February 27, 2011

Episode 20: A climb into the clouds

Route: Eltham, Healesville, Toolangi & Kinglake loop, via Myers Creek Road
Distance: 108.9km
Duration: 4 hours 37 minutes

Myers Creek Road climb

Myers Creek Road climb

When I woke up this morning with rain pouring down outside my window, I thought I had missed my chance for a ride this weekend. My plan had been to drive up to Taggerty and try out the newly sealed road that skirts along the bottom of the Lake Eildon National Park between Eildon and Jamieson but when my alarm woke me at 7am I promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. I wasn’t about to spend 6.5 hours riding in the rain.

When I woke some hours later I found myself disappointed that I hadn’t gone out for a spin yesterday when the weather was perfect but I resolved to wait for a break in the head out today instead.

At about lunch time the rain appeared to have stopped and a quick check of the Bureau of Meterology’s website showed that no more rain was likely to sweep over Melbourne’s north east for the rest of the day. I dragged myself off the couch somewhat reluctantly, got kitted up and got on the road.

The previous morning I had picked up my bike from my local bike shop having insisted on a full service, including the replacement of all brake and gear cables. I’m not keen to take any chances for the 3 Peaks Challenge, which is now less than two weeks away, and so only a full service was going to give me piece of mind.

Start of the Myers Creek Road climb

Start of the Myers Creek Road climb

Rolling toward Yarra Glen I could already notice the difference. The bike seemed to roll a lot more smoothly, the slight buckle in my back wheel had been resolved and the slight rattle in the headsteam, due to a poor effort to reassemble the bike post-NZ, had also been rectified. In no time I was rolling down the Skyline Road climb and into Yarra Glen.

I turned left at the far end of town and rode the 12 lumpy kilometres to Healesville. To my great surprise I didn’t get any abuse or bottles thrown at me this time and I rolled into Healesville physically and psychologically unscathed.

Followers of this blog will know that I’ve ridden the Chum Creek Road climb a few times, but I’ve never attempted its sister climb, Myers Creek Road. Compared with Chum Creek Road, Myers is a little steeper and possibly a little longer but no less picturesque. It’s also good to get off the main road and during the ascent I was only passed by a dozen or so cars.

More from Myers Creek Road

More from Myers Creek Road

By the time I got to the Toolangi Pub the weather had changed quite noticeably. Where it had been overcast but dry in Healesville, it was now very foggy with a hint of rain. As I continued to work my way toward the Melba Highway intersection at Castella it continued to get progressively foggier and by the time I had crossed the aforementioned road and I was climbing toward Kinglake, visibility was down to less than 30 metres.

From the couple of times that I’ve driven from Castella to Kinglake I remember it being a mainly-uphill drag with a couple of steep sections but while I was climbing it I didn’t feel as if I was in any trouble. I got to Kinglake still feeling nice and fresh but the cloud cover at that point was ridiculous.

After a quick bite to eat at the local cafe I whacked on the ol’ wind vest and began my descent toward Eltham. With very low visibility and a wet road I was pretty keen to take it easy on the way down but soon enough I emerged from the clouds and the road ahead began to get drier. Despite the fact that the bike was feeling a whole lot better than before I put it in for a service, something had obviously gone wrong with the replacing of a gear cable because whenever I went to change into the big ring on the descent, it would slip straight back into the small ring as soon as I released the shifter. I stopped the bike and had a quick look and noticed that the gear cable was very loose. I tried to tighten it but after a couple of failed attempts I was more interested in getting home than fixing the bike so I decided to put up with it on the way home. Methinks I’ll be dropping back in to the LBS soon, unless anyone has some advice for this bike maintenance n00b?

Climbing from Castella to Kinglake

Climbing from Castella to Kinglake

The ride back from Kinglake to Eltham went quickly and painlessly and I found myself zoning out on a road that I’ve ridden so many times in the last few years. I rolled through Research and along the quick final kilometres toward Eltham and then climbed my way back home.

