Giro Della Donna '17

I rode Giro Della Donna two years ago and remember it for beautiful scenery, sweeping descents and tall, tall trees along the Acheron Way. Steggles put it in most of our training plans as it is a perfectly timed hit out to sharpen our proverbial pencils before ToB, this time though with the added training benefit of thoroughly testing the waterproofness of our skin, anti fogging properties of our glasses and our ability to turn ingested gravel into a useful fuel source.

Adhering to the saying ‘do as I say, not as I do’ the coach rolled into bed at around 1am the night before the ride following a 21st, not sure if he had been invited to afore mentioned 21st but he looked happy with himself and as we haven’t seen any news/police reports relating to a man crashing a party with a carton of chocolate milk we’ll assume it was all amicable.

Slightly bleary eyed and with the van packed, we headed east and smugly away from the only rain that appeared on the radar, things were back on track. In between traffic lights and junctions Steggles was spooning in muesli from a bowl balanced on his lap, not a drop missed. Unlike me, I had dry granola in a bag, reckon I got about 30% home the rest will be reminding Steggles of this day for years to come as he keeps finding "Shiny’s f**king granola" in nooks and cracks around his van.

Got to Warburton with plenty of time to spare, kitted up then rolled to where Splinter and Wal were camping. Splinter in Lycra and crocs is an acquired taste but one I’ve come to fondly associate with pre race prep. We rolled to the start line, straight to the front of the pack relying heavily on "hello mate" and "great to see you" to gloss over our blatant queue jumping. Job done, smile for the camera and we’re rolling!

The first thing I noticed was a tangible increase in NRS team logos, well that will keep us honest. The pace started at a wonderfully conversational pace allowing us, ok mainly me, to float about and say hello to anyone I recognised. Things heated up as the gradient increased and before long the time for chatting was well gone to be replaced with trying to keep the heavy breathing away from searching ears. I saw Ben putting in a cracking effort, he slipped back a little only to reappear a few minutes later with a determined smile on his face, chapeau. Then the rain came, starting as just a hint of precipitation it soon got going and was proper ‘riding through a curtain’ rain. Rain jackets were grudgingly donned as we realised it wasn’t a passing anomaly but the shape of things to come. By the top of Reefton the front group had been whittled down to 20 or so riders, the descent into Marysville was thankfully very sensible as I reckon it was done with at best 20% visibility.

The rain had done its best to rehydrate my dried dates, slippery and sticky are the first words that come to mind, you wouldn’t find it on a menu but they did a job. All was good then my electronic drivetrain did what I imagine lots of others did that day and had a slight brain fart. The rear derailleur decided it wasn’t going to derail and that the 11t cog was the perfect tool for the hill I was on, it had a chat to the front derailleur which accordingly shifted into the big chainring. The control jiggers then seemingly went on lunch. Smashing.

I would love to believe that nothing well designed should need a manual, therefore I am usually one of the people that recycles them without turning a page. The one notable exception, the instructions that came with the di2 group set. Mainly to draw out the excitement of new bike ownership, when I got the bag of bits that came with my bike I actually read them. One thing that stuck in my head was ‘crash mode’ if the derailleur gets at all apprehensive it might enter crash mode, to exit crash mode press and hold junction box button for 10 seconds or something... what do you know it worked! Right I’m back, where’s everybody gone...


Right I’m back,
where’s everybody gone...


Time to show a little gumption, head down, no silly power numbers and crack on. The up side was i got the first part of the Acheron Way to myself, stunning. Then a flash of colour disappearing around a corner, press on and then I’m back with the front group. In my head the words ‘no attacks now guys’ were heeded and we hit the gravel together. The gravel hit back. Evenly coating everything from nostrils to the inner ear with sand so fine the Whitsundays would be envious, the up side of the rain was that it made the loose stuff much less slippery and we hammered on often led by Tim who looked as happy as a mountain biker finding gravel.!?

The end of the gravel seemed to come quickly, and looking up from the back of the strung out group i could see the guys at the front not too far up the climb. Well if you’ve come this far you might as well give it the full tickle. A shortish effort was enough to get back with the front group, numbering about 15 by now, and made up of NRS burgers. There was one guy of a similar vintage to myself trying to get on to us so I kept pushing the pedals, taking a turn as we rolled turns and a couple of minutes saw him drift back. At this point I was filled with the thought of ‘that will do nicely’ there were 10 of us in the group, that meant top 10 stem cap and the first masters rider. I was happy with that... actually no... keep pushing, head down, not long. Keep that gear, don’t make it easier... Pat Lane put in a short effort with about 1k to go and he went off the front. Shortly after his team mate, one other and our very own Sam went as well. They all gave it everything, Pat rolled across the line first then some other people and Sam in 4th for what I think was one of the highlights of the day. I rolled over a very happy 7th congratulated the other guys, had my photo taken praying I look even half as cool as the guys from last year (I won’t) then rolled back down the hill with Sam as he tried to steer his bike and shiver uncontrollably at the same time.

I later found out that Steggles has managed to raise the bar considerably for his finish line photo but I’ll let him tell you about that.

Rolling into the event village we tried to get our stem caps, it’s really all we cared about, but they weren’t having a bar of it. I tried explaining that I was 7th across the line, i was certain as i was riding slowly at that point and had plenty of time to count the 6 riders in front of me. Had a beer with Tim, god that was good, then decided we could pick up the commemorative stem caps back in Melbourne so we headed off. Job done, heater in the van doing what god intended, great day.

Half an hour from home and our phones both ping with text messages from Cycling Tips, I read mine first and it congratulates me for finishing. 1st. WTF. Steggles turn around! Like the A-Team man, handbrake it. We’re not and he didn’t.

Long story short Sam stepped up to be Shiny2 for the podium, younger, taller and faster. A worthy successor 😉

As with so many rides and races The Hurt Box crew performed exceptionally on so many levels, you all inspire in different ways. Training and racing with you all is absolutely top shelf.

Most of us will be in Bright so lets give it a proper tickle

darren lever