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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

 

 

I know. As bike bloggers we have been less than dutiful, but this time of year you don’t need any inspiration to get in the saddle right? Well we do have some goodies in store for you soon anyway. Pinchy is composing our first interstate post, I’m building a ‘Sunday’ bike, and we’ve all enrolled in the Festive 500 Strava challenge, which means there will be plenty of riding to report on.

Get off the internet and go soak up some vitamin D.

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Gareth.

I’ve always been convinced that there are some underrated roads to be found out West. This Saturday it was only Ron and I, so I convinced him into taking me out that way. We headed out to Bacchus Marsh at an ungodly hour and rolled out North to Mount Macedon, with the intention of tackling the Gisborne side (the hard one…I’d heard), and the other side if we felt so inclined.

I made the assumption that the Bacchus Marsh-Gisborne road, which hugs edge of the Lerderderg State Park, would be nice ride, but we soon found that the traffic was too much, the shoulder non-existent and initially the scenery wasn’t even good. Luckily, when we started to get closer to the park we found ourselves on a pretty nice ridge. The road itself was no more hospitable, but now we had something to look at, on both sides. Lerderderg State Park looks like a lot of fun to explore if you had some knobbier tyres.

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The rain that had started as soon as we stepped out of the car only got progressively worse as the morning went on. Maybe that’s why we didn’t waste much time getting to the hill, until we succeeded in getting lost in the foothills of Macedon, which frankly, was quite pleasant. I’m certain I’ll waste more time getting lost around that area in the future.

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The beginning of the climb is unceremonious. One thing you know you’re ogling huge country mansions (Ron is planning on retiring there ASAP), the next thing you’re passing a ‘12% Next 2km’ sign. I wouldn’t say the 12% is very accurate, but it does put the fear into you.  Since I was being flippant and putting the fear into Ron, he told me to piss off and we went our separate ways.

Note: Ron was running a 39×23; I would want my alone time with that ratio too. He most certainly deserves a pat on the back for making it up alive.

As the first ramp ended I found myself in a little township (“Have I even bloody started this climb!”), and then there was another, and another. For the most part the percentage is in the low teens on these steep bits, and the flatter bits are quite short. I was thinking of Ron as I mashed away in my 26t, making a show of solidarity by not going into my 29. My 23t cog is somewhere in the middle of my cassette, if I even have one. There was no way I was going to be THAT sympathetic.

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It was a tough one, but before I knew it I was turning into Cameron Drive for the second part of the climb, which I was familiar with and knew it was nothing but mere undulations. I relaxed and took some photos, until my phone momentarily stopped working.  It came out of my pocked at 75km/h the other day. If you’re going to put your phone in your back jacket pocket, zip it up before you bomb a descent.

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Up top it was thick with fog, and my feet were completely numb. Even though I was dressed pretty appropriately for the day, I was wet, and knew the descent was going to be an unpleasant one. Unfortunately for Ron he was not so appropriately dressed. Plans to the head down to Woodend and come back up the other side soon became waterlogged. After high fives, hot chocolates and some snacks at the restaurant up top we headed back down the way we came.

Descending in the wet can be sketchy at the best of times, but the addition of shivering induced speed wobbles and given the steepness of the Gisborne side of Macedon meant we were taking it pretty easy. Memories of wearing my brakes out on Donna Buang after my snow misadventure was also in the back of my mind. We made it down in one piece though and wasted no time legging it back to Bacchus Marsh.

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I’d been thinking for a long time that it would be a good idea if we got some practice rolling turns (is it generous calling it that with only two riders?), but we’ve never managed to organise any. After some false starts and some yelling though rain we managed to get in a good rhythm all the way back through some of the worst weather I’ve ever ridden in. It was heaps of fun though.

Then we ate jerky and listened to country music all the way back to Melbourne. Good times.

Gareth.

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.

For those of you who follow The Climbing Cyclist this route will look familiar to you. We accidentally did the cycling blogger equivalent of turning up to a party wearing the same dress. Here is the recap of our version of Arthurs Seat return.

Pinchy and I decided, seemingly along with the rest of the tens of thousands of Around the Bay in a Day participants, to get serious about our training. We’ve signed up for the 250km version of the seminal loop around Port Phillip, and the date is looming. We knew we needed some training on the flats, but as a climbing junkie I knew I’d feel a bit unfulfilled if we didn’t hit at least one hill, thus Arthurs Seat became our midpoint.

I really enjoyed the luxury of starting the ride from my house and not having to fold up into a car before and after the ride, but unfortunately Pinch didn’t have that luxury, so I met him in St Kilda. The early Sunday morning run through the city is always fun, everyone else is tired/drunk/barefoot/stranded/hung over/notridingtoday and I’m flying through the city at 40km/h with the wind in my beard. I was especially buoyed by the fact that that wind in my beard was only a gentle wind, after a gale force opening week to spring.

At St Kilda we kept the foreplay to a minimum and got going. It was easy to forget that we had 170km to cover when we were hooking along at 45km/h. We kept on trying to chill out, saying we have to save ourselves, but we’d creep back over 40km/h within seconds. It remained like this pretty much all the way to Frankston, shedding layers of clothing along the way as the weather got more and more perfect. Pinchy is from around those parts, so he found some traffic-free back street sprints for us to enjoy all the way to Franga, but not before he turned my Garmin off for a while, the darling.

