Friday afternoon I received a text from my fellow squad mate Ness: “Hey, what are you doing for cycling tomorrow morning?” What!? Do we have options? The question caught me totally unprepared. I thought our program was to ride to the Dandys and do 2 repeats of the 1 in 20 climb. Apparently I was wrong. The program had been changed and the squad was heading to Kinglake. An alternative was the so-called “challenge ride”, open to all the MTC members, even those not currently in the program, and Ness was going to do it. The concept of the “challenge ride” is fantastic. It is about exploring new roads in a very friendly atmosphere but at the same time getting yourself outside the comfort zone. The route is a secret and is posted on the Facebook event page by coach Aaron, the organizer, the night before. No one gets dropped, as there are designated re-group points and coffee breaks throughout the ride. “No-drop ride” sounds actually innocent at first, but what it really means is “drop the hammer and really test yourself” between the re-group points. That’s why you need to re-group. Because people go hard. Anyway, I had a sequence of thoughts in my mind: 1. yeah! New roads! 2. It is not in the program, what is coach Foz going to say? 3. Just follow Ness, you’re going to be fine. She would have asked the coach for sure.
And in the blink of an eye I was all set! Well, actually, Ness got me all set! She was going to pick me up on Saturday morning and drive to the meeting point, i.e., Beechworth Bakery in Healesville, about 1 hour 15 minutes north-east of Melbourne CBD. Better than that it can’t really get.
The drive was very smooth and we arrived at the bakery in time. Once all the expected participants arrived, coach Aaron released the route and gave us instructions regarding the re-groups. He put on the menu Chum Creek Road from Healesville to Toolangi, Back of Kinglake, Dixons Creek and the Old Healesville Road from Yarra Glen to the bakery. Unfortunately, due to the poor weather and all the rain during the week we had to ride, single file, portions of Melba Highway. Anyway, he was going to lead us during the ride.
The first climb, Chum Creek Road, started a few kilometers into the ride. Ness wanted to go hard, so she jumped out of the saddle and began putting some nice watt out there. I immediately took her wheel, with the intention of staying there as long as I could. It’s going to be good fun and a good exercise, I though. The climb was very picturesque and the fog contributed to making it very impressive. Too bad I didn’t have a GoPro! I was suffering a bit, but I felt under control. However, during a slightly downhill portion, I lost the momentum, probably due to the long crank of my bike, lost the wheel and got dropped. Not too bad, we will re-group at the top.
The descent along the C274 went smoothly for all of us except Sir Lars, aka the Dane, aka the Viking. He got a mechanical and was forced to ride back to Healesville. Good for me: he got less training, hence he’s not going to be able to pass me next duathlon -eheh! Anyway, he was missed during the rest of the ride. At the intersection at the end of the descent, we took right onto Melba Highway heading North. I was expecting heavy traffic on the highway, but luckily it wasn’t that bad at all. After a few kilometers we left the highway and turned onto W Bridge Rd. This stretch brought us to the second climb, the backside Kinglake. I did it as an handicapped, as I was behind the group at the bottom of the hill. The ascent was absolutely beautiful, I could smell wild, no cars in sight, just one cyclist coming in the opposite direction…silence and nature: what else would you ask for?
Well, actually, a bakery with an open fireplace at the top! 😉
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best, so the view was not that great from the top.
For the descent I put on the spare rain jacket I was carrying with me and without problems I got down the hill. At this stage I don’t really know how the landscape looked like, as I was focussed on the road, keeping a straight line to avoid getting into troubles with the high speed cars passing by. I could spot, however, a dead wombat upside down and a dead kangaroo…for sure hit by the cars.
The last part of the ride, from Yarra Glen to Healesville, brought as to the Yarra Valley. We rode through the wineyards, past the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, on an ondulating road. The view was absolutely stunning and I think the fog just added a twist on it! We had a few small hills on route which were not that welcome, I must admit! “Look at that little hill!”, Kath said at some point. I personally think it was a killer hill, not a little hill! Anyway, I was feeling a bit tired and probably I didn’t get enough fuel at Kinglake. I didn’t quite know how much we had left until we got to the cars and those little hills were requiring extra energy so to avoid unnecessary panic I took a gel I had in my back pocket and squeezed it into my mouth.
Finally the Beechworth Bakery was there. What a “challenge ride”! Thanks Aaron for organizing it to perfection and well done everyone who took it on! Can’t wait for next one already!