As part of my training leading up to 3 Peaks (Falls Creek) in March, I have also signed up for the 7 Peaks Challenge. I ticked off one out of 7 of these climbs during my Bright training camp on 25th October (Mount Hotham). There is a domestique ride to tick off one of these challenges on the 15th November out at Lake Mountain. Reading up on this ride, they advised that participants should be able to ride up Mt Donna Buang “with little trouble”. I am a pretty slow cyclist and was nervous about this as I didn’t want to be dead last and so I decided to test myself over the Melbourne long weekend.
The original plan was to do the 100km loop of the Giro della Donna (minus the climb) and then come back on another day to do the climb. The weather on Saturday of the long weekend was terrible and I wasn’t comfortable about descending in the wet so that day became back to back spin classes instead.
The Canadian (my partner) and I decided that we would take a trip to Donna Buang on Tuesday. The day was perfect for a bike ride. The roads were quiet (due to public holiday) and the weather was just perfect.
We parked the car at Warbuton and got ready for the ride. I decided against wearing arm warmers and gilet and just carried them due to my body heating up quickly on climbs. The climb along Donna Buang Road was immediate. I tried from this point onwards to spin my legs quicker than usual. I kept it around 60-70rpm but I noticed that cyclist who rode passed me were going much faster – need to get there one day.
The gradient of the climbs was not steep enough that I needed to get out of the saddle until just before Cement Creek and the hair pin turn past the Rainforest Gallery. After this point, I found the gradient manageable but due to fatigue, I found it hard to keep my cadence > 70. The cadence noticeably dropped to around 40rpm the closer I came to the final few kms especially the last 1km.
For the first time on this ride, I found that my glutes were burning – either something is tight (hamstrings) or I am using my glutes to climb which is supposed to be right….
I could barely get off my bike once I reached the top and needed to sit down to stretch out the glutes. Once at the top, we took a few happy snaps and had a small break. Whilst I had some nutrition every 30min as per my plan, the Canadian only ate a bar once we reached the top of the climb! He climbed it in around 1:30 where as I took close to 2 hours to reach the top.
Once we decided to descend, I put on my gilet and arm warmers as I knew it would be pretty cold by the looks of the other cyclist as they rode downwards as I was ascending.
As soon as I left the summit, I could feel the drop in temperature. I was actually getting pretty cold and my jaw was chattering. My speed going down was comfortably below 50km/hr for the first half but I found myself applying on more brakes during the second half of the ride down due to the turns and sharper gradients. Once we reached the bottom, I was tired – both physical and mental.
The original plan was to do repeats but I will save this for a long ride day when I can’t go to the mountains – maybe on the weekends when I have plans on the Sunday or during the Melbourne Madison weekend. The descent took me nearly 30min so in total for one repeat including a short break at the top took close to 2:45. So for a long ride day, if I was to do repeats – it would be a 6 – 9 hour day in the saddle which I am comfortable doing.
Mt Donna Buang, I will be back!