just paced myself over the line. Given how sick I was during the week I was very happy to have been able to ride so strong for the day. I love climbing the West Gate Bridge, and you can only ride on it twice a year, so am happy to do it just to climb that beast. It is not an easy climb by all means.
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
I arranged to ride the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo with Chris Cox. His in-laws live in Glenrowan, and they kindly let me stay the night before. They have this amazing view of the Alps from their back door. I woke up at 5:30 am and was fortunate to watch the sun rise. Recently, I had been sick a couple of times over winter, and wasn’t at my strongest. I talked with Chris, and a fair bit of the course is flat and straight. My plan was to coast for the first 10km’s or so before deciding when to push. Saving everything in reserve for the gravel climb. Chris said ok, but I should know better than to trust him…….
Gary Beazley also came down to the Sam Miranda Gran Fondo and there were 3 of us in our Hells 500 kits. The start was a sedate pace, and was only doing about 32 km/h to head off. Chris lasted a couple of k’s before getting bored, and waved me through to the head of the pack. I should have known what was about to happen.
He ripped the field a new a-hole, and started belting out 40 km/h.
I looked over my shoulder, and the Peleton fought desperately to keep on our wheel. Chris waved me through and we took it in turns in smashing out 40+km/h, and it was nice to know that you were up there dishing out the pain. But I knew I wasn’t in shape to keep this up.
About 10 km’s in I started to hit the red, and just aren’t used to riding on flat roads it’s sad to say. Chris was up there having the time of his life. Eventually cracking the field with 4 riders forming a breakaway. I tried to bridge the gap, but was just wasting energy and dropped back. The pace died down to under 30 km/h, and clearly no one could match the pace of the CC machine. I wasn’t happy with the pace, but I was in the hurt locker trying to recover for the climb. Figuring that I had done enough turns at the front at the start. So hid in the field.
I’m a specialist on riding on dirt, and felt really confident about the climb. Benalla-Whitfield Road is 6.3 km’s @ 4%, and on Strava looked like a consistent gradient throughout.
When we hit it, I probably pushed a fraction too fast and never found my rhythm.
I was able to keep a fast tempo, but was always in the red. Having to constantly pace myself to recover throughout the climb. There was about 3 other riders that were keeping pace with me. Normally I would have been able to fly off. I was mega relieved when we got to the top. Going at a snails pace down the descent desperately catching my breath.
After overtaking the 3 other riders that had headed off down the road. I saw the mighty CC rider on the side of the road with a mechanical. It was upsetting as he was in awesome form. Didn’t look like I could help him, and the last thing he wanted was sympathy. So I blurted out a stupid smartarse remark: “don’t give me such an easy carrot to eat!”.
Unfortunately he heard me, and when the CC rider’s blood gets up……
At the base of the descent I joined a group of 4 riders. This turned out to be the leading group. One rider from the Hawthorn Cycling Club was very strong, and did a fair bit of the pace. I wasn’t feeling great but did some strong turns. The other two guys stayed at the front for really short periods, and the pace dropped off. But we figured was best to work as a team. With about 10 km’s to go, I saw a rider speed up to us, and of course I saw the grinning face of Chris. He stuck with us for about 20 seconds. Like a cat toying with a mouse before he gave us the ass and flew off down the road. Guess we weren’t going to come first anymore. The Sam Miranda Gran Fondo was going to be his.
With 5 km’s to go was feeling good. Looking over our shoulder there was a group of about 20 riders that were fast approaching. Me and the Hawthorn dude dropped the others and put the foot down. It would have been a shame to not get there up in the front group. Unfortunately with 3 km’s to go we got swallowed. I tried to recover for the final sprint. Unfortunately I don’t have any racing experience and got boxed out. I tried to sprint, but only managed to come in 6th place. In hindsight I wish I had pulled longer turns at the front. Pushing the pace more and that group may not have caught us. But how would I know that we would be caught. Guess it was a good learning curve.
When I caught to congratulate CC. He was annoyed as hell.
CC was following an event car who took him the wrong way.
He ended up going through the finish line from the wrong way. He still got there first, but given the mechanical, and not having the satisfaction of sprinting over the line he wasn’t too impressed. All up I did far better than I expected on the second half of the course. It was a struggle on most on the flats leading up to the main climb. I learned a lot, and left with a plan to improve the two worse parts of my riding. Descending & riding on flats. Still averaged close to 33 km/h which was really fast for me. Gary Beazley also did really well, smashing PB’s all throughout the course.
A very successful day for the Hells 500 team at the 2014 Sam Miranda Gran Fondo.
- Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
- Here is a link to Chris’s Activity here:
- And Gary Beazley’s here:
How to get there
The event starts in the town of Oxley and is a 250 km drive north-east of Melbourne, and easily accessed from the Hume Freeway. This is a great event to do and can highly recommend it.
He would catch me easily on the descent. He is quick.
