The last two weekends, I have been doing my “long hilly” rides up Donna Buang. Melbourne weather has been shit crazy (nothing out of the ordinary) and the last 2 rides is a testament on the contrast.
On the 12th Dec, I arrived in Warburton around 6:30am…I was yawning like crazy on my drive there and could barely muster strength to keep my eye lids open. I had a quick 10min nap in the car which helped immensely. I started my ride around 7am and headed towards the summit. This day was forecasted with a bit of showers around Melbourne but Warburton/Donna Buang was dry and cool. I started the ride off with arm warmers and had the gilet in my back pocket. It didn’t take long for me to sweat buckets and I took my arm warmers off at the mid-way point of the climb (where the Forest Gallery was). I felt stronger on this climb (my 2nd ever attempt from Warburton) and I paid attention to my stroke efficiency and cadence. I didn’t feel the climb was as horrific as the first attempt on Melbourne Cup day.
Once the arm warmers were removed, I felt much cooler and it was hovering around 8 degrees according to the Garmin. The climb up to the summit was good and I felt much better than the first and second attempt – Melbourne Cup day and part of the Giro della Donna respectively. I knew I was on track to break my own PB as I looked down at my Garmin and I finished the climb within 2 hours (1:50 on Strava as my PB). It was very foggy along the 2nd half of the climb. At some points, it was hard to see where I was pedaling until I actually reach that point. It was like I was riding through cotton wool. Once I got to the top, I knew it would be a freezing descent as I was starting to feel the chill as I was climbing which was rare.
I didn’t stop for long (more like couldn’t), I put on the gilet and arm warmers straight away before I froze to death. There was a bit of snow/frost coverage at the summit which meant that it was freezing. This was supported by my Garmin telling me it was -1oC. Luckily I had a pair of long finger gloves in the car and brought them with me along the climb as they were a gold on the way down. It was so cold, my jaw was chattering and my arms were shaking because it was that cold. At one point, I had an “ice cream headache” and I had a little cry because I just wanted to get out of there. Once I had about 5km to go on the descent, I could finally feel my body and felt more relieved. The plan was to do 2 repeats of the climb but decided against it as I didn’t want to put myself through that descent again.
On 19th Dec, it was forecasted to be 41oC. Once again, the drive into Warburton early in the morning really made me sleepy even with a coffee along the way. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as last week and I didn’t need a nap before the ride. I decided to not bring along arm warmers or gilet as it was already 30 degrees at Warburton.
The ride up was not comfortable and I felt dehydrated. I usually finish a bidon within 2 hours but I found myself finishing nearly two bottles before I reached the top of the climb.
I logged into a webinar about cycling strength and preparation for 3 Peaks on Wednesday night and one of the things which they spoke about was training for strength and riding on one of two gears harder than what you would on race day. So this meant that my cadence would be slower. I also did a few strokes standing up and training myself to be able to do that more often so I could get myself over steep pinches and maybe Mt Baw Baw.
Due to the heat and the strong winds, it was hard to pedal at some points of the climb as the wind felt like it was a warm blanket holding me back. Even with my sunglasses on, the wind brought debris into my eyes and I did spend a few moments trying to blink it out. There were twigs and branches everywhere along the climb. I think I heard about a dozen or so branches cracking from the tree trunks and cascading down the slope. I was actually afraid that a large branch would fall on or around me during the ride.
There was a bit of coverage from the trees along the route so the temperature along the climb was about 10 degrees less than Warburton apart from the top of the summit as it was exposed (temps around 35oC)
I decided to have a bit of explore to find the natural spring to fill up my water bottles. It wasn’t hard to find as another cyclist was there filling up his bottle too. Luckily it was there as I had ran out of water pretty much when I finished the first climb.
I forgot to unpause my Garmin from the natural spring down to about 1km from the mid-way point – bugger. I decided that instead of doing 2 repeats, I would do a 0.5 repeat from the mid-way point. The second attempt up the 2nd half of the climb was much harder than the first that I couldn’t ride on a harder gear without going down to 30rpm (too low!) The winds didn’t die down on the 2nd attempt either and more debris came onto the roads, which was annoying. I didn’t fill up my bottles again on the way down as I had about half a bottle left and it was only a descent down to Warburton.
My quickest ride down to Warburton is approx. 25min but this time around, it took me nearly 33min due to maneuvering myself around twigs, branches and even a wallaby that decided to stand in the middle of the road. The temperature also increased dramatically the closer I got to Warburton.
I decided against a coffee or a visit to the bakery as I wanted a nap before I had to finish off a musette before I headed to the Austral Track Champs on Saturday night so it was a quick pack of the bike in the car and fuel top up and off I went back to Cheltenham.
As you can see from the photo below – the contrast between the two conditions. Top photo was the 19th Dec - around 35 degrees (although it felt like it was 40) and the bottom was the 12th Dec and -1 degrees.