i will try to be more positive today. nothing to rant about, and no soap box to yell from. we had our usual quota of dickheads yelling at us as they drove past, but nothing significant. one guy was actually quite funny and told us to “put your back into it”.
around twenty starters this morning, with mostly the usual suspects but some new faces as well. one guy, neill, who stumbled upon our group a few weeks back, had invited a friend, dave, along as well. a little more daylight this morning as there was no low cloud cover to disperse the day break. for a change, there was a very light southerly wind blowing, which meant that we didn’t have to push into the wind the whole way out.
the course today would take in some nice climbs as well as some nice descents. a bit of a suburban tour to get out to the first climb at greenmount would be followed by a very scenic tour through john forrest national park to our next climb on oxley rd. jumping back over to the south-side of great eastern highway, we would continue on mundaring weir road which would give us another two climbs to get to the coffee shop. along the way there would be a couple of “bonus” climbs thrown in for good measure.
the southerly wind allowed us to get an arm chair ride all the way out to guilford. even on the front was not too much trouble as we clipped along at a fine pace. once we hit bushmead rd we picked up russell and lorraine who live out that way. that got the final numbers up to around 24 riders.
previously when we have ridden this route we have used the bike path to get onto great eastern highway. last time i blogged about this, i said that i would find a better way since the size of the group now makes negotiating a bike path difficult. well i did have a look, but i forgot to have a look just before we went out and so forgot the names of the roads that we needed to take. i kind of knew where we had to go so took a punt on a few of the roads. after a brief excursion past some nice rusting car bodies on the nature strip, we ended up in a court and had to ride back out. a couple more turns and we found great eastern highway again. looking at google maps now, the road that i remembered didn’t actually exist in the real world. we it did, but it didn’t go all the way through and link up with the court that we took. anyway, we found our way out with no harm done.
the climb up greenmount starts steady before ramping up to give a fairly consistent grade climb. the bottom section isn’t really enough to shake the group up much unless a big attack is launched. the hill is way too long for that, and most people realize that. the pace therefore was strong, and i thought we would have lost a few by the time we reached the steeper section, but the majority of the pack was still together. we were still riding two abreast at this point too. it is probably an indication of the groups current form and the consistent hills rides that have meant that the everyone is improving.
as the grade increased, neill, who was next to me at the front went forward saying that he was going to get out of everyone’s way. what it really did was force everyone to chase and therefore started to split the pack up. ryan and stu came past and neill and i jumped on the back. a few others weren’t far behind and were managing to hold it together fairly well.
ryan set a fair pace at the front and we would occasionally swap off until about halfway up. not sure if the pace increased of neill’s legs had had enough, but he dropped off the pace leaving the three of us to surge ahead. a few more turns and we managed to put in quite a gap to the chase guys. almost at the top and ryan surged again forcing me to come around stu to stay on his wheel. it didn’t last long and i had to let him go, but luckily by then we were in the turning lane for the regroup point.
instead of the usual spread of riders that we used to get, they were now sticking together in groups of three of four. the waiting time has also come down significantly as people may be working together to tackle the hills. i did notice as we waited, that we had picked up a couple more riders along the way. as always, welcome. as long as you wait at the designated points we are happy to have you along. we lost dave at this point as he had to return to town early, but made sure he got the first climb under his belt first.
we jumped the gate leading into the national park as it is to keep the car hoons out after dark, and continued on our way. this section is quite rough, with just the right amount of undulation to break the group up. however, i had warned everyone of the gate at the other end that may surprise the first few if they are going too fast. i think that no-one was really sure where the gate was, so the pace was rather sedate and everyone stuck together.
jumped the next gate and we then had a nice descent to oxley road where the next climb would begin. we needed to regroup before this point as it involves a left turn that was not at the end of a road, and therefore created a risk that people would miss it. sometimes people ask me where the ride routes come from. a lot came from simon as he used to run these groups, but a bit of thought does go into them. i found that it is easier to tell people to ride till the road stops rather than try to find a particular landmark or side road. unfortunately this route contains a couple of “tricky” turns.