The crew threw in a new climb called Talaskia Avenue which would have really screwed up a few riders. It peaks at over 33%, and then at the top you need to carry your bike up a 200 metre incline of close to 20%. I paced myself up this one, and came 5th on the day. Mast Gully was next, and I was seriously getting warmed up. Flying past a lot of riders, and was looking like having one of those days.
That was until my triple puncture.
This cost me a lot of time, and lots of riders that I had easily passed flew on by. Clint pulled over and gave me assistance, and gave up the chance of doing well overall. Half an hour lost, and my day was completely ruined. Tick, tock, I had to rethink my strategy. I was feeling good, but had already used a fair bit of energy. I decided that I could go for the KOM on the new climb “Alpine Crescent”. Then go for PB’s on Invermay & Priors Road.
I had hoped to do an epic Mountain bike ride during the Spring. With a route planned from home to Warburton, returning via the Dandenong’s. We had originally hoped for between 200 – 300ckm’s. Unfortunately I fell heavily sick. Common sense prevailed as I was just not getting better closer to the date. I had thrown out some invitations and had a group of riders interested. Thankfully most of them were ok with doing a revised plan.
I still had a chest infection, and was honest with myself that 50 km’s was probably about the best I could do. I messaged Sambo seeing if he could suggest something. He said to meet at Gembrook.
There was a bit of dirt sorted out for us.
Milinda, Craig Lee, Mick Longin & myself met Sambo at Gembrook. Heading towards Beenak Road on our Mountain Bikes. The Road led us through to the Kurth Kiln regional Park, and was an awesome road to ride. There were several medium sized 2-3 km climbs. It was a little frustrating. My legs felt great after all the rest I’d had whilst sick and I was flying up those hills. Then would start to wheeze, and struggle to breath, and started heavy coughing fits and had to really pace myself.
It was only a couple of degrees & blood cold. There was snow forecasted around the area during the day. I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favours by riding in this crap. Although heavily rugged up, it’s always a danger when you sweat that you could cop mild hypothermia in these conditions.
Mick had tubeless tyres, and his day was ruined by having several punctures that he couldn’t fix. He had to work so much harder than everyone else with little air in his tires. It was truly a gutsy effort on his part. Don’t think he enjoyed the ride as much as the rest of us. I really enjoyed some of the climbs, but the highlight was on the return trip. Milinda suggested that we go the long way down a side road.
I’m usually really nervous on the descents, and the roads were in pretty bad shape. We bombed down this road and everyone dropped me which was no surprise. I actually found my rhythm, and was able to push quite hard for me on the descents and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
My chest infection took its toll, and on the way back I started to feel fatigue creeping in.
I fell in with my long-time friend “the hurt locker”. Just as we reached Gembrook the skies opened up, and it hailed. Within a couple of minutes the road was covered in a sea of white. We were incredibly lucky that we were under cover at the time. We all were covered from head to toe in mud, and had a blast!
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
I took some Annual Leave to be able to do a ride with Chris Cox on the first Monday of the month. We left pretty early and parked the car in Moe. The weather forecast was good and we were looking for a great day. I wasn’t 100%, but thought that I could hold my own against the CC machine……. You’d think I’d learn. From Moe up to Erica it is quite undulating, and there’s quite a few climbs in between. CC was casually cruising, and I was struggling for breath. I could hold the pace easily enough, but something was wrong. Sadly I had to beg for mercy and ask him to slow down. I knew I was going to be in for one of those days, and told him about several segments up the road. Hoping that he would smash himself so badly that he would slow down…..
It was a glorious morning, and we were enjoying the ride up to Mt St Gwinear. I was the only one to have climbed this road, and was great to show this off. When we turned off onto Thompson Valley Road I was surprised to find it quite muddy. We also encountered quite a few logging trucks along the way. They had caused quite a bit of damage to the roads, and we had to fight to get the wheels to turn in long sections. These logging trucks would hurtle past us at up to 100 km/h, & was quite hairy. We got to pulling off the road to let them through. There was plenty of space for either of us.
We had the feeling that the truckies would be happy to make us road kill.
We got covered in mud, and it was clinging to our brakes. I really worried that we would have a dangerous descent. We got to the top and I was spewing that the road was in such crappy conditions. We took caution on the descent but had little difficulty. Then continuing down to the Thompson Reservoir. I was finally starting to feel good, and there was a really steep climb on the far side of the Dam (2.2 km’s @ 10%). Foolishly I gave it some gas and flew off on Chris. I was absolutely flying up this hill for the first 1.5 km’s until I cooked myself.
It was no surprise that I went chronically into the hurt locker. I only had 700 metres left to push and knew I could still get the KOM. Kept turning the pedals as quickly as I could, and was desperately trying to suck in air. I pushed too hard at the start, and didn’t get near the KOM, falling 30 seconds short.
