7 Peaks Domestique Series ride #9: Lake Mountain

Looking out over the group it was pretty hard to tell how many riders had turned up. Facebook had said we might have had 130 along, and when I added in RSVPs via email the number was closer to 150. But not everyone that says ‘I’m going’ does, and many that don’t tell us they’re coming, do.

I guessed somewhere in the vicinity of 110 but there was no way to really tell — we’d just have to wait until we got to the top.

We want to create a safe and welcoming environment for all cyclists. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)
We want to create a welcoming environment for all cyclists. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)

The group had assembled at around 9am and a short time later Andy and I gave a pre-ride briefing. It was the usual stuff — what to expect from the climb, who to look out for if you needed support — but we also had a special guest: 3 Peaks Pro Team rider Alison McCormack.

We’d asked Ali to come along for a couple of reasons: to give the riders a bit of a heads-up about the 3 Peaks Challenge in March and to give our strong female contingent some information about the opportunities that exist for women that are looking to get into (or do more) cycling.

One of our biggest goals with Saturday’s ride up Lake Mountain was to see if we could attract 50 or more women to the ride. Why? Because women’s cycling is seriously under-represented at every level and if we could do even a tiny amount to provide a safe and welcoming environment for female riders, then we’d love to do that.

It was great to see so many St. Kilda girls out on the mountain. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)
It was great to see so many St. Kilda girls out on the mountain. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)

With the briefing completed and a few photos taken, the first riders started the climb. Hells 500 rider John van Seters had kindly volunteered to take lanterne rouge duties which left Andy and I free to fly once again. Some of my favourite rides in the series have been spent at the back of the field, but there’s something particularly enjoyable about starting near the back of the field and working your way up as you work through the climb.

Andy and I set off with the last riders and started group-hopping as soon as we hit the first steep ramp. The process goes something like this: ride at close to threshold until you catch a group on the road, chat to them for a little while, then head off in search of the next group. Rinse and repeat.

If you ever want to make a climb go fast, I can highly recommend group-hopping. For best results, make sure your group is at least 100 strong.

Group-hopping: the best way to tackle a climb. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)
Group-hopping: the best way to tackle a climb. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)

After passing a few groups on the initial steep kilometres Andy turned to me and said something along the lines of: ‘You go on, I’m just going to sit up and take it easy. I’m not feeling too flash.’ It was the first time he’d said it that day, but it wouldn’t be the last.

No sooner had we slowed to chat with the next group than Andy was eyeing off the next group up the road. I went with him as he pushed on, thinking to myself ‘I’m glad he’s not at 100% — I’d be off the back straight away.’ And then we’d get to the next bunch, have a chat and, before I knew it, we’d be off again.

Hells 500: we'll get you there.
Hells 500: we’ll get you there.

It never felt like we were pushing particularly hard — we had plenty of opportunities to slow down and take it easy before our next effort — but we made our way quickly through the field, passing plenty of familiar faces as we went.

The sheer number of people there on Saturday means I’ll forget someone as soon as I start naming those we rode with. But it was great to see so many people that had come along  for their second or third climb (or more) in the series — particularly those that had already done Lake Mountain with us a few months earlier.

Plenty of carrots; plenty of people to talk to. (Image: Nigel Welch)
Plenty of carrots; plenty of people to talk to. (Image: Nigel Welch)

It’s a question I get asked a bit: ‘Do you get the same riders turning up to each of the rides?’ The answer is that there seems to be a small group that turn up to most (if not all) of the rides, there are more than a few that have done a handful of rides with us and there are those that are coming along for the first time.

We’re obviously more than happy to have riders from each group coming along, but it’s particularly cool to chat to the first-timers and see how they heard about the series, what motivated them to come along and how much climbing they’ve done in the past.

Image: Nigel Welch
Image: Nigel Welch

One of the fondest memories I have of riding with the Hells 500 crew was during the Donna Done Dirty ride in August in which Andy’s wife Tammy and his father Tony set up a mobile soup kitchen in the middle of nowhere, in the freezing cold. We got a taste of the same van Bergen hospitality at Lake Mountain on Saturday when, a little over halfway through the climb, we came across Andy’s parents Tony and Judy standing by the side of the road.

They were holding silver platters covered with muesli slice and as we approached, they jogged alongside us so we could grab the delicious treats without stopping. It was one of those unforgettable little touches that makes the Hells 500 group such a great bunch to ride with. Who goes to the trouble of baking well over 100 pieces of muesli slice for people they’ve never met?! Incredible.

Lee 'Hollywood' Turner plays up to the crowd. (Image: Nigel Welch)
Lee ‘Hollywood’ Turner gave the best victory salute of the day. (Image: Nigel Welch)

As Andy and I climbed through the easy second half of the climb, we continued to pass more and more riders. After a little while we rounded the final right-hand bend and the Lake Mountain resort came into view ahead of us.

