Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 Stratford to Dargo KOM

Detail: A 105km Road Race with 3 major climbs from Stratford to Dargo via Beverley’s Road with the finish at Hibernia Road, 16km North of Dargo on the Dargo High Plains Road. The final 10.58km rises 918m with an average incline of 8.3%. Distance includes a 3km neutral zone out of Stratford.

Dargo: Located in the foothills of the Dargo High Plains is one of Victoria's most remote communities, which originally served as a supply town to the Crooked River Goldfields at Grant and Talbotville.

Final climb out of Dargo

I caught up with Wayne (@Duke6amer) on Friday night and we headed out to Gippsland on quiet roads. We bunked down for the night at Wayne's parents place at Glenmaggie, some 20 or so minutes from Stratford. Morning came around and pre-race sign-on ran through without a hitch. Representing 6am-ers were Wayne Flint, Mick Villani & Myself. Was good to see Classix contenders Mat Marques & Dave Tennant preparing to suffer under the capable support of Dave Anderson.

Cam Senese, Mick Villani & Wayne Flint   (c/o BraveDave)

We knew it was going to be hot, & riding without support - Duke & I each picked up a 600ml bottle of water from a local service station to store in jersey pockets as part of a brief pre-race warmup. We had planned to consume these bottles before the first major climb at the 37km mark. The idea was to then consume additional x2 750ml bottles on bikes through to Dargo, and then refill via neutral water station at Dargo before the final climb. There was an element of risk to this strategy, but it seemed feasible that this would be enough fluids.

We rolled out under control, not long after the neutral zone was cleared there was some pressure exerted at the front-end of the field - a bunch started to drift away. Duke and I had a quick word - he thought there were no M2 riders in the breakaway - I thought there was one, so I quickly jumped to bridge the gap. Turns out Wayne was right, and by the time my life signs had normalised a little and I glanced around - the peloton had also bridged to join us. Somewhere around this time David Sturt had slipped away on a solo attack. Reportedly he eventually caught the A/B race up the road and managed to stay away for the remainder of the race - winning the Masters 4, and Masters 2/3/4 divisions. Things settled down from here for quite a while, until the climb out of Iguana Creek.

Iguana Creek   (c/o BraveDave)

Immediately after the bridge crossing Iguana Creek (plank bridge - caution) the first 10.5km climb commences. After only 5 or so seconds it was apparent that nobody was waiting for anybody else to get across that bridge before commencing the climb in a somewhat spirited fashion. After about 4-5 minutes of back to the wall above threshold climbing, Dave Tennant, myself an another rider were dangling 15 or so meters off the back of a small group up the road containing Gabriel Carey, Mick Villani, Sean Wilkenson, Wayne Flint, and maybe 2 more who were in pursuit of a then smaller lead group consisting of Ciaran Jones, Andrew Weightman and maybe 2 more. Dave Tennant let out a brief vocal exclamation (couldn't make it out) and jumped across to the next group. I considered following but couldn't get the final climb (and the rest) out of my mind, and being already 27c it had made the perceived effort of the previous 5 minutes seem enormous. Given there was still another 20 odd minutes remaining to the summit - I pulled the pin on the idea of bridging and settled back into a solid tempo. The rider that remained with me briefly pulled alongside and exclaimed "there's a long way to go..". We climbed together for a few minutes and I got to wondering about strategy from here. I was betting that the pace up ahead would later take it's toll on some, but also kept having the thought that I should have bridged because realistically the pace was unsustainable for most - and was bound to settle down at some point - I should have just sucked it up and bled for a little longer, yada, yada, yada.. Before I knew it some more had bridged to us and a group of 8 or so had formed around me.

We pushed along together through to the 60km feed station, picking up some from up ahead and losing others off the back. Before the feed station there was an agreement to reform the group straight after and some made gags about how well we were all getting along so well (nobody had said a word since the first climb). I pushed through the feed station and stopped to take a natural break while others slowed to grab their feed bags. I chased back onto the group and was feeling decidedly less "good" than before I stopped. To this point I'd sat at the front end of the group - I was now sitting at the back wondering what had happened to my legs.

