2016

A look at 2016

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A head on collision has pretty much brought an early finish to riding in 2016 for me.  Now is as good a time as any to reflect on the year thats been.  Right from the start of the year I was battling knee and achilles problems.  Life was hectic and I pretty much burned myself out.  This led to injury after injury after injury after injury.  I worked hard at recovering and at the end of June, I was able to get out for one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had on a bike.   Having the chance to do a snow ride with my mate Geert, pushing through 6km of snow up the rear side of Mount Donna Buang. It was like being a kid in a candy store & it was a truly surreal experience. Moments that you wish could go on forever.

Mount Donna Buang

This one didn’t. At the time I didn’t realise that I had strained my Achilles tendon pushing my bike up through the snow. It took me until mid August till I recovered from that injury.  I was good and strong for a grand total of 3 days before I came down with virus after virus.  6 of tem all up, which kept me sick for a grand total of 12 weeks.  This pretty much was the story of 2016.

Image taken by Doc Ryan

It just wasn’t my year.  I remeber in late February. I was working hard to recover from an Achilles injury to Sherpa for Ewan Hilsdon on Mount Donna Buang. The day before I had a freak accident pulling the rear wheel off the bike. The wheel jammed, and when it came loose, it came loose fast. The spokes went through my thumb, and severed it.  Yet another visit to the Emergency department at Dandenong Hospital. I did a real number on my thumb and was told I was incredibly fortunate that I missed the tendons by millimeters & would have required surgery on my thumb if had done that.

Oops

I had to pull out of so many rides throughout the year.  The rides I was able to do often led to further injury and illness, which continually forced me off the bike.  This was a year where I experienced a total of 11 whole weeks where I couldn’t even touch the bike once.  You take your health for granted, and losing so much this year I really appreciated how much I love to ride.

Image courtesy of the Climbing Cyclist

The fitness that I’ve worked hard for I ultimately took for granted, and you don’t know what you’ve got until you loose it.  Last week I had gone 3 weeks without mishap.  A record for 2016.  An inexperienced rider riding down the wrong side of the Eastlink Trail around a blind bend had other ideas.  A head on collision will see me off the bike for at least 3 weeks.  Game over.

The best & worst of 2015

Best:

Mount Donna Snowuang

The Demon’s Double

A Hells of a time in the Dandenongs

Mount Hotham

Mount Buffalo

 

Worse:

Search for the Bunyip ride (mechanical forced me to pull out early)

Slicing through my thumb on my Cog Wheel

Head on collision

 

A look at 2016

                                                               2015                           2016                      Difference

Total distance travelled:              12,616km                      5,893km                 ↓53%

Biggest ride:                                       366km                           186km

Total elevation:                                 211,079 metres            83,774 metre         ↓61%

Maximum elevation:                      9,289 metres                4,424 metres         ↓ 53%

Reflections

Whilst I wasn’t able to ride anywhere near as much as I usually do.  And injuries and illness kept me from my beloved hills most of the year.  I still got to ride.  There’s nothing more special than that, and I have continued to grow many friendships over the year.  The great thing about looking forward to 2017, is that I have so much to grow from.  So much to make up for.  Bring it!

Always look on the BRIGHT side of life

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This weekend I will be heading up to Bright for a cycling weekend.  When I originally committed to this ride at the start of August.  I was coming off 8 months of injury.  The weekend was supposed to include 350km of riding and close to 7,000 vertical of climbing. With 3 & a half months to train I felt confident that I could easily get in shape for such an endeavour.

Image by Matthew Nelson

Then I got sick, and sick & sick & sick.  And continued to be sick for over 10 weeks.  Coming down with five separate viruses, which took their toll.  I tried to stay positive, but the closer it got to the Bright weekend, the more the alarm bells were ringing.  After 1- weeks I was able to shake the wort of it.  With less than four weeks to train for such an epic weekend of riding, I remained optimistic.  But knew it was a tall order.

Of course I got sick one last time.

