Cycle Melbourne, Mountain Bike Ride, Cadel's Col
A perfect ride for mountain bikers, roadies and triathletes to develop strength, endurance and descending skills. This is where Cadel Evans did a great deal of his early training, when a young teenager starting his MTB career. It’s a non-technical ride on quiet country roads and fire trails featuring rolling hills, a spectacular climb with outstanding views and one fast descent. The climb is on Bowden Spur and zigzags its way from the valley to the Kinglake Ranges, underneath the powerlines.
In the 1980s, I was on the cusp of starting my own MTB coaching and touring business based at Eltham. We had a small group of mountain bikers who rode the surrounding dirt roads and tracks for fitness and fun. Twice a week throughout the year we would start at 6:30am and then do longer rides further a field on weekends.
Most of these were long, endurance rides on surrounding country roads, including this one. We soon had a bunch of keen youngsters joining us, even for the early morning efforts. Cadel Evans was aged around 14 and a keen member of the group. Even as a young lad, we all saw the single-minded focus he had, just as his dream to become a professional cyclist was unfolding. He was quiet, always polite and a little on the solid side. He had a thirst for cycling knowledge and an uncanny resourcefulness in getting the information he wanted. