One of the most satisfying moments I’ve had since starting this site was turning up to the Dirty Dozen ride in May and seeing 50 people ready and waiting to go. Almost as satisfying is the fact that others have taken inspiration from that ride and created their own local versions of the Dirty Dozen.
In this guest post, Adam Williss documents the thought and planning that went into organising the first ever Adelaide Dirty Dozen, and how the event unfolded last Saturday. All images appear courtesy of Richard Smith and Baron Von Thierry.
After being inspired by Melbourne’s take on Pittsburgh’s infamous Dirty Dozen it somehow seemed appropriate for us South Australians to put together a similar event. Although we lack any real mountains in Adelaide, we do have some wonderful steep hills straddling the eastern suburbs. After a few tweets back and forth with Dahondude, we were able to link a number of well-known climbs with some lesser-known ones, all with a starting point only 6km from the CBD.
A quick post on the Adelaide Cyclists website to gauge interest quickly showed that we were on to something. A date was set — Saturday September 1 — the first day of spring. Little did I know that being the author of that initial post would mean I’d be responsible for organising the event!
Finding myself in the pilot’s seat, I thought I might try to do something a little different to create a truly memorable event. Enlisting the aid of Red Berry Espresso (which I rate as the best coffee house in Adelaide) we set out to promote a weekly photo competition via Adelaide Cyclists. Every week a photo of one of the Dirty Dozen climbs was posted and the first person to guess the hill won a free coffee. This turned out to be a lot of fun and kept the event at the forefront of people’s minds over winter.
My second idea was to create an honour board or wall where we could collate the names of ‘Legends’ who have completed the event and forever commemorate those names as the list grows. I put the question out there: ‘Who wants to be an inaugural Legend of the Adelaide Dirty Dozen?’
With all the build-up to the event, I expected a turnout of around 25-30 riders come Saturday. But in the weeks before the ride, this number started to swell and by Friday we’d reached 50 starters, confirmed via RSVP on Adelaide Cyclists. I knew this would present difficulties coordinating regroups and rest points and any kind of hope absolutely went out the window when 76 riders turned up at the riders briefing on Saturday morning! This was going to be huge!
A fine and sunny day of 19ºC was forecast and although it was cold at dawn and on the first couple of climbs, it literally was the best weather Adelaide had turned on in months. Not a puff of wind and not a cloud in the sky — it was just awesome riding weather.
We rolled out of the start point smack on time and spun about 4km ‘up’ Norton Summit Road (at about 5%) towards the first of the climbs. I kept towards the back to try and gauge the ability of some of the others that would be comparatively ‘slower’. I really didn’t want to have to ask anyone to stop en route (and didn’t have to thankfully).
Climb #1 — Teringie Drive
Teringie Drive is a 900m rise at an average of 11.5%. It starts with a very steep pitch of 30m at close to 25%, followed by a sustained 500m, mid-climb, at close to 15%. All seemed well until one rider had to abandon when his rear derailleur snapped right off. Apparently the ricochet even cracked the frame on his one-month-old bike. Yikes!
Climb #2 — Horsnells Gully
In an effort to reach a baker’s dozen of climbs within the route, we included Horsnells Gully early in the day. This climb is a few kilometres long but ‘only’ rises at around 6%. It was certainly less of a challenge than other climbs on the route. A heads-up to those of you thinking of riding in next year’s edition: we’ll be taking that hill out and replace it with Heatherbank.
Climb #3 — Coach Road
Coach Road was always expected to be the first tester, and it truly was. It’s a nice hard slog of 2.4km with a triple kick of 16% then 18% and finally 20%+ ramps. It wasn’t until we were at the top that I think most people realised just how challenging the ride was going to be. Already some riders were zig-zagging and walking their bikes, and the regroup at the top of the hill was most welcome.
Climb #4 — Knox Terrace
Knox Terrace followed — an absolutely stunning ‘hidden’ climb in the suburbs with sensational views over the city. This climb didn’t cause too many dramas for people but a sustained gradient of 12% for over a kilometre ensured the hurt continued to build in the legs.
Climb #5 — Kensington Road
Kensington Road came in next and this climb really did splinter the field. Getting steeper and steeper as you climb, the final 700m of Kensington averages around 14% with one particular sustained pitch sitting at 18%.
My legs were still feeling good when I got to the top, largely because I was still riding toward the back trying to offer encouragement to slower riders. But judging by the zig-zagging, walking and cramp-stretching being undertaken by the rest of the field, the ride was starting to taking its toll.
Climb #6 –Ridgeland Drive
The peloton fractured on the descent of Kensi and the climb up to Norton Summit for the first toilet stop. The route to the regroup included Ridgeland Drive, which I found reasonably tough. The climb is 1.2km long and includes ramps of 22%, 17% and 18% to finish off.
A few others who had joined the event had approached me by this point to advise they had already reached their limit and were heading home to begin training for next year! I had already resigned myself to not being able to legitimately track who was joining and leaving the ride during the day — it had already become way bigger than I anticipated.
Climb #7 — Woods Hill Road
After the stop, the route took us through some of the best cycling roads in the Mt. Lofty Ranges. The next climb was Woods Hill Road – a short 800m climb of 8.1% average that didn’t cause too many issues. We then headed back through Ashton to Pound Road. At this point we lost at least one rider due to a wrong turn. There wasn’t much we could have done about it — route maps had been online for months, and verbal route instructions were given at each regroup. That said, I still feel bad about it.
