Wow, that was a hell of a ride.
Rolling out from Lake Mountain by king of fishes, on Flickr
I rolled out at about 4:15am from my place in Macleod and hit the dark suburban streets. Hardly any traffic around and Saturday night’s drunks were either too slow to react as I flew by or their aim was so bad they couldn’t hit me. I was halfway along the Warby Trail before the sun came up behind Mt Donna Buang. Beautiful pink sunrise as I rolled along in the morning air, chasing rabbits back into their holes.
Got to the official start location at Warburton and met Scott who’d opted to drive there. Quick break while he kitted up and then we were off up Mt Donna Buang Rd. I’d only ever descended that road before so it was a good to finally climb it. We chatted and span our way up to Cement Creek where we turned off onto Acheron Way which has jumped immediately into my top five roads to ride. Big old growth forest, dirt road for the first 10km or so, a nice enjoyable grade, wunderbar.
It wasn’t raining but the road was wet and the mud was really sucky in places (as in sucking on our tires) and I took it easy on my 30mm slicks, squirming around all over the place. Good DDCX practice! The paved part of Acheron Way was great too. A nice gentle downhill all the way to Marysville Rd. Almost no traffic, just rolling no-hands for kilometre after kilometre. Awesome.
After that chilled, mellow no-hands descent we emerged onto Marysville Road which kicks up into a 7.6% climb that saw me mashing and sweating while Scott shifted down and span away from me. Ouch! I was running SS 54” and was having to alternate sitting and climbing out of the saddle. Turns out it was a good warmup for what was to come.
We rolled into Marysville and hit the newly rebuilt information centre where the nice lady inside filled our bidons and told us about the construction up at Lake Mountain. They’ve built a whole new building up there and are in the process of transferring the bistro from the old building to the new building so there were no shops or anything open up there. So, we figured we wouldn’t be hanging around at the top to drink coffee and pat each other on the back.
We rolled out pretty quick and by now it was pissing down pretty heavily. Ugh. I had a gilet but I decided to pack it away and just get wet. I figured I’d rather be wet and cool on the 20km climb than sweaty and hot inside my gilet. Not sure that was the best choice but the rain was drenching us anyway.
The hardest part of the climb to Lake Mountain is the first 4km which averages about 8%. I was mashing like an animal, climbing out of the saddle, trying to keep the pedals turning around and not fall over sideways while Scott shifted down and kept a steady cadence as he disappeared up the hill away from me. I had to stop for a breather halfway up the 8% part and catch my breath and wait for my heart rate to settle. Bastard hill on a single speed! Oh well, I bought the ticket, I had to take the ride.
The grade levelled out after a while and became much more enjoyable after the turn-off onto Lake Mountain Road. I took another little breather at the Lake Mountain Ski Resort entrance building just to get out of the rain and wind for a bit. It was then that I spotted two lyrebirds over in the bushes. Awesome! Lyrebirds are ace and I’d only ever seen a handful of them before in the wild.
On, on, I rolled and got stuck into the long climb up to the resort. It was still raining very heavily and was quite windy, especially towards the top where the tall gum trees gave way to smaller gnarly alpine scrub and you were much more exposed to the wind. Patches of icy snow started to appear in the bushes the higher we climbed - fortunately it wasn’t cold enough for any of that on the road. I hadn’t seen Scott for ages - we both just took it at our own pace. I knew that’s the only way I was going to get up it.
You is crazy
There was a bit of traffic on the road, mostly workers from the construction I thought, and the occasional posse of mudders in their 4wd get-stuck-mobiles. I got a couple of encouraging toots and thumbs-ups. They must have thought we were crazy riding up that mountain in the rain like that.
It was pretty tough going after 18km of solid climbing in the driving rain, looking ahead to see around the next bend - surely the top is just around the next bend! - only to see the road snaking around again and again, up and up and then a huge gust of wind hits you fair in the chest and stops you dead and you almost fall over sideways onto the road in a shivering wet heap.
I was hit by huge emotion as I came around the final bend and saw the resort building. Awesome.
Scott had just arrived a minute or two previous - he said the cold had got to him and slowed him right down as the climb wore on. Probably a bit of a food flat as well. As the information lady said, nothing was open up there so we took some quick photos and then headed straight back down to Marysville.
Express elevator to hell
Scott was much more confident going down than I was. He had fatter tires and V-brakes (while I had skinny tires and cantis) but I think he’s just a good confident descender. Me? I was shitscared and freezing cold, riding the brakes all the way down and constantly looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t about to be run over. It was still raining heavily and there was so much water on the road and coming off my front wheel into my face. I thought I was getting speed wobbles for a while, “Speed wobbles on this crazy wet descent? I’m not going fast enough surely?! Come on!” And then I realised it was just my arms shaking uncontrollably in the cold. Which led me to remember quite vividly the moment earlier that morning when I was at home pulling my arm warmers out of my bag and thinking, “Nah, it’s heaps warm, won’t need those.”
Scott was already warmed up in the bakery and had finished his vegie pastie by the time I rolled into Marysville, shivering uncontrollably. A bowl of hot chips and another quick chat to the information lady while she filled our bidons and we took off. The rain wasn’t going to stop and there were no alternative routes, shortcuts or bailout points. The only way to get back to Warburton was to ride our bike cycles back the way we came.
