The Healesville Crucifix

This weekends’ ride was initially intended as a ‘back by lunch’ affair. I’d been meaning for a while to head out to Healesville and tick some climbs off the list, so as per usual I convinced Pinchy to come along (to give me a bit of a descending workshop). I thought we could do as many climbs as we could before we got over it and decided to go home. As I was eating my breakfast however I had an idea. As I pictured the map of the area in my head I had an epiphany, the proposed climbs were North and South (Chum Creek Road and Panton Gap respectively), with Black Spur to the East, and if we started in Yarra Glen the Eltham Road climb was a convenient fourth point of…a cross. The Healesville Crucifix, It would even look better on a map than the famed Dandenong sequence! It became the days’ obsession to form this imaginary cross on the Strava map with a little red categorized climb dot at each point. Pinchy must have got out of the right side of the bed AND had his Weeties that morning because he let me convince him that it was a good idea.

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Here it is, in all its glory. The only flaw is the missing red dot to the East, where DOES the Black spur climb segment end? Your guess is as good as mine.

We rolled out of Yarra Glen at about 8:30 and headed up the Old Healesville Road, which proved to be more challenging, scenic, and light on traffic than either of us expected. The weather did however live up to our expectations. I don’t remember being that warm on a ride for a long time, let alone at 9AM. Let the tan lines begin.

I thought it would be a good idea to get Black Spur out of the way early, as I knew it was a pretty traffic heavy road. After climbing up the first little mellow gradient hill we decided that wasn’t enough, so we pushed on, aiming roughly for the end of the dark bit on the map (I had limited knowledge of the road). We soon realized why it was such a popular tourist road. The dead straight mountain ash forest was a sight to behold. We soon realized how popular it is too. If you intend to beat the traffic I recommend that you get up at 4AM, it got pretty silly in some points. We were feeling pretty sprightly, so we had to resist the temptation to keep riding to Lake Mountain. I’m glad we didn’t though, as we would soon find out that the day would be big enough.

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After a super fun descent without too much traffic (relatively) we rolled into what has become the equivalent of Beach Road for middle aged/retired motorcyclists. I’d hate to think how bad the traffic would’ve been if they were actually all riding instead of sipping mochacchinos.  Some snacks were eaten and we headed to what I had a feeling may be the most difficult climb of the day, Panton Gap. It turns out that it was. A welcome reminder that I‘ll have to step up my upward training on the way to 3 Peaks next year if I’m going to have a fun day. Of course these thoughts were running through my head while I was grinding up one of the 10%+ pinches, but in between were some more manageable pitches of half that gradient. One thing I was noticing for the first time in many months was the heat and humidity factor. It was by no means hot, and it was only really (slightly more) humid in the forested areas, but it was an indication of things to come. I’m going to have to get better at drinking regularly that’s for sure, and I’m all the more glad of the recent addition of a second bidon cage mount.

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I’m having to wait up top for Pinchy less and less the more we ride, a few minutes later and lo and behold, triumphant again, a perfect advertisement for a 2nd bidon cage, he rolls up, with that grin on his face again, ready to give me another descending lesson. I tried to follow his line on the way down, and all was going ok, until some rough stuff got me back on the anchors again. I didn’t catch him again until Healesville

Despite the gap smashing us both we were still feeling pretty confident that we’d knock over the ride with plenty of day to spare. Perhaps that was why we didn’t feel any urgent need to stop and take a break and eat at this stage. We forged onwards to Chum Creek, but we didn’t get far before we both started to bonk and had to eat the last of our (my) food. The jubes did the job (somewhat) and we started the climb. Chum Creek Road is really nice surface and a consistently friendly gradient, so I went for it, using some mystery energy stores, leaving Pinch to suffer his blood sugar crash in solitude. Apart from the odd drifting sports car it was a relatively tranquil ascent, finishing at the Toolangi Tavern, where we had some well-earned pints and eats. Don’t expect to be able to top up with water at the Toolangi Tavern, apparently its poisonous.

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Yet another exercise in descending, Pinch graciously stuck with me as we tried not to touch the brakes the whole way on the mellow corners.

It was home time, via Eltham Road climb. The bonk monsters had done their work on both of us, so despite me hassling Pinch all the way, he was heading for the van. His decision was strengthened by the Old Healesville Road rollers. I was reluctant to admit that I was pretty much in the same boat, but when we got to the bottom of the climb we parted ways and I pushed on, hell bent on that fictional little red dot on the Strava map (OCD?). I’d done the ride up to Skyline Road a few times before, but this turned out to be one of the hardest climbs I’d ever done. I was completely flat and it was all I could do to turn the pedals over, one hint of cramp and it would have been all over. I made it eventually though, but it was a good 5 minutes before I could even be happy about it, or see for that matter. It was lucky Pinch was waiting for me just down the bottom in Yarra Glen.

7 Categorised climbs and 2400m elevation, I don’t know how we thought we were going to be home for lunch, the map looks pretty good though.

P.S. It was also Pinches’ first ride over 2000m ascent, whatta guy.

P.P.S HAPPY BIRTHDAY RONSKIVITCH XO

Gareth.

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