I tried my best, but a combination of crappy Melbourne weather, and an increase in workload at work led to another burn out & given the year I’ve had, it’s no surprise that I’ve come down with yet another throat infection, and with 4 days before I head up to Bright I desperately need to shake this latest virus.

Sadly I won’t be riding the 3 peaks course as originally planned.  My back-up plan was to do several mountain ascents with Mount Hotham, Back of Falls & Mount Buffalo.  These are in question if I am not able to get better.

One way or another I will still head up there.  I won’t be riding, but I will offer to drive as a support vehicle for the 40 or so riders riding over the weekend.  I will be profiling a number of great rides and climbs in and around the high country.  Stay tuned for these.

Image taken by Matthew Nelson

Head on collision (literally)

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I’ve had a year from hell.  8 months of injury and 12 weeks of sickness.  I have had 3 weeks without incident.  A record for 2016 and starting to feel strong again.  These were thoughts going through my mind on my commute last night.  I was on my way to meeting my brother-in-law and was in no rush.  Approaching the underpass under Boronia Road on the Eastlink trail I stopped pedalling and coasted.  There’s a dangerous blind corner up ahead so slowed down going into it.

Your mother always said there would be days like these

I come around the bend and an old guy riding a mountain bike is riding on the wrong side of the path coming straight at me.  There’s only a second before impact.  I was almost riding against the wall and had nowhere to manouveur.  All I could do was brake.  He shat himself and turned his front wheel 45 degrees.  Wrong move as the bike started to drop from under him.  “turn to your left, turn to your left” my mind was willing.  He turned to the right.  Into me.  My front wheel connected dead on with his front wheel.  The impact sent me flying straight into him and we headbutted which stunned me.  Next thing I knew I was lying on the ground, bleeding everywhere and in shock.  My left arm had gone numb.  Figured out pretty quickly what the damage was as blood was pouring freely from a cut in the arm and a big pussy substance was coming out, & looked a bit like bone.

A rider had pulled up (Nic).  I was trying to remain calm and immobile until I could assess the damage.  Nic took charge and I could hear him straight onto emergency.  A broken lens from sunglasses lay at my feet.  Pretty much knew what I headbutted.  The other guy was walking around aimlessly and seemed ok.  I was in shock.  Don’t panic!

Ambulance was on the way so no dramas.  No concussion, no dizziness or blurred vision which was the good news.  I had a cut on my left eye that was bleeding but wasn’t bothering too much.  Why was that guy riding on the wrong side of a blind bend?  8 months of injury and 12 weeks of sickness.  This has pretty much destroyed the rest of the year.  I won’t be riding for awhile.

I was pissed but venting doesn’t solve anything so I said nothing to the guy (David).  He was probably feeling bad enough about the head on collision. He made a half assed excuse of cutting the corner at one stage, which both of us knew wasn’t the case.

Before I knew it the Ambo’s arrived.  They wrapped my arm up in a splint, cleaned up the eye and whisked me off to the Box Hill Hospital.  I checked my phone and there was a message from the brother-in-law “what’s taking you so long?”.  The story of my day.

4 hours later and I was discharged.  No fracture or break.  Just a lot of pain.  The doctor stitched me up and that was that. I am typing this a day later.  One arm in a sling.  I am likely going to be out of action for awhile, possibly for the last three weeks of the year.  I’m pretty angry.  This accident should not have happened. It was not a pleasant experience rounding a bend to be confronted with a head on collision.  I was helpless and there was nothing I could have done to avoid the accident.  I shook the guys hand and said “no hard feelings. Just please be a bit more careful in the future“.  He was spurting out excuses why it wasn’t his fault but stopped himself.  I could have said so many things.  Many not nice, but I chose to tell him to learn from his experience.

One of the guys who stopped at the scene wrote a comment on his feed which summed everything up perfectly;

Brendan was brought down by an old fart on a clunker on the wrong side of the footpath”.

I was touched by all of the offers of support & wellwishing that I received.  I’m down at the moment but I will be back on the bike soon.

