“Uh oh! Liam just stole your KOM”

Last week I mentioned that I was hoping to get a different perspective on a KOM effort. Luckily enough I have Liam Garriga on board to run us through his experience of Bolton’ up to Bonds.

Introductions first. Liam Garriga is an Eltham cyclist who can hold some serious speed up and down hills. I’ve been put in the box on more than one occasion whilst trying to hold his wheel on Mt Pleasant Rd in Research, Melbourne, and I think he is fairly similarly minded when it comes to KOMs…. they are there to be taken. Incredibly, he uses cycling as fitness for his main pursuit – inline speed skating. It certainly made me feel better about my times when I found out that he races for Australia at a world level!

As described last week, he managed to best my time on Christmas morning, and his effort really blew me away.

P.P. What prompted you to have a crack at this segment?
L.G. I’d had a general chat with you a few weeks prior about KOMs in the area and any plans to get some. When you mentioned the idea of taking KOMs and being a “Christmas grinch” on Christmas day, it then clicked that if I ride on Christmas, that one of your favourite KOMs would be in the firing line. All went to plan but I opted out of naming my ride “Christmas grinch”.

P.P. How did you rate your chances of succeeding?
L.G. I rated my ability highly on the bike at that point, so I was confident in getting it. Hadn’t given it a real go before that day so I didn’t quite know what I was in for!

P.P. Any tips for the segment?
L.G. The run up is essential of course! You need to come off the downhill, through the intersection with the green and hit the start at 50km/h and breeze up the 20%er at the start. Don’t bother turning onto it at 15km/h!

P.P. How did you feel during the effort?
L.G. The effort itself felt pretty solid, was happy with the speed throughout and the final burst over the last hump in the road.

P.P. How did you feel after the effort?
L.G. Absolutely atrocious. I stopped immediately, started violently coughing and was hunched over for well over five minutes. I convinced myself to keep rolling but not too long after, I vomited on the move (and copped a little on my own jersey/arm!) FYI I had bacon and eggs for breaky!

P.P. Final thoughts?
L.G. One of my favourite KOMs because I know how much the segment hurts. It’s one KOM that if I lose, there’s no way I’m coming back to reclaim it. I must say it’s one of the least enjoyable 1.5km climbs I’ve done…

Liam’s vitals from the ride:

Average Heart Rate: 191bpm

Max Heart Rate: 197bpm

Average Speed: 31.5km/h

Max Speed: 56.2km/h (yup – that run up helps!)

Give him some kudos and follow him on Strava – his rides often incredible to see.

Getting those ugly emails from Strava about having a KOM stolen can really suck, but I actually appreciate them when someone does it cleanly, and even more so when it’s a mate. Whilst I love getting out and claiming segments, I get far more excited when I see friends pushing themselves and constantly improving. Bolton up to Bonds gave me a massive confidence boost, but the effort was physically very taxing. To have it taken away was hardly a downer when I realised Liam had pushed himself even more than I had. I really don’t want to do it again, but if I did, I’d take his advice and get that bloody run-up!

Invermay Road

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

Invermay Road

Bagging Bagot

I don’t have an exhaustive list of KOMs by any measure, and I’ll most likely have them all taken away at some point, so I’ve gradually been chipping away at some more segments in Darwin. Thus far I’ve only written about these efforts in Melbourne, so it’s time to run you through one of the harder stretches of road I’ve managed to top in the top end.

Bagot Road runs pretty well directly north-south through the northern suburbs of Darwin. The segment in discussion runs for 3.5km with an average gradient of 0%. Yup, 0%. Flat as a pancake. Although probably that shitty first pancake of the batch that doesn’t come out quite right. Bagot Road basically has what I’d describe as 3 steps – sections of a few hundred metres where it is just obvious that the tarmac is tending a little up or a little down. A set of traffic lights intersect the road 3km in, making things tricky for a good time. The next set of lights signal the end of the segment, and fortunately you don’t need to run them to get a good time! Unfortunately, the segment is often hammered by one of the Saturday morning bunch rides – that means plenty of strong riders sharing a turn on the front!

I was vaguely aware that the segment existed, frequently taking it to get home after the Hour of Power, but typically at a fairly sedate pace having just worked so hard. But I knew where it started, and figured there would be a segment to the second lights, so I decided to have a bit of a dig one morning after a cruisy ride with Alex McCallum, up from Melbourne.

Farewelling Alex at the casino, I rolled along Stuart Highway just after peak hour, and took note of the strong southerly (remember Bagot runs north-south). Turning onto Bagot itself, the road bends and drops dramatically by Darwin standards, and I was able to pick up a lot of speed. I didn’t have a heart rate monitor on, and I wasn’t exactly sure of the distance, but I was determined to hold 300W all the way to the second lights, and see what sort of time that would get me.

