February 7, 2011

Episode 17: The Donna Buang expansion

Route: Healesville to Mt. Donna Buang return, via Dalry Road
Distance: 101.okm
Duration: 4 hours 36 minutes

Healesville-Koo Wee Rup Road

Healesville-Koo Wee Rup Road

It’s been months since Brendan and I last rode together but yesterday afternoon we reconvened and got our training back on track. Brendan picked me up in Eltham and we drove out through Yarra Glen, past plenty of flooded properties and to the outskirts of Healesville. Our plan was to notch up another century while also getting in a significant climb in the process.

As we drove out the rain came down quite heavily but as soon as we got out of the car in Healesville the skies cleared and it seemed as if luck would be on our side. It was, and in fact it only rained for about 10 minutes throughout the whole ride.

We rode out of Healesville and turned onto the Healesville-Koo Wee Rup Road, a road that I’d driven many times before on my way to the start of our traditional Donna Buang ride, Launching Place. It’s a fairly lumpy road with a few steep sections and with a speed limit of 100km/h throughout its majority, it’s probably not the greatest road for cycling on.

Ominous weather

Ominous weather

We got to Launching Place without too many troubles or rain though and then we set about covering the 12km between the LP Hotel and Warburton. For those that are familiar with the Warburton Highway you’ll know that it’s an often-narrow ride with drivers that don’t have the most positive attitude when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists. In fact, it’s becoming a bit of running joke between Brendan and I that any ride along the Warburton Highway or around Healesville that doesn’t result in abuse (or something more solid) being hurled at us is a good ride. Yesterday’s ride was no different and we had a few horns honked in our direction, despite being as close as possible to the edge of the road.

After a quick snack at Warburton we got straight into the climb and we were on our way toward the summit. Overall we took the climb quite easily, deciding to find a rhythm that we could maintain rather than setting out to break any PBs or anything like that. The final few kilometres before the halfway point at Cement Creek were tough as usual and the 100m of flat road at the iconic hairpin provided a good chance to have a bit of a rest.

Better weather

Better weather

We pushed on beyond the halfway point, again finding a nice gentle tempo that would allow us to get to the top with energy left for the rest of the ride. About 5km from the top of the climb we heard a deafening rumbling sound coming from somewhere ahead of us, further up the road. As we tried to work out whether there was a helipad in the vicinity, a cloud of crazy-looking vehicles roared around the corner, seemingly out of control as they flew toward us.

They seemed to be some kind of miniature go-cart or trike but rather than having rubber tyres for traction, these vehicles had plastic wheels, which would explain the god-awful sound that confronted us. They slipped and slid across the road, coming sideways around the bend in front of us. Brendan and I moved as close to the edge of the road as we could as the group of dare devils flew past us, cutting well onto our side of the road as they turned around the corner we had emerged from. If a car had been behind us there is no way they would have been able to stop in time and with plastic wheels, I don’t know how quickly the go-cart/trikes would have been able to stop either.

Climbing Mt. Donna Buang

Climbing Mt. Donna Buang

When we eventually got to the summit we didn’t waste any time at all, deciding instead to rug up and head straight back down. Brendan managed to forget to bring his gloves with him and even with my full-finger gloves my hands were starting to hurt so I can only imagine what his were feeling like.

In fact, the descent was pretty unpleasant overall with the cold, the wet road and, for part of the descent, some biting rain. It was a relief to get to the bottom, remove our jackets and then head to a nearby cafe for another food/drink stop.

After wolfing down a couple of cheese and bacon rolls we got back on the road and tried to work ourselves back in to some kind of rhythm. It was weird getting to Launching Place and still having around 25km to go as the sight of the iconic hotel normally signals the end of the ride.

We pushed on, climbing several short and sharp rises on Dalry Road before rejoining the main road between Healesville and Woori Yallock. From that point it was a fairly cruisy spin back toward Healesville where we’d parked the car. We’d notched up another century without too many dramas at all and this one came with the added bonus of a significant climb as well. If we can continue to build on this form and get some longer rides in in the coming weeks then I reckon we’ll be in decent shape.

Brendan climbing

Brendan climbing

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt recall that I had planned to be up in the Victorian high country this weekend rather than slogging it out near Donna Buang but those plans were postponed due to Brendan’s work schedule. I’m led to believe, however, that Brendan has negotiated next weekend off and the plan is to drive up north on Friday night, get a long ride in on the Saturday and Sunday, and drive back Sunday evening. It will provide us with the perfect opportunity to notch up a 150km+ ride, if not two, and do wonders for our confidence with a little over a month until the epic 3 Peaks Challenge.

While I’m on the topic of epic rides, I’d like to share with you an email sent in by a reader which I found partially inspiring, but mainly just scary.

‘Just did the Alpine Classic Extreme. I think you’re going to get a surprise when you do 3 Peaks. Get out and get a 300 under your belt – it’s more about endurance than hill climbing. Odd but true.’

Even thinking about riding 300km in a day terrifies me but I reckon the email writer might be right. I’m confident I’ll be able to get to Mt. Hotham with few troubles but after that point it would seem to become a simple case of endurance. Will I have the endurance to make it to Omeo? Will I make it through the 40km to the base of the day’s final (epic) climb? Will I have enough in the tank to haul my broken body up that climb? Who knows. Only time will tell I suppose.

Thanks again for reading the blog and I hope you have all been enjoying the guest posts. If you do have a story you’d like to share and/or a climbing event you’d like to tell us about,, send something in and I’ll see about getting it put online.

With any luck, I’ll be writing the next entry with a weekend of solid alpine climbing behind me. Fingers crossed.

34 days to go…

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7 Comments

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  1. trainedgoose / Feb 15 2011

    Would it be these things you saw on Donna?

    • Matt / Feb 15 2011

      Wow, yes! Thanks mate. Insane. Just insane.

  2. Greg / Feb 14 2011

    I had a first hand experience of the abuse last weekend. Between Warby and Millgrove I got abused three times … and one was by a guy waiting for the bus!!! Go figure. Gotta love the Donna climb, I had a great day on it last Saturday – did my best time.

    I’m using it to train up for a climb up Mt Buller next month. Anyone got any experience to share of the differences?

  3. chris / Feb 14 2011

    Love the description of the locals down Warby Hwy. They are the worst cycling abusers going around, which is a real shame because Warburton is a great little town and the Donna is just a classic. Although, plenty of abuse along Dorset Rd heading to the ‘Nongs too!

    • Matt / Feb 14 2011

      Haha, glad to hear that it isn’t just me they abuse! Healesville is another area that is particularly bad in my experience – the road from Healesville to Yarra Glen especially. If I get through that section without being abused or having stuff thrown at me it’s a good day!

  4. kosh / Feb 8 2011

    Hey, good write up. If you dislike the Koo Wee Rup road, try taking Don Rd out of Healesville instead. The short sharp Panton Gap climb will warm you up, then it’s only a short gravel section before a nice fast flowing descent down into Launching Place.

    c.f. also http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/14956752 (a Rail to Rail ride)

    • Matt / Feb 8 2011

      Yeah, fair point. I was considering Don Road the other day but with the wet weather I wasn’t too keen on the gravel (mud) section. Maybe in better weather. Is it smooth enough for a road bike, in your opinion?

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