December 3, 2014

Domestique 7 Peaks Series 2014/15: Mt. Buller

2014 Mt Buller Bunch

In the three seasons we’ve run the Domestique 7 Peaks Series we’ve been extraordinarily lucky with the weather. We did have a laughably wet day at Mt. Buller two years ago and our 2014/15 series-opener at Lake Mountain a fortnight ago was cold and drizzly, but regular service resumed on Saturday with sublime weather at Mt. Buller.

In fact, as the crowd slowly gathered at the Mirimbah Picnic Ground ahead of our 2pm start, it was clear that we were in for quite a warm ride. Just two weeks ago we’d been decked out in arm and leg warmers and rain jackets at Lake Mountain; at Mt. Buller knicks and unzipped jerseys were the order of the day.

After a pre-ride briefing everyone gathered on the road near the Mirimbah tollbooth for a group photo. With a full road closure secured for the ride we were able to send everyone off together, rather than in waves.

Normally at our Domestique 7 Peaks Series rides, Andy and I tend to start at the back and ride our way through the field (or at least part of it). But on Saturday we did things a little differently. We started at the front and, for me at least, it was a mirror image of normal proceedings. I started at the front and quickly worked my way backwards through the field, unable to keep pace with the multitude of strong riders in the bunch.

Getting the #lycraparty started.

Getting the #lycraparty started.

As the opening kilometres ticked by, I found it hard to get into a comfortable rhythm. On paper the Mt. Buller climb looks quite steady (apart from the last few kilometres) but in reality there are a lot of little gradient changes throughout. I find that when I’m fit it doesn’t matter too much, but on Saturday I just couldn’t get a good rhythm. The heat certainly wasn’t helping.

The great thing about riding in a big group with hundreds of other cyclists around you, is that it’s easy to get lost in conversation and get distracted from the challenge of the climb. After struggling initially, the remaining kilometres of the climb rolled by and, faster than expected, I was passing the Mt. Sterling turn-off and beginning the steep final section to the Mt. Buller Alpine Resort.

There are a couple of pretty nasty corners in that final 1.5km to the village, the aptly named ‘Hell Corner’ in particular. A guy riding next to me at the time summed it up pretty well: “I hate this f%*&ing corner!”

Hell Corner is one of the steepest sections of the climb ... unless you go all the way up to the Arlberg Hotel.

Hell Corner is one of the steepest sections of the climb … unless you go all the way up to the Arlberg Hotel.

In previous years we’ve finished the ride at the Mt. Buller resort, as per the official 7 Peaks passport, but this time around we did things slightly differently. For those of you that have climbed Buller before you’ll know that there’s an alternate finish (arguably the real finish) to the sealed ascent: the Arlberg Hotel, just before the road turns to dirt.

It’s an extra 1.5km or so from the resort entrance to the Arlberg but it’s certainly the hardest section of the climb. Even the steep ramp of Hell Corner feels comfortable compared with the steep grades (10%+) up to the Arlberg. As I rode down that final steep section, having dragged myself up there a few moments earlier, I got to witness a bunch of fantastic pain-faces courtesy of those still battling the slopes. It’s a brutal little ramp to end with, but it really does increase the feeling of satisfaction when you reach the top.

2014 Mt Buller Bunch

In the end we had roughly 220 riders on the day — a very satisfying turn-out given the distance from Melbourne (about three hours’ drive) and the fact it was state election day. And as always, everyone that took part on the day had their own story to tell. For some people it was their first mountain climb (great job!), for others it was a good opportunity to do repeats (chapeau!) and for others it was a perfect chance to get out for a hilly ride and start building some form ahead of summer. If you came along I’d love to hear your story from the day in the comments below.

As ever there are a handful of wonderful people I need to thank. To our terrific volunteers — Andy’s wife Tam, my dad Ron, our lanterne rouge Aaron, Dr Ryan and to Marion — thanks for giving up your time, again. To Ben and the gang at the Mt. Buller Alpine Resort: thanks for being such a pleasure to work with. And to our sponsors — Sukkie, Winners Cycling (use the discount code “DOMESTIQUE” for 10% off all products) CycleCover and Tourism North East — thanks for your continued support.

And speaking of support, if you like what we’re doing with the series and want to help us out, head to the Domestique Cycling website, click on “Shop” and buy a little something. It all helps!

2014 Mt Buller Bunch

After the quick turn-around between Lake Mountain and Mt. Buller we’ve now got nearly a month until we head up to the High Country for the next rides in the series. In three action-packed days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve we’ll climb Falls Creek, Mt. Hotham, Mt. Buffalo and Dinner Plain. It’s a big weekend, but it’s also a whole bunch of fun. Head to the Domestique website for more info.

And while we’re on the subject of that trip: we’re currently looking for a couple of people to help us out. For a start, we’re looking for a photographer for the weekend. Accommodation is provided and you’ll be reimbursed for your time. We’re also looking for someone that can help us put out and pick up road signs before and after each ride. If you’re able to help us with either of these roles (or if you know someone that can) please get in touch via email: matt@theclimbingcyclist.com.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the fantastic photos from Saturday’s Mt. Buller ride courtesy of Kirsten Simpson. You can download low-resolution copies of any of the images from the day by heading to Kirsten’s website and using the password “Domestique”. If you’d like to support the great work Kirsten does, please consider buying a high-res photo or two as well. You can do so at her website.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’re enjoying the start to summer.