Despite what was shaping up to be a disappointing weekend training-wise, I still managed to get in another 100km+ ride that gives me a little bit more confidence for the beast that is 3 Peaks. As mentioned earlier, it’s less than two weeks until I take my place at the top of Falls Creek and begin inflicting 12 hours of pain on myself and while it’s probably obvious that I’m most apprehensive about that final, horrible climb, I’ll also breath a big sigh of relief when I summit Hotham and can start rolling toward Dinner Plain and Omeo.

Main street of Kinglake

Main street of Kinglake

So, do you think I can do it? I’ll certainly be giving everything I’ve got, but I’m interested to know what you guys think. Have I done enough training? Will I be fit enough to haul my sorry arse up the Back of Falls? Or will the real battle be psychological one? You can have your say by commenting below, by leaving a message on Facebook or Twitter, or by sending me an email.

Thanks again for all of the support, comments and suggestions over the last few months and it’s really heartening to get so many emails saying how much people are enjoying the blog, the climbs featured on the site or both. To those of you that mainly follow this site for the climbs, apologies again for my tardiness in adding to the list. As I’ve probably mentioned in recent weeks I’ve got a great handful of climbs I’m looking forward to sharing with y’all but I just need to get the time.

Stay safe on the road and we’ll speak again soon.

14 days to go…

More from The Climbing Cyclist

7 Comments

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  1. Jim / Jun 10 2013

    Yep, Myers Creek Rd certainly is picturesque. One other hazard to look out for though is speeding motorcyclists. While I’m not tainting all motorcyclists with the same brush, the last time I descended Myers Creek Rd I encountered a large group of motorcyclists racing each other at high speed up the hill. I had to stop and pull over as they were cutting corners, overtaking and hitting stupid speeds as they passed in the opposite direction over the course of about 5 minutes. Obviously, Healesville is a bit of a biker hub on the weekends, so just keep an eye out if you’re cycling then (you can often hear them coming as they disturb the peace from a good few km’s anyway).

  2. eatmorelard / Feb 28 2011

    @Matt, following your blog I was a little worried about you before NZ but I reckon you are in good shape this time around. It is as much a mental game. Don’t think about the 235km but break it up into sections – descent off Falls, Tawonga Gap, etc. As Andy says, the back of Falls is a serious climb but it is the last climb of the the day and the reward is an amazing ride across the High Plains – still my favourite riding experience (I last did it on a 1C windless night with the stars overhead – it was surreal and stunning – and very dark). Cut that climb up into sections too – the first, steepest 20% section, a respite, some 12% slopes etc. I’ve no doubt you will make it. Now it’s time to take it easy – maybe get out for a nice relaxing 100km spin at the weekend?

    @Andy – Greed, a garage full of bikes and still you want that new Cannondale SuperSix (or Tarmac SL3 Project Black – insert you own bike). Or is that Lust?

    • Matt / Feb 28 2011

      Great tips, thanks. :) I’m certainly looking forward to that last section into Falls but I just have to get there!

  3. Andy / Feb 28 2011

    Three sins to go, I’ll pop one up each morning. Still stuck for greed though…

  4. Andy / Feb 27 2011

    Matt, you can rest assured that the training you are doing is spot on. You’ve mixed up the terrain, and thrown in a bunch of different gradients.

    The main thing to keep in mind is to ride your own event. It’s going to be tempting, but avoid pacing off someone too fast – you certainly don’t want to be in the red too early on.

    The back of falls is a cracker, and the looks you will witness on WTF corner is worth the price of admission! It’s tough, but certainly no steeper than anything you have tackled.

    On a separate note, I’d ridden chum ck a dozen times, but only drove (in a car) myers for the first time a fortnight ago. That looks like a beautiful climb… and now I’m definitely inspired to get out there! Btw – descending chum from Toolangi to Healesville is incredible if you haven’t gone that direction before. Highly recommended!

    Best of luck, enjoy the taper!

    • Matt / Feb 27 2011

      Hi Andy. Thanks so much for your comments – some really great points there. Myers Creek Road is well worth the effort I reckon and yeah, I have done the descent of Chum Creek Road. It’s an absolute beauty.

      Best of luck with Hells 500 and I look forward to hearing all about it! BTW, will we be seeing the rest of the 7 sins videos before then? They are awesome. :)

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