To be continued…….

Cycling Movember style

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Not that I need an excuse to ride but its Movember, which is an annual event which has been running since 2004 and involves the growing of moustaches (aka mo’s) during the month of November to help raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer and men’s Suicide.  I’ve been dilligently growing a beard over the month which I finally trimmed down and it was time to get the Mo out & celebrate Movember the best way I can think.  By riding my bike.

Last weekend I was riding in scorching temperatures in the mid 30’s.  Today most of the ride it was under 10 degrees.  I’ve said it before and will say it again.  Curse you Melbourne weather!  I organized to ride with Brad Lyell in the Dandenong’s.  We just wanted to get out for the pleasure of riding in my favourite place.  The Dandenong Ranges, and some of my favourite climbs including Courtney’s Road & Selby Aura Road.  Early on into the ride was marred with Brad getting tacked on the road up to Kallista.  Just a reminder that there are some very sad people that live in our world today.  Placing tacks deliberately on a road to stop cyclists is thick headed as these tacks can wind up anywhere & can indivertibly be stepped on by wildlife, pets & humans.  Most importantly children.  Anyone who is ignorant to the fact that they could end up hurting others are not only thick headed but sadistic and should seek therapy!  We get that they don’t like cyclists.  Just don’t hurt others in your crusade against two wheeled vehicles.  We didn’t let this tacky episode bother our ride, which turned out to be a very good ride.

This year has been very trying with the first 8 months of the year spent injured on & off, and then since the start of August I had been sick a total of 12 weeks.  I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, and whilst much of the year has been a write-off.  I’ve still managed to get in some very good rides.  With Christmas less than a month away I’m happy to sit back & relax and enjoy myself over the coming month.  No epics planned.  No crazy rides.  Just the pure pleasure of getting out on my bike.  As a bonus I was able to introduce Brad to new climbs and found some long lost form.

 

Please head to the Movember website to see what you can do to support Men’s health. Click on this link to find out more.

or head to their Facebook page

 

 

Buffalo Soldier

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On day 3 of my Alpine adventures I managed to wake up with fresh legs. All of the aches of yesterday miraculously had gone and I was optimistic of having a good climb up Mount Buffalo. We started climbing at about 9:30am and it was already in the 30’s and going to be an absolute scorcher. I was riding well and hoped to be ride with the fast group but as soon as we hit the base of the climb they sailed off into the distance. I was able to climb ok, but was struggling with the heat and had to hold myself back somewhat. I looked over my shoulder and had dropped the group behind me. I was going to be climbing solo by the looks of things.

Mount Buffalo I always see as quite ominous. As your approaching the base of the climb you can see the peak up ahead and it can be quite daunting. I like this climb.  Its considered one of the most popular of the 7 Peaks climbs through the Mount Buffalo National Park.  It’s landscape is truly unique, and offers imposing granite outcrops, towering cliff walls, waterfalls, snowgums and wildflowers.

I was dying in the heat and in my own little world. Over the first 10km the group behind me was slowly reeling me in, and I wasn’t feeling in form but at least was climbing well enough. The climb then flattened out and I was able to drop down a few gears to pick the pace up, and after about 600 metres of climbing noticed it was getting cooler and I wasn’t dehydrating as I was on the lower slopes. I felt good & looked over my shoulder and the group behind me was nowhere to be seen. Either they were slowing down or I had sped up.

I was in cruise control and stopped half a dozen times to take photos and was really enjoying the scenery. I found my rhythm and was really enjoying myself. Even with the stops and the fact I was fluffing around I set a pb for the second half of the climb. Lucky I didn’t know that at the time or I would have really given it some gas and probably hurt myself.

John Van Seters

I overtook several riders that had left much earlier than our group and could tell I was riding strongly and was surprised that I rounded a corner to see the end of the climb. 22km of climbing and I felt strong and had heaps left in the tank. I had only ever climbed to the Chalet and had never been up to the Horn and knew nothing of what lay in-between. I saw a sign indicating that it was 11km and given how I was feeling felt like I could give it some gas and went for it.

