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

Passport To Insanity

Up. Turn right. Down. Brake. Turn right. Repeat… 850 times. No, I didn’t slip – that zero is meant to be there. Below is an account of the most ridiculous ride I have ever done. (And I typically set the bar pretty high for crazy and outlandish things). This is the account of the first Everesting in the Northern Territory – Atkins Drive, well-known as “High School Hill”.

My latest Everesting, showing complete lack of self-control and preservation, came about through peer pressure. As a pretty handy climber in Melbourne, and gaining some attention through some pretty outlandish rides, a relocation to the Northern Territory lent to whispers behind my left ear. “When’s he going to do it”. “It” being the first Everesting in the NT. The vanity in me thrived, and I was eager to knock it over ASAP, and I wanted to do it in Darwin. But I quickly discovered that Darwin is as flat as Beach Road, and the humidity over the wet season is only tolerable by consuming a higher volume of beer than what one would lose in sweat (per hour)… fine for my usual rides, but maybe not for a big one.

The dry season barely arrived as promised, and was looking to run out soon. I ride with some excellent cyclists in Darwin, most of whom I see real potential of completing an Everesting (even if they doubt themselves), and the table talk circled around Litchfield. There are very likely climbs in this national Park – good, consistent gradients that could result in a sub 300km ride. But I’ve been keen on local from day 1. Litchfield is quite remote; no coffee, no pizza, no reception. As beautiful as it is, it would require a large logistical effort to attempt. Darwin, on the other hand, is a small city where a cyclist can get anywhere in no time at all – prime for a support team. The downside – I’m yet to find a climb that gains more than 20 odd metres. 20m! There are driveways in Melbourne that rise more than that. In Adelaide, if you want to go for a ride, you’ll find yourself gaining more metres meeting your bunch ride around the corner. Repeats it is.

I’d had my sights set on another climb from day dot, but decided on HSH after doing some repeats and preferring the higher grade and more accurate barometric readings (something that, in the end, would eventuate to nothing). Sure, it would be more repeats with such a small rise, but it is fairly quiet, smooth and very well known amongst both cyclists and runners in Darwin, being a training ground for the Triathlete biased city. In numbers, it has an average gradient of about 8% and rises about 12m in approximately 150m. I initially thought it only 10.5m in gain, hence the 850 laps – I’ve really gotta stop overshooting my mark!

Into the nit and the grit. A 2am alarm, breakfast (is it really breakfast at 2am?), kitted up and I rolled out the door to meet Matt at the shop for coffee. What a start – 2 quick double shot piccolos woke me up and got me excited. I was stoked to have Matt out for early laps, and without delay, we were at the base of HSH to start climbing.

Obligatory fuzzy shot of the screen

Those early laps were great. Devoid of traffic with a chill in the air, conditions were perfect to bang out lap after lap. Somehow it didn’t get boring, and consistency meant efficiency and a lot of vert covered fairly quickly. Unfortunately for me, the barometer in my Garmin had basically died completely, and would typically record about 1m per lap…. Darwin is flat, but not that flat. So I had to rely on hitting my lap counter at the top of every ascent. So yet another thing to repeat. Up, hit button, turn right, down, brake, turn right, repeat. Ergh!

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