Episode 4: flying solo (up the 1 in 20)
Route: Thornbury to Sassafras
Duration: 4 hours 3 minutes
With the Donvale Demon out of action due to family commitments, and Brendan in bed battling a Christmas-party-hangover-from-hell, I was left to fend for myself on Sunday afternoon. Without the collective motivation that comes from riding in a group, I found myself reluctant to get rolling.
Eventually, at about 1pm, I got off the couch and rolled out. It had been a while since I’d tried my hand (well, legs) at the ol’ 1 in 20 and I was keen for a bit of a challenge.
I made my way to Chandler Highway where I joined the Koonung Creek Trail. I’m not sure if riding along bike paths contravenes some rule of “pro” cycling but it worked perfectly for me. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of fighting traffic (and traffic lights) most of the way to the ‘Nongs, so being able to ride fast and uninterrupted was terrific.
I used to ride the Koonung Trail quite frequently in my high school days but until Sunday I’d never ridden the “new” section that extends beyond Springvale Road. Turns out it’s a pretty great ride, despite a few short, sharp pinches near the Mullum Mullum tunnels.
I followed the path as it hugged the Eastlink tollway, eventually turning off at Boronia Road. From there it was a quick jaunt to Bayswater and from there to The Basin via Mountain Highway.
The whole point of the expedition was to test myself on the 1 in 20 and so, when I got to The Basin, I had a quick break to steady the legs and calm the nerves. My best time before Sunday was 19 minutes 30 seconds and I was keen to go under 19 minutes. I’d done a bit of research on Strava and worked out that I’d need to average 21.2km/h to reach my target.
I set off at about 21km/h, knowing I would be able to increase my average considerably in the false-flat section a few kilometres into the climb. I managed to keep my speed above 20km/h until the false-flat and I was feeling strong. As the road startened to flatten out, I engaged the big dog and ramped things up.
I think I might have gone a little hard in the false-flat and while I’d managed to see 34km/h at one point, I paid for it when the climbing resumed. My speed dropped below 20km/h and I had to work beyond my threshold to maintain even 19km/h.
After a couple of minutes spent trying to get my heart rate under control, I started feeling better and my speed crept up again. I crossed the line feeling totally spent but confident that I’d gone under 19 minutes. Stupidly, I’d forgotten to start the lap function on my new Garmin 500 so I had to wait until I got home to discover I’d climbed the 1 in 20 in 18 minutes 31 seconds.
A terrific result for me — a PB by almost a minute and a great indicator that I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been.
After a quick drink at Sassafras, I turned around and descended to The Basin before retracing my steps back to the bike track at Boronia Road. Despite being reluctant to get rolling earlier in the day, by this point I was very glad I had. By the time I reached Quarry Road in Donvale, I felt like an extra challenge.
I left the bike track and made my way through the quiet back streets of Donvale until I came face-to-face with the monster that is Glenvale Road. It might be a short climb but it’s probably the steepest piece of road I’ve ever ridden up. If you ride it right from the bottom (from Oban Road) you face two nasty pinches, both of which exceed 20% gradient.
My Garmin 500 was reading 22% at one point and on the second pinch I had to stop for a breather despite having a compact crankset. I eventually got to the top, found my way back to the bike track and got into a nice tempo for the ride home.
I got home around 6pm, satisfied with another great hit-out and looking forward to my next ride.
The only downside to the whole ride was an annoying clicking sound my bike seems to have developed. It only happens every couple of pedal strokes but beyond that, it’s difficult to determine exactly what it is or where it’s coming from. I’m hoping to get it fixed on Saturday morning so I can get out for another long ride on Saturday arvo or Sunday.
With roughly 12 weeks until 3 Peaks rolls around, I feel as if my training is progressing very nicely. As mentioned, I feel fitter and stronger than I ever have and I think all of the additional riding is paying off. In fact, before Wednesday this week, I managed to string together 13 consecutive days of cycling. This was a combination of work commutes, longer weekend rides and spin classes, and the hard work seems to be paying dividends.
Until next time, thanks very much for reading, and please stay safe on the roads.
86 days to go …
- Prologue: back on the bike
- Episode 1: the Great Ocean Road ride
- Episode 2: new wheels, old climbs and offensive black discs
- Episode 3: an Arthurs Seat century