Doona Bug

(Insert lame excuse about having not written much of late).

Too many tumbleweeds have been blowing through this blog of late, so I’m making amends by posting about a ride I did just outside of Melbourne not too long ago.

If you follow along, you’ll remember me describing a climb on the Giro Della Donna up Mt Donna Buang. It’s a beautiful climb, but there is a more direct route to the summit from Warburton and it’s equally stunning, albeit paved the entire way. (A third option also exists, and I’ve ridden it too – I’ll save that for another day).

Every time I’d ridden up this full climb, I’d always been relatively slow, having typically ridden out from Melbourne on 200+km days. On this occasion, I was pretty keen to set a PR, and had the added incentive of getting Donna out on her first extended climb. Wanting fresh legs, we drove out to Warburton, meeting up with Matt Shanks who agreed to ride up the 1084m ascent with Donna whilst I gave it a bit of a dig.

The week prior to this I’d raced at road nationals (albeit for an hour), a bunch ride or two and a criterium at the Teardrop the night before. I wasn’t feeling at my best, but was definitely in for a new best time (I only had to bet 1:08 minutes, and was going to be pretty pissed if I couldn’t crack an hour). It gets a bit boring here, because I was really focused on power numbers. If that’s not your thing, go make yourself a coffee for the next little while and come back later.

With the three of us rolling down towards Reefton and back for a brief warm-up, I was thinking about what sort of power I could average all the way up. The day before – before I had raced that crit – I was thinking I could hold 280W+. That morning, I was thinking more like 240. Or even better, I could ride all the way up with Donna and really enjoy how majestic she is (Donna is majestic as fuck, by the way). A quick chat at the bottom and I decided I’d attempt 260W, and if I felt shit halfway up to Cement Creek (the half-way point), I’d pull the pin and wait up for Donna and Matt.


Into it! That first half averages about 7%, but I reckon it feels steeper than that, probably because of the short ramps of 10% or so that had me out of the saddle for the bulk of it… knocking out almost 300W! Way too hard, too early – but I was feeling great, and I figured as a lighter rider, I could gain most by hitting the steepest parts the hardest.

The road was bone dry, but well shaded and cool, and as I swung around Cement Creek, I was looking good for that sub hour, and was pretty confident I’d still average 260W despite the fast start. And I did – my average power was only very gradually dropping with no signs that I was going to burn out.

There are multiple landmarks on the way up Mt Donna Buang that serve as good reminders of how far you have to go. I don’t really remember where many of them are, and half the time they’ve been shrouded in fog anyway, so I got even more boring and stared at my screen some more, ticking off the distance to go to the summit (one day Froomey will look back on his career, maybe watch a little race footage and say to himself, “fuck, I missed out on some amazing scenery every time I went out to gas everyone).

I’ve covered the upper half of this climb before, but on this occasion I was actually looking forward to that last kilometre. I thought I’d be able to really gun it. So when I went past some of the landmarks that I could actually remember, I got out of the saddle to leach whatever was left in my legs. And quickly proceeded to sit back down one hundred metres later when I realised that wasn’t happening!

Still, I was feeling pretty bloody good. My heart rate had stayed quite steadily around 170bpm the entire way up, I wasn’t feeling any lactic build up and my average power had only dropped to 275W for the entire climb. With a bit of a lame sprint over the car park on the summit, I mashed the lap button on my Garmin at just over 52 minutes. Way faster than I’d expected, but more to the point, I really, really enjoyed it! It’d been too long in between drinks, and I was pleased to see that hard training in the flat tropics could still be beneficial effects.

Better yet, I rode down a ways to catch Donna and Matt on their way up. I was stoked to see Donna pacing herself up very well – still chatting, looking comfortable and really enjoying the road. Her effort was just as controlled as mine, and I’m pretty sure she had just as much fun as I did. That climb has her name all over it! (Trust me when I say we’ve run the gamut of Donna puns with this one).

Topping Out!
Topping Out!

Some of the numbers:

Elapsed time: 52:07s (Strava time)

Average HR: 168bpm

Average Power: 275W (5W/kg)

Average Speed: 19.5km/h

Average Cadence: 76rpm (yep, looks like I was grinding this one out)

You can view the ride here on Strava