12 Apr

Baw Baw Cycling Classic – Taking on the hardest climb in Australia

When I first heard about Baw Baw Cycling Classic, I was intrigued.

It sounded tough – yep that would be something I would enjoy.
For those who haven’t heard about the Baw Baw Cycling Classic, here are some numbers:
The race is 103 km long, 3200m of elevation with the last 6km averaging 11% and a few pinches of 20%. (64mi, 10,500 feet elevation, last 3.7mi averaging 11% with 20% pinches). More info on the Baw Baw climb here.
Considering that the last 6 km only cover an elevation gain of an odd 700m, you can imagine where the other 2500m of climbing coming from. You dont exactly start the last climb fresh as a daisy.
Here is the elevation chart.
Very deceiving!
Just as a side note, you see that little rise just before km 30? That is an elevation gain of 100m. Not as insignificant as it looks on this chart. 
The final decision if I should race was when my fellow Hurt Box rider, Meredith, told me it would be even tougher than I imagined it to be. It was not just a climb. It was a brutal 4+hr ride.
Music to my ears.
Speaking of signing up – the number of participants shows the respect for this race. Only 15 women in total signed up. It is not without a reason that Baw Baw is said to be the toughest climb in Australia.
So here I was at the start line with 14 other girls. Perfect weather conditions.
The race was split into two parts for me. Part 1 – The first 40km were tame with A grades setting the pace. At 40km, the eventual winner put in an effort and there was a natural split between the grades. I spent the next 10km or so riding with another girl and then I was by myself.
No soul around besides the occasional appearance of carnage from the categories ahead of us. 
50km on my own. 
I was hoping that I would create a gap so I wouldn’t get caught at the Baw Baw climb.
And then, I got a feeling, I usually get after riding 300+ km – I couldn’t push beyond a certain power anymore.
I just had nothing in my legs.
Anything above a certain perceived effort would lock my legs up.
I got worried.
Would this “lock-up-cramp-threshold” be high enough that I could ride up Baw Baw? 
It is not uncommon that riders push their bikes up Baw Baw. 
And then the massive wall appeared ahead of me. Six very focused, zigzagging  kilometers. (It could have been 7km from the amount of zigzagging) Any inattention would have made me swerve which would have caused me to fall over. 
It is hard to describe what you experience when riding this climb in a massively exhausted stage of fatigue. You calculate every move and hope that those 11% might ease up to 9% for a few meters. 
But instead you are greeted with two back-to-back corners of 20%!
I am not a climber and snailed my way up. Would it be fast enough to hold my competition off?
One moment to the next, another female racer (but not in my category), Steph from my Hurtbox training group, passed me. I couldn’t believe how quickly she climbed. 
Now I got seriously worried. 
So back to crawling my way up to the finish. 
2km to go. What? I didn’t even see the 3km-sign!
Monika! Of course, you did. It was just sooooo long ago that you have already forgotten about it!
Another eternity passed.
1km to go.
The games you are playing with your mind are just amazing at that point. And if you are playing that game long enough you will see the 500m sign before you know it!
Believe it or not, the mountain has a top and I finally reached it!
And I more or less pedaled the last few exhausted pedal strokes over the finish line.
So happy. 
Super exhausted. But worth the effort.
I learned later I had a spare time of 12 minutes.
Hill Climb Champ. VRS leader. (For my category)
And man, I will be there next year!What an awesome race!
Huge thanks to my coach and the The Hurt Box crew for their continuous support. Thanks to Alistair for the feed zone support and for Justine’s great company over the weekend!

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