Despite having spent most of the climb coughing up a lung and talking with a squeaky voice that made him sound like a pubescent boy, Andy decided to chuck it in the big dog and wind it up for a sprint. I tried to follow but it was all over within a couple of metres and I just decided to cruise over the line, trying to smile for Nigel Welch’s waiting camera as I entered the car park.

That counts as a smile, right? (Image: Nigel Welch)
That counts as a smile, right? (Image: Nigel Welch)

Andy and I had never discussed pushing hard up the mountain and we certainly didn’t discuss the possibility of a PB on the climb. In fact, the thought didn’t even cross my mind — we’d spent much of the climb sitting in with other riders and taking it easy.

But when I got to Lake Mountain and checked my Garmin, I realised we’d done the climb 4 minutes faster than my previous best: a time of 1 hour 8 minutes. What a pleasant surprise! Now I’m keen to head out there again and give it a real crack.

As happy as Andy and I were with our time, we were comprehensively outshone by a handful of individuals in the group.

Leah MacGibbon was one of six women to ride her way into the Strava top 10.  (Image: Nigel Welch)
Leah MacGibbon was one of six women to get a Strava QOM top 10. (Image: Nigel Welch)

In the opening kilometres of the climb Andy and I cheered as Brendan Canty, Joel Nicholson and Evan Henley flew by us in that order. They’d started the climb at the same time and there seemed to be a race of sorts going on. In the hours after the ride we’d discover that all three riders had ridden fast enough to shake up the top 10 of the Lake Mountain Strava segment (Joel’s not on Strava).

Not only that, but Brendan’s scorching time of 51 minutes 33 seconds was enough to smash the KOM by an amazing four minutes, putting him well ahead of A-grade riders and even a handful of National Road Series riders. What an incredible effort!

I'd be happy too if I'd just demolished the Strava KOM. (Image: Nigel Welch)
I’d be happy too if I’d just demolished the Strava KOM. (Image: Nigel Welch)

But it wasn’t just the blokes that were kicking goals. Of the top 10 places in the QOM standings, six were set with us on Saturday. (Well done to Carolyn, Jennifer, Tracey, Kath, Meg and Leah!) It gets better. Look a little further down the list and you’ll see that 14 of the top 20 times were set during our ride. Truly awesome.

But of course, the 7 Peaks Domestique Series is about far more than setting cracking times on the climbs. It’s about getting people into the hills, encouraging people to give climbing a shot, and to see them improve over time.

One of the coolest comments of the weekend came from Matt McCullough — the bloke who directed and produced this cracking video from our first ride up Mt. Baw Baw — who couldn’t believe how much easier the Lake Mountain climb was compared to the last time he did it. So great to hear.

Image: Kirsten Simpson
Image: Kirsten Simpson

At the top of the mountain I stood around and chatted with a whole bunch of satisfied-looking riders and enjoyed a sausage and drink courtesy of the Marysville Lions Club. It was so good to have the Lions Club up there putting on a sausage sizzle — for one, it allowed the riders to give a bit of money to the Marysville community (which is still rebuilding, slowly and surely, after Black Saturday).

But it was also just great having some food at the top, given resort management had told us they couldn’t open the bistro due to staffing issues. It would have been worth their while, that’s for sure.

And while I’m on the subject of people helping us out, there are a few thank-yous I need to say. Thanks, as ever, to Winners Nutrition for providing the bars, gels and chews that have been so popular throughout the series. Thanks to Emma & Tom’s for providing the juice that was so quickly snaffled up at the top of the climb. Thanks to Cycling Express for providing the major prize for the series (a Mavic Cosmic Elite wheelset) and a handful of vouchers for every ride.

'When did this thing get so big?!' (Image: Nigel Welch)
‘Woah, we’ve created a monster.’ (Image: Nigel Welch)

Thanks to the incredible Kirsten Simpson and Nigel Welch who have dazzled us once again with their magnificent photos (many of which you see in this post).  Having professionals along to take photos really has taken the series to the next level and we’re very grateful to Kirsten and Nigel for donating their time.

Thanks to John van Seters for so generously offering to ride lanterne rouge for us — I know the riders you rode with were extremely grateful too!

And of course, thanks to our ever-incredible support team that do so much to help make the day run smoothly, from taking names, to handing out nutrition, to directing traffic … it’s all much appreciated. Thanks Tammy, Maria, Sharon, Judy and Tony! As it turned out, it was the biggest support crew we’ve had so far in the series … and probably just as well.

