So you may remember in September I made an attempt to ride up Mt Sugarloaf near Newcastle. That day it beat me. So after months of hill climbing and repeats, today was the day to take it on again. Now going back to my vegan experiment, this was the first endurance ride I had undertaken since I started. For a normal 130k ride I would take 2-3 muesli bars, 2 bananas and we would often stop for coffee or lunch. Today It was just some Banana/Date energy bars and a banana.
The ride itself was epic, having fuelled up with oats, cranberries and almond milk for breakfast the charge was on and we tackled sugarloaf first. Arriving at the meeting point I managed to drop and break my riding sunglasses then my Garmin Edge 500 decided it would not boot up correctly. Some quick googling and holding down 3 buttons at the same time seemed to fix it but cost 15 minutes getting it sorted. This followed by my insistence of getting pair of servo sunnies put us behind about 30 minutes on the eta.
As a side note, the first round of the Newcastle Cyclocross series is starting this weekend and I decided to challenge myself to take the Avanti Giro AR2 out for this ride. I had it setup by my LBS and wanted to get some Km in the saddle to get used to the changes. Big tires will make the trip comfy but it’s not the fastest bike on the flats.
This first leg of our day was the toughest. We had decided to hit Sugarloaf first whilst the legs where freshest. The full climb from the start point is a Cat 3 climb. The road winds its way up through a little town before turning off the left and proceeding along the ridge line. This is where its starts to get tough. Last time we both pushed hard through this first section which I have no doubt hurt our initial attempt. This is reflected in the strava segments which shows my second best time through the first section be nearly a full minute. I just stuck here with Jye and focused on keeping my breathing steady. I was going to beat this hill. The incline started to pick up, Jye was already down to his lowest gear, I stood up to try and keep my rhythm going. We turned the corner and the hill that had beat me stood in front, taunting me again. This time I knew what was coming. I kept my pace, remembered my training and focused. It hurt and at this point Jye had started zig zagging up the road to try and minimize the incline. I made the corner where I had failed last time, HR 181, thats good it was 185 last time. I continued up the incline, legs burning. I spotted a sign up the road and kept that in my mind for a focus point, head down, push, rinse repeat. The sign came closer. I had to sit, pushed it back to my lowest gear, tired but getting there. The road eased of slightly here and actually felt like I was going to make it. Past the sign. Now its just a push through the fatigue. The last section of the road is almost as steep but the major part of the incline is on the left hand switch back. Once again, stand up, head down, drive home. Last push for 50m and I was in the top car park! I stopped for a selfie with the tower in the background and you can see I’m struggling for breath. 16:16 Minutes for the climb, 29:49 for my last attempt. Exactly 1:30 later Jye came up behind me. He too had made the climb in one go. An exhausted vague hi five was given. What a long way we had come from a few months ago.
Whilst Jye stopped to get his breath back I made the final ascent with my Avanti to the top of the 412m that is Mt Sugarloaf. The view from here was unreal and I could even make out my suburb down the coastline. Stopping for another picture then down the hill we go. I was hesitant last time going down this hill and was again this time. The one short coming of the Giro AR2 is tis mechanical disc brakes. They actually work well in the cyclocross environment and slow speed stuff but put them under hard load and the front especially started to jitter and shudder quite hard. We made our way down with Jye in the lead and in a tuck almost straight away, gaining momentum quickly. I looked down and my speed said 70.2kph and Jye was pulling away from me! I made the mistake of saying hi to another rider who was going up and almost missed the left hand corner. By the time we got down to the exit he had probably 200m over me in distance. On later inspection of the data it said we hit 92kph (however I personally doubt that eek)
We had now covered 12 out of the planned 130k, not even 10% and I was cactus. We set out onto the Hunter expressway to loop to Kurri Kurri and back. We went from an average of 12kph for the first hour to 40kph for the second. This is where it was evident that my day on this bike was going to be hard work. On the flat trying to keep up was hard work, even in the slipstream I had to peddle quite hard to maintain the speed and just did not get a reprieve. On the long slight inclined hills I lagged however the moment we hit anything above 5% I was able to walk up with ease compared to the others.
We got the tail wind back after being fueled by half a banana. We found Drew lurking on a street corner and made our way through Fletcher on towards Newcastle. The foreshore itself runs forever and comprises everything from ships to boats, to well, just polluted water. The area itself was really busy and we made a quick stop at Nobbys before heading over to my favorite little coffee shop at the ocean bathes. This was a little over the halfway point and my legs were really starting to hurt. Actually it was some of the “best” fatigue I had felt riding. The trip up Sugarloaf seemed to really push everything to its max. The coffee was good and I took the opportunity to eat some of the Banana & date energy bar that I had brought. I shared it with my fellow riders, Drew quickly asking if it was vegan. No complaints about the food 🙂 Jye took the opportunity to point out how good the bacon smelt and I must agree it did smell good.
The break did some good but we needed to keep going. From here we went along the Newcastle board walk and meet up with the King Edward Park Hill climb. I love this climb, its short and tough. Jye dropped his chain as Drew and I set off. Stand and push. By the time I got the to pinch (23%) I put it in low gear and pushed hard, my back wheel bounced high and hard as whatever was lodged in there flew out at a rapid speed. Had a great run up and mentally after this morning this seemed pretty straight forward. Took 20 seconds of my PR but most of this seemed to lay in the middle flat section which I was able to put more speed down.
We regrouped at the top and made our way down to Merewather then up the scenic Drive climb, past Glenrock then onto Fernliegh Track. We wandered down till the end and this is when I started to feel it all catch up with me. I’m putting it down to a lack of food as opposed to the vegan diet. Normally I would eat more during this ride but today I had not. The hard thing came in that I could not just duck into a service station and buy anything to eat. Luckily for me there was a supermarket not too far off our path and I stopped in to purchase a round of bananas for us all and a bag of trail mix. With this on board the energy soon returned and Jye decided we should do a few more hills in a detour through Warners bay. This was hard work, whilst not as hard as Sugarloaf we now had 120k under our belts and the temp had climbed to 33c. The hills dragged and dragged but in the end we both made it to the top before some quick descending to pick Drew back up at the bottom.
From here it was a meander along the lake edge and back to the starting point. The trip home in the car proved long as I had forgotten about the Easter traffic returning from holidays. Not to worry I had several bananas and a bag of trail mix to keep me company. Well I did for a short while.
Getting home I had to go back out again and I felt fatigued. I wanted to sleep standing up. Between the bike, the climb and the food I made pretty much shattered myself. The strava suffer score was 201 which is my biggest to date and first time I have cracked the 200’s. I was asleep by 9pm and pretty sure I didn’t move for the entire night.