It’s little more than two weeks until CyclingTips’ inaugural Giro della Donna, a 107km gran fondo in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges which includes some terrific climbs and some of the best scenery in the country. So what can you expect from the course? When he’s not working as the Editor of CyclingTips, Matt de Neef has his own popular blog, The Climbing Cyclist. In his usual fashion, Matt’s ‘Climbing Cyclist’ alter-ego put together this preview of the course.
Before we break the Giro della Donna down into its various sections, here are some basic stats of what you’ll face on the day:
Elevation gain: 2,700m
Length of unsealed roads: 13km
A mix of fully closed and traffic managed roads for your safety and enjoyment
Section 1: Warburton to Reefton (0-20km)
If you like riding flat roads then you’ll want to make the most of this opening section — it’s the flattest section of the whole course. Even then, it’s not particularly flat.
There’s no shortage of little rollers to sap the legs as you make your way towards Reefton and the first major climb of the day.
Section 2: Reefton to Cumberland Junction (20km to 40km)
As soon as you turn left at Reefton and cross the bridge, the Reefton Spur climb begins. What follows is 20km of climbing at an average gradient of 3%.
The first 7km or so of the Reefton Spur climb is steadily uphill but from that point on the climbing is far less consistent. In the remaining 13km there’s never more than 3km of sustained climbing meaning there are plenty of flatter sports and even the odd short descent to give you a brief rest.
If you’re pushing yourself on this climb, you’ll have several opportunities to use the big ring on the easier grades towards the top. If you’re just trying to enjoy the scenery, be sure to look out to your left in the opening half of the climb for some terrific views over the Yarra Ranges.
Section 3: Cumberland Junction to Marysville (40km to 60km)
While the Reefton Spur ascent is finished when you turn left at Cumberland Junction, you’ve still got a bit of climbing ahead of you as you skirt the lower slopes of Lake Mountain.
It’s up and down for a few kilometres but once you reach Cambarville (a dot on the map but there’s nothing really here) you’ve got about 3km of sustained climbing ahead of you. This short section features the steepest part of the entire course — a couple hundred metres at roughly 10%.
From the 46km mark there’s only a couple kilometres of gentle climbing (48-50km) between you and an entirely downhill run into Marysville. A word of caution about this descent: the final 5km or so into Marysville (from 55km) are quite steep and there are some tight corners to be aware of. Be sure to take it easy on the way down and ride to your own ability!
Section 4: Marysville to the start of the Acheron Way gravel (60km to 83km)
From the lunch stop in Marysville you’ve got a few kilometres of gentle climbing and a very fast descent as you approach the left-turn on to the Acheron Way (at 68km).
What follows is one of the most amazing cycling roads in Victoria, if not Australia: a well-sealed, quiet, narrow road that winds its way through temperate rainforest and towering gums. Even if you’re pushing yourself for a good time, be sure to look up and around you once in a while.
The first 15km of the Acheron Way tends generally upwards but you’ll barely notice it. The next section is a little more challenging.
Section 5: Acheron Way gravel sector (83km to 96km)
At the 83km mark the Acheron Way turns to gravel and the gradient increases a little. The surface is well and truly rideable on a road bike (just avoid the occasional pothole) but we recommend 25mm tyres or a sturdy 23mm option. Alternatively, we have a rider pack available which includes suitable tyres from Specialized.
For much of the first half of the 13km unsealed sector you’ll be climbing; for most of the second half you’ll be descending. Use this opportunity to rest up your legs before the final challenge of the day.
Section 6: Cement Creek to Mt. Donna Buang summit (96km to 107km)
At Cement Creek the road becomes sealed again and you’ll turn right to begin the Mt. Donna Buang climb. It’s all uphill from this point, with an average gradient of roughly 6%, so settle in and try to find a comfortable rhythm.
When you reach a big carpark on your right there’s just 3km to go and when you pass the turn-off to Healesville on your left, you’re just 1.5km from finishing. Cruelly, this final push to the line is the steepest section of the climb.
As you reach the the carpark at the Mt. Donna Buang summit, head to the left towards the lookout tower to finish the ride.
With the Giro della Donna complete, all that remains is to (safely) enjoy the 17km descent back into Warburton. At Cement Creek turn right and then turn right again at the end of the descent to make your way back into the event village. Back there, enjoy the entertainment, food, refreshments and post-ride war stories with your newfound mates.
What else can you expect on the day besides incredible riding? Of course we’re going to keep a few things up our sleeve to surprise you with, but to help make the day a memorable one we’ve enlisted the help of some great partners to add to your experience. Including Skratch Lab and Bonk Breaker nutrition support, Shimano on course mechanical support and an after party with beer from Bridge Road Brewers, wine from Sam Miranda and the Skratch Lab famous burritos. Specialized, Jaguar, Sufferfest and Castelli will also have some fantastic take-aways from the day for all participants (No, not the typical cheap t-shirts or jerseys that nobody wears!). Not to mention a momento worth climbing your way to the summit of Mount Donna Buang for.
We hope to see you there!
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