In the weeks before our first 7 Peaks Domestique Series ride, the number of cyclists confirmed as ‘Going’ never seemed to stop growing. I remember it passing 30, 40 and then 50 riders, at which point I thought ‘this is going to be bigger than the Dirty Dozen‘. And it was.
A few days before the ride I had a bet with series co-organiser and Hells 500 mastermind Andy van Bergen to see who could predict how many would attend. Andy guessed 67 and I went for a more conservative 60, expecting a few to pull out at the last minute.
We were both wrong. And not by a small margin.
Arriving at Marysville at around 8.40am on Sunday it was hard to tell how many riders had come along. The carpark was full (and then some) but with things to do before the ride got underway, there was no time to do a head-count.
After a quick, pre-ride address and after sharing around energy bars and gels courtesy of Winners Nutrition (thanks guys!), we broke into two groups. Andy’s wife Tammy and his sister Nicole led the first group straight into the climb while the rest of us set off towards Buxton for a quick warm-up.
It was a great start to the day: rolling along at the front of the group, chatting to Cyril Dixon, enjoying the countryside and fresh air and the fact so many people had turned up to take part in the ride.
After roughly 5km the group slowly turned around and headed back to Marysville. My brother Brendan led the charge to the base of the climb while I brought up the rear.
Andy had waited back in Marysville for the warm-up group to get back and he jumped on the back with me as we tackled the opening kilometres of the climb. After a few kilometres Andy suggested I head on up the road while he played Lanterne Rouge.
I took off up the hill, looking around each corner as I went, trying to spot the next group on the road. My plan was to move gradually through the field, spending a couple of minutes with each group before pressing on.
If you’ve ever tackled Lake Mountain you’ll know that the opening 4.4km are well and truly the toughest part of the climb. The steep gradients of those initial kilometres had split the bunch right apart so it wasn’t long before I came across the first riders.
I chatted with the first group for a few moments before I pressed on, giving it a max effort up the hill until I came to the next group. And that’s more or less how I spent the next hour or so — riding hard from group to group, soaking up the fresh mountain air, enjoying the perfect weather, chatting with happy-looking riders and generally having a blast.
As I moved from group to group I got a real sense of just how diverse a bunch of people we’d managed to bring together. Everyone had a story to tell. For some it was their first ride in the hills after recovering from injury (or after spending a few too many winter weekends in front of the TV). For others it was a rare opportunity to ride with a group of other cyclists, without having to head for Beach Road.
For most of the riders I spoke to it was the first time they’d tackled Lake Mountain. One of the biggest motivations behind the 7 Peaks Domestique Series was to get as many people out into the hills and trying new climbs as we could. To hear that so many people had come out to Lake Mountain for the first time, with us, was very satisfying.
For many of these first-timers, just getting through the climb was a grand challenge. Several people told me it was the longest, most challenging climb they’d attempted and that they’d just be happy to get to the top. Then there were those who were very familiar with the Lake Mountain climb and who were in search of a new PB.
For a select few, Sunday was a great opportunity to get in a two (or more!) ascents of the Lake Mountain climb.
But despite the mix of abilities and different motivations for being there on the day, virtually everyone I spoke to seemed to be enjoying themselves. And it was pretty hard not to enjoy yourself: exceptional weather, quiet roads, a great climb, amazing scenery, a great bunch of people and, at the end of it, a chance to collect the first stamp in the 7 Peaks passport.
As I crossed the line after about 80 minutes of climbing, one of our terrific volunteers Maria took my photo and I added my name to the ever-growing list of finishers that my partner Sharon was collecting. Maria and Sharon had been at the summit since the first riders got to the top and were still there later when the very last rider finished the climb. A terrific effort and one we’re all very grateful for.
After a moment’s rest and a quick chat to some of the other riders atop the mountain, Brendan and I headed back down the hill with the intention of meeting up with Andy. We found him about 6km from the summit riding with Tim — the last rider on the road — and Simon Atkinson and Paul Simpson who had also joined the the party.
Brendan and I turned around and joined the others as they made their way to the top. Tammy and Nicole joined us a short time later and the eight of us continued upward, the summit getting ever closer.
After a few quick stops in those final few kilometres, our little group eventually made it to the summit and congratulated Tim on getting through the climb in one piece.
The question that a few of us had been asking as we neared the summit was ‘How many riders had finished?’ When Tim added his name to the list and Andy followed him we had collected a total of 97* names.
What an incredible turn-out. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago how many riders I would have been happy with on Sunday, I would have said 20 or 30. To see 97 riders finish on Sunday was not only inspirational, but very exciting and rather humbling as well.
