July 17, 2010

Le Tour de Struggle-town

Route: Eltham, Warrandyte, Kangaroo Ground and Wattle Glen loop
Distance: 37km
Duration: 1 hour 57 minutes

If you calculate my average speed from the above statistics you will get a fair idea of how last Sunday’s ride went. Firstly, an average speed of less than 20km/h suggests that the route was fairly hilly. Secondly, such a speed is indicative of a struggling rider.

On what was a near-perfect winter’s day, I headed out for a bit of a loop of the local backroads. I was keen to get away from my normal routes and so I planned out a ride that took in some of the quiet roads in my local area. Unfortunately, being Eltham, the backroads around here tend to be fairly steep and more than a challenge for a rider whose fitness has dropped off considerably in recent months.

I started off with Mt. Pleasant Road, a quiet but sometimes-steep road that joins Main Road in Eltham to the Warrandyte-Research Road. While I felt strong to start with, the cold air combined with some steep pinches and my lack of fitness quickly got to me.

By the time I had reached the Warrandyte-Research Road I had to stop, pulling over to the side of the road. I felt light-headed, nauseous and, more than anything, disappointed that I had to stop.

Slowly, as I started to warm up and I get used to the cold air, I began feeling a little more comfortable. I got through the steep incline on Research-Warrandyte Road and then headed toward Kangaroo Ground.

I had heard scary reports about Pigeon Bank Road so naturally, I was keen to see it for myself. Fortunately, it turns out, I was going down the section that exceeds 20% gradient but that didn’t stop me from facing some truly steep pinches elsewhere.

The roads out the back of Warrandyte and Kangaroo Ground are beautifully quiet and scenic and it was great fun riding along here once I had warmed up. At Kangaroo Ground I turned toward Wattle Glen and followed the main road downhill for a couple of kilometres. From there it was a left turn onto Reynolds Road.

I had seen in the Melway that Reynolds Road contained some gravel sections but I didn’t realise those gravel sections would have hills in excess of 10% gradient. I was just lucky that the gravel was very well packed otherwise getting traction could have been a little interesting.

After several kilometres of gravel roads I emerged at Research and pushed hard along the downhill stretch into Eltham.

By the end of this ride I was enjoying myself but at the start I was close to the worst I’ve ever felt on a bike. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a double-edged sword; I’m reluctant to ride because I know how unfit I am, but until I keep riding frequently, I won’t get any fitter. Hopefully as Le Tour de France heads into the Pyrenees I will be inspired to ride more often.

At this stage Brendan and I are supposed to be heading out for a ride tomorrow morning. Just a short one, but maybe just enough to rekindle the interest. Check out the photos and video of last Sunday’s ride below.

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