There was a bit of a descent where I recharged the batteries before hitting the first climb up the Horn. It’s tricky pacing yourself when you have no idea how long or how steep a climb is, and I loved the challenge. The km’s flew and I had to reel myself back in, and my legs were hurting. The climb was spectacular with switchback after switchback and the higher I climbed the more stark the scenery became until it became a rocky outcrop. There was almost 4km of climbing up to Cradle Peak & I loved every minute of it. The scenery up there was to die for.

From here there was a really sharp descent and I was conscious of the fact I would have to climb back up this monster on the way back. The Horn was 3.5km up ahead and I saw a sign indicating that it was Gravel road. I’m an experienced gravel rider & arrogantly thought how hard could this be…….

It was unbelievably hard, and was like an oven. The road was quite rutted in bits and you would be shaked to the core. The road was littered with loose gravel and the surface was very dusty and offered little in the way of traction. There was switchback after switchback and the corners were steep, rutted and I copped a bit of wheel spin. The road was narrow and several times I had to pull off the road to let cars past.

The road surface was scorching and I ran out of water on the way up, and even though I was suffering throughout the whole climb I was loving every minute of it.  I had no idea of what the Horn was and when I came out to the carpark to see the views I was on cloud nine. This was easily one of the best rides I had done for 2016.

On the return trip, I wanted to have a crack at beating my pb down the Mount Buffalo descent.  I really gave it some gas, and within a few km’s I saw a car down the road and corner by corner was reeling him in. He must have seen me in his rear view mirror as he sped up and I had to put the foot down to keep him in my sites. He was a carrot and I was wondering how he was feeling about a cyclist descending as quickly as he was.

I was reading the corners really beautifully and sailing down, until I hit the flattened out section. I slowed down and really had to work overtime to keep the speed going. The car flew off and I reckoned that was going to be the last I would see of him. When I hit the descent in earnest again I was reading the corners better and felt that I was going faster and was like a kid in a candy store. A couple of corners later I see the flash of white as I caught up to my friend in front of me again. He must have slowed down again when he thought that he lost me, and when he saw me again he put the foot down. It must have been a matter of pride, but I wasn’t letting him go. The lower slopes had more and more technical corners that I could take at faster speeds than him and even though he would drop me on the straights I would reel him back in. I chased him all the way down to the toll booth and was only 20 metres behind him on the finish line.

I averaged 50kmph and didn’t realise how much effort I had put in until I was gasping for breath and sweating uncontrollably at the base.

I had just spent 3 days riding around the Victorian Alps. Much of 2016 has been spent injured or sick, and to finally hit some form on the slopes of Mount Buffalo was a dream come true. A special thanks to John Mogavero who put together this weekend and did an amazing job planning and getting a great bunch of guys together, and thank you to all the support and well wishes I’ve received since.

With luck I will be back in 2017.

To be continued……..

 

Falls Creek epic

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I was staying at the Bright Caravan in dormitory style accommodation with a group of riders who were up at the Victorian Alps for fun, adventure and who planned on taking on some of Australia’s most challenging climbs.  This cycling weekend was organised by John Mogavero, who was planning to ride up to the top of Falls Creek with a group of six riders, and then play it by ear from there.  There was also a couple of riders attempting to ride the 3 Peaks course.  Given the heat, they were incredibly brave to even think of doing such a crazy ride.

It was an early start, but who needs an alarm when one of your roommate’s rips a loud fart at 6:00am! I left the cabin to smell the fresh, crisp air . It was already in the mid 20’s and set for a very, very hot day.   I had volunteered to be a support vehicle, and had no regrets about not riding. My quads were screaming in pain from yesterdays climb up Mount Hotham, and was also hoping to climb Mount Buffalo the next day, and needed the rest.

