GIRO DELLA SUPER SEXY DON
With summer mere days away, it was time to roll the legs over one final time in the name of trying to find "adventure form". We would travel from all over to the small town of Warburton, the setting of so many bakery based recovery sessions and hill repeats. The CyclingTips Giro Della Donna isn't the most historically significant Gran Fondo around, but it just might be one of the hardest and lushest. After a lead up week further proving the existence of global warming, we travelled out to the Yarra Ranges in a sauna, ready to fine tune our tan lines for the last Sunday of spring. But the jokes would be on us.
A 125km ride along such challenging terrain requires a stringent and hardcore training regime to ensure legs are primed and ready as you roll out of Warburton. Fortunately, the timing of the GPG ‘Great Tasmanian Oyster Tour’ couldn’t have been any better. We sent Dean down there as the sacrificial lamb, all part of a character building assignment. Route-master Cam gives Ado a proper run for his money in the stitch up Olympics, so its no doubt the route from Devonport to Hobart was full of hills, gravel, and cooked times. Like letters sent home from the war, Dean provided us with brief day by day recaps, despite the probable headspins and blacking out of post day-in-the-saddle beers.
↑ Day 1. Devonport to Launceston for craft beers.
↑ Day 2. Mt Barrow & Jacobs Ladder. Goddamn beautiful.
↑ Day 3 - Piercing sun, double punctures and unexpected headwinds made for a long 160km ride to the east coast.
↑ Day 4 - To the beach. After the last day, we finally lucked out with tailwinds for 130km to Triabunna where beers and parma awaited us.
↑ Day 5 - Caught in the middle of a rare heatwave on our way to Hobart, we looked for any excuse to get off our bikes.
↑ More from day 5. Riding up the footpath on a one way street like tourists.
II: SKIPPING EAST RICHMOND
Running errands, a double puncture in the bike-shop-free region of the Kensington Ranges and disgusting humidity pushed the intended roll out time of 12.30 back an hour. Some we’re still recovering from GPG Tas, some were driving, Don and Adrian however were all aboard the Lilydale Express. Stopping all stations except East Richmond. The mellow hour spent on the train used to plan out the impending 36 hours, future weekends and future builds.
Rolling on tubulars, in the sticks and off the train we hit the Lilydale - Warburton rail trail. The humidity had ceased a little, replaced by unrelenting sun that would keep us toasty for the 40km transfer ride.
At the end of this flat, gravelly stretch we were warmly welcomed to Warburton with the locals formal greeting; car horns and middle fingers. Only too happy to return the greeting, we engaged in a short game of cat & mouse along the main stretch through town, breaking for a pit stop at the bakery. The Soup Boys Patent Pending Recoverée Drink engaged: choccy milk and Coca Cola. A flat lay of pure health.
III: THIS WEEK ON AMC'S THE WALKING DEAD
Mostly Starring: Peta Mullens, Linden, Alby, the Mysterious Mediterranean Gangster known as LSD, Gregør & an assortment of other token doomsday preppers.
Guest Producers: Andy van Bergen, Forest Walkers, CyclingTips
Cinematography: Adrian & Ben XL
On this weeks episode of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ – the group find themselves entering the mountains. Somehow since the last episode they have left Virginia and ended up in upstate Vermont. Lush. A seemingly quiet and leafy town has been overrun, and the scouting group twists and turns their way through house after house in search of supplies – namely food and water, or rum, or bourbon, or tawny, or beer.
Along the way they stumble into numerous traps along the way, a speaker inside a house, feet-dragging walkers hidden in shadows of houses, and strategically placed cowbells that alert local hordes. While we aren’t sure of their true origin, whoever set these traps must be watching closely.
Guided by a holy chain the group works their way through the final house in the village, and after a short gun fight to fight off a few stragglers - they happens upon a small village, other real-life humans are there. Will they join forces and work together to fight off the undead? Or will tensions boil over? Tune in next time.
IV: BETWEEN TWO FERNS
A major drawcard of the entire Giro Della Donna weekend was the attendance of absolute legend of the sport; Marianne Vos. With a list of achievements that are too long to write down even for our lengthy standards, she was in Australia having just wrapped up some riding through the Victorian Alps.
Sporadically spotted roaming the surrounds of the CX during the afternoon, her official debut guest appearance was at Scott McGrory’s take on “Between Two Ferns”, Brendan Canty the final member up on stage. They told very different stories of how their careers had evolved, spoke of burning out, not burning out, returning from injury, and in the case of Marianne – what life in the juggernaut of the Dutch National Women’s Team is like, particularly around the time of the Rio Olympics. While there could have been never-ending tales from both Marianne and Brendan, they were trumped by a need for carbohydrates, Between Two Ferns with Scott McGrory ending with rapturous applause. Has Galifianakis ever had that?