A couple more got shelled climbing out of the feed station, then there were some long fast descents before another 4km climb just before Dargo. Back to feeling good again and working off the front of the group on the climb. We descended into Dargo where I picked up some neutral water - emptying the neutral bottle into a biddon on my bike.

Three riders were about 40 meters up the road once I was through Dargo - everyone else had evaporated behind and were out of sight.. At some point between Dargo and the climb there were sheep on the road and the three ahead slowed to avoid them. I'd basically caught them but felt no urgency to push right up to them. It was now 34c and the focus of my attention was quickly internalising.

For the first section of the final climb there were a few riders around me, an official support vehicle, an ambulance, rider support vehicles, no shade, taste of exhaust fumes in the hot air - it felt crowded and hot - really hot.

A couple of younger riders came past - including Ross Hamilton the surviving member of the early 2 man breakaway in the C grade race. Only meters up the road, Ross veered left and dropped his bike down onto the shoulder shortly followed by his body collapsing into the dirt  behind the ambulance. Ambulance stopped and medical staff pounced on him with cold water as he cried out at the heat and fatigue. (Well done to Ross & Cam Bush for working the breakaway for as far as you did). My Edge 500 is now reading 36c and I've got Dave Tennant for company, sometimes by my side, sometimes up the road - no chatting, just introspection.  A Hampton Cycles rider from my group is dangling ahead of me - sometimes near - sometimes far. At some stage early on Mat Marques tapped his way past on his way to 4th place in C grade. I wished him well and before too long he was out of sight.

Final Climb  (c/o BraveDave)

The climb itself has been aptly described by others  - and I'll just borrow some favorites to save me inventing my own: "I have done several Mt Baw Baw Classics and I don’t know if it was the weather or what (Baw Baw is held in cool to mild conditions) whereas Dargo was hot (30 degrees) but this climb was much harder. The climb goes for 11 km at an average gradient of 10% – it seems much steeper (eventually the climb intersects on the Mt Hotham climb near CRB hill). Apart from one small section of downhill (a few hundred metres), each bend is met with another and then another and then another pitch upwards. It is unrelenting." Dave Tennant

"Truth be told, I didn’t expect the climb to be this ridiculous: 10km of climbing over grades of 20% or so. I recall at some stages I was doing 4km/h, running a 50×34-11-29, so spending most of the time in 34×29 (yes, you are reading that correctly), spinning a very low cadence (circa 60rpm), having to stand up, sit down…it was utter carnage. It was about 27 degrees according to my trusty Garmin, and you could tell. Guys were getting shelled; it was the walking wounded. Gutted souls sitting bent over the bars heaving air in as they stared up the road, scarcely believing it." Ex Machina Racing (2010)

I don't really remember a lot of the 2nd half of the climb. I chatted for a minute with the Hampton rider at one stage, and I recall his cries of pain and frustration as cramping robbed his ability to turn over the cranks toward the finish line - the final pitch at nearly 20% was walked by many. I remember Tim McGrath and Miranda Griffiths making their way past, I remember heat, I remember wanting to vomit, and I remember finishing. Pushing on and eventually finishing was a massive relief.

Finish Line   (c/o Marisa Farrell)

4:02:25 - bit outside my targeted time of sub 4hr, but close enough to be satisfied. 5th place Masters 2, 11th place Masters 2/3/4. Big congratulations to Michael Villani 3rd Place Masters 4, and Wayne Flint 4th Place Masters 2.

I think I'll be back next year rockin' a 50×34-12-29. 27 was doable, but I think a little more spin & a little less grind might go a long way on the clock..


  1. Well done great effort......PS pics of the finish line will be up on by Wednesday night.......hope I got your good side!

  2. Awesome, mate. What an achievement.

  3. Thanks Buttsy. Look forward to seeing your work :)

  4. Cheers Gus! S2D is a great way to fill in the time between Warrnambool and Bright (so hope to see you on the start line next yr!?)

  5. Well done on finishing strongly Cam. If my memory serves me correctly I passed you at about the same time the ambulance was retrieving the leader of C grade who was yelling out (I thought he was geeing himself on). I bet the descent was so much more enjoyable!