My car was loaded with food & drinks and given the heat that was forecast, I had a feeling that I would be busy. I set-out at 6:45am for Tawonga Gap and had a chance to sit around at the top waiting for the group to catch up. There was such an amazing view from the lookout and a glorious sunrise and I enjoyed every minute of it.  It was already warming up, & riders were making use of the car jettisoning unwanted weight in preparation for the climb up Falls Creek. The climb from Mount Beauty to the top of Falls Creek is 31km in length and one of the longest climbs in the Victorian Alps and the climb offers plenty of breaks with quite a few descents and false flats to catch your breath.  For me it was an easy climb.  Music pumping and the air conditioning blasting.  Not so easy for those out riding in that insane heat.  I spent the climb leapfrogging the group and getting plenty of photos along the way. It was around 8am at this stage and already approaching 30 degrees.

 

There was a downhill Mountain Biking event on the day, and there was a bit of traffic with Shuttles running non-stop throughout the morning ferrying riders back up and down the mountain. We would constantly see riders to the side of the road descending at crazy speeds. Give me a climb any day over the week.

I headed up the road to meet Luis Lopez & Mark Spratling up at the top of Falls. They were doing the full 3 Peaks course, and were riding pretty strongly, but given that at this stage it was already in the 30’s they were going to get baked over the open planes. They had already copped some bad luck with two flats & gave them a couple of spares which was lucky as there were more punctures to come.  I loaded them with drink and gave them some food and bid them farewell, wondering if they would make it.  Given how strong they were riding was no surprise that they did.

Even with the air conditioning going full blast, I was sweating uncontrollably. Have I mentioned that it was bloody hot!  A part of me was yearning to get out there on the bike, but I was glad that I wasn’t riding in these hot conditions. It was an oven and the upper slopes of Falls Creek offer little in the way of shade and I could see everyone working overtime getting up the climb.  Henry (pictured below) is an asthma sufferer, & the thin air played havoc with his lungs and he said that he was really struggling to breath and the climb up Falls Creek took a heavy toll on him.  He provided one of the most impressive rides of the day, knocking out an impressive 203km & 3,700 vertical. #ridelikeaboss

Everyone rested at the top and it was decided that everyone turn around & head back to base. I managed to talk a small group into heading out to the dam which is only a short ride out from the Falls Creek resort for some pics and was treated to some truly amazing scenes.  If I had the time, the bike would have certainly be taken out for a short ride around the lake.

The descent down Falls Creek was fast and furious and I needed to use all of my driving skills to keep the bikes in site. There were some very talented descenders amongst the group, and you could see they were having fun. We regrouped in Mount Beauty for some brunch, where a waitress tried to charge me double for my food, and took a bit of work to get her to charge me the right amount. Made me wonder whether they taught math up in Mount Beauty?

The heat was intense & Gerald Aglipa decided to pull the plug. He was really feeling the heat and had already ridden one of the biggest rides of his life.  He told me that it was the hardest ride he’s ever done and had no regrets. We loaded his bike in the car & I was great to have someone to chat with the rest of the way home.  It was lucky we were still in Mount Beauty as we received a call from Stuart Turner who had blown a tyre just before the turn-off to Tawonga Gap. We drove there & lent him my rear wheel, which gave him a chance to ride home. He said later that I was “the modern day Jesus”.

From here, the group split and some chose to return via Rosewhite Gap, others headed straight back up Tawonga Gap. I made sure everyone had enough water & headed back home via Tawonga Gap and back to Bright.  The view up the top was just as brilliant as it was first thing in the morning.

One of the traditions of these rides is to jump into the river afterwards.  I’ll have to come back next year to complete the epic so I can.

Even though I didn’t ride, it was an incredible day, and happy to be of some use as a support vehicle. I got a chance to meet a heap of new mates and see some truly stunning scenery.

Tomorrow I will be climbing Mount Buffalo. Who knows with fresh legs I could blow everyone away.

To be continued……..

