Since I had a job in Milgrove on Thursday morning it made sense for me to start the ride at Woori Yallock and ride back to Mt Evelyn. It had been some time since I had made this solitary trip and it gave me a good chance to admire the beauty that was all around me. Surely Springtime is one the best times of the year and the Warby Trail must be the most scenic such trail in Australia. When you ride it every week there is a danger that we can become denatured to just what a privelege it is to have such a great location to ride. Although I have now ridden the trail somewhere near 300 times, every week it seems to offer a new aspect.
When I arrived at COGS shortly before the 1.00 pm starting time I was pleased to see a sizeable group had already gathered and were busy drinking their first coffees of the afternoon. The main topic of conversation seemed to be the imminent Donna Buang Lungbuster. For many of these riders it was going to be their first experience of pedaling a bike up a real mountain. Although some might think that the ride to Mt Evelyn is a bit of a struggle, this would be a stroll in the park when compared to the Herculean feat of riding a bike up a 26 km climb at an average gradient of 6%. That is the type of challenge that forces every participant to confront their worst fears, look deep inside themselves and discover what is really there. There is simply no easy way to complete such a ride – it is a test of each rider’s character as much as their degree of fitness.
I am sure that many of the group were secretly wondering just how they would cope. Would they wilt under pressure or would they persevere till the summit? In a mere 48 hours we would all know the answer. In the meantime we tried to encourage each other with comments like “I don’t think you’ll make it even halfway to the top of Donna” or “the road to the summit is littered with the decaying bodies of cyclists who have tried the climb but failed”. There was something of a feeling of foreboding within the group – probably similar to that experienced by groups of National Servicemen the night before being shipped off to Vietnam.
With the daunting silhouette of Donna Buang looming ominously over the northern horizon we regrouped at Woori Yallock where we were joined by more riders. I was not able to complete a final head count but it certainly would have been 20 or more by the time we were once again underway towards Warburton. Trying not to look to the left we knew that this would be our last group ride before we confronted the Lungbuster. And why exactly was it called the “Lungbuster” ? Was it because there was a real danger that your lungs could really bust ? Or was a three way bet as to which part of your body would collapse first – heart, lungs or legs ? And what if all three failed at the same instant ? Would the President make it to the summit in some degree of style or be reduced to a quivering mess before even reaching Panton Gap ? Such thoughts buzzed around in my head.
By the time I had ridden up to Warburton and was safely settled outside Trailblazers I knew that it was not too early to start “carbo loading” for Saturday’s ride so chose the most sickly sweet looking cake in the bakery window. It even tasted sweeter than it looked. Surely such a huge intake of calories would help to give me the energy boost I craved. Unfortunately after I succeeded in eating the whole massive peppermint slice, rather than give me the energy boost I craved it just sent a massive burst of sticky cholesterol straight to my main coronary artery. I wondered whether that would that a problem on Saturday I tried to flush the aftertaste down with a large mug of sugared cappucino and the caffeine elevated heartrate seemed to flush the worst of the goop away.
With my car waiting for me at Woori Yallock I had the unusual experience of finishing my ride by 4.00 pm. This gave me time for a chat before heading back home. It was at this time that Andrew pointed out that my front tyre had developed a huge aneurism and looked in danger of exploding at any moment. Since these were the tyres that I had planned to ride up Donna with, my plans were thrown into chaos. I later discovered that the rear tyre had a similar bulge resulting in my having to replace it as well. Unfortunately with so little time remaining before Saturday I had big trouble finding the correct replacement tyres and ended up with two odd tyres – the feeling of foreboding suddenly grew worse. This was NOT the ideal way to prepare the bike for its biggest challenge of the year.
The Annual Lungbuster did go ahead as planned with 39 riders starting the ride at Launching Place and every one of them reached the summit. Although I started reasonably well I started to cramp up in the section after Panton Gap and slowed down to something not much faster than a sad crawl. I finally finished the ride in 2 hrs 29 mins – 14 minutes slower than last year. This just goes to show that you can never take a mountain like Donna Buang for granted.