29 December 2012; 104kms, 2700m elevation

Christmas time is tough on the exercise efforts. After two solid days of eating and drinking on Xmas Day and Boxing Day it was time to get some training done. From the family farm in Lubeck (40km east of Horsham), there’s a few options for running and riding, but the best for riding is the Grampians.

Halls Gap is the main town hub at the centre of this mountain range, and is only a 50min drive away from the farm. So I packed up the bike and some gear, and I head off at about 5.30am.

An incident with a kangaroo on the way certainly made sure I was awake. Basically it came flying in from the side of the road and BANG, hip and shouldered the car, bounced off into a heap on the road, got up and kept going. I pulled over a bit shaken to check the damage to the car (and god forbid the bike on the rack at the back….) but luckily the only thing to see was a smudge in the dust on the rear door panel! How lucky was that!

I arrived at Halls Gap not long after, avoiding any other incidents, although I did notice a few ‘roos on the side of the road watching me, nearly as carefully as I was watching them. I took the bike off the rack, loaded up my bidons, checked a few things and set off.

The plan was this: to ride out to and up to the summit of Mount William, back to Halls Gap, then up to Boroka Lookout, down to Zumsteins, and then back up and over to Halls Gap again, so essentially there was three climbs, starting with the toughest first Mt William.

So I ride south out of town past Lake Bellfield, through a beautiful quiet country town, passing a couple of bikes going the other way – nice. There’s a short 900m climb before Lake Bellfield but apart from that it’s nicely undulating out to the Mt William road. I passed groups of kangaroos and emus as I went, as well as a couple of runners on the road.

I soon hit the start of the climb of Mount William, about 12km ride south from Halls Gap. I’d read about Mt William on a couple of websites somewhere, and had seen a profile graph somewhere else, but all I really knew was that it was about 6% ave gradient for nearly 10kms, then you hit the last 2km up to the summit that averaged around 12%! It could be fun!?! I worked into a nice rythym on the way up, with a few black wallabies jumping alongside me at one point before they got scared and jumped off into the bush. The scenery on the way up was stunning, and even though the clouds were surrounding me most of the time, I could see it was going to be worth it reaching the summit for the view.

The gradient jumped around a bit on the way up, with some pinches touching above 15% which certainly require some out of the saddle action, and with a 6% average for 10kms, it’s a solid climb to the carpark. Then there’s the gate for “management vehicles and walkers only” (and bikes is how I read it).

Once you get beyond the gate, the real climbing starts! The 2km to the summit average 11.9% according to Strava, and it feels like it! You climb 231m vertical in 2km!?? Some sections were so steep I was having to severely zig zag to avoid stopping, and looking at the strava elevation graph, it says some bits are over 50%!?? Can that be right? Anyway, whatever it was, it hurt like a shvitzer up the A. My legs and lungs were screaming at me to stop, but I couldn’t look myself in the mirror tonight if I stopped pedalling. It’s fair to say that my pain cave was deep and desolate at that point.

Upon finally reaching the summit after nearly 15min (for 2kms mind you!?), I was supremely knackered BUT the view was sooo worth it. The wind was nearly howling, but I was above the clouds and it was just beautiful to be up there.

Mt William - above the clouds Mt William – above the clouds

Phone 250 Beaut view

A few quick photos and some food, and down I went, and apart from being a bit bumpy in spots, it’s a great descent. I hit the Halls Gap road again feeling a whole lot better (and warmer!) and got down on the aerobars for some TT action back into town. I stopped at the car for a top up of food, and then headed to the base of the Mount Victory Road, which was the start of the Boroka Lookout climb.

This is a 15km long climb that averages about 4%, but there are some steeper pinches of over 10%, with the last of them approaching 20%. The climbing starts as soon as soon as you turn onto the road, and so I settled into a nice climbing rythym. The legs were certainly feeling a bit heavy, but as I’d done this climb a couple of years before, I had a rough idea what I was in for, and knew I’d be ok.

Phone 253 Heading up Mount Victory Road

I cruised relatively easy for all of the climb except for the steep little pinches on Mt Difficult Road which required getting out of the saddle for. They actually provided a bit of a nice relief from the seated constant cadence. After nearly an hour of climbing I hit the carpark lookout and breathed a sigh of relief. I rode to the lookout and took some photos, and had a chat to another cyclist who was there. “I normally ride Beach Road, so this is a bit of a change for me” he said in his Irish accent. Anyway after a good chat and a banana and gel, I set off again. Climb #2 for the day done, only one to go, and it was the easiest.

Phone 240 Boroka Lookout carpark

The last bit of the journey was a descent down to Zumsteins, which was about 18kms away, then a nice 12km climb back up, then the final bomb back down to Halls Gap of 10km. The descent to Zumsteins is just awesome, the roads are smooth, the views out to the north across the ranges and onto the flat farm land is stunning, and it’s easy to go fast. Once at Zumsteins I turned around and began the last climb of the day. It averages about 4% so its a beautiful spin really, although my legs were certainly letting me know they had nearly had enough climbing for the day. I reached the top reasonably comfortably, and began the descent. A car passed me just at the top, so I made the goal of trying to stay with it all the way down back to Halls Gap. He got away from me at one point, but I was faster through the hairpins, so caught up again, and proudly pulled up next to him at the Halls Gap road, and we gave each other a little nod and a acknowledging grin.

I rolled back to my car, noticing that the town was certainly awake now. There were tourists everywhere. I grabbed a coffee, some chocolate milk, a coke and a muffin from the cafe, and drove back to the farm.

Overall a tough but fantastic morning on the bike, and that route will hopefully become a regular one in coming years. Distance 104.6km. 2702m elevation (including a HC climb!). Moving time 4hrs36min.

Average Athleeet out.