 

A ride up Mount Hotham

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This was my first time doing a ride up Mount Hotham and I was nervous as all hell. On the drive up to the base of Mount Hotham, all I could do was stare skywards at the monster that lay ahead of me.  I kept wondering how the hell I was going to climb that thing.  All year I’ve been sick & injured, and all out of sorts.  Definitely not in shape to take on one of Australia’s toughest climbs.

From Harrietville, I launched myself into the climb, and was baking in the hot sun.  Curse you Melbourne weather! The start of Mount Hotham is quite steep with the gradient on the wrong side of 10%, and the heat was doing a number of me and my body was working overtime trying to keep cool.  We came upon a road block 3km into the climb.  There had been a landslide, and we were forced to wait for 15 minutes.  I wasn’t enjoying the break.  I was hyperventilating & sweat was pouring off me like a shower.  I went through a full bottle of water, and given there was close to 28km of climbing ahead of me I was getting some serious alarm bells [wp-svg-icons icon=”alarm” wrap=”i”]

When we were finally let loose I kept reining myself in.  Trying to slow down the pace, and kept dropping back through the group.  I was struggling and had no idea how I was going to get up this climb.  At the 10km mark the road flattens out to a false flat, and the relief of getting off the steeper lower slopes was immense.  I dropped it in the big dog and my legs finally came alive.  I dropped the hammer and started to crank out a decent tempo.  At this stage, I only had less than half a bottle of fluid left, and needed to ration it up the remainder of the climb.

The last 10km of Mount Hotham is a rollercoaster of insane climbing & descending, with pinches moving up to 18% in gradient, and all I had was half a bottle of water left.  When I hit the first really steep climb of the day I glided up it.  I thought to myself.  “Schweet”.  I’ve got this in the bag, and pushed harder.

When I hit CRB hill, I started to struggle and no surprise that my Garmin told me I was sitting on an 15% gradient.  That explained the lack of movement.  I had only a sip of water left.  I drank it, which left me 6km to ride without any water.  I slowed down a bit on this climb, but still did well and was really optimistic.

Image taken by John Mogavero

The great thing about Mount Hotham are the views from up top.  It was a feeling of being  on top of the world, and nice to have something distract me from the pain my legs were feeling.  Through much pain, I managed to crest CRB hill and I was one step closer to finishing my first climb up Mount Hotham.  I only had about 150 metres of climbing to do.

How hard could it be?

I hit the last steep pinch which ramped up to 15% straight away.  That sip that I had taken on the last climb, I suddenly dreamed of more.  I reached for the bottles to see if there were any drops left, but they were empty.  I had nothing to drink and my body was dehydrated, and with over 1km of incredibly steep climbing ahead of me, my body told me to get f*ked.  I bonked and the lights went out.  I’ve been to the pain cave more times than I can remember, and I was so, so close. All I had to do was pedal.  I tried, believe me.  Sweat was pouring off me, and I was heaving non-existing air into my lungs.  I was no longer watching the scenery.  My eyes were fixated on my front wheel.  Wishing that every time that I looked up I would be at the peak of the climb.

Walking is never an option.  Only suffering, and I kept at it.  Ever so painfully.  Just before reaching the peak one of the riders bridged the gap to me, and told him about running out of water.  He said “no problem, give me your drink bottle.  I’ve got plenty”.  He gave me half a bottle of water and I sculled it.  Water never tasted so good.   The light switch was back on and I was able to unleash and flew all the way over the last pinch and caned it down through the famous Mount Hotham tunnel, which I had wanted to cross for years.  I went and drank over 2 Litres to replenish the fluids, and slowly tried to work the shock out of the system.

I was on cloud nine.  I gave myself no hope of climbing Mount Hotham and ended up being the third quickest up on the day.  Riders that were drifting in looked equally shocked and dehydrated.  It was very hot conditions to climb.  We were enduring wintery conditions little over a week ago, and were now in a heatwave.

I completed not only Mount Hotham, but that was the last of the 7 Peaks that I needed to tick off my bucket list.

All I needed now was to get back to the car.   I emptied the tank getting to the top, and left nothing for the 3 very steep and long climbs on the way back.  I endured pain, suffering and anguish getting across those three climbs & the descent was a bit of a blur.