Acheron Way by king of fishes, on Flickr
Get 'r done
The rain was still coming down. I was happy for the climb up out of Marysville just so I could get some blood flowing and try to generate some heat. The final descent down to Acheron Way was insane - there was so much water on the road, in the air and coming off the front tire into my face that it felt like my face was underwater. I gave up trying to blink away the water as it streamed down into my eyes, I just kept them open and pretended I was at the pool.
The climb back up Acheron Way was awesome. Still raining heavily for most of it but there were patches where it eased off a bit. A little bit of mudder traffic again. We just kept rolling and, even though we were soaked to the skin, at least the gentle climb was keeping us warm. Pretty soon we’d finished the paved section and were onto the sucky mud section again - going up this time.
I hit a real good patch around here - mentally and physically - and was really enjoying the steady climb up through the mud and rain. Scott was having knee troubles and his fatter tires weren’t cutting through the mud so cleanly as my skinny ones so he was feeling it as we wound our way up the hill. And that’s when we started seeing the lyrebirds.
I don’t know what it was about that particular stretch of road. Maybe it was the rain, the fact that there was no traffic, maybe it’s mating season, maybe there was a secret convention of all the lyrebirds in Victoria? I don’t know what it was but we just kept seeing more and more lyrebirds. It was insane. They were like rabbits - you’d come round the corner and they’d be chilling on the side of the road, scratching around in the mud and then they’d see us and take off into the bushes. More often than not there’d be two of them together. Mating couples I guess? It was ridiculous - I counted over 20 of them. Sometimes they’d run along the side of the road a bit before ducking into the bushes. Sometimes they’d be on one side of the road, safe in the bushes, and then they’d see us and panic and run right in front of us to get to the bushes on the other side of the road. Like rabbits they were! It was awesome!
We pushed on up through the mud and rain and eventually popped out at Cement Creek again - halfway up Mt Donna Buang. The original plan was to climb up to the summit of Donna Buang but we both agreed we’d had enough rainy climbing for the day and decided to head straight back down to Warburton. I think the rain had stopped by now and it was a much nicer descent - about 8km straight down to Warburton where Scott had parked his car.
Scott loaded up the car and we chatted for a few minutes, took a couple of photos. The amount of mud on my bike and all the way up my back was ridiculous. Scott was Mr Clean by comparison - full fenders kept a lot of the mud off his body and bike. Very impressive.
We said our goodbyes and I rolled out on the Warby Trail. In a nice moment of symmetry that book-ended the day neatly for me, the sun began to set as I rolled along the trail and I fired up the Ay-ups again. Nice. I’d seen the sun rise in the morning and now I was seeing the sun set in the evening, all while rolling along the Warby Trail.
The phone started ringing about now and ETA’s were discussed with home base. I felt like I could keep riding all the way home but that’d mean missing dinner and putting Max to bed so I decided to opt for a pickup at Montrose and then home for fish’n’chips, beer and play times with the little man. About 245km for the day.
What did we learn from all this?
I learned so much from this ride but the main thing I learned was about food. While I was planning this ride I’d looked at the distance I wanted to cover, the hills, the gear I was going to use and the number of hours in a day and I realised “I’m not going to have time to stop at shops and buy stuff and sit down and eat lunch and drink coffee like I usually do.” So, I decided to use a handlebar bag and fill it with all the food I’d need for the whole day. So, the only reason I’d have to stop would be fill up my bidons and empty my bladder. Turns out this plan worked amazingly well.
I can’t eat muesli bars and gu all day - I’ve learned from experience that I need variety in my food - sweet, salty, fatty, spicy, bland - if I’m going to feel like eating it. You can buy the most perfectly balanced, scientifically designed, pro-cyclist endorsed energy bars that you can find but if you get sick of eating them halfway through your ride then they’re just dead weight that’ll only make you bonk faster. The best food for a long ride is the food that you can still eat and enjoy after 12 hours in the saddle.
So, here’s what was in my food bag :
6 x slice margherita pizza (ordered the night before from local pizza shop)
1 x spaghetti bolognese wrap (yes, just spagbol shoved into a flatbread wrap)
1 x ham and mustard sandwich (all sandwiches on white bread)
1 x nutella sandwich
1 x honey sandwich
1 x choc-chip bagel (bagel from glicks)
1 x sesame seed bagel w/tuna paste (bagel from glicks)
2 x apple
2 x banana
2 x box sultanas
2 x uncle toby’s chewy apricot muesli bars
1 x packet of chocolate-covered sesame snaps
1 x lolly bag w/party mix and added licorice (which i didn’t actually touch on the ride!)
1 x snickers
4 x gu gels (espresso love flavour for double caffeine)
I ate from this bag steadily for about 14 hours, still had heaps of energy to keep riding and, what’s more, I was still enjoying the food I pulled out of it. In fact, I wanted to keep riding so I could keep eating because there was still some pizza and lollies left at the end of the day.
And that’s that. Another fun ride - loved the early start, loved the distance, loved the climbing, loved how much I learned, it was all good.
Thanks Scott for coming and for just getting it done despite the weather, hills and mud.
Next ride… currently thinking Toolangi State Forest again but this time I want to have a proper look at it. Another early start. Probably aim towards the 300km mark. Oh, and I’ll have gears.
See ya there!
Mr Clean by king of fishes, on Flickr
Need fenders! by king of fishes, on Flickr