well oxley is the type of climb where you pretty much need to be in the easiest gear from the start. it kicks sharply, turns the corner, kicks again, flattens, turns and kicks again. it is a really hard climb to sustain an attack as it keeps fighting back. just as we started the climb, a new guy introduced himself as he has happened upon our group whilst out riding by himself. damian his name was and he could climb quite well. ryan was unsure of how long the hill was and so didn’t really attack till the second grade increase. by then i was pretty much at my limit, so had to let him go. he was unsure where we were stopping, so slowed up at the flat section allowing damian and myself to catch up. i showed him the top of the next climb would be the regroup so he sped off again. not sure where stu was on that climb as we were expecting him to come past at any moment.
a quick regroup and we were off again. this section involved quite a few short sections with regroups in between as it is a bit of a maze of roads that make navigation difficult. we cruised down to parkerville and stopped at sam druckers general store in case anyone needed any provisions. at this point, neill said that he needed to get home as he had to be back early. john also said that he needed to get home, but for a different reason. he had suddenly remembered that it was his wedding anniversary. dangerous, dangerous territory to be in. personally, i think he was already screwed, so he should have just enjoyed the rest of the ride. not sure what excuse he was going to use, but someone suggested that he claim that he snuck out on the bike to by flowers.
we then had a bonus climb out of parkerville to get back to the great eastern highway. this climb is fairly steep in sections, but now has been resurfaced with a nice hot-mix. ryan took it at a fair pace with damian and myself holding his wheel. as it steps up again, damian decided to see what ryan had in his tank an
d gave a surge. ryan accelerated and immediately gapped him by quite a few bike lengths. when i caught up to damian i told him not to make ryan angry, or he would just hurt us more. michael had a good climb too and managed to overtake me before we reached great eastern.
a final regroup to make sure all parties were accounted for and we were on mundaring weir road. the first section leaving mundaring township is basically down hill and the group stayed together well. there is a final pinch before the road winds down into the base of the weir which someone will always have a dig to try to get a break. last time we did this route, i’m sure it was me. not this time.
someone did have a crack, and the group responded immediately. as we had just been cruising gently down the hill, the pack was not in any pecking order of who would go well on the climb. therefore, when people attacked, there are often stray riders left out in the middle of the road while other fight to get around. unfortunately, as riders were coming around and others were trying to get back to the left hand side, there was a bit of contact and both dr marc and simon were on the deck. well dr marc was definitely on the deck while simon ended up going bush for a bit. the end result was a very bit hole in dr marcs knee and a very dirty jersey where he ended up in the gravel edge of the road. simon was ok. a lot of discussion about which way he should go as there was still two big climbs ahead, whilst a return to mundaring would get him home quicker. two things became obvious; 1. he was going to continue as it “was only a graze” 2. there was no way he was going to call his wife to tell her that he fell off. the “graze” didn’t look too good as it was down into that white fatty layer. unfortunately he wouldn’t let me take a photo then, but had to wait till we were back at the coffee shop where it had congealed a bit. nice.
anyway, we had all stopped to make sure he was ok, but dr melvyn said that he would ride with him to make sure he didn’t die on the way. we saddled up and continued over the slight rise and onto the nice descent into the weir.
michael and i tried to get a bit of a break leading into the climb, but everyone was happily speeding down the hill after us. by the time we hit the slopes, we had a group of around about ten with us. again, the increase in the groups climbing ability meant that majority of those riders were still together as we past the dams observation point. the road kicks up as it turn the corner and i would say that most of the initial group were still holding wheel. ryan and michael were setting the pace at the front, but i wanted to shake a few of the boys up so sped around to take the lead. ryan instantly was on my wheel along with stu, while a quick look back showed that we had gapped the others. working together, we kept the gap increasing before we approached the top of the main climb. at about this point ryan put in a burst of speed that left stu and i behind. i just kept pace making and ryan eventually got bored and sat up.