After a delicious coffee in Frankston we took the less scenic route by cutting inland on the Nepean, for some reason. Next time I’ll remember to hug the coast, but hey, I hit some climbs I’d never done before. Eventually we got to the high point of the day (so to speak): Arthur’s Seat. Pinch was a little nervous about the short but brutal climb, since it was his first proper attempt, but thanks to me only planning rides centred around climbing (and modifying his to include MORE climbing) he was turning into quite the closet grimpeur. I must admit my confidence was brought to heel very early on the climb, and moreso after some unexpected cramps halfway (I’m not generally a cramper). I’d expected to smash my time, but in the end only took a measley minute off, which was probably about my stoppage time on my first climb up. I guess it’s ok.

These are the only three photos that we took. It just wasn’t scenic enough for us.

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After a minute or two Pinch rolled over the top grinning from ear to ear, he too had battled cramps, but victory was his, and the Arthurs seat monkey was off his back. One thing is not in doubt though, he can descend like a beast. While I was actually slowing down to 15km/h for the 15km/h hairpins (Only slightly faster than my ascent speed), he was overtaking bewildered elderly Sunday drivers. It was his turn to wait for me…down the bottom.

We had some eats in Dromana, checked in with the locals, and made sure the tilts of our cycling caps were right, then we were on our way. We pretty much retraced our steps on the return leg, making pitiful attempts to take turns. Pinch likes to take front seat for some reason on the flats, and I find it difficult to complain. Other than a brief bout of asthma, a thrown chain, and both of us having to put up with my incredibly creaky stem/bars (I’ve fixed it Pinch I promise) we got home pretty unscathed. It was a relief to have a little left in the tank after 170km, as we’ll need to add another 80+ to that in a months time. Can I go back to the hills now?

Gareth.

As I mentioned previously I had intended to do a ride up in the Snowy Mountains. Unfortunately my car didn’t make it, and Thredbo being in NSW, the trip was off (unless I wanted to take a coach that went through Canberra). From now on I had nothing but my legs to rely on to take me places.

Although I was disappointed, I could hardly complain. The sun was shining in Melbourne and I’d avoided almost certain hypothermia from riding up a snowy mountain, and potential broken bones from snowboarding down one. I was determined to go on a worthy ride to make up for it. Armed with some hot tips from a friend of mine, I decided to explore the Kinglake area.

The day started pretty haphazardly, and a little later than it should have. I’d planned to catch the train out to Hurstbridge to avoid most of the suburban chaos, only to discover that Metcards didn’t exist anymore. I decided that embracing said chaos wasn’t going to be so bad, but I couldn’t help but think the whole way how much I’d rather be racking up these k’s and elevation under a canopy of tree ferns, especially when forgetting to turn the Garmin on in parts meant some of it didn’t even count anyway.

My first port of call was the Kinglake climb which, although it seems like it would be on the way down, isn’t terribly difficult; a perfect place to go for a PB. Since I’d done it once before I knew what I was in for, so I felt comfortable pushing it, managing to beat my time by over 3 minutes. I’ve recently installed a 12-29 cassette, which I don’t often have to use to its fullest, but it does give me a very versatile spread of gear ratios for climbing. I’ve done this with 3 Peaks Challenge in mind, since registrations open soon!

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After a brief rain shower and breather up top I headed towards Healesville, with the intention of looping back around and tackling Skyline Road climb just outside of Yarra Glen. A big thanks to Matt, the author of http://theclimbingcyclist.com/ for giving me some goals when I map these rides, I’m working through the list! Unfortunately I turned off just before the end of the official Strava segment, so I wasn’t awarded it, but I’m still ticking it off. As I turned right at the top I was faced with a wall of dirt, and for the first time i dirtied my 29t cog, It was time to get lost. The road was a gravel rollercoaster with fantastic views, as a matter of fact I’d been surrounded by fantastic views since I started the Kinglake climb.  So what if it wasn’t the Snowys, it was still a pretty bloody nice place to be.

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I tentatively used a rocky narrow track to get down to the road that led to my 3rd climb of the day: Mt Slide Rd. Then it occurred to me that I was hungry, very hungry, or at least I would’ve been if I didn’t eat everything that I had. I was very mindful of how I was going to feel when I got to the top of the climb. I have to go back there soon, I was feeling far too washed up to appreciate the beauty of the dirt road winding through tree ferns, trickling waterfalls and zero traffic. Then the views kicked in, which managed to pull me out of my stupor enough to reach the top.

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Unfortunately the climbing continued most of the way back to Kinglake (with traffic), where I decided to resurrect myself with some baked goods.

By this stage I’d done nearly 2000m elevation and I was pretty spent, and I still had to get back home to Melbourne (via Arthurs Creek Rd, which is not the flattest). My one consolation was that southbound Plenty Rd is so fast you’ll find yourself doing over 40km/h on what seems like flat, which makes easy work of the last 30 ks. I strongly recommend that everyone pack good lights on long rides, especially in Winter and especially on Plenty Rd. You never know when you’re going to get back home. With the knowledge that I had a half eaten cheesymite scroll in my jersey to fall back on, and after thankfully remembering that I had legwarmers, I dove into the Kinglake descent. The rest is your typical slog back home. I finished with 170km (closer to 180 if you count the Garmin faux pas) and 2500m elevation, more than enough to make me forget, for the day at least, about where I could have been.

P.S. Don’t forget there’s a link to our Strava page on the right if you’d like to find out where all these nice places are, or if you’d like to beat us on any of the segments. Get out there!

Gareth.

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So I’m going to Thredbo tomorrow for some snowboarding. I heard there’s mountains there, so I’m going to try ride up one (weather (blizzards) permitting). I will document my frostbite for your reading pleasure.

Gareth.

P.S.  I know its pretty lame putting up two teasers in a row, but there will be some pretty Gippsland images to look at soon too, we promise.