My partner Sharon was just one of a team of amazing volunteers. Thanks so much! (Image: Kirsten Simpson)
My partner Sharon was just one of a team of amazing volunteers. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)

It’s only when you check the list of names on the clipboard that you get a real sense of just how many people have come along to one of these rides. So when Andy and I checked the list after the last riders had made it to the top, it was a great surprise and a real thrill to see 161 162 names there.

We’d been aiming for 100+ (our previous assault on Lake Mountain attracted 98 riders!) and we’d smashed that goal by a considerable margin.

As mentioned earlier, we’d had another goal for the day — to attract 50+ women to the ride. A quick look at the list of names below suggests we fell about 10 short of that goal, but I think it’s still an effort we can all be very proud of.

So good to see so many women on the mountain.  (Image: Kirsten Simpson)
So good to see so many women on the mountain. (Image: Kirsten Simpson)

As mentioned, women’s cycling is frustratingly under-represented and under-supported in this country (and around the world I suspect) and it’s important that we make the sport as inclusive as possible for everyone, regardless of gender (or age, or race, or sexual preference, or anything else!)

And so to the $20 Cycling Express vouchers we have the pleasure of giving away. We’d like to award the vouchers to the following individuals:

  • Kath Taylor and Julie Jackson, who were seen doing a second ascent of the brutal opening kilometres ‘just for fun’!
  • Jayde Ho, for an inspiring feat of perseverance in getting to the top, slowly, but surely!
  • Leah MacGibbon, who normally rides by herself but came along to help boost the number of women on the ride
  • Wendy Gee, who’s been a part of the Domestique Series since the start and has helped us encourage other women along.

Well done to the five voucher recipients!

It was a great effort by Jayde (light blue jersey) to push through to the top. Inspiring!
It was a great effort by Jayde (light blue jersey) to push through to the top. Inspiring!

And so, with the first month of 2013 nearly halfway through already (scary, huh?) there are just two trips remaining in the 7 Peaks Domestique Series. On February 9 and 10 we’ll be up at Mt. Buller again, taking on one of the most beautiful climbs in the state. I’ll have my fingers crossed for better weather than last time but then again, that was one of the most memorable weekends I’ve ever had on the bike …

And then, in the final supported ride of the series*, we’re heading back out to face the hardest climb of the lot: Mt. Baw Baw. We’ve got a clear target in mind for that one — 100 riders — and with 87 already confirmed on Facebook more than a month before the event, things are looking good.

Until next time, thanks very much for reading and I hope to see you out in the mountains soon!

The Strava file from my ride can be found here.

Honour roll

The order of these names doesn’t necessarily reflect the order in which riders finished the climb. 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! If you’d like your climb time listed, email us with the details (and a Strava link or similar to prove it!)

