There is no Strava segment that I have had more repeated attempts at setting a hot time than I have on Burgundy St. I’d guess there would be half a dozen attempts I rode hard enough to max out my heart rate and had the shakes afterwards. And the effort that hurt the most is not even my fastest!
Burgundy St is a kicker that you might find in one of the Spring Classics. It’s not that long, but the gradient increases as you go straight uphill, so an effort gets harder as you go, and if you hit it too hard at the start, you will definitely pay for it in the last couple of hundred metres. An average of 9% for 500m sounds like a piece of cake for a puncheur, and a fit ride can spin up the climb with ease, but anything under 1:20 requires a lot of grit to keep up the momentum when the gradient kicks up towards the end. Burgundy St after the lights
Christmas Eve, 2015, and I was heading out to my folks place in Greensborough for a catch-up with family. I’d been hitting segments hard having recovered from the double everesting at the start of the month, and was enjoying the training of short, sharp efforts, rather than massively long rides. With temperatures in the 30s, and a slight but rare north easterly wind, conditions were prime to hit Burgundy St hard.
Warming the legs up were easy with those temperatures, so I looped around Yarra St to get a good run into the climb. My now well known secret to a fast Burgundy St climb is to keep it in the big dog! I was running a 53 big ring on my Giant at the time, so if you start fairly fast and get over the gear, it’s just a matter of holding that momentum (easier said than done).
Feeling good early on, I had no intentions of slowing up this effort or holding back for another ride – I was all in on this one! At the point after the pedestrian bridge, where the climb rudely increases gradient, I was really feeling it. But a quick look down at my Garmin showed me to be setting a cracking pace. Keeping over that big gear, I was pretty fucked for that final, steep pinch. I gave it my all, but my legs were protesting in agony. The hot, dry wind was sucking everything out of me, and I was wheezing for the last 30 metres or so of the turning lane. But I was still able to keep cranking the pedals at a decent rate until the very final metres, basically cracking as I went over the line and onto the footpath at the top.
Proper stuffed! The little car park at the top that is the re-group point for the Tour de Burbs ride normally is my place of quick respite to catch my breath for a few moments whilst the bunch comes in. On this occasion, I felt close to collapsing everything hurt so much. The worst of it was my lungs – they really felt burnt. A tickle had developed in my throat, and I’d started to cough. My eyes were tearing up, and water was doing nothing for me. Riding out to Greensborough mostly into that hot dry wind certainly didn’t help – it was early evening but the heat was still radiating off the road. By the time I got there, I was red in the face and showing signs of asthma… I’m not asthmatic, and it looked pretty stressful to my family. When asked if I was okay, because clearly it looked like I wasn’t, I just responded over stifled coughs that I was fine, I was just attempting to set the fastest time up Burgundy St.
I uploaded the ride in Greenborough, pretty much ignoring all the Christmas food on offer until I’d seen the time. I wasn’t satisfied that I’d come anywhere near close to the KOM, having lost all confidence at the very top of the climb. But 1:01 showed up on Strava and I was elated! My quickest time, and I felt like I was capable of more at the top! Not quite an early Christmas present, but I felt confident of shedding a little more time.
No real data for this one – my HR monitor wouldn’t kick in, and I was yet to put a power meter on. But I’d suspect somewhere around 600w for the one minute effort, and I’m pretty sure I would have maxed my heart rate in that heat.
3 weeks later I was tapering for the Pioneer Stage race in NZ. No more big rides, but lots of KOM hunting on beautiful summer evenings. On January 17 I gave Burgundy another crack after being quite daunted by another attempt. I won’t go into too much detail, because somehow this one didn’t hurt all that much. But an average speed of 30.5km/h, with an average of 604W gave my 55kg frame a smoking time of 59 seconds to match the KOM (which is held by a bloke that won the “wall” event at Amy’s Grand Fondo – I feel pretty good to be in such company).
Sometimes your hardest efforts will not reward you with your fastest time. If it really hurt, but you know the conditions were poor, or your legs weren’t quite there or that latte is sitting heavy in your gut, it is worth having another go. I definitely want to take that KOM outright, and figure I have to both feel good and put myself in the box like I did on the Christmas Eve attempt