I was really glad to be able to have experienced this ride with a great bunch of rides, and if I was asked to describe Mount Hotham?  The picture below sums it up pretty well.

This is the first ride of a cycling weekend that I am doing up at Bright.  Tomorrow I will be driving up to Falls Creek as a support vehicle/course photographer and what is set to be yet another really hot day.

To be continued…….

9 weeks of the man Flu

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In just under 7 weeks I will be heading up to Bright for a cycling weekend that was to involve 5 peaks, 350 km & close to 7,000 vertical metres of climbing.  To prepare for this I’ve managed to cop virus after virus after virus.  5 of them all up and a day hasn’t gone by over the past 9 weeks where I haven’t been sick.

Image taken by Doc Ryan

I am still sick & only able to get out for a short ride this week.  The enormity of what I’d need to do to get in shape has hit me hard.  I’ve performed numerous miracle recoveries in the past.  Given I’m still not 100% & the weather has been shocking.  Melbourne recording one of its wettest Spring’s in history I don’t know if I will get there this time.

I’m a firm believer of staying positive, and I will need to find my chi pretty quickly.  I’ve been averaging less than 50 km a week since April.  For a ride like the 3 Peaks course which is 235 km & 4,300 vertical, I would normally look at pumping out 250 – 400 km a week.  With quite a bit of vertical in-between.  At best most of the k’s I can do now and November could be commutes which are pretty much flat.

Wish me luck…….

On the road to 3 Peaks

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With 5 weeks remaining before attempting the 3 Peaks course I really needed a big ride under my belt to have a hope in hell of getting in shape in time.  I had been sick 10 weeks now.  Physically I dropped 6kg during this period which has left me really weak.  I love my gravel & jumped at the chance to ride in Audax Australia’s in Search for Bunyip ride.  A 100 km loop through the heart of Cardinia & in search of the Bunyip.

Image courtesy of Melbourne Randonneur

Our wave set off & I was leading the group straight into a solid headwind of 40+kmph winds.  The going was hard & I wasn’t feeling all that great.  Cycling can be a game of poker, & the rider next to you may be hurting even more.  It’s all about hiding it.  I pushed through and kept on trying to pace myself through and survive.  I felt I could get through the day but knew it was going to be a struggle with those winds that were battering us fiercely.

20 km in I was descending towards Pakenham Road when I heard a large bang.

My chain locked up & jumped off and I couldn’t get it into gear.  I looked down at my Garmin & was sitting on about 60 km/h, and had to really settle the bike.  Not good.  At first I thought it was the derailer.  When I pulled over was able to get the chain back on and could change the gears easily enough.  Jumped back on and bang the chain jumped straight off.  I had to descend with the chain sitting on a really funny angle & was really worried that I could do some serious damage to the bike.

At the base of the climb we found out that my rear wheel had totally crapped itself.  I could no longer free wheel which caused some major slack in the chain.  If I was pedalling it was ok.

As long as I didn’t stop pedalling………

I made it up the next hill ok, and then the descent just the same thing.  We were descending this incredibly steep and technical gravel descent.  I couldn’t turn the wheel or else risked snapping the chain or the derailer.  Given my legs were locked in place I couldn’t use my knees to corner and I felt pretty unsafe.  It was game over.  I could ride on the flats & the hills ok, just couldn’t safely descend.  Given the fact we were in the middle of nowhere & had a tonne of descents in front of me I didn’t want to risk crashing.  Game over & I opted to turn around at the Princess Highway which is completely flat and head back.

I’m due to get a new bike soon and that particular wheel I’ve gotten over 30,000km out of so I guess I can’t complain.  Without a doubt I was gutted that I couldn’t finish the course.  It was such a great event & there were 100 riders show up which was an amazing turnout and a testimony to how popular gravel grinding has become.

I really needed this to get into shape for 3 Peaks.  I needed a perfect run to have a hope to get in shape to be able to ride 235 km & 4,300 vert.  This has really dented those chances .  I’ve conceded that I may simply not have enough time to do this now.