V: THE SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH OF THE DECADE
We interrupt this race reportagé to bring you an important scientific breakthrough. We’ve seen numerous product reviews that extensively detail the experience of road, mountain bike, and do it all cycling shoes, but yet to see the comparative review that really matters, the one that REALLY MATTERS.
ADIDAS ADISSAGE SLIDES vs BIRKENSTOCK ARIZONA'S
Time: Saturday 25th November – 20:03:00
Wind Speed: Lower-Belgian
Air Pressure: Under
Sun Intensity: Minimal
Connectivity: Sketchy 3G (Optus)
Adrian – Adidas Slides (Mediterranean)
Size: 3 in Roman Sandals
Material: Synthetic made from melted Lira notes
Colour: exactly double the darkness of Greek blue, the exact white used in the Italian flag
Weight: same as a generous slice of Galaktopoureko
Key Feature: Doric Column level Bubble-techque with integrated curl it into the top corner assist
Price: 24 packets of Barilla Bucatini = $45AUD
Kip – Birkenstøck Arizona's (Nordic)
Size: humble 40 mens
Material: very bååd vegetarian leather
Colour: neutrål hyperbœlised lake region underbrush brœwn
Weight: as heavy as black rye bread with butter and fermented pickled herring
Key Feature: actual fashion/constant foot massage
Price: 12 shields of Scandinavian enemies = $79AUD
Several highly qualified scientific researchers (all of which wear glasses) were perched on a viewing platform above, while the two test patients, experienced in the realms of footwear #sneakerheads were down at road level. They would document the experience via a live televised Instagram video feed, allowing members of the broader scientific community to engage with the breakthrough experiment.
Our test course was provided to us by the lower slopes of Mount Donna Buang, the perfect terrain to test the overall cycling performance, comfort, value for money and steeze. Local residents had emerged from their homes eager to lay witness to the potential for scientific breakthrough. Would tonight be a night they tell their great grandchildren about? Probably.
The advantage of the live televised Instagram video feed meant that our scientific experiment was peer reviewed in real time, unheard of in the academic world. We would like to formally thank B. Rides for informing us that the strenuous gradient of Mount Donna Buang doesn’t average 8% but in fact 6%. That being said after we got back in the lab, and added up sums that included our tyre pressures, existing fatigue, footwear choice, air pressure, gear ratio, wind speed and downforce - the average gradient was in fact 11%! If we could find that journal article from Matt de Neef we would pick holes all the way through it – oh here it is.
The test patients were left undecided, blinded by their bias towards either footwear option. To ensure that there was enough sufficient data collected to analyse back in the lab, 3 ascents and accompanying descents were undertaken and documented by the team. We have since left it up to the general public to predict as we are still busy extrapolating the relevant data, of which there is an awful lot of.
So which is it? Adidas or Birkenstock?
VI: LA FABBRICA
Before the scientific experiment both inspired and sidetracked our fearless #squad – Adrian was on his way back to The Factory with a musette filled with bottles of the cheapest Solo you will possibly find anywhere (70c per 1.25L). As the data was processed through their relevant analysis machines, Kip got to whipping up his famed Third Date Special – well remembered after its appearance the night before Ol Dirty.
One by one the remainder of the squad filtered through town and onwards to The Factory. First Slade, then Matt, finally the social butterfly known as Mr Jones. Classical music filled the air to Star Wars playing on the TV, as 3kg of pasta slowly whittled its way down to a handful of penne pieces by nights end.
VII: CONTADOR MASTERCLASS
Just like late nights during July, SBS only brought in TDU coverage after the 5m neutral zone. The producers would rue the decision as the combination of missed alarms, the rushing of numbers being pinned and Clif bars for breakfast meant that the rest of the day balanced precariously on the experiences had up the first climb – the Reefton Spur.
Once the bridge was crossed the pace immediately rose, the much anticipated battle between Cam and Slade kicking off immediately as lights went out. Adrian, Don and Dean would follow a few bike lengths behind, attacking one another as their gruppo fell to pieces. Mr Mitch Wells of friendly agency VTWO was there to document the whole thing, snapping a few photos before switching to video mode for the rest of the climb.