Climb #8 — Burdetts Road
The descent of Pound Road was special, but nothing compared to the climb up Burdetts Road. I could hear nothing as I climbed that hill except for the puffing of my fellow riders and I and the twittering of birdlife. The climb straddles a magnificent valley with a little creek burbling its way along the bottom. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had to make a conscious effort not to talk for fear of ruining the serenity. Just spectacular!
Climb #9 — Pound Road
We took a safer descent option back to Pound Road and climbing that hill was the first time my legs started showing real signs of fatigue. It’s a long, steady climb of over 2km with the first quarter of the climb consistently above 12% and the remainder between 7-8%. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to be back on the undulations of Montacute Road while making my way to Fernhurst Road at Cherryville. We were at the business end of the day!
Climb #10 — Fernhurst Road
The next hill may well have been the toughest of the day. Fernhurst Road is a tight, steep and technical descent and about 500m down you just know it is going to hurt coming back up. Just because your legs are OK at the start of the climb, doesn’t mean they will be good at the top. Its unrelenting 11% average gradient for over 2km doesn’t give away its little steep pitches and lack of respite. Having said that, climbing that hill out of the dead-end valley with another 50 riders on Saturday was just spectacular!
It was a slow, painful slog and you could hear the cheers of relief once riders knew they had reached the summit. It’s another fantastic hill that is fairly well tucked away and doesn’t get ridden often. Many more people know about it now!
Climb #11 — Corkscrew Road
Unfortunately the nature of these hills caused the peloton to split even further and by the time we got to the Corkscrew we were a bit all over the place. I thought some riders were skipping the hill and waiting at the top, and gave the all-clear to start climbing, only to encounter a dozen or so guys descending during the climb. My apologies for that.
In addition, riders had been bailing left and right throughout the morning – some had legitimate time constraints, while others had waved the white flag. Either way, our ranks were getting noticably thinner at every climb.
At the top of Corkscrew we had a better regroup and I thought I would cleanse my guilt by riding back down the road a hundred metres or so to cheer riders on so they knew they hadn’t been abandoned. Thanks to the few of you who came with me — I’m sure the riders appreciated it … if they noticed us outside their circle of pain!
Corkscrew is Corkscrew – it hurts on the best of days (2.5km at 8.9% average with a couple of 15% pitches thrown in for good measure), but it just piled the fatigue onto my legs by this point.
Climb #12 — Tay Road/Kintyre Road
After the fast descent off Montacute Road, we had a brief regroup for a toilet stop and water refill before hitting a little suburbia with Stradbroke-Tay-Kintyre – a climb that averages some 8.2% over 1.5km. It includes several little ramps approaching 15% and is easy to underestimate.
Most of us made it up the hill fine, but there were certainly a few crawling up the last bit! The hill set things up nicely as the penultimate climb and by this stage I’m pretty sure everyone was nearing their limit.
Climb #13 — Coachhouse Drive/Woodlands Way
Finally we moved on to Coachhouse Drive-Woodlands Way — another climb that is difficult to put into words. Averaging more than 10% over 2.7km, the hill can be broken into several ramps that just get steeper and steeper – the final one hitting 25%! Looking up the hill about halfway through I couldn’t help but start giggling — riders were sprawled across the road at every possible angle and many had stopped and started walking, some were zig-zagging, and others were powering up. There was not one person who wasn’t digging as deep as they could just to get up the climb. I had nothing left when I got up it — a fitting finale in my books!
A quick estimate at the top of the final climb had us at under 40 riders — an attrition rate of roughly 50%. A tough ride indeed, but not tough enough for some. A few riders noticed they were just under the 3,000m vertical ascent mark and decided they had to go and find another little hill to tip the scale over. It is not often that 3,000m vertical is reached in a single-day ride around Adelaide!
The rest of us cruised back to Red Berry Espresso for some food and a coffee and to share some banter about the ride. Thanks to the owner Walter for the spectacular service — I really appreciated his involvement in the event. It was a shame he couldn’t quite get to the finish with us but you could tell he was smashing his limits to get as far as he did (9 hills?). An impressive effort.
Another big thanks must go to Mark Ferguson (Spartacus) for supporting us with a sag wagon and providing us with First Aid, extra water and a supply of bananas. He had a real feel for how we were travelling, even from his car. And thanks again to Torsten Bunge for the donation of the crate of bananas. They disappeared all too quickly, but were really appreciated by all who rode. I remember someone saying at the end of the ride that it was the best-supported ‘unsupported’ group ride he’d ever been on!
A big thank you to all the riders who were patient with me as a first time ride organiser — I appreciated all your kind words during the day and your kind comments since. By the sounds of things you all enjoyed yourselves and are already promising to be back bringing mates along as well. We could even crack 100 riders next time around; now that would be something!
Thanks to Richard Smith and Baron Von Thierry for tagging along and taking photos of the day. If you’d like to see more of their terrific pics — and there are hundreds — follow the links here and here.
So, do you want to know how many finished and became inaugural ‘Legends of the Adelaide Dirty Dozen’? So do I. Once I get the paperwork I’ll start whittling away at it, but I’m gonna have to rely on the honesty of many riders in letting me know whether they finished or not. It just got too big for me to manage the comings and goings.
Which brings me to one final question: what are you doing on the first Saturday of spring, 2013?