Time will tell……

If you want to have a laugh and slag some sh#t on me by all meand check out my Strava Activity and drop me a comment….

The Belgie

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The Belgie was a mixed surface ride put on by Curve Cycling  in honor of the Melbourne Spring classics.  Close to one hundred riders turned out at the Rapha Club house for what turned out to be a great ride.  I still was unsure as to what the Belgie was.  I knew that it was a mixed surface ride, but what was I in for? There were two groups to choose from.  The Belgie (full gas) and the Dutchie (we will wait), and if you fall off the Belgie train, the Dutchie can pick you up. I opted on riding the Dutchie train which was being led by one of the world’s best enduro riders, Sarah Hammond.

There were over 40 riders in the Dutchie group and we set-off and headed through an urban maze of back streets.  After weeks of rain we were finally treated to perfect riding conditions.  I was rolling along with ease and foolishly wondered whether I would be getting much of a workout.  We rolled along to a bike path which took us up to the Yarra Boulevard, near Walmer Street.  The group went straight across the road, over the curb and onto this narrow scrappy steep walking trail that was clearly not suitable to ride on.  WTF!

I was heading up the rear, and there was carnage in front of me as rider after rider struggled to get up this steep hill.  I had to dodge and weave, jumping over roots, rocks and ruts, and dancing over the grass when I ran out of road.  I could hear the clank as chains were jumping off and riders were running out of gears, and jumping off their bikes.  Game on!  The path ahead offered little in the way of traction, and a tree had fallen over near the top and pretty much everyone had to get off to walk over it.  It was pretty full-on to the top, and we were just at the start of our ride.  Ok so this is what the Belgie was about!

Nice!

I was lost right from the start.  We were darting and weaving in among an urban jungle and would suddenly come out onto this incredible walking track which were clearly not designed to ride a bike on.  Every turn seemed to lead  to a short-sharp hill that had the word ‘evil’ written all over it.  Plenty of egos were shattered as pretty much everyone had to get off and walk their bike uphill at one point or another.  If you didn’t like a challenge, then go back to Beach Road.

“the Belgie is a ride where you can expect the unexpected.   Every turn offered a new challenge.  A new experience”  

We’d be riding up a residential street and suddenly turn onto a narrow lane way.  You’d be asking “how the hell did you know that was there?”.  These paths would be in all manner of disuse.  Sometimes dirt, sometimes no path at all, but always mighty fun.  I discovered to my delight that in a mixed terrain ride there were no rules.  A bike could travel anywhere and everywhere.  

There was an allure to this ride.  The Belgie seemed an escape from the mundane of everyday riding and challenges you to go well and truly outside your comfort zone.  There was no machoism.  No pissing contest.  We were simply out for a good time.

Nearing the halfway point, we found ourselves on the Main Yarra Trail, and crossed paths with the Belgie group. They were riding like a bat out of hell, and there was some serious firepower in the group and a whole lot of smiles! We picked up a handful of riders that were spat out from the Belgie group, however there was no time for chatting as the clock was against us.  We had to be back by 11am, and with the additional firepower the pace stepped up quite a notch.  Those that were struggling before on the Dutchie train,  would have been digging deep into their happy place. Every time I looked over my shoulder, I would see the riders behind me really strung out, but hanging on.  Booyeah!

We made it back to the Rapha Club house and it was a real shame that the ride had to end.  Living in the outer south-eastern suburbs I miss out on a number of great group rides in and around the city.  The Belgie was a great mixture of roads/bike tracks/walking tracks & hills.  I went into this ride completely oblivious of the fun that I was about to have.  The Belgie gave me a chance to discover a side of the city that I never knew existed.

A ride like this you’ve got to be willing to throw your bike through all manner of torture.  If you’re interested in doing any of their rides in the future head to their website and sign up to Curve Cyclings newsletter for all the latest info:

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Just be prepared to walk……