Slade came out on top in the Battle of Reefton, Cam a few minutes behind. Spurred on by the shouts of “OMG its the Soup Boys!” while ascending drove Adrian to third just a few seconds behind, Dean and Don a few minutes back. Brief bragging rights were soon filled with regret as the rain, like proper full on mountain rain, began to fall at our position in the first rest area; around 1000m above sea level. The others were yet to be seen.
VIII: A MISJUDGED FORECAST
Little did we know something else was happening just a hundred metres back down the road, something huge. A touch too much wine, all that pasta. A pre-roll out restroom visit had taken place earlier, but Kip still had so much more to give. A maiden ascent up Reefton Spur, something super challenging in its own right was compounded deeply by the bubbling category 9 shit that was building and churning a la Cloaca Professional. After the final stretch of the climb he was granted by the Gods of race organisation access to some portaloos, a patient Matt Lew waiting by the roadside as Kip ticked off one of the greatest accomplishments of his life.
Now 6kg lighter, Kip began descending bordering on aquaplaning down to Marysville. It would be a few kilometres from the bottom at the “Epic Lookout” that he would rejoin a portion of the group who had stopped to pose and have their photos taken. Immediately after a quick brake check it was back down the -10%ers and into Marysville, refuge sought inside the bakery walls.
“It will probably be raining, but it will be hot as fuck.”
Now famous words from chief moniteur of the BOM app the night before; Cam. Everyone was decked out in their summer jerseys, the exception being Okky who was smart enough to pack a spare jacket. The rest of us were without arm warmers, gilets, jackets, hell even gloves, but the warmth of Marysville bakery pies and pasties fought of the hypothermia and numbness – Dean as always going the extra mile to ensure he was protected from all of the elements.
We played cat and mouse with the weather for a period of 15 minutes, heading in and out of the bakery while monitoring the BOM app like some over-caffeinated cryptocurrency investor. Eventually it would be one of the local marshals that would move us along, letting us know that in 5 minutes the sag wagon would be passing through town and we would officially be “off the back”. So, just like we did a few months before, we head up the hill and out of Marysville, only this time it was in the pouring rain, and we knew the whereabouts of Ron (safe and sound and dry, at home).
The rain eased off, and patches of open sky could be seen across the valley as we turned onto Acheron Way. As the most experienced rider of the region, Cam provided us with an extensive play by play of this famous stretch of road – his knack for medaling in the stitch up Olympics and the fact he straight up lied about the weather forecast was taken into account. But his assessment rang true. Acheron Way was something of beauty, that 1% incline for many kilometres gives a strong sense of accomplishment, it's riding but just a tiny bit more strenuous, like weight training in extra Gs.
Not long into the gravel sector Cam would go on the attack, Adrian and Don the only two who could follow. The would spit themselves out in the humidity of Cement Creek at the hairpin half way up Mount Donna Buang, opting to chill their way to the top, assuming they would get caught by their pursuers somewhere around the magic fountain. That wouldn’t be the case. Dean punctured unknowingly a corner away from a puncture repair station along the gravel sector of Acheron Way, and keeping with the lazy times, the second group would bail on the final roasting of Donna and head home. The others would descend in the freezing cold rain on carbon wheels, brake pads on their last legs. At Cam's place we whipped out the garden hose and sprayed each other down with freezing mountain water, which in a way felt similar to some kind of ritualistic baptism, one after the other, howling out as the jet of it hit our backs.
IX: A LETTER OF THANKS
And so with our really underdone preparation, and truly half baked but full cooked participation of the Giro Della Donna our wee lil’ partnership with CyclingTips wraps up for 2017. They invited us into the inner sanctum one afternoon at the start of the year, and having only an afternoon to catch our drift gave us a few opportunities we certainly wouldn’t have been able to forge ourselves. For whatever reason they entrusted us with a couple of cars, ten bikes, gear and the blood offering of one of their video guys as we RoadTrapped Canberra, AVB entrusted us with Lantern Rouging and Playlist-making the Ol Dirty, gave us cars to gallivant all over the state to race cyclocross, and perhaps proving that their primary motive was having us cook ourselves on 2 wheels, invited us along for the weekend to see how far it takes us to hit breaking point. Well your plan failed, for now our resolve is stronger than ever and we damn well know that 220km on a late April day is an impossible feat when you’re starting your ride at 1pm.
But all in all cheers to the m8’s at CyclingTips. Who knows what the shit 2018 brings for the both of us, but I guess now that we're taking a bit of a break, and have a little bit of distance between the two of us we can reveal something pretty big. We've been holding onto this one since January...
Harry is the Secret Pro.