Monday, 23 November 2015

Inaugural Giro della Donna Gran Fondo

So yesterday, I participated in the inaugural Giro della Donna event hosted by Cyclingtips. This is a Gran Fondo starting in the town of Warburton doing a loop through Marysville and then finishing at the Donna Buang summit.

I entered this event as part of my (fatigue and stress) training for 3 Peaks. I wanted to put my body through as many stresses as possible before the 3 Peaks event. I didn’t think too much about the event so I wouldn’t have an anxiety attack about it but I kept it in my the back of my mind that I will have a 120km ride on the 22nd Nov with about 2700m of climbing to do…

On Saturday, instead of sleeping in, I decided to try something new. I joined Cycles Galleria for their womens only ride around Williamstown. I arrived at 6:30am with pouring rain and hesitated about riding for a few minutes as I didn’t have wet weather gear with me. I recognised a few faces on the ride and I actually joined to faster group for a trot around the area. With 3km left of the ride, I dropped my light around the speed humps and spent a few minutes searching for it. I didn’t want to lose it as they are not cheap to buy (the good ones) and I needed it for my ride the next day.

The alarm went off at 4am on the Sunday morning and I left the house at 4:30am as the plan was to arrive in Warburton by 6am. The morning went off without a hitch as I prepared my bike and bags the night before.

When I arrived at 6am, we were directed to park at the oval next to the event village. Some wore their arm warmers and gilet at the start but I decided against the gilet as I am one who warms up very quick. I hung around at the back of the group start as I knew that many would be jostling for the front positions during the ride (they would race it).

0 – 20km
From the get-go, I rode at my own pace. Although I did get into a bunch ride (two abreast) for about 5km of the ride before the rolling hills started to be prominent. There was a bit of a hustle when unpredictable behaviours started and people’s rhythms were thrown into disarray. At this point, the groups started to spread and once again, I found myself riding at my own pace with only ACDC, Tay Tay and RATM as company.

20 – 40km
All I remember around this point was how I had to stop to take off my arm warmers! The Reefton climb was long and because I was not familiar with this climb (not reading about it anywhere), I just made sure that my cadence was above 70rpm. It was generally manageable and I actually rode passed a handful of people along the way.
There was some sort of “Sufferfest Section” along this point. As there was no one around me apart from a handful of gents who stopped to pee along the way, I just rode at my pace and finished the climb through great scenery.

(These are the photos I have saved to be purchased)

Looking OK. 
40km – 60km
The ride towards Marysville had a few steep climbs after the Sufferfest section. I remember the cadence dropping at some points but I felt that the legs still had something left to be able to maintain a comfortable pace. The road met the intersection where I turned off towards Lake Mountain last week so I knew where I was along the route. I had a 6km or so descend down towards Marysville and I am pretty sure that my speed was a bit better than last week due to increased confidence and knowing a bit more about the roads.
As I had refilled one of my bidons at the last aid station and having 1.75 bottles of hydration with me, I decided against stopping at Marysville for a rest and just kept going.

60km – 68km
Leaving Marysville was cruel – there was a steep section as you leave the small town which I thought was quite unpleasant. The rest of the route was along a pretty major road with cars but they all seemed to be travelling along knowing that there is an event on. I found the rolling hills a bit challenging as it was quite exposed and the heat from the roads was getting warm.

68km – 83km
This was one of my favourite parts of the ride. It was through the paved section of Acheron Way. The road was narrow but covered by the trees. It was cool, a contrast from the exposed roads of the previous section. I didn’t push too hard along this section, stayed in the small chain ring and just kept at a good 80-90rpm and just enjoyed the relatively flat ride. If I was aiming for a good (strava) time, I would actually be pushing hard along this section, maybe next year.

Riding thorugh Acheron Way

83km – 96km
I have to be honest, I was actually a bit worried about this section of the Gran Fondo. It was 13km of gravel roads and I was worried about getting flat or skidding off to the side of the mountain but I surprised myself and actually loved this section! It reminded me of much of the #dirtygranfondo events which I have done for the last 3 years. The road was bumpy and lumpy at some points but it is a matter of choosing a good line. I had so much fun!

96km – 107km
The gravel road ended at the end of the carpark at the hairpin section along the Donna Buang route. The rest of the 10km was the climb up to the summit. At this stage, my legs were a bit tired…
Having done 96km already with plenty of climbing, coupled with being shock absorbers throughout the gravel section, I found myself okay for the first 5km of the climb and being able to maintain 60rpm through to feeling absolutely smashed and not being able to maintain 40rpm along the last 5km. I kept reminding myself that I am nearly finished and only had a few km to go but I really had nothing left in the legs.

When I could see the end, I was so glad! I felt more of a relief having completed this ride more than I did during Amy’s Gran Fondo. I collected my momento (see photo below - its a plaque/keyring), put on my arm warmers and gilet and started on the descent. I found out that when I reached the top of the summit, the sag wagon was about 4km away. I actually saw the last riders with the sag wagon during the middle of my descent back down to Warburton and I was just glad that I had made the cut off (by about 20min or so).

The temperature along the descent was just as I remembered it on Melbourne Cup day, shivering cold. I would like to think that my descending speed was a bit better than the last time I rode down. As always, I had plenty of people passing me.

When I arrived back at the event village, I had a large coffee to relax before riding back to the car to undress into something more comfortable and prepared for the drive back home.
My Giro della Donna time was 6:37. Average moving speed of 16km/hr, max 57km/hr. 2594m of climbing.

Including the descent back down to Warburton and back down to the village, my total time was 7:09.

Final Thoughts:
  • Were there toilets along the route (apart from Marysville)? I don't know but I would suggest that a few be placed along the way. I saw about 30 guys who stopped along the way for a pee. As a female, I would like to relieve myself in a toilet and not in the open. 
  • Nutrition was good. Although I prefer to stick to my homemade ones rather than the Gu I had in a flask....I am thinking of adding some form of caffeine with my nutrition but not in the form of store bought gels. 
  • I really need to work on my cadence (on tired legs). All part of the training. 
  • Need to work on the core - my guts seemed too relaxed in all my photos.  
  • Felt more comfortable on the descents although I did hesitate for a few. Luckily I was pretty much by myself at most points along the course.
  • Finally, would I do this event again - Yes!!! 

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