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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pinchy and I rode/drove around this area today to check out the terrain and to get ideas on where the best routes are for our next team ride. The weather wasn’t the best for scoping out the views, but added some mood and atmosphere to the shots we took for today. It also meant that we didn’t get to see everything, leaving us secrets on what the full ride will entail for next weekend. Stay tuned! Next week’s post will be a lot of fun!!

Xox ronskivitch

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This will be a post for all the bike nerds out there, so if word like ‘threaded headset’ or ‘italian bottom bracket’ confuse or bore you, feel free to watch this instead

Firstly, a little back story. A few months back my house was broken into and, amongst other things, my main bike was stolen. Note: If anyone sees a blue Cecil Walker with Tange chrome fork and Pro-Lites, hit up VVMCC!

So, now i had a bike to replace. After many hours of searching i finally settled on a sweet Chesini Arena from the early 90’s. Columbus SL/SP tubing, full 7400 Dura Ace, and shiny paint. It was right up my alley.

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The only things changed were the saddle to a San Marco Rolls and a half decent set of STI levers as I already have a down tube shifted bike. If any of you have ever tried to climb a hill with DT shifters you will know why I changed.

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One annoying thing was the cone nut on the rear brake went missing on the maiden voyage. Please feel free to message vvmcc if you have one

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Another poorly shot photo from the non-drive side.

The SP/SL mix works well for me as the SP seat-tube seems to make it a bit stiffer than other bikes in the VVMCC stable, but that is a post for another day. Tune in next month for another profile on one of our bikes. I can promise it will contain bike nerd fappery and another hilarious clip for those not so vintage steel-ey inclined. /p>;;;

Pinchy.

I was back in Bendigo for the last day of the Rapha Rising challenge. So it made sense to base my last ride around Mount Alexander. Mt. Alexander is a modestly sized col in the middle of the apple orchards of Harcourt. The area is rich with my family history, in fact my grandfather was born not far from the base of the mount itself and even further back my ancestors used to actually own a good part of the south side, but enough History.

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Yet again I was going it alone. I’ll give you a clue, the ‘M’ in VVMCC stands for monthly, which is about the frequency that we all manage to ride together.  After taking Saturday off I needed about 900m to finish the challenge. I knew I’d do the required metres without too much difficulty, but I was aiming to climb each side, just to be safe. It can be a bit of a slog from Bendigo to Harcourt, it seems flat, but it’s a subtle 1-3% all the way (or 850% as my glitchy Garmin was informing me). This was enough to make me feel pretty slow, grinding at 20km/h for the first 30km. I decided to skirt around the base of the mountain and come back around from the south. In doing so I found myself on narrow corrugated white quartz gravel roads (very Raphaesque). The screeching of the Cockatoos, Corellas and Galahs was deafening and the corrugations in the road were ridiculous. It pays to get a bit creative with your route; it ended up being my favourite part of the ride.

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Strada Bianca

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Straya

It was hard to tell where the base of the mountain was. I’d already done 800m by the time I reached the turn off to the road that cuts longitudinally over the top. Mt. Alexander consists of haphazardly stacked granite boulders and gnarled ancient gum trees. It’s a bit of a change from the temperate rain forest of the Yarra Valley that I often find myself riding. Most noticeably it’s much drier, and thankfully, so was I at the end of the ride. I was even able to ditch the leg warmers. I’ve been getting pretty accustomed to getting wet during my rides this winter (The Donna Buang ride being a prime example). Climbing the south side is pretty manageable. The gradient intermittently touches 11% but for the most part hovers around 7 or 8. This is made easier by the several flat patches, and even a little descent in the middle. Furthermore it levels out gradually as you reach the top, which is marked by a granite cairn and an altitude sign.

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The quick descent down the other side forewarns how much steeper the north side is. It’s a descent to be careful on. The road is narrow and the aggregate that makes up the surface it quite rough. The lack of cars and the sweeping corners however make it thoroughly enjoyable. The ascent up the north side is much shorter, but does have some 15% patches to keep you on your toes, and the false ‘flats’ are probably not all that flat.  The first time I did it I had some knee issues, so I didn’t have too much trouble shaving some minutes off my time.

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Looking East to Sutton Grange

The descent down the south side is obviously much the same as the other side, other than being longer and the corners being mellower. Once I got past the slick green moss up the top I had a lot of fun laying off my brakes and testing my nerve, it’s not that often I get to enjoy a dry descent at this time of the year! Thankfully it was also mostly downhill most the way to Castlemaine, where I met my ‘support vehicle’. 77km and 1500 vertical metres was plenty for a lazy Sunday, and more than enough to finish the Circle of Death Challenge. I ended up climbing 7600m in total over the week, and even though that was 25,000m less than the leader I still managed to come a respectable 787th of 9171 entrants.

Thanks for reading. Now get out and explore!

Gareth.

