Sunday, 6 November 2011

2011 Stratford to Dargo Cycling Victoria Event - C Grade

This weekend I conquered a mountain, along with a few other climbs thrown in for good measure. To make it harder, the bunch was pushing it most of the way and the temperature was up in the mid to high 30's. It was my home club, the Wellington Cycling Club's annual Cycling Victoria event. Photos of the event can be found here at Aurora Photography. Some say this is the toughest event in the CV calendar and as it was my first, I would have to agree. C Grade had the largest field with 21 one registered riders competing as we rolled out at 9.40am. I am not sure everyone knew what was ahead of them with two riders breaking off the front just past race neutral. There was some discussion on weather to chase, but I said to the bunch to let them go as it was a bold move. From there it was fairly relaxed until Beverly's Road (a 15km stretch of undulating road) where the pace started to pick up as gap grew closer to 3minutes.

The first selection came on the climb just after the wooden bridge (which unfortunately took a victim whose wheel got caught in between the boards), where the race really started to heat up and a number of riders started disappearing of the back. By this point, I had already received my first cramp and consumed as much food and drink as I could before the first feed station at 60k's. This being my first CV event, as an after thought I packed a musette with food and drink which turned out to be handy as the bunch rolled through without stopping. After I reloaded, I had unfortunately got slightly off the back of the bunch and had to fight to get back on.

From there, we started descending with one great straight stretch on the Bairnsdale to Dargo Rd allowing myself to hit a top speed of 90km/h which smashed my previous personal best. Unfortunately this all came to an end with one last climb before Dargo.  The break was still clear with a gap over approaching 4mins and the hammer was down all the way up the climb. Unfortunately, I was on the verge of blowing up for quite a while and another cramp (coincidentally occurring as a rider broke off the front) saw myself lose touch with the bunch at the 85km mark just before the descent into Dargo. If only I could have held on a little further....

Riding into Dargo alone, I had backed off the pace of knowing I wouldn't catch the bunch and remembering what was ahead of me. I didn't stop at Dargo, dropping my first neutral water but I managed to hold onto the second and kept pedaling through with cheers of support from the Wellington club members volunteering on the day.  I knew this final climb was going to be tough gaining 870m over 11km with an average gradient of 8%. I climbed the first section no worry passing a few stray C graders. But it was the next part that killed me averaging 11-12% for what felt like an eternity (realistically it was around 1.5k's). There was no shade and  my Garmin was showing temperatures up to a whopping 38degC. I was starting to feel dehydrated and I may have stepped of my bike in a shady section not knowing there was respite about 300m up the road. From there on it, it was a matter of just getting to the line and as the gradient relaxed to 5-6%, I felt a little better with speeds starting to top a massive 12km/h.
(2011 A Grade Winner - Jason Spencer)

As I passed the 1km to go, it was just me and 'The Wall.' 500m of  road with gradients up to 19% and the the whole time you could see the finish line taunting you to keep pushing. By this point, everyone in site was walking and two simultaneous cramps didn't make it a hard decision to get off. With the pleasant walk over, it was time to get on the bike and roll the last 200m to the finish line in a time of approx. time 4hrs 10 minutes. It was over and I could not have been more relieved. Facts as per my Garmin 500 (ride details here):

Distance: 105.56 km
Time: 4:11:45 (to be updated once official results are released)
Avg Speed: 25.2 km/h
Elevation Gain: 2,282 m
Calories: 2,814 C
Avg Temperature: 31.1 °C

Overall, it was probably the single most toughest thing I have ever done and in the end finishing was an achievement in itself. Next year, I will be back with a compact group set (as a 39/28 combo made the last climb tough) and a lot more training (Inverness repeats essentially until you are forced to walk).


  1. Good work. I was in C as well, got spat out the back on the first big climb. Tough day out but very satisfying to have finished.

  2. Nice work. You should be really pleased with your effort!

    I watched most of the race from the comms car (I was the guy who went over his handlebars early). I thought you were gone for all money a couple of times but you really fought hard to hang on.

  3. thanks for the comments guys - yeah i was close to going a few times, I didn't have much left in the bank and it was just lucky no one came past at 100k's cause I was ready to throw it in.