WINTER TRAINING JOURNAL II: THE MELBOURNE ALPS
We swapped the sunnier, warmer and slightly windier weather of Adelaide for a hit out in the beloved Melbourne Alps, formally known as the Dandenong Ranges. Paying homage to the early developmental phase of the Soup Boys transition from CBD fixie goon to "semi-unaccomplished road cyclist", a challenging and drop-the-fuck-outta-your-mates kind of route was chosen, with several roadblocks slowly causing the goals we each set at the start of the day to slowly but surely unravel. However even with impending, unforecast rain and near freezing cold temperatures we would not be swayed as we aimed to ride ourselves into something that at least resembled race ready form.
I: THE WARM UP
An old family favourite, the New York Tomato is situated nearby the House of Billydawgz, Alex's training camp hotel. In years gone by, many a training ride had begun, finished or been abandoned through laziness and hangover severity whilst sitting amongst its unique but cosy setting. On this particular morning the first caffé latte were consumed uninterrupted as plans for the day were hatched, and a prayer vigil to our Lord Tom Boonen was held in the hope that Jack (minus a phone) would manage to locate the meeting point for the days ride. Unfortunately that wouldn't be the case. For Jack however, it would turn out to be quite fortunate as conditions out in the Melbourne Alps (as is common with both actual and faux alpine regions) can change rapidly, thus they would not suit his riding style. And as much as we didn't want to take his name in vain, Lord did they change rapidly on this day.
II: METRO TRANSFER
The Metro Transfer (patented, trademarked & all that) is another Soup Boys favourite, born from the fact that we live, lived, or prefer to chill in the inner north west, thus prefer to save the legs from some slightly more exciting than Canterbury Rd type roads. A venture from Richmond Station, East Richmond if you are short a Myki gives you a perfect 40 minute journey to the station belonging to the village of Boronia at the foot of the Alps. Richmond station of course acts as a major gateway to local punters heading to the MCG for a game, or to watch perennial disappointments Richmond Tigers train week in week out – thus it is a cultural and culinary hub. Alex and Adrian had experienced such fine delicacies many a time before, but this time it was Lewis who copped a Hot Chocolate x Chicken Skewer 10am second breakfast collab. Providing you with the nutrition required to claim all the Strava KOM's along the Belgrave train line, it is also the perfect way to counteract even the most hella hangover. Meaning it can't be argued against. Ever.
III: ASCENDING (FROOMEY)
Once at the feet of the Melbourne Alps, the agenda for the rest of the day was largely positive. That was both in gradient ("Alps" = expected), weather (remember what we said about ever changing conditions?) and outlook (retrospectively naive af). The route decided upon was rather reminiscent of the Adelaide Hills, however there were a few hidden surprises in the way of higher gradients and significantly colder weather that sent Lewis into a spiral of constant complaint. This ever present whispering of "holy fuck it's cold" would be instantly countered by raising the point that it was "all part of the Melbourne Alpine Experience". Beginning with a bit of a leg burning attempt of the 1 in 20, Alex – whilst sprawled out across a park bench outside Gepetto's Workshop Sassafras crunched the numbers in comparison to his previous attempt at the end of the summer.
"I went to Melbourne with the hope of gauging my 6 month progress somewhat by Strava-nerding it up the 1 in 20 and possibly a few other Dandies climbs. I never have been much of a climber and my previous best time up there was an 18:22 (averaging about 265 watts, so about a measly 3.4w/kg for the data nerds). I was aiming for a sub 17 but wasn't sure what kind of wattage I'd need to push so I figured I'd stick with my best 15 minute power of 320 watts and see where it got me. Usually I would pace myself up the 1 in 20 so I can rest a bit on the false flat and give it a slog on the first and last sections. However I hadn't done the climb in the last 6 months and have a bad habit of overcooking it big time in the beginning and just evaporating in the last third of the climb. I figured I may as well just sit at a steady pace and hope my speed on the flat carried me. After a choice effort pacing, I managed to sit pretty on the desired wattage (319 or roughly 4w/kg) but only managed a 17:21. A vast improvement from my previous effort sure, but alas I didn't reach my goal. If only this were a less regular occurrence. I guess I'll need to lose a couple of kilos and get closer to 4.3-4.5w/kg for next time. Either way I've made strong progress in the last 6 months."