Click here to see my Strava file from the ride.

 

12 Comments

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  1. Jon Thornton / Dec 11 2014

    I’m gutted that I missed Buller. My plan was to ride from Buller to Jamieson to Mt Skene and then back to Mirimbah in time for the Buller climb. I got back to Mirimbah at 6:30PM. Bugger. Oh well, at least I got to say g’day to you (Matt) and Andy at the Arlberg over dinner. Next time, I’ll do a less epic warmup.

  2. Glen Plummer / Dec 4 2014

    Great job guys in making this first Domestique ride so memorable. Having only taken up road cycling in February it was intensely focusing in order to get through the ride and realising zig zagging was in fact the only way forward on those last few hundred metres to The Alrberg. All in all, greatly satisfying and enjoyable with the added bonus of photos to prove that its not just a failing aged imagination at work…

  3. Rick / Dec 4 2014

    Well done guys, fantastic ride. Great to ride with others that are keen on the hills. Last section a struggle but well worth it.

  4. Trevor / Dec 4 2014

    This was my first Domestique event – in fact I only decided to do 7 Peaks as preparation for the Alpine Classic but 7 Peaks has now become my primary focus ! I’ve returned to cycling after a break of 8 years and am enjoying every minute. Thanks so much for organising such a fantastic ride. I hope to be fit enough to ride Baw Baw in February – see you there !!

  5. Cameron / Dec 3 2014

    After cycling from Merrijig (which BTW, Google has incorrect on its map), found myself already half cooked before hitting the base!

    First half of the climb was very hot, and whilst I was not the last, was certainly towards the rear of the group. Fortunately half way up it started to cool off. Was very happy to make it to the village.

    I’m with Anthony regarding those further 1.5kms! Less said the better.

    Thanks for organising, this was my first Domestique event.

  6. Ben Kreunen / Dec 3 2014

    It’s certainly easier riding up with lots of people than doing it solo. Starting to think seriously about saving up for a road bike though 😉

  7. phil gale / Dec 3 2014

    I didnt manahe to make it to this years climb but stubbornly rode to the highest point I could find in last seasons event (gravel included) and can only say that the very last bit of the climb is definitely the most worthwhile. The view from the very top takes some beating thats for sure! Chapeau guys for the domestique series, long may it continue.

  8. Treve / Dec 3 2014

    Many thanks to both of you for making it happen, it was such a blast to ride up the mountain with such nice company. I agree with your thoughts on the first few Ks if certainly felt much harder than it should have done! The last bit was a serious challenge but then what is a climb with out a challenge. Thanks once again to all your supporters for making it possible

  9. Jo / Dec 3 2014

    Thanks to Andy and Matt for another well organized ride. Loved the comaraderie up the mountain. Personally I think I prefer the cold, wet conditions as the heat on Saturday got to me well before the Arlberg! Note to self. In very wise hindsight a warm up ride from Mansfield in 30 degree heat, head wind, melting bitumen and (ahem) old age (50 plus!!) is not a good idea. As some-one commented at Mirimbah before the start, that’s not a warm-up. Thats a hot-up. My most grateful thanks to Marian for giving me a lift down the mountain. Now I’ll have to do it again so I can get my passport stamped!!!

  10. Marco Luthe / Dec 3 2014

    As usual, a nice little write-up of the climb. Well done, Matt.

    Although I had to struggle heaps with the heat and the climb itself (which reminded me a little of last year’s Falls Creek climb), it was a beautiful day, and the 3 hours drive from Melbourne were worth it.

    I quickly wanted to describe the Domestique spirit, which makes these rides so wonderful.

    First, having the road closure just makes things so much easier and safer. Thanks to everyone involved.

    Second, it’s well worth getting a Domestique jersey, as I experienced about 2 km from the climb. I knew I could make it alone eventually, but I was still struggling mentally with Hell Corner (and the fact that I thought I’d only get the stamp at the Arlberg – thanks for that joke, guys *hmpf*). Along came Kyle and Steve, who had already long finished their ascent. They stopped and asked if I needed some support, and they said I was wearing the right jersey to be picked. So they both patiently rode alongside me and helped me all the way through Hell Corner and Tip Corner (if you’re reading this, guys: thanks again!).

    All in all a good day to also find out that 52/36 is not compact enough – I am getting that fixed to 50/34 as we speak. I’d otherwise struggle at the end of the year. 😉

    Thanks for a fantastic day out, guys – can’t wait to see you at Falls etc. – hope I’ll make all four of them this year.

    Cheers!
    Marco

  11. Andy / Dec 3 2014

    Standing under the finishers arch it was incredibly satisfying watching rider after rider come through with ear-to-ear smiles, and plenty of high-fives. It’s a nasty way to end the ride, but the increased sense of satisfaction at the top makes it all worthwhile.

  12. anthony / Dec 3 2014

    Another awesome event. It was tough out there on Saturday. I’m convinced the melting tar on the road was slowing us down as well.

    Thanks for adding in the extra 1.5 km’s from hell. Very thoughtful 😉

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