I loved this climb, but the descent was downright dangerous. You hit some scary speeds, and it was S bend, after S bend, and the road surface was crappy. It caused you to take lines into corners where if a car were to come around the bend, you’d be toast. And toast I was. We had a heap of riding ahead of us, and CC was in great shape and I was starting to feel it. Unfortunately Chris let me set the pace climbing out of the Thompson Dam. I found a rythmn, and knew the maths for what we needed for a KOM, and was actually on target. I lasted 2 km’s at the KOM pace before cooking myself.
Launching CC down the road, but sadly hadn’t done enough lead out work for him to score the KOM.
We headed down to Walhalla, and Chris loved it & vowed to return. He had a crack on the way out, and I had no hope of even keeping me in his sights. I was starting to hurt, and just had to focus on keeping a good tempo. There’s about 4.5km’s of climbing out of Walhalla, and it took virtually everything that I had left to climb back up to Rawson. I said to the CC machine that I was cooked, and would have to go slow. He of course said, “fine, fine I’ll pace you back….”. You think I would have learned that he’s full of shit!
I was running on empty, and the 40km’s from Rawson to Moe we averaged close to 40kmph, and I cannot begin to tell how excruciating that felt. It’s all experience and to pump out such fast times on empty tank was unbelievable. Guess this must be how it feels to be an exhausted Pro desperately trying to keep up with the Peloton in the Tour de France.
It was fast approaching the time of the Everest. The big thing at the start with the Everests was secrecy. We weren’t supposed to tell anyone what we were doing. In preparation for my Everest, I went and did 13 repeats of Perrins Creek after work. I pushed too too hard and really re-assessed the way I planned to tackle how I was going to Everest. I needed something harder to train on & went down to Inverness Avenue in Montrose. Knocking out 16 repeats which was I actually really enjoyed. I would have kept going, but had a picnic lunch I had to get to.
Being me, I wanted bigger and better. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the Dandenong’s harder than Inverness. There’s Terry’s, but that’s just plain stupid. Invermay was a possibility, but I had my heart set on Mast Gully Road. I had recently done 3 repeats on it, and it was a major challenge. I felt that 10 was the magic number, and would help me to get one step closer to Everest.
Given the hot forecast for the day I knew the repeats on Mast Gully would likely kill me. I had this crazy notion to go & smash out a whole heap of segments first. Then go and tackle Mast Gully after. Given there was 38 degrees forecast, twas going to be a tall order. I started in Belgrave South, and worked my way around to Mast Gully. I was feeling really strong on the day, and was happy with some of my times.
The experience I got on Mast Gully really helped me through some of my Everests. It was frekin hot, and I had sweat pouring off on me. That first steep pinch I can get up easily enough, but was exposed to the sun. This ride took a fair bit of effort this day. The second half of the climb offered its own challenges.
When your boiling hot, and you’re crawling up gradients over 20% it doesn’t tickle.
After each lap I was spent, and had to spend a fair bit of time trying to recover at the top. A lot of riders fear Mast Gully, but I like it. Cars aren’t allowed to turn off the main road. So its local traffic only, & you rarely get to see any cars. The descent down the top half is actually a fun descent. There aren’t any technical corners that would worry you. Instead of descending down the Alexander Avenue segment. I went the long way around, and found it a very safe alternative.
After 6 laps I wanted to throw in the towel, and went down to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee. That frozen slushee saved me, and helped to cool down my temperature enough to go back for some more punishment. I knocked out two more, and knew that I couldn’t stop so close to 10. It was slow, and it wasn’t pretty but I climbed Mast Gully 10 times with the mercury reaching 38 degrees.
So many Everests have been done around Victoria. Mast Gully is one of the last iconic climbs which still hasn’t been Everested which is testimony to how difficult it is. Maybe I’m the only one who’s done 10 repeats. Who knows, but at least I know I’m the only one who would have done it in such an extreme temperature.
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
At the end of February 2014 I was going to Everest for the first time. I was living, dreaming, & breathing climbing. Looking back, I would not have thought possible that in February 2014 alone that I would climb 40,000 vertical. This is over 1,400 vertical per day on average, which is a lot considering I also took 9 days off the bike (19 riding days). Much of my time was spent in the Dandenong’s. Though I was also able to get in 6 Mountain climbs. This included Mount Buller, and the Reefton Spur. I also climbed Mount Donna Buang from all four main ascents (Don Valley, Panton Gap, the main tourist road and Acheron Way up to the top).
There was also some crazy rides. I was also able to do 10 repeats of Mast Gully on a 38 degree day.
This was pretty extreme, even for my standards, amongst a heck of a lot of climbing.
I was very proud of doing 40,000 vertical during the month of February. I’ve read that GC riders preparing for the Tour de France do upwards of 10,000 – 15,000 vertical per week for the 3 weeks leading up to the Tour de France. To put that in perspective, I did a similar amount around a Full-time job (admitingly not at high altitude like the Tour de France riders would, and a fraction slower J).