Remember what we said earlier about ever changing conditions? Well at the top of the 1 in 20 we checked the forecast, and fortunately for us the Dandenong's were throwing up a bit of consistency for us. Unfortunately for us, it was consistency in the way of consecutive days where sporadic showers, low lying fog and occasional icy breezes were forecast. The ascent of the 1 in 20 was pleasant enough, although not quite to the near smile cracking conditions of late spring, but as we hit the bottom of Perrins Creek Rd at that intersection that always sneaks up on you, a pleasant blanket of rain washed over us. As pleasant as that washing was, one thing that didn't fall in our favour was the noticeable loss of traction as the road got slightly steeper than the false flat of the mornings opening climb. Due to the slippery nature of the road; Aru, Contador or Tommy Voeckler climbing styles were thrown out, with a Froomey when in the saddle / Jonesy in the big dog sprint when out was forcibly adopted to ensure rear wheels didn't slide out from under our machines with every second pedal stroke. This specific tweak in climbing style, coupled nicely with the weather and gradient suited some riders (Alex and Adrian) more than others (Lewis) but Perrins Creek was summited with minimal fuss and at a brief pause in rainfall. A chance to catch breath was combined with a quick analysis of power data and cadence, Adrian scratching his head over the PB he just apparently set, comparison of leg pain and loss of feeling in our feet, and if we should modify the planned route at all. We soldiered on for now.
As we hit the Cima Coppi of the Melbourne Alps, Sky High – the temperature hit a fraction over freezing, allowing our half frozen bidons to at least think about defrosting. Bars and gels were consumed, and revolutionary toe warming techniques were employed amongst a sea of tourists who were confused as fuck over 3 beautiful young teens riding bicycles through such weather.
It's arguably one of the best parts about riding bicycles, and riding them up hills, particularly alpine ones. It's taking in the views. Sky High Mt Dandenong offers such fantastic panoramic views of the City of Melbourne. On a clear day, such was the case upon our arrival – it is not uncommon to be able to see the Mornington Peninsula across the majestic sweep of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne's ever expanding urban fringes, to the You Yangs on the western side of town, or to the hills that surround Kinglake. The perfect location to relax, unwind, gain a new perspective and escape the noise and pressures of the concrete jungle before beginning your descent to your car and/or Boronia Staish Metro Transfer.
Having been brought up on a diet of jazzy beats, premium steel bicycle frames and the masterful BAAW work of Dean Jones himself, Lewis a.k.a yung_lugo b.k.a Big Bubby Buego aims to spread the legacy of strong BAAW game worldwide. So strong is both his and Jonesy's game that we can't even show you the final outcome of this one just in case you've got your children looking over your shoulder.
Hydration is paramount on any training ride, whether in its natural form falling from the sky, taken from alpine stream (highly recommended) or acquired from a Yarra Valley Water Refill Station. These publicly accessible refill stations are a better alternative to bottled water for the community, both environmentally and financially. It encourages the community, or interstate scumbag Lewis here to reuse and refill their bottles and contribute to a cleaner and healthier future. So maybe Lewis isn't such a scumbag after all.
VI: DESCENDING (STONER)
With the degrees forever dropping, it was time for the gradient to follow suit. The precautionary checklist of glasses, booties and at least 1mm of brake pad remaining was completed and it was time to get business throwing some knees out (not in a ball sports injury type of way, but more in a Casey Stoner around Phillip Island kind of way).
Our training day in the Melbourne Alps offered us a rare choose your own adventure crossroads once our descending towards hopefully warmer weather began. Normally we would be militant in our enforcement of both the top tube tuck, and the top tube pedaling technique that Froome wishes he could mimic with our grace and poise. However due to the rather wintry conditions (odd for this time of year no?) we left the choice up to each individual rider. Sure, you could drop it low, nestle your head up against your handlebars and make the hella deserved aero gains – but there would be a drawback. More often than not you would cop a mad face full of dirt and/or shit and/or twigs, bark, leaves and/or water from the wheel in front and/or the echo of Lewis still complaining about the cold. It took all of 20 metres down the road we would descend before we recognised that for today, it was not the life we wanted to lead. So, with knees still being thrown out like all hell, a caffé latte pace descent (if we are capable of that) was maintained back into Sassafras.
VII: WARM DOWN
Still 1º celsius (with the sun out) upon our arrival back at Sassafras, the Soup Boys sought refuge at another family favourite. Ever since their debut in the Dandenong Ranges no more than 2 years ago they have been participating in the ritualised post ride caffé latte at the slightly hidden but superior surrounds of Café de Beaumarchais. With the new addition of a patio heater outside, it was the perfect place to dissect our power data, recaffeinate, gorge on enough gateaux to make Gabriel Gaté proud and hold a debate on best recovery practices. Alex got off to an early lead, and took a stranglehold on the debate when Adrian called for an adjournment after headbutting the café's power box twice (possibly the reason for the actual power outage that occurred. He apologises.) Alex was decided the eventual and rightful winner.
The caffé au lait (caffé latte) was warm, and the smorgasbord of bread and butter pudding, Portuguese tarts and numerous vegan friendly options provided us with a warm, fuzzy sensation inside, and the all important extra grams before we began our descent to the bottom of the mountain.
VIII: TRY IT AT HOME
There is so much to the Melbourne Alpine Region that you may not know where to start. Fortunately we have you covered. If you would like to replicate the loop we unconditionally tackle every time we head out there, you can find it here. See how you stack up.