Sharon tells me there were a handful of riders that didn’t write their names down on the list so we might well have had 100 finishers on the day. If you’re one of those riders, let us know and we’ll add you to the honour board (see below)!
I’d like to say a couple of ‘thank-you’s before I wrap this up. Thanks to Winners Nutrition for supporting the ride and supplying us with a box-load of gels and bars. I know the riders were all very grateful and I hope we can continue to work together as the series rolls on!
Thanks to Andy for all his hard work in making the ride happen and for organising the boxes and bags for the clothing courier service.
A big thank you to my partner Sharon and her offsider Maria for all their great help on the day. It’s things like being cheered on, having your photo taken and being able to grab food and drink (not to mention warmer clothing) when you reach the top of a climb that turn a simple bike ride into something much more. Thanks ladies!
And thanks to everyone that turned up on the day — all 100 of you! It was an incredible start to the series and hopefully a sign of things to come!
The next ride in the series will be the mighty Mt. Baw Baw on Sunday November 25 and it’s sure to be an awesome day. If you’re interested in coming along, please let us know by clicking ‘Join’ on the Facebook event page or by sending us an email. We’ll be posting further information about the ride on the Facebook page and on the 7 Peaks Domestique Series hub page in the coming weeks.
And if you weren’t able to make it to Lake Mountain on Sunday but you’re still committed to completing the 7 Peaks series with us, fear not. We’ll be heading out there again on Saturday January 12.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the great photos below (and the honour board below that!)
These names were taken (more or less) in the order that riders completed the climb. But because we didn’t all start the climb at the same time, the list doesn’t reflect who finished the climb fastest.
If we haven’t got you on the list, let us know! If we’ve spelled your name wrong, you should have written it more clearly in the notebook … but let us know and we’ll fix it up! And finally, if your climb time isn’t listed and you’d like it to be, email Matt with the details (and a Strava link or similar to prove it!)
- Ian Stewart
- David Ablatz
- Troy Warren
- Dale Thompson
- Frank Zgoznik
- Chris Burton (1 hour 9 minutes)
- David Weiss
- Chris Hampton
- Adrian Sayers
- Aidan Rich
- Jarrod Stonham
- John van de Waterbeemd
- Richard Matison
- Tony Stuyt
- Evan Cooper
- Andrew Hamilton
- Nicole van Bergen (1 hour 16 minutes)
- Neil Smithies
- Andrew Catchpole
- Kevin Goodall
- Dave McLean (1 hour 21 minutes)
- Stuart Brown (57 minutes)
- Brendan Canty
- Jim Bougatsias
- Rob Urpis
- Brad Lyell (1 hour 29 minutes)
- David Taylor
- Sandy Woolley
- Shannon Turner
- Edward Green
- Simon Atkinson (1 hour 7 minutes)
- Ben Hellema
- Sam Thompson (1 hour 8 minutes)
- Thomas Price
- Ed Muggleton
- Nic Hamley
- Adrian Freeman
- Jamie Barber
- Wendy Garrett
- Cyril Dixon
- Brad Clark
- Simon Cornish
- Paul Simpson (1 hour 14 minutes)
- James Singleton
- Vlad Tsyrlin
- Geoff Foreman
- Gary Lucas
- Anthony Netkow
- Tammy van Bergen
- Tom Lucas
- William Tao
- Kris Dieber
- Tony Egan
- Brendan de Neef
- Shaun Smiley
- John Gogis
- Shea Dawson
- Heather Hoggan
- Peter Turewicz
- Paul Jamieson (1 hour 21 minutes)
- David Rose
- Craig Beeching
- Daniel Foster
- Karen Hill
- Rod Clark
- Graeme Robertson
- Peter Westley
- Michael Krischunas
- Matt McCullough
- Leigh Johansen
- Amit Verma
- Steve Baker
- Chris Allwell
- Lachlan Scott
- Lysiane Belton (1 hours 27 minutes)
- Matt de Neef
- Josh Goodall
- Glenn Page (1 hour 12 minutes)
- Janine Vavasseur (1 hour 39 minutes)
- Brian Beardon (1 hour 45 minutes)
- Tim Ling (1 hours 26 minutes)
- Nigel Welch
- Darren Treloar
- Rohan Wills
- Heidi Goodall
- Ashley Ray
- Simone Dwyer
- Brendan Cheshire
- Greg Sealby
- Peter Wirth
- Ned Powell
- Kathryn Feldmaier
- Jess Varey
- Bernie Peeler
- Tim Wodetzki
- Andy van Bergen
*Sharon and Maria are certain one rider was heading down the mountain as they neared the top of the climb in the car. They left #1 blank on the list for that rider — the first person to reach the top. If that was you: let us know so we can add you to the (top of the) list!