With that tail wind, and the downhill start, I found myself really flying along. 50km/h was a breeze for the first hundred metres. I didn’t expect that to last as the tarmac crept up, but found it manageable, still maintaining that high speed and cranking the power up. I had nothing else to focus on apart from one number on the screen, so just threw my legs down harder if the number was dropping too much, or backed them off a bit if I surged too high.

I’d basically stopped looking at my speed, but was stoked I was holding out with this 300W effort. Stuart Crompton from the cycling club drove past in his car and gave me a toot… he does this often enough, but on this occasion he wasn’t overtaking nearly as quick as usual. Approaching the Totem Road lights, I could see I was going to get a perfect run, so I kept pegging away.

Dropping in power slightly, I was feeling the strain of riding so hard, but determined to make the most of effort, I flicked into a harder gear, simultaneously dropping my cadence, but increasing my power back to 300W. Fading badly towards the very end, I sucked it up to give it everything I had left, and was hoping for the best when I uploaded.

Reaching the second set of lights, the segment was now complete and I was stoked that I managed to hold that power for so long. I wasn’t really hoping for a top ten, knowing that a bunch would likely go through far quicker, but nonetheless, I figured it would be a pretty bloody good time.

The result. KOM. By 2 seconds. Yes, the tail wind was a massive help, but drafting in a bunch works well too. Couldn’t believe I’d knocked this one over, but more than anything I was stoked to have held the power I wanted to.

Average Power: 300W

Average Speed: 50km/h

Average Cadence: 99

Temperature: 27C

Bagot Road


Studley Park Hill

Do you live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and commute to the city by bike? If so, you may have found yourself grinding up Studley Park Hill at some point. Rising at an average of 4% over 1km, this segment starts just before you cross over the Yarra River, and finishes just before Nolan Avenue. With a strong tailwind, it is possible to ride up the hill with ease, but a stiff headwind will leave a rider labouring all the way. And if you are aiming for a top time, you’ll want that strong tailwind, and your legs feeling good – it’s a tough one!

My last RFWYA in Melbourne was a ripper – the crew had tee’d up a parting gift for me – a massive lead-out train was organised to help me try and take away a few targeted KOMs. A parting gift. Only I’d come off a massive few weeks – dead legs from the Pioneer Stage race, dead legs from the BAMF ride from Melbourne to Adelaide, dead legs from the Big Lap (300km long, 5000vm). And I was sick to boot. Regardless, I wanted to make the most of the lead-outs, and I loved the idea of the ride.

But I failed. Sickness and fatigue meant I just couldn’t push at 100%. Maybe not even 80%. It didn’t matter – I had a blast anyway. Watching everyone trying to organise a good lead-out and smashing themselves in the process was awesome. I didn’t manage to pinch a single segment, but I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off – I’ll remember that morning for a very long time.

Left a little disappointed that I couldn’t crack any top times that Tuesday – and couldn’t nail Studley Park Hill in particular – I decided to have one more go on the Wednesday night, one day before I would be leaving for Darwin. The winds were favourable.

With barely a warm up, I left home in the late afternoon and went directly to the bottom of the hill. Turning around with a break in the traffic, I immediately started to wind it up, getting the bike over 40km/h before hitting the bridge. The warm temperature helped make up for the lack of a lead-out train, and as the road pitched upwards, I found myself out of the saddle and throwing down the pedals as efficiently as I could without burning too many matches.

Through the steepest part of the climb, I was still feeling okay, and looking at the screen, I had a slight lead over the top time. Still unsure if I could maintain this kind of effort, and knowing I’d blown up too early before, I kept it consistent, but glancing down at the screen once more, I saw a malfunction that I definitely didn’t want to see. “Off Segment”. Crap. Garmin drop-out!

Not wanting to put my last effort to waste, I flicked the screen to show my speed and power. I wouldn’t know how I went until I finished the ride and uploaded, but I knew if I could maintain a high power output, I was still in with a chance.

Not long to go, perhaps a few hundred metres, but I could see the finish and was screaming at my legs to hold 300 watts. I was dwindling now, and shifted into an easier gear to keep my cadence up. I’d dropped down to well under 300 watts, but with the hill tapering off, I utilised the gear shift and higher cadence to finish off the segment at over 40km/h. 1:40s of pain and I’d just pinched another KOM! I wasn’t in my best form by a long shot, but I was stoked to get that one before the move.

It wouldn’t be one I’d hold for long, however, an email a few months later notified me that Damien Eagle had re-acquired the segment. Kudos. And well-deserved.

Average HR: 174bpm

Max HR: 184bpm

Average Power: 451W

Max Power: 614W

Cadence: 91rpm

Studley Park Hill

Glass Walls

Immediately afterwards I felt dizzy. Soon after that I was still shaking and my legs were sore. By lunch time my legs were shot. All after beginning a new training programme this morning with Matt, commencing with an FTP test.

