The Strava summary of Invermay Rd, 1.1km at an average gradient of 10%, belies the true difficulty of this classic Dandenongs climb. Some climbs have a steep bit – Invermay Rd has a ridiculously steep bit – hitting over 20% and proceeding straight up. You can’t even see the top when approaching from the bottom!
John Van Seters first took me up the climb on his tour of the Nongs, and I’ve only ridden it twice since… mostly because there are other options. The second ascent was with Luke Chippindall, and he was trying to set a PR – so naturally the rest of the group rode it fast as well. Surprisingly, I found myself sitting second overall from that ride, so I was keen to go back.
Two days later, I set out to the Nongs with a bit of a rampage on my mind. The Basin to Skyhigh was the first target (an effort which I have already written about), following it up with a crack at the Crescent (10th overall and I was feeling smashed after segment one, but I would go back another day), next was Invermay and I would extend that to Skyhigh for another KOM attempt.
My confidence was much lower than my heart rate at the bottom of Invermay – I was pretty happy with the Basin to Skyhigh effort, but it really emptied my tank for the Crescent, and that in turn left me running on fumes for Invermay. But I figured I should hit it again, and could then cruise up to Skyhigh and set a good time for the longer segment.
Rounding a bend, one finds oneself looking up at the first pinch of Invermay Rd and the start of the segment. It’s only short, but still quite steep, and got me warmed up for the main event. Throwing down 500 odd watts, I had to take it relatively easy so as not to burn out for the steeper part. 500 Watts – easy? No, not so much. It was bloody hard.
With the tarmac levelling off briefly, I had time to catch my breath a little, but with the new addition of a power meter, I was conscious of the screen and didn’t let off the gas too much. Soon enough the road shot up in front of me – much like a rollercoaster, although in this direction the cart would be torquing it’s way up the track at low speed.
Revisiting my data from that ride, my cadence is probably of most interest. I must have been churning a large gear – not unusual for me on a hill, especially if trying to go fast on something short. The first steep part had me riding around the mid 60rpm mark – most likely I would have been trying to power over the start. It then crept up to mid 90s for the flatter part, before dropping down to mid 40s on the steepest face!
At approximately 8km/h, I found myself pulling up on the bars whilst simultaneously pushing most of my weight down on one pedal. A little bit of weight actually needed to be spared to keep the rear wheel connected to the road! I can’t emphasise enough how difficult a club such as this can become on your upper body. Sure, if you have easy gears on your bike, you can spin up a very steep climb. But with a standard crankset, and narrow road bars, I was forced to push the bike with everything I had to get it up that hill with speed.
And of course, one final pedal stroke eventually got me over the crest. About 150m more would get me to the end of the segment. I was completely hammered. My heart rate wasn’t all that high – not a good sign on such a short segment. I couldn’t give that road a final push – I was happy enough to get to the finish, let alone quickly. Grunting over the finish, I didn’t pause to look at the time – that would have to wait for later… I was still on a KOM hunt, and it would finish at the top of Skyhigh.
So how did I go? 2nd overall – exactly one second faster than my time two days prior and 13 seconds slower than the KOM. But I did get the top time when I extended Invermay to the top of Skyhigh, and only today I discovered that another segment has been set-up for Invermay Road…. a full segment from the intersections at both ends, adding an extra 20 vertical metres and about 300m. How does my time from that effort fair on this newly created segment (not created by me, by the way)? I’ve currently got the KOM!
Invermay Base to Wall – 1.4km at 10% average gradient completed in 4:59s
Average Speed: 17.2km/h
Max Speed: 31.7km/h
Average Heart Rate: 168bpm
Max Heart Rate: 178bpm
Average Power: 342W
Average Cadence: 65rpm