Rapha Rising had a little mini challenge that coincided with the ‘queen stage’ of Le Tour, which is basically the stage in which the riders hit the gnarliest Pyrenean peaks. The interim challenge required that you to ride as many vertical KMs as you could on that same day. I knew I had no chance against the other extremists doing the challenge, but I saw it fitting that I squeeze in at least one Hors Catégorie climb for the occasion. I chose Mt. Donna Buang. The only problem was; I had to do it before work. I set my alarm for 4AM, ignored the weather report forecasting snow above 1000m, made sure everything was in working order and hit the hay.

I had a rough sleep, troubled by everything from riding in the dark, to simply where I was going to park my car, but I still managed to get going at 4:30AM. After way too much driving I stopped 10km from the base of the mountain at Yarra Junction so I could get my legs warmed up.

Riding in the dark is a strange experience, especially in a forest, with no artificial lights other than my little halogen silicon thing (which irritatingly kept switching back to flashing mode every time I went over a bump). I felt surrounded by the creatures of the night, and since they had probably gone to bed moments before I so rudely woke them up again, I assumed they were pissed off. At this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if I got spear tackled by one of those black panthers people keep spotting.

Riding in the serenity of the dark is good for one thing though, my breathing was steady, my heart rate was low and I could climb at the speed I was going all day and never be in trouble. Granted my average was comically low, but I didn’t care, I wasn’t there to smash any records (they were far out of my reach anyway). It was a milestone just to make it up without stopping!

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The light was gathering and I could see more of the views, triggering that euphoric feeling which is the main reason I climb. I lost count at about 20 lyrebirds and nearly fell over a few times trying to take a photo of one (to no avail). Things were looking alright, my legs were fine, I was dry and the wildlife was coming out to play. I thought I might just make it out of there with no dramas. I was wrong.

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At around 900m of climbing it started raining, no?  Was it sleet? Or light hail? I decided that I’d say it was snowing for hyperbolic purposes. Another 100m and it was pretty clear that I didn’t have to make up any stories, it was legitimately snowing. It’s wise never to take alpine weather reports lightly, but somehow I always do. This was ok, I was warm from climbing and I had dry long fingered gloves in my jacket. Plus it was pretty exciting. I got to the top and took as many photos as my numbing fingers would allow and thought I’d better not stick around and pointed the bike downwards.

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Suddenly I was instantly soaked, my fingers, face and toes were instantly numb, my cleats were icy and wouldn’t snap into my pedals, and of course the road was slippery as hell. My rear brake pads were already wearing thin and were completely gone after a couple of KMs. Not that the brakes were doing much anyway. The snow turned back to sleet, and then to rain as I descended. Halfway down felt it significantly warmer so I checked to temp on my Garmin. It was 2 degrees, comparatively balmy. I was pedalling and braking at the same time to keep blood flowing in my legs, never getting over 50KM/H. After an eternity I reached the bottom and cursed myself for not having parked closer, another lesson learned. I sprinted through the rain to keep warm. When I got back to my car I changed into PJ’s that I’d worn on the way, another mental note, bring a more comprehensive change of clothes, or climb high mountains in spring, its warmer.

One more for the books, it’s the first time I’ve turned up to work in my pyjamas.

Gareth.

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For those who are not familiar with “The Crucifix” it basically entails all four of the major climbs that ascend Mt. Dandenong: The 1 in 20, Inverness Rd, The Devil’s Elbows and The Wall. The order in which they should be climbed is a matter of contention, but most agree that as long as you climb all of them then you’ve done the job (Strava actually awarded me the segment somehow!).

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Night before mountain food.

THE 1 IN 20

With the other guys out of action with snow, study and surgery, I was left to tackle this one by myself. Late night coverage of Le Tour ensured a slow start, but I still managed to get rolling at a respectable 8:30AM. The obligatory slog through the eastern suburbs wasn’t eventful enough to mention, but it did earn me a valuable 500M before I even got to the hill. The first climb of the day was the 1 in 20, which never really gets over 6% and has a generous false-flat in the middle. It’s not difficult, but I had to resist the temptation to better my time, as it was one of the two climbs that I’d done before (along with The Wall). There was bigger fish to fry today.

INVERNESS RD

I didn’t really feel like resting, so I made my way over to Inverness Rd straight away. My phone had no internet, so I got a little lost on the way. I added some Ks and went up some hills that I didn’t need to. After a while I found my way up to Skyhigh, as I slowly realised how much climbing I’d be doing IN BETWEEN the climbs. Eventually I found the turn off and dropped into the hill that I was just about to come up, in all its 20% glory. I wasn’t sure about this one. I hit my Max. speed on the way down the one lane snake that is Inverness Rd and did a U-turn at York Rd and wasted no time coming back up. Thankfully the beginning of the climb hovers around a much more manageable 10%, which was a ‘relief’ of sorts. The last 20% kick was an experience, but mercifully it was short. The whole climb is over in a little less that 3km.

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Skyhigh.