i wanted to stay ahead of the rest as that is the beauty of this particular road. it is long, with two major climbs plus many undulations and bonus climbs. it creates a really good race and chase situation as you need to be able to maintain a good pace because if you crack, everyone will pass you.
the three of us worked together up and over the undulating hills past all the national park picnic spots that are usually filled with mountain bikers. on the last climb before the descent, we spotted another rider up the road. this bonus climb can be quite brutal if you need to do it at speed. i looked back when we were on a straight section of road and saw that the chase group was not that far behind. they had obviously been working together to try to get back on. the rider up ahead turned out to be damian who hadn’t stopped when dr marc crashed. normally an offence on this ride, but as he was new and as his wife is due to have a baby on friday, he really needed to get home.
damian jumped on the back as we went past and we tried to keep the pace on over the final climb. once we were at the top i looked back to find that the chase group was only 200 metres behind. ryan suggested that we start to roll through to keep them at bay. all through the descent we managed to roll through and may have actually increased the gap some what.
we hit the final climb up to kalamunda and ryan set the pace early. i was starting to wonder how long my legs would hold out as they were starting to feel very, very heavy. memories of last week also didn’t help as i had tanked it on the final two climbs. ryans pace was only just manageable for all of us as no-one came around for the entire bottom section. i was already close to redline so had nothing left to give. sorry.
once we hit the flatter section, i threw it into the big ring and came to the front to lend a hand. in my opinion, you should do a climb at the same level of exertion regardless of the grade. in that regard, keeping the heart rate up and the legs pumping for as long as possible meant that we were averaging over 40 km/hr in the middle section. ryan, jumped around just before the hill started in earnest again, and managed to gap us all. stu came around and went to catch him, while i just tried to get up the final climb. stu had ryan just before the end, but ryan kicked again and was clearly in front by the time they hit the roundabout. damian managed to come around me at the end as i was pretty much spent by then.
coffees, lots of cokes, bread rolls, tarts, croissants and lots and lots of water were all on the table today. the latest seemed to be a few people buying a baguette and sharing it around so that we all break bread together in true sunday style. discussions turned to the crash as dr marc managed to get a couple of sticky plasters to stem the flow. we suddenly realized that simon was missing. the back markers had arrived, but no-one had seen simon. bad feelings started rising as thoughts turned to the number of descents that we had before the climbs. if the back markers hadn’t seen him, then potentially he may have gone off the edge. a lot of what if’s were tabled, before someone remembered that big chris had got a flat and simon, the good samaritan, had stopped to help him. they rolled in a few minute later.
fuelled up and on our way again. a fairly uneventful descent down welshpool rd and overall my legs were really starting to feel the previous efforts. once on the flat of welshpool rd, dr melvyn hit out again, as is his usual style. the pace increased and everyone took off. horror, upon horror, my legs did not want to respond and i was dropped. simon took it even worse as his leg cramped up and had to unclip to stretch it. luckily we both caught up at the lights. the pace increased again as we headed into vic park and again i had nothing to go with the pack. damn this lack of form.
the final sprint along berwick and we were down to about ten riders in total. we got caught at the last set of lights but as they changed, dr melvyn took off hard and managed to get a gap leading into the final little pinch before the downhill. i used up my last reserves sprinting to catch him but kept on going and even began cramping as i crested the top. i had a gap but knew i couldn’t maintain it as ryan, jerry and michael came flying by. jerry held ryans wheel to the end and managed to just get him at the imaginary line.
a final check of dr marcs injuries and simon’s offer to drive him home was rejected. so a bit of a dampener to an otherwise good ride. i usually like all the riders to bring home all their skin, but sometimes these things happen. i thin
k it is the increase in overall numbers contributing to the accidents we have been having lately. as with most statistics, you increase the overall population, the incident rate will also increase. hopefully we can keep them fairly minor as i don’t like it when we break bones.
so, stay safe, stay upright.