  1. Stephen Chan
  2. Thomas Price
  3. Brendan Canty (51 minutes 30 seconds!!!)
  4. Chris Stephens
  5. David Franjic
  6. Kip Gabriel
  7. Matt Peterson
  8. Philip Millar
  9. Joel Nicholson (~57 minutes)
  10. David Abzatz
  11. Neil Smithies
  12. Andrew Brown
  13. Evan Henley
  14. Ben Cotter
  15. Brendan Edwards
  16. Peter Hyett
  17. Tony Lane
  18. Don Sirikhant
  19. James Hu
  20. Glenn Hocking
  21. William Tao
  22. Andrew McPherson
  23. Jamie Hunter
  24. Gordon Oakley
  25. Greg Pruitt
  26. Tim Pittaway
  27. David Weiss
  28. Nikolas Krzyzkowski
  29. Carl Cubitt
  30. Josh Goodall
  31. Gary Beazley
  32. Warren Hartfield
  33. Aidan Kent
  34. David Weeks
  35. Jon Eaves (1 hour 10 minutes)
  36. Neil Osbourne (1 hour 10 minutes)
  37. Nicole van Bergen
  38. Henry Harte
  39. Simon Payne (1 hour 7 minutes)
  40. Gary Lucas
  41. Jennifer Brown
  42. Colin Morris
  43. Matt McCullough
  44. Darren Allan
  45. John Gogis
  46. Megan Brown
  47. Jed Bowtell
  48. Kath Taylor
  49. Nick Flynn
  50. Paul Wilson
  51. Chris Burton
  52. Blair Calvert
  53. Tracey Morey
  54. Matt Wakefield
  55. Geoff Foreman
  56. Raj Wilson
  57. Matt Parker
  58. Dave Murray
  59. Scott Turner
  60. Renee Nutbean
  61. Jeremy Taylor
  62. Paul Russell
  63. Bruce Baehmsoh
  64. Kris Dieber
  65. Kieren Prowse
  66. Julie Jackson
  67. David Leong
  68. Gregory Pratt
  69. Matt McLennan (1 hour 9 minutes & 1 hour 18 minutes)
  70. Daniel Robertson (1 hour 18 minutes)
  71. George Voros
  72. Reid Bates
  73. Peter Kinden
  74. Antony Makin
  75. James Williams
  76. Shari Aubrey
  77. Danny Cohen
  78. Karen Kennedy
  79. Alison McCormack
  80. Alec Jeffery
  81. Brad Lyell
  82. Bec Farmer
  83. Karen Hanna
  84. Robert Rozycki
  85. Jurien Dekter
  86. Andrew Moodie
  87. Damian Lanogun
  88. Leanne Tong
  89. Lawson Lam
  90. Peter Anderson
  91. William Lai
  92. Willy Gunawan
  93. Ross Moultrie
  94. Rohan Wills
  95. Brad Clark
  96. Dave Burns
  97. Lou Ciapannolo
  98. Tim Ling
  99. Phil Faure
  100. Pip Grinblat
  101. Robert Rusev
  102. Olivia Eckel
  103. Lee ‘Hollywood’ Turner
  104. Mike Edgar
  105. Greg Scudds
  106. Matt de Neef (1 hour 8 minutes)
  107. Andy van Bergen (1 hour 8 minutes)
  108. Sasha Stevanovic
  109. Libby Williams
  110. Bernie Peeler
  111. Peter Munn
  112. Dom Cryan
  113. Wendy Garrett
  114. Alex Faure
  115. Meredith Clark
  116. Tim Clark
  117. Zeinab Fakih
  118. Chris Wade
  119. Ron Peel
  120. Ric Falconer
  121. Andrew Sypkens
  122. Michael Koumanidis
  123. Tracey Miller
  124. Scott McFarlane
  125. Jamie Green
  126. Paul Bradley
  127. Leah Macgibbon
  128. Nic Newby
  129. Dan Burton
  130. Brian Beardon
  131. Linda Hobday
  132. Steven Payne
  133. Ben Hellena
  134. Josh Aitken
  135. Calan Page
  136. Allan Hill
  137. Chris O’Donnell
  138. Lisa Dell’Oro
  139. Andrew Harpur
  140. Sue Madden
  141. Sue Bourke
  142. Sonia Hutton
  143. Liz Jeans
  144. Maria Pearce
  145. Scott Fynmore
  146. Les Voros
  147. Joe Egan
  148. Paul D’Andrea
  149. Irene Ungo Caro
  150. K. Breen
  151. Michelle Mumford
  152. Peter Kennedy
  153. Carrie Lim
  154. Cheryl Tan
  155. Rachael Harfield
  156. Bronwyn Skowronski
  157. Karin-Camille King
  158. Jayde Ho
  159. Eugene Lee
  160. David Tran
  161. Wil Kong
  162. John van Seters

Previous rides in the series:

There are a number of other, unsupported rides that can count towards the 7 Peaks Domestique Series. Check out this page for all the details.

11 Replies to “7 Peaks Domestique Series ride #9: Lake Mountain”

  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity to complete my first mountain climb. The experience was truly amazing, and seeing all the other cyclists (who passed me) gave me much inspiration. Thank you John for your patience and encouraging words – I was indeed very grateful for your support!

    What convinced me to tackle this climb was this line from the FAQ section, ‘But what happens if I’m slower than everyone else? Simple: if you commit to riding a climb with us, we’ll make sure you don’t get left behind.’ And you truly lived up to this, so once again, thank you!

    The photo and mention in the write-up made the grueling ride that much sweeter 🙂

  2. Big thanks to Andy’s parents with the muesli slice!
    I was not expecting that at all! Chapeau.
    (Somehow I managed to get some go down the wrong pipe and nearly passed out whilst eating it. It wasn’t funny at the time but it is now that I think back about it…)

  3. My first ride with Hells500 and definitely not my last! Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the day which was very well organised very informative and everyone so keen enthusiastic and a pleasure to ride with! All were so happy to have a chat and share their experiences and from a female perspective very encouraging you should be very proud of the following you have great job guys! Look forward to doing many more climbs with you!

  4. Looks and sounds like it was a great day out on the bikes. Great to see so many women conquering the climbs. Can’t wait to join you for Buller and Baw Baw!

  5. Amazing weather, amazing turnout, amazing climbing, amazing organisation & amazing write up Matt. Thankyou for putting together such a great ride guys.

  6. It should be mentioned that we think there were up to 10 riders that forgot to write their name down – don’t forget to sign in for your chance to win that fantastic wheel set!

  7. Congratulations on getting so many riders to attend your Lake Mountain ride. I would have come, but I had a long ride planned for the following day (Warburton, Reefton, Lake Mountain return + Donna). See you at Buller and Baw Baw or at Bright for the Alpine Audax.

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