After a frustrating February of injury with straining my Achilles. Then the day before my first big ride back I accidentally sliced through my thumb and lo and behold lost another week to injury. Not happy Jan. A chance popped up to do an epic on Good Friday which was little under three weeks away. I was out of shape, had put in very few k’s over the past month and doubted I could get myself in shape in time.
So of course I said I would be there.
We set off to do the Demon’s Double which pits you against Lake Mountain & Mount Donna Buang. With a bonus Cat 1 climb up Reefton Spur along the way. Gary Beazley was along for the ride & brought a couple of mates John & Spiro who straight away flew off like a bat outta hell. The section of road from Warburton to Reefton has quite a few false flats & undulating climbing & not easy to ride. For the first 10 km we were sitting on close to a 37 km/h average. I could keep the tempo going easily enough. But knew for a 170 km epic I had no hope of keeping up this sort of pace.
Thankfully Gazza went to the front & slowed it down a fraction & the we all started to find a rhythm.
I have this crazy thing where I like climbing a HC climb just in the big dog. I’ve done the Reefton Spur twice before. Even though I wasn’t in great shape, those voices in my head spoke. A fair bit of the climb the gradient sits above 7% & peaks at 11% towards the end. Yeah my legs hurt after. I just love climbing the Spur. Its just such a peaceful place to ride & the gradient constantly changes and throws surprise after surprise at you. The only sour note was this Deutsche who drove withing inches of me. Holding his hand on his horn just as he came right next to me. The guys later said “at least he was consistent. He did the same to us“. They also commented that it was good to know how far up the road I was.
It grew quite cold & we started to ride into a thick fog. This was easily my favorite part of the ride. I love riding throughout winter, & this was my kinda scene. The section from the Reefton Spur to the Lake Mountain turnoff was hard riding. Over 10 km there were two categorised climbs with over 350 vertical metres of climbing. The Demon’s double is all about climbing the icons “Reefton Spur”, “Lake Mountain” & “Mount Donna Buang”. Even though I’ve done this ride twice before. I always forget how hard this section is, and the climbs along here can hurt you just as much as the big ones.
We arrived at the Marysville.
Another rider asked us “did some f#ckwit honk you’s?“. Mega Deutsche! Being my usual unhealthy self I had a doughnut, can of Coke & a Hot Dog. Not great food for an epic ride, but they just looked too good. I started the climb of Lake Mountain before the others. I was ahead of them and cruised waiting for everyone to catch up. After the cold, cool conditions of the morning my legs finally woke up & I was cruising. For a short period of time I was optimistic that the day was going to go well.
About 4 km into the climb I started to get stomach cramps which became more & more unbearable. I had been climbing so well & all of a sudden found myself in the hurt locker. It was pretty easy to work out that what was causing me grief was the Hot dog.
Maybe you could argue that I shouldn’t have had it in the first place……
John & Spiro had to leave us at the Lake Mountain turnoff & it was just me, Gary & a very cold mountain. Gary was starting to struggle. Which worked out well as I was struggling to move as well, thanks in large part to the dodgy Hot Dog. My guts really made it a challenge to climb & we couldn’t get to the top quickly enough where I lost my guts. I felt much better. But unfortunately wasn’t able to clear my system & we didn’t have the luxury of waiting around so continued on our pain filled ways.
With over 70 km left to ride alarm bells were ringing, but the further we rode the better I started to feel. I knew I wasn’t going to be right to do the whole ride but shut out all doubts & just concentrated on riding. We hit the Reefton Spur & I flew off. This is one of my favorite roads to descend (possibly as there was some climbing along the way). The k’s were flying, and I wasn’t feeling great, but no matter how bad I felt.
I was climbing Donna!
I needed to make a short detour into the Upper Yarra Reservoir where there was public toilets to loose my guts again. We climbed up to the lookout first and there’s over 2.5 km of climbing up to the lookout & neither of us were climbing all that well. The view of the reservoir was worth it though. We headed back to what is my least favorite leg of this ride. From Reefton to Warburton most of the road is mainly downhill, but its a roller coaster. Just as you start enjoying some respite you’d hit some nasty pinch, then descend, hit a nastier pinch and so on for 20 km.
You can take this section quite fast, but the dozens of pinches along the way really pepper up the legs. The road is quite narrow as well & we’d experience many cars fly dangerously close at well in excess of 100 km/h. Gary just told it as it is “I’m done. You’re going have to take the lead“. I was stuffed but no problems, and went into TT mode into a head wind which really tested my legs.
I was on a straight & pulled out my water bottle to drink. Whilst I was riding one handed this Commodore drives slowly alongside me.
I could easily reach out & touch their car.
With only one hand on the bar I couldn’t steer and had zero room to move & if there was a rock or bump up ahead I was screwed. This car went quite slow past me & I held my breath as I tried to keep the bike really straight with one arm. The car passed & I saw a “Learner Driver” plate on the back. I was ferrel as there was no one coming the other way. The instructor should have been directed to give me space, or wait up if they weren’t confident to pass. The instructor probably wouldn’t have even cared if they had killed a cyclist.
“If you give a gun to a chimp & the chimp shoots someone. Do you blame the chimp?”
-Marcy Darcy; Married With Children
What a way to celebrate Good Friday. We had cars pretend to ram us, honk us, we were yelled at & almost killed by an inexperienced driver. Very disappointed with the traffic overall for the ride.
When we got back to Warburton it was clear that neither of us had any fuel left in the tank. We were both struggling & really shouldn’t have tried to climb Donna. I’ve climbed it completely wasted many, many, many times before & knew I could do it. I shut out doubt & just said that we had to do it. It was a slooow grind. I’ve climbed Donna 21 times now including an Everest on it. This was by far one of my slowest ever times up there in 1 hour 43 minutes all spent in the hurt locker. I kept telling Gary. It doesn’t matter how fast we take to get to the top. As long as we reach the top. That what was important.
We were lucky to bump into a couple of crazy mates Clint Woodward & Steve Gardner. Who were in the middle of going for a 500 km & 10,000 vertical ride up to Mount Buller from home. Crazy mofo’s. They had covered a similar distance to us, & similar elevation, but unlike Gaz & myself they looked fresh.
We looked like death boiled over.
Less than 3 weeks since resuming riding after injury I was able to pull off one of the hardest rides you can do close to Melbourne. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that has made me. Its always a pleasure to get out riding with Gary Beazley. He’s such a workhorse who always delivers.
It will be awhile till I next do an epic. I hope its soon as I sure have gotten that hunger back……
Here is a link to my Strava Activity here: