Basin to SkyHigh

Despite a number of long endurance rides under my belt over a short time period, I still rate myself as more of a puncheur than a pure climber or long distance specialist. My most impressive efforts, typically, are on short, steep climbs, where my power to weight ratio lends me a natural advantage. But over 2015, I managed some great times on some extended climbs when I had someone to help pace me along. On the Lake Mountain Domestique ride, Nick Liau and I managed a top ten (this is definitely a ride I’ll have to recount some time soon). On that occasion, having Nick dictate the pace by use of his power meter meant we didn’t burn out and held it to the finish. I’ve also ridden well with Luke Chippendall, and on the segment of Basin to Skyhigh, a balanced effort to the summit got Luke into the top ten on the leader board. And it was on this segment a few weeks later, newly power meter fitted, that I put in a hard, solo effort.

The Basin to SkyHigh segment literally goes from The Basin, at the base of the Dandenong Ranges, to the car park gates of SkyHigh, at the top of Mt Dandenong. A rider must first contend with the 1/20 segment, and then turn left at the top. The road tends uphill towards Olinda, and then drops quickly to Mt Dandenong township. A left turn just after the bakery has you riding steadily uphill again, with a few undulations along the way, before one final left turn gives the segment on final, steep push. All in all, it climbs 431m over 13.6km – very much a climbers paradise, but with enough downs and near flats to require a serious TT effort.

Having not ridden much over the Christmas period with various commitments, I wanted to smack the shit out of some segments before moving to Darwin. And the newly added power meter made everything more interesting for me. Donna and Chase had left for Darwin on New Year’s Day, so on January 2nd, I rode solo out to the nongs. With numerous segments on my radar, I took it easy on the way out, but immediately cranked it up upon reaching The Basin.

The first stretch up the 1:20 I expected to be tough. I knew that I had to put in a personal best time up this first 6.5km, but still have legs remaining for the following 7km. Ouch! But chasing the live Strava time helped; rather than trying to dig crazy deep, I focused on keeping my time above Joel Nicholson’s (the KOM holder). I must have got the jump on him at the start, with a quick lead, but I managed to build on it all the way to Sassafrass. At my last Garmin check, I think I had nearly 30 seconds up my sleeve by the top of the 1/20. But that’s when things got really interesting for me…

If you are up to date with Blood on the Lungs, you may remember me mentioning a GPS dead spot at the top of The Crescent. Well, that dead spot can wrap around the hill a little bit, and by the time I was a hundred metres or so away from the top of the 1/20, Live Segments dropped out. Crap.

Knowing this to be a possibility, and with the addition of a power meter, the back up was to watch the screen and try and hold the effort to the summit. The only problem was that I still had little idea of what level of power I could maintain, so had to also go by feel. I could see my heart rate way up there, and a power output floating around the mid 200W mark, so I just kept pushing. The pitch up to Olinda is extremely tough if trying to go fast. It isn’t very steep, but to maintain a high speed will really sting your legs.

Not knowing how I was faring, but knowing I had a massive lead, I did worry that I’d gone out too hard. Coasting the downhill to the bakery, I recovered enough to keep pushing through the lumpy part of the course. On all the downs, I couldn’t keep the power level very high, but I would take the pinches very hard. And on the final pitch of the segment, I gave it everything I had left, so much so that I had to roll the last few metres.


Turns out I can do okay on a longer segment! KOM! But I had other segments to ride that day…

Time: 29:21

Average Speed: 27.9km/h

Average HR: 174bpm

Max HR: 181bpm

Average Power: 278Watts

Happy New Year To Me

Save Some Legs

This segment I stumbled upon by accident. Often part of the warm-up for Hell’s500’s RFWYA, it involves the steep pinch of Hodgson St, with a left turn onto Nolan Ave at the top, left and down Walmer St, followed by a right onto the Boulevard and finishes at the top of the first boule hill, before the Studley Park Rd turn-off. With a decent enough time posted one Tuesday morning, this one seemed a great segment to target. And it is dif-e-cult!

Take Hodgson St too easy, and you’ll fall too far behind. Hit it with too much pace and your lungs will be bleeding too early. You’ve gotta get it just right. And then hold that effort for a short, flat TT, followed by a downhill TT. And if you’re not already gasping for air and looking for a lie-down, there is a short but painful uphill TT to finish it all off. Ouch!

I love these segments – enough variety to favour no one but a good allrounder over a short distance. With ¬†bit of a warm up on the way there on the boule, I wasn’t feeling amazing about the upcoming attempt, but warm weather can often give you a bit of an advantage, and I rolled down Walmer St regardless. Keeping the barest of momentum as the segment pitches upwards and onto Hodgson St, I started to through a bit of power through the pedals, but not enough to ruin me. 3/4 of the way up and I think I realised that I could ride up this pinch very quickly. I wasn’t hurting too much, and getting a clearer run than I would normally on a Tuesday morning made a difference.

With my heart rate a few beats per minute below my max at the top of the climb, I eased on the pedals to take the left turn, and got a look at the Garmin screen. Well ahead. And my legs felt good. This could be tough – perhaps the current record had a very fast finish. I basically treated the flat on Nolan, and the down on Walmer as recovery to hit the final section hard – probably not the best strategy, but when you have a lead, sometimes it’s best to conserve some energy.

With the right turn onto the boulevard, and the longest stretch of downhill of the segment, another glance down at the screen revealed that I was now barely ahead of the KOM. Shit. Time to hit it hard again. Whilst my power was not overly impressive for this descent, my cadence hovered around 110rpm – clearly showing I was trying hard to keep in front. And rounding the final major corner, into another uphill, I got back on the gas with an output back over 600W to get over the gear. For about half of that final hill, I managed to hold about 40km/h, holding close 400W for it’s entirety, fading with speed only in the closing metres, surpassing the previous KOM by 10 seconds.

Shot like an old horse, I limped under the Studley Park Rd Bridge, turned around with my heart still pounding and lungs feeling singed, and rolled out the lactic in my legs to go and have a crack at some other segments in Kew. Right near the bridge, there was a total fire ban sign. Pretty sure I ignored it.

IMG_20160119_164246Average heart rate – 176bpm

Max heart rate – 188bpm

Average Speed – 36.8km/h

Average Power – 332 W

Time – 4:33

Total Fire Ban