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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 first mapped out this ride about 2 or 3 months ago, knowing full well that it would making a ride that would be quite challenging. 110k’s with 2400m elevation can be a decent ride at the best of times, but when 80 or so of those k’s are on dirt, things could get difficult very quickly. Here is a link to what it looks like.

We met at Launching Place at 8am and got quickly on our way. We headed down Gembrook rd until we hit The Pack Track, along the way experiencing what would be the first of many flats along the way.

Gareth helped to set the theme early for the ride.

As soon as you turn onto The Pack Track it turns to gravel. It also begins to climb in altitude, with some parts getting pretty steep but never lasted for a long distance so didn’t pose too much of a problem. We ended up slowly snaking our way through the dense forest, taking in the awesome surroundings and even saw (and heard) a koala not far from the road while we waited to repair another flat. I have never heard a koala in the wild before, and for a second I was actually shitting myself.

We were lied to. This was not the correct way.

After about an hour or so we cleared the treeline and came to a junction in the road. The paths all appeared to be inaccessable or access roads for power companies and we were about to turn around and head back down the way we came until we heard the familiar sound of dirt bikes. Four of them emerged from one of the paths heading up and over the ridge line, so we decided to ask them if they thought the way they had come would be suitable for road bikes. “Yeah, you should be fine, but it’s a bit hilly.” We knew it was intended as a warning, but that was presisely why we were here. We said thanks and headed up the hill, glad we didn’t have to do any backtracking. It was a nice ride along the top of the ridge-line from then on, up until we had to descend. That descent was definately one of the hardest we have done, with the constant 8-9% gradients, loose surface, pot holes, ruts and corrigations keeping us on our toes the whole way down. I had a massive grin the whole time. Be warned though, the bottom brings an intersection with Yarra Junction-Noojee rd, and is a great test of your brakes. (I certainly appreciated my ‘new’ 7410 dual pivot Dura Ace ones!)

The road coming up from the left leads to a sweet ridge with great views. The one leading off up the hill leads to one of the best descents ever.

We now had done about 50k’s, 1500m and had no water left so we turned left at Yarra Junction-Noojee rd and went in search. Three lessons were learnt while on our water mission:

1. Horses are awesome.

2. People in the country like to put non-functioning taps in their front yards.

3. DO NOT jump front fences to fill water bottles unless you like being sworn at by country people.

Horses are indeed awesome. He loved a good upper lip tickle, but who doesn’t?

We found some water at the Gladysdale tennis courts and headed back to Black Sands rd. Black sands is a well maintained gravel rd that winds its way upward through the forest just below Warburton. The climbing starts immediately, and is steady for 7.5k’s. It averages 6.6%, but we decided that as it is on dirt it deserves another 2%. I know I sure found it a tough slog as the unrelenting nature of the climb made it hard to get your breath. Really, there is only one small flat of a few hundred metres halfway up and that’s it. I did get to enjoy some pretty awesome scenery though, the mix of huge green ferns and tall Mountain Ash made the journey quite bearable. It also allowed me to stop and ‘take photos’.

The beginning of Black Sands rd. It was actually a great surface to ride on, very manageable on 23c’s

There were some great hairpins toward the top.

waiting at the top, Gareth found this guy trying to climb up his rim. This is definitive proof that leeches love campy.

After the main climb the road meanders along the ridge line and eventually, at the roads highest point, you are rewarded with a waterfall. We decided to risk it and filled our bottles again. No-one got sick so I guess it was ok. As the ride turns northward and heads toward Warburton we headed through some logging areas, which is always kind of a downer to come across after riding through so much untouched wilderness.

At the waterfall Scott and Gareth decided to stage an impromptu Rapha model shoot.

I was just thirsty. According to Shark Expert*, The Australian Army takes red cordial on its missions to add to water to make it safe for drinking. Something to do with the sugar apparently (Please note: Fact may not be an actual fact.)

The descent. God, the descent. Scott thought the earlier one was bad, but Gareth and I disagreed. This downhill section was truly dangerous, littered with debris, deep ruts cut into it from running water and large exposed rocks. Or pot holes. And it got bloody steep. I ended up getting a flat on the rear and was in the process of changing it when Scott noticed that my from tire had not one but two cuts in the sidewall with inner tube poking cheekily out the side. Great. Luckily it was at this moment that a genuine stand up gentleman, Bruce (name has been altered due to the fact I forgot) arrived on the scene in a Patrol. I seized my opportunity and bought a lift down to Warburton. I won’t bore you with the details of my awesome adventures there, but suffice to say Scott saved the day and we ate doughnuts in the end to make up for it.

The boys put on their leg warmers for the descent. I just enjoyed the scenery. If you can think of a better way to make paper, I don’t want to know about it.

This was one of the better sections of the descent. Otherwise known as Warburton Pave.

Doughnuts fix everything.

This is definitely a ride recommended. There are a few other options through the northern end that may make the descent less hair-raising, but either way it can still be done safely if you take it easy. But I just got 25c tires the other day, so maybe this way out isn’t such a bad idea…

Until next time. Pinchy

*When Scott dispenses his pearls of wisdom, he is known as Shark Expert.

Sunday was looking like being a great day for a ride in Melbourne, one of the best in what has been a cold winter. Gareth and I planned to do a loop around everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf. Because of this fact and Gareth was so excited he went out and purchased a heap of new kit. So to celebrate his new understated yet epic gear, we present you with the Rapha edition.

I was awoken at the not overly early (for a cyclist) hour of 8am with a phone call letting me know to open the door. Bad start, probably due to the 7-8 whiskies consumed at a going away party the night before. We got slowly underway and eventually made it out to Warrandyte where we planned to start. Essentially our ride went something like this:

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Riding up from Warrandyte we turned right at Pigeon Bank Rd and continued up to Menzies and finally onto Skyline. The pinches along here were short and sharp, but a whole lot of fun. Be warned though, if you want to do this ride large sections of it are gravel, albeit well maintained and vey rideable. The scenery is great too, with views on both sides overlooking the valley down to the Yarra on one side and everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf, on the other.

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Gareth even managed to urinate epically thanks to the new jersey.

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It only tool about 10k’s for us to agree that it was our new favourite ride.

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…until I suffered through a flat. This was a low point. Both in elevation and mood.

There must have been a community meeting at some stage to agree to have ample taps in front yards but have none connected to running water. We seriously tried three taps and none worked. With everyone’s favourite reservoir, Sugarloaf, just to our left it was cruel punishment for my forgetfulness indeed.

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From the junction of Skyline Rd. and Eltham Rd. you can descend into Yarra Glen and then climb back up. It is apparently a good climb and Gareth seemed to enjoy it, but I decided to try and find water (fail) and take this photo:

Getting a bit stalker-ish on this one…

From here we turned around and headed down Ridge Rd. and stopped in at a bbq/ picnic area that had water. It said it was untreated rainwater and not for consumption, but at this stage we were willing to run the risk.

The ride back down Menzies Rd. was heaps of fun with some fast, smooth rolling descents, but we knew what was coming: Pigeon Bank Lane. We had come down it so we knew it would be hard, but not that hard. It was like hitting a wall, a 30% wall of bullshit steep road. I couldn’t do it, I had to walk it, even the mountain goat himself was in the up-til-then unused 29 tooth cog and was delivering mail to both sides of the street.

Menzies Rd. down is a whole lot of fun

It was so steep that it even looked steep in a photo

All up we only rode 50k’s, but climbed about 1300m. It is a ride that could be easily done in a few hours and would still be a good ride. I know we will be doing this one a few more times over the upcoming warmer months. Well, after I fit that compact crankset…

Pinchy.

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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)