Festive 500 ‘Queen’ Stage

Here at VVMCC we let our posts age like a fine wine before distributing them to the masses, which is convenient, because at the same time we’re all a little bit lazy.

I promised you an account of my Festive 500 campaign, well I’m not going to bore you with a km by km account, especially as most of them were pretty wussy, but I will tell you about my Festive 500 ‘Queen Stage’. My plan on Christmas Eve was to tackle a ride of similar proportions to 3 Peaks Challenge to make sure I was good and ready, especially since I was taking a month off the bike in Borneo, a month that should have been used for solid training. Conveniently based in Reefton for Christmas, my plan was to take on Reefton Spur, Lake Mountain in its entirety, up the back of Mt. Donna Buang via Acheron way, and a full Donna Buang ascent to finish off.

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Being based in Reefton meant I was only a few km from the bottom of Reefton Spur and smack bang in the middle of cycling paradise. I timed my ride to perfection. For those who have forgotten, the day before Christmas Eve was approximately 140 degrees C. This gave me a welcome rest day after a taxing 100km commute from Brunswick to Reefton via the glorious boonies on the 22nd.

I awoke early to discover it was a mere warm (not suicidally hot) Christmas Eve, which would only become cooler as I went higher in altitude, and there would be plenty of altitude gain.

Reefton Spur was first on the menu without any warm-up to speak of; actually it would BE the warm-up. Any grandiose visions of conquering mountain climbs at full flight came crashing down to earth as I was put to work on the consistently mellow but discouragingly long crawl along the ridge. Patience revealed itself as the key strategy of the day. I was almost on the verge of getting bored until I neared the upper grades and what are essentially the foothills of Lake Mountain. Those grandiose visions came back a little. The vibrant green of tree ferns and moss contrasted the bone white tree skeletons and there was not a soul for miles. Actually I would see few people on the road for the whole day, did I mention it was cycling paradise?

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Reefton Spur.

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Steeling the show.

Instead of heading straight up to the summit of Lake Mountain my plan was to descend to Marysville, have a muffin, then tackle the full length of the climb. The warm-up on the spur worked wonders because I felt fresh as a daisy for the whole way up. I even gave Pinchy a call at work halfway up to gloat about where I was. He did a good job pretending that he was excited for me. Karma struck as soon as I hung up however, my back tyre started feeling a little bouncy, and a (very) slow leak appeared. Not being the type to cut a climb short I took as much weight off the back and tried to keep afloat for the last 9km. I kept on looking around the corners for the lodge but alas I eventually gave up and got my quick change on, only to jump back on and roll around the next corner to find the lodge looming. In the future I’ll keep my gloating to a minimum; the cycling gods have fantastic senses of humour.

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Lake Mountain.

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Furry friends.

After another ripper descent and a brief lunch in Marysville (bloody good bangers and mash), I headed to the biggest unknown of the day: Acheron way. I had learned that there was climbing and dirt, but I wasn’t sure of the extent of either.

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Not long after turning onto Acheron Way I was flying at 40km/h plus along a paved flat section of road that shared the bottom of the valley with the Acheron River. The river crossed the road several times and occasionally felt like it was running on both sides. I couldn’t resist a little paddle to wash away the days grime. The dirt climb came soon after and it couldn’t have been prettier. The well-tended road wound through some quite dense rainforest for the best part of 10kms before flattening out. Then suddenly the whole Yarra Valley hit me in the face. The views were completely unexpected. I found myself on the side of a misty mountain completely alone save for packs of rosellas and the odd lyrebird, my legs felt no pain. I must have had the biggest stupid grin on my face when I popped out at Cement Creek and bombed it back down to Warburton.

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A summery Donna Buang scene.

I didn’t give myself any time to question my Donna attempt; I just turned around and got to it. I did do some bonking half way up, so it was pretty slow going (one day I’ll set a respectable time up that mountain), but I had food, so I was fine. Funnily enough was my first Donna without snow.
I was invincible all the way back to Reefton.

The next day I headed straight up the spur again to the Lake Mountain summit and back down before Christmas lunch; one does not waste a morning in cycling paradise. I’d done nearly 6000 vertical in two days and my Festive 500 tally was looking healthy. I felt I was ready for 3 Peaks.

Then I went and took off to Borneo for a month, without even looking at a bike the whole time. I did climb a mountain though, which I’ll tell you about soon.

There’s nothing wrong with biting off more than you can chew, if you have all day to chew it.

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Don’t take your Sunday bike on the Warburton Trail.

Gareth

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