In the three seasons we’ve run the Domestique 7 Peaks Series we’ve been extraordinarily lucky with the weather. We did have a laughably wet day at Mt. Buller two years ago and our 2014/15 series-opener at Lake Mountain a fortnight ago was cold and drizzly, but regular service resumed on Saturday with sublime weather at Mt. Buller.
In fact, as the crowd slowly gathered at the Mirimbah Picnic Ground ahead of our 2pm start, it was clear that we were in for quite a warm ride. Just two weeks ago we’d been decked out in arm and leg warmers and rain jackets at Lake Mountain; at Mt. Buller knicks and unzipped jerseys were the order of the day.
After a pre-ride briefing everyone gathered on the road near the Mirimbah tollbooth for a group photo. With a full road closure secured for the ride we were able to send everyone off together, rather than in waves.
Normally at our Domestique 7 Peaks Series rides, Andy and I tend to start at the back and ride our way through the field (or at least part of it). But on Saturday we did things a little differently. We started at the front and, for me at least, it was a mirror image of normal proceedings. I started at the front and quickly worked my way backwards through the field, unable to keep pace with the multitude of strong riders in the bunch.
As the opening kilometres ticked by, I found it hard to get into a comfortable rhythm. On paper the Mt. Buller climb looks quite steady (apart from the last few kilometres) but in reality there are a lot of little gradient changes throughout. I find that when I’m fit it doesn’t matter too much, but on Saturday I just couldn’t get a good rhythm. The heat certainly wasn’t helping.
The great thing about riding in a big group with hundreds of other cyclists around you, is that it’s easy to get lost in conversation and get distracted from the challenge of the climb. After struggling initially, the remaining kilometres of the climb rolled by and, faster than expected, I was passing the Mt. Sterling turn-off and beginning the steep final section to the Mt. Buller Alpine Resort.
There are a couple of pretty nasty corners in that final 1.5km to the village, the aptly named ‘Hell Corner’ in particular. A guy riding next to me at the time summed it up pretty well: “I hate this f%*&ing corner!”
In previous years we’ve finished the ride at the Mt. Buller resort, as per the official 7 Peaks passport, but this time around we did things slightly differently. For those of you that have climbed Buller before you’ll know that there’s an alternate finish (arguably the real finish) to the sealed ascent: the Arlberg Hotel, just before the road turns to dirt.
It’s an extra 1.5km or so from the resort entrance to the Arlberg but it’s certainly the hardest section of the climb. Even the steep ramp of Hell Corner feels comfortable compared with the steep grades (10%+) up to the Arlberg. As I rode down that final steep section, having dragged myself up there a few moments earlier, I got to witness a bunch of fantastic pain-faces courtesy of those still battling the slopes. It’s a brutal little ramp to end with, but it really does increase the feeling of satisfaction when you reach the top.
In the end we had roughly 220 riders on the day — a very satisfying turn-out given the distance from Melbourne (about three hours’ drive) and the fact it was state election day. And as always, everyone that took part on the day had their own story to tell. For some people it was their first mountain climb (great job!), for others it was a good opportunity to do repeats (chapeau!) and for others it was a perfect chance to get out for a hilly ride and start building some form ahead of summer. If you came along I’d love to hear your story from the day in the comments below.
As ever there are a handful of wonderful people I need to thank. To our terrific volunteers — Andy’s wife Tam, my dad Ron, our lanterne rouge Aaron, Dr Ryan and to Marion — thanks for giving up your time, again. To Ben and the gang at the Mt. Buller Alpine Resort: thanks for being such a pleasure to work with. And to our sponsors — Sukkie, Winners Cycling (use the discount code “DOMESTIQUE” for 10% off all products) CycleCover and Tourism North East — thanks for your continued support.
And speaking of support, if you like what we’re doing with the series and want to help us out, head to the Domestique Cycling website, click on “Shop” and buy a little something. It all helps!
After the quick turn-around between Lake Mountain and Mt. Buller we’ve now got nearly a month until we head up to the High Country for the next rides in the series. In three action-packed days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve we’ll climb Falls Creek, Mt. Hotham, Mt. Buffalo and Dinner Plain. It’s a big weekend, but it’s also a whole bunch of fun. Head to the Domestique website for more info.
And while we’re on the subject of that trip: we’re currently looking for a couple of people to help us out. For a start, we’re looking for a photographer for the weekend. Accommodation is provided and you’ll be reimbursed for your time. We’re also looking for someone that can help us put out and pick up road signs before and after each ride. If you’re able to help us with either of these roles (or if you know someone that can) please get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime I hope you enjoy the fantastic photos from Saturday’s Mt. Buller ride courtesy of Kirsten Simpson. You can download low-resolution copies of any of the images from the day by heading to Kirsten’s website and using the password “Domestique”. If you’d like to support the great work Kirsten does, please consider buying a high-res photo or two as well. You can do so at her website.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’re enjoying the start to summer.