THE DEVILS ELBOWS

It was a surprisingly long, slow haul over to the other side of the mountain to tackle my 3rd climb, The Devils Elbows. I descended down to Burwood highway (a friendly reminder that Mt. Dandenong is a relatively pleasant island in a sea of outer-suburban fish & chip shops and skylines with oversized exhausts). The first half of the climb was a 2.5km slog of 7-10%, which at this point of my day, I was definitely not flying up. After a few thoughts of a rest I resolved to hang on till the turn onto Churchhill Drive. My head was swimming at this point and I was forced to chill out, eat, and regroup. I’m glad I did because as I made the left-hand turn into the second half of the climb the scenery changed from guard rails and broken glass to perfectly smooth asphalt and overhanging tree ferns, and more importantly, a consistently 7% gradient. This may not sound like a holiday but I was taking what I could get at this point. That’s how it stayed for the rest of the climb, and thanks to my rest, I could enjoy it.

My legs were pretty weary at this point, but the thought that I was 3/4 done was comforting. I’ll apologize at this point too for the lack of photos (let alone clear ones). Without the other guys there is significantly less lolling around, and not wanting to stop mid-climb meant whatever pics were taken were on the fly, if the gradient allowed for it that is.

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The Devil’s Elbows.

THE WALL

Another traverse and descent saw me to the bottom of The wall, the last climb of The Crucifix. I couldn’t even be bothered worrying about it, I just got on with it. Not long after I started a fellow lone wolf sidled up with the squeekiest drivetrain I’ve ever heard. The conversation was a nice diversion but as a slightly OCD amateur mechanic I couldn’t help but think of how much life he was taking off his drivetrain with every bone dry pedal stroke. Then I started cramping. I swallowed my pride and bade him farewell and did some preventative stretching. Luckily this saw me to the top.

That was it, I was sick of the place and just wanted to get home. The descent down the 1 in 20 was a nice little reward however, and good practice for something I’m not particularly good at.

A roaring headwind was an ominious start to what would be a suburban run home that I’d rather forget. I was yo-yoing between hating life and trying to scrape together enough elevation to reach 3000. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically it ended with me dragging myself up Studley Park hill 4 times to make the (vertical) distance. I’m sure we’ve all done a few laps of our block just to make up a century!

It’s going to be a long week, this was just day one. I temporarily made it to 9th on the Rapha Rising leader board. But that didn’t last long, not with the efforts that the Italian Alp dwelling zealots that overtook me were making.

If you’d like to nitpick there is a link to our Strava page on the right.

Stay tuned.

Gareth.

This ride came out of nowhere and wasn’t very well planned.  Scott had work on, but Pinch, Gareth and myself were good to go.  Our initial plan was to to leave Craigieburn at 07:00 am, ride up Mount Macedon, cup of tea & biscuits at Woodend and back to Craigieburn by 3:00 pm.  Leaving us time to wine & dine our mistresses and head over to a birthday party in the city later on in the night.

We did not leave the carpark until 10:00 am.  I literally rode 2 metres, hit a gutter and gave myself a pinch flat.  Motherfucker!  The way we were going, it seemed unlikely we were ever going to leave the carpark at all.

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You don’t often hear of people harp on about riding around the Hume region and we now know why. The place is a massive shit hole. It’s when we get to the Shire of Macedon Ranges that things get picturesque and the rides with people you don’t really like become more tolerable.

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Just before we hit Mt. Macedon,  I got another flat (a slow leak on my front tyre this time).  I was able to ride on it, but it meant I had to pump it up every fifteen kilometres.  Being such a lazy prick and thinking that it was a good idea (and more manly) to ride up Mt. Macedon with a flat tyre, we decided to press on and not change it until we got to Woodend.  Bad Idea.

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By the first incline, Gareth had already left us.  Pinch and I were left to battle it out for the bridesmaid position.

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The air was fresher than Will Smith, the views were amazing, native animals were out frolicking and all I could think about was my front flat tyre.  Macedon nearly made me weep like a corporate baby boomer from one of those shit Rapha videos, but Pinch and I persisted so we could see Gareth gloating at the top of the hill.

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A few minutes rest up the top, a ten kilometre downhill ride down to Woodend, a short lunch, a change of tyre and a quick slog back to Craigieburn averaging between 35-40 km/hr and we were back home just before the sun set.  Thanks Mt. Mazza for an awesome day!

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Oh, and we still got to dinner!

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And.. we managed to get to the party as well.  Happy birthday mad cans Nikailah!!!!

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Finally a legitimate excuse to head for the hills and to fluff out my work commutes. This will perhaps be a bigger exercise in planning around work (and convincing the other guys to come) than actual climbing. There is a link to the VVMCC Strava Club page on the right if you want to check out the progress, give kudos or heckle.

In true Rapha style there will be most likely be weeping.

Updates to follow.

Gareth (Gtech)

Sometimes a great photo can be hours of waiting, monitoring light and a host of other varying details. Other times it can be a quick snap and it is nothing more than luck that gives the captured image something special. Luckily we now have Instagram, so all that bullshit is in the past. All you have to do is stop on the side of the road (in the middle if you are Ron) and snap away. Select the best filter and bam! You have yourself a sweet photo. I am going on the record as saying this is a good thing. It means most of our photos will now look sweet, and this one here is case in point. Thanks for the awesome day by the way gippsland. Xo Pinchy