I’ve done an FTP test a couple of times before, on the home trainer and in front of Zwift. The first couple of times were mere attempts, with the connection between my power meter and laptop dropping out, or simply popping before 20 minutes had elapsed. This morning’s was different – I had a coach, the equipment was there, and I had a better understanding of what I’d be getting myself into. Briefly, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) is the highest average power a cyclist can maintain over an hour. Typically, a 20 minute test is used, and 95% of your average power over the 20 minutes is taken as your FTP. This will serve as the base line for my training over the coming months.

I met Matt at the shop at 5:30am, and he proceeded to set my bike up into a stationary trainer (this one). An excellent set-up, as I would be using my own bike and power meter – so everything can be transferred onto the road. After a 20 minute warm up, consisting of some easy pedalling and a few harder efforts, Matt then worded me up for what he wanted out of the 20 minute test.

And he threw a curve ball at me – no data! I would have no monitor to look at, nor would I be able to utilise my Garmin for reference. No heart rate, no timer, no power! And it was brilliant. I don’t know if it made the effort easier or harder, but having no numbers to look at, I was forced to feel it out and judge my riding. Matt would occasionally act the clock, letting me know either how much time had been covered, or how much time was left (are you a glass half full, or half empty kind of person?).

“Half way!”

“Thirteen minutes in”

“Only one quarter left”

“Thirty seconds to go”

Make it stop!
Make it stop!

And this interspersed with,

“Come on!”

“Lift it!”

“You’re doing well!”

“Give it all you’ve got now!”

“Empty it!”

He also made a poignant comment just before the test. It’s something I had worked out through endurance rides, but will now start to apply it more to the riding I want to get better at.  The brain will want to give up when the muscles are capable of giving more. I need to break through the glass walls.

With the 20 minutes covered, I found myself breathing heavily. Head dizzy. Hands shaking. Heart pounding. I was left to spin out my legs with sweat streaming all over me, and a few moments to compose myself before getting off the bike. Only after that did Matt approach me with congratulations and some numbers. Numbers I’m not going to publish just yet – I’m not going to be a total Froomey about my data, just a little bit. I plan on doing another test at the end of the 3 months, and will have a comparison to share at that point. Until then, I will reveal that I don’t think I could have gone any harder during today’s test. My FTP was considerably higher than when I measured it myself using Zwift, but it is perhaps lower than what some of you may expect. And most importantly, I have been reassured by Matt that I will improve.


Chandler Highway to Top of Yarra Street

One of the early segments I worked towards topping runs from Chandler Highway, along the boulevard, and to the top of Yarra Street. I’d sum it up as an undulating time trial, followed by a short steep pinch – just when you think the pain is done, you cop a kick in the guts whilst you’re on the ground.

I think I stumbled upon the segment by accident one ride, and proceeded to slowly chip away at my time. On October 30th, I was fairly close, but didn’t feel warmed up enough and faced a predominant head wind. The following day a northerly was considerably more favourable, so i went out to have another crack after a bit of a warm up.

I didn’t have a power meter at the time, but I was keeping an eye on the live segment on the Garmin screen. Taking it relatively easy up the first climb (by relatively easy, I mean the fastest I’d ever ridden up there), holding over 40km/h up that 3%. I was feeling great, and didn’t notice my heart rate getting up to 185bpm – a sure sign everything was firing, but I wasn’t going to blow up.

I’d gained a 6 second lead, but was well aware of the fact I would need to maintain a good speed on all the downhill segments. And I did loose some time on that first downhill, and on the next uphill – not exactly a confidence boost, but I was still on par for my best time, so I kept hammering away. Brilliant, because as I rounded Cornering Speed Test, things got substantially easier!

Thus far, the northerly had been giving me next to nothing, but after that corner I could feel a noticeable difference in wind direction, and could suddenly hold a lead with less effort. I was convinced that I could take this one, and at that moment decided to save my legs for Yarra Street. It was a winning move.

The whole segment is really easy to blow yourself up on – go to hard early, and you could find yourself hitting lactate half way up Yarra Street (or earlier). Take it too easy, and you will need to fly up that final pinch. This time, my effort was measured perfectly, and I was able to maintain something of a sprint to the final corner, almost hitting my maximum heart rate. All over in 5:56s and the KOM in the bag with 8 seconds to spare.

I haven’t ridden that exact segment since, and am definitely expecting to receive an email notification of someone getting a better time. But I’d love to try and better my PB if the opportunity arises.

Average Speed – 37km/h

Max Speed – 51.1km/h

Min Speed – 15.1km/h (I don’t normally list this, but wanted to give an indication of what it’s like to hit Yarra St!)

Average Heart Rate: 177bpm

Max Heart Rate: 188bpm

Smoking a Cigar