Donna Buang

A few things of note today:
1.  The first time that the Australian Cycling Road National Championships were telecast live on the telly.

2.  The 100th anniversary of Mawson’s expedition landing at what is now called Commonwealth Bay.

3.  I went for a ride.

Of these three things, the obvious one about which to blog is the ride that I went on this morning.  The other stuff you can just google.  But if you can’t be bothered, let me tell you that Simon Gerrans won an exciting and engrossing race from Matty Lloyd and Richie Porte.  These three managed an average speed of 39.5 km/hr over the approximately 160 km of racing.  Just how mortal humans on un-powered bikes manage this is hard to fathom.  Gerrans was riding for the newly formed Green Edge team – the first Australian team to be granted a licence to compete at the highest level of the sport.

And as for the Antarctica thing, there is a commemorative expedition on its way south as I type, which was supposed to arrive in Commonwealth Bay today, but which has unfortunately been delayed by bad weather.  When they get there, they will be able to stay in the hut that Mawson built 100 years ago, which is actually just a bit amazing.

Anyway, about that ride.

It’s now only a few weeks until the Audax Alpine Classic, and as in previous years I will be lining up at 6.20 am for the 200 km “classic” ride, trying again to complete that distance in under 7 hours.  My best effort to date is 7 hours 20 minutes, the year before last.   As part of this year’s preparation, I spent this morning out in the wind and the rain doing two things.  The first of these, an on-going project, is the careful crafting of justifications should I take longer than 7 hours to cross the line.

My preparation has been interrupted by a few things.

I’ve only recently stopped taking those antibiotics from that tonsillitis that I had.

I could have trained harder, but I chose to spend more time with my family.

I must have eaten something…

You know the kind of thing.  If I fall short in my quest this year, you can be sure that it won’t be for lack of raw cycling talent.  Nor will it be because of a lack of power, nor inferior legs.  And most importantly it won’t be because my goal is actually out of my reach.  There will most certainly be some kind of mitigating factor.   The important thing at this stage is to identify all the mitigating factors which might be in play, and store them in some way to be pulled out as circumstances demand.

Anyway, still hoping at this stage to leave all those excuses behind, I’m out there riding, clocking up the miles, and looking for hills to climb that will prepare me for the Victorian alps come the end of this month.  Today I climbed Donna Buang a couple of times.   I rode out to Warburton and climbed Donna with a friend last month, just before that bout of tonsillitis, but the problem with riding out there is not just the distance, it’s the road to Warburton.  It’s not very bike friendly.

So today I did something terrible.  I drove out to Warburton.  There.  I said it.

Once there I rode up the hill a few times, and then I drove home.  What else is there to say?  Well, I could leave it at that, but if a life is worth living, it’s worth recording, isn’t that what they say? *  So here’s what happened while I was riding today:

The climb up Donna Buang is surely a cyclist’s dream come true.  It’s 17km of uphill at an almost constant gradient the whole way. You can get some idea of this here.  The road is lined with fern trees and huge mountain ash trees towering up to the skies.  On a hot day it’s always a bit cooler on this road, and it gets cooler the higher you go.

*  Please excuse this premature foot note.  Whilst it might be true that a life worth living is a life worth recording, it is not necessarily true that it is worth your time to read about that life worth living.  Just so you know.

17kms of up. What every cyclist needs.

Cool wasn’t what was needed today, though.  Whilst it was a bit muggy, it certainly wasn’t scorchingly hot.  And it wasn’t quite dry, either.  Showers clearing was what the weather bureau was telling me, and that’s exactly what appeared to be happening as I set out from Warby.  Sure, the road was wet.  Sure, it was muggy and overcast.   But it sure looked like “showers clearing”.

It’s nice when the sun shines, and it’s wonderful when the clouds disappear.  But when the clouds are hanging low, and the mist is threatening to close in, and all around is wet, there’s a kind of magic in the air.  Not to mention an overpowering amount of green-ness.   So it was today.

The road is black-ish. But there's a vivid green edge...

Apart from all the greenery the side of the road was populated with a very healthy number of lyre birds.  Perhaps it was the weather that brought them out.  Or the absence of any traffic on the road.  Whatever it was, there were gobloads of them, fossicking around on the sides of the road.  Mostly in pairs, but sometimes alone, and occasionally in groups of three.  With so many of them to be seen, you’re probably thinking that I’ll have some fantastic pictures, but alas, my poxy phone camera doesn’t do them justice at all.

So you’ll have to settle for this, which is a close approximation.

Supposedly the name points to the similarity between the bird’s tail and the Lyre, that stringed harpy thing that Cacofonix played in every Asterix book.  But of course that’s just a Furphy.  The true etymology is obvious.  For example, there was this one bird, as I passed him, who sang an elaborate song that went like this:  “when you get to the top the sun will be shining and the rain will stop, and soon enough the road will dry out as well”, which he repeated a few times in quick succession, with a voice something like a cross between Bear Grylls and Mae West.   As if that wasn’t a deliberate pork pie.

This is what it looked like when I got to the top:

I figured “showers clearing” meant that the second time around the summit photo might be a bit more inspiring, but alas it was not to be.  The only sense in which you could accurately say “showers clearing” this morning was that in which showers clear in order to make way for a kind of rain which is heavier than mere showers.

Which is actually OK on the way up the hill.  But it sucks the big one on the way down.  On the descent the rain drops hit your face like little needles, and sting your eyes like…. like eye stinging things.  And the water on the road sprays up and drenches your feet, and your brakes don”t work properly, and you’re either squinting to see through fogged up glasses with water streaming all over them, or you’re squinting without the glasses, trying to catch a glimpse of the road between cornea lacerating rain drops.

Which of course, is all part of the awesome FUN of being a cyclist, as opposed to merely riding a bike.  My eyes are still stinging.

Anyway, that was my ride this morning.  Unfortunately I’m either not capable of taking good photos with my iPhone, or my iPhone isn’t up to the job.  Otherwise I’d have pictures of lyre birds, rosellas, stunning greenery, furious creeks and rivers and all that kind of stuff.  Perhaps I should take my handle bar camera off the MTB and put it on the road bike.  Still wouldn’t be able to take pictures of me, though.  Which is a shame.   Because a camera in front of me this morning would have snapped a picture that looks something like this:

Only with greener edges.

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