This is up there amongst my favourite climbs going around. Nestled off the main road in Sassafras, it winds it way mostly gently up from near the Monbulk road. When I say gently, it averages 5% for 3.3km, with some rather harsh kicks at more like 11%. However, it is such a beautiful, tree-lined climb, that’s it’s easy to enjoy it over and over (which I have done on one occasion). The only downside is that it is a very sheltered area, and as such, doesn’t get a lot of sun. The temperatures can quickly plummet and the road can stay slick for days.
I set my eyes on the KOM after an NBRCC ride took me up it for my second ascent a few weeks prior, and I’d set a pretty decent time. Knowing I had more in the tank if I rode a measured effort, I was sure I could do better. Attempt two lifted me into the top 10 on the Strava board, but I’d used too much energy chasing another segment that day (and spent myself completely with one more effort that day… 2/4 targets was pretty good). Tom Leaper had held the segment since 2012… Tom is an exceptionally strong rider, far better than myself, but I’m of the opinion that KOMs should not be held for that long!
The bloody lungs occurred on this ride on January 15, 2016. Jarrod Stonham and I had a Friday morning free to ride, so after the regular ACDC bunchie, we took a steady pace out to the nongs to warm up the legs, but not burn any matches. Jarrod had his sights set on a PB up the adjacent Perrins Creek Road, which meant we could start at the same time and meet at the top to chat about our efforts and roll home. The temperature was on the cool side – I like it pretty warm for an attempt. But otherwise it was clear with light, favourable winds (although I can’t see much advantage with wind, the climb is that surrounded)
The tricky thing about the Crescent segment is that it is in a bit of a GPS dead spot. It’s not unusual for a rider to not pick up the segment at all (there is another similar segment that tends to register when this happens). Not only that, the segment finishes right at the t-intersection, meaning you’ve really gotta give it all and hope that you can roll safely through. And I’m partial to using Strava live segments, giving me a virtual partner to chase in real time – this drops out on the Crescent, so you have to be a bit more traditional.
At the bottom of our respective climbs, Jarrod and I ditched water out of bidons, and bid each other good luck. Knowing I wouldn’t have a live time to follow, I set a lap timer to give me a good idea of how I was going. But more importantly, I utilised my power meter to push me harder. I was confident of holding 330W (6W/kg) for the 8 odd minutes I’d need to post a good time.
This effort burnt from the get go! Averaging 330W was seriously challenging for me. The start of the climb is less severe, and I found myself really pushing over a big gear to get some momentum up. After a couple of minutes, I settled into a good rhythm and was cranking along, knowing I was well set-up for the hairpin turned that singles an increase in gradient. Confidence was the key to success – I knew I could put in good time on the first steeper grades. And a measured effort helped me keep the power balanced to unleash a little more.
The second sting is the real killer on The Crescent. The first pinch is immediately after a hairpin, and bends around some more – I have no issue cranking power on this terrain – somehow it feels really satisfying to round a bend with power. But the second comes after the road has briefly levelled. It feels much straighter, and you can see the crest… actually, you can’t see the crest – it’s that steep that you are lulled into a false sense of achievement. But over it I went, and with quite a bit of speed.
At this point it was looking like I was going to fail. A quick and rough time check (I was actually feeling a bit dizzy and lightheaded by now), and I wasn’t quite convinced I’d cruise through… but I’d be close. So I gritted my teeth and notched it up over 400W for the false flat finish. Looking back at the power data, I think I would have started in the big ring, shifted into the 39 at probably the hair pin, and then back into the 53 for the final push. Absolutely spent, I stopped pedalling and slowed up immediately before the intersection, and I recall rolling onto the main road with a very lucky, but small break in traffic.
With lungs stinging, head fuzzy and legs full of lactic, I limped back to the top of the 1:20, Jarrod arriving soon after. His timing of the effort gave him the PB he was after – an awesome result after a solid month of fast riding. My effort was to close to call – I’d have to wait until I got home to upload.
The result? I’d topped the time by a very narrow margin! I think it was a couple of seconds… it’s not so easy to view on Strava anymore, because Tom Leaper went back a couple of days later and reclaimed it by a second! I’m stoked by that – great to see riders pushing harder and not getting complacent. At some point I’d like to go back myself, but am content with the blood on the lungs.
HR Average: 174bpm
HR Max: 183bpm (190 is as high as I’ve ever seen myself go)
Average Cadence: 89rpm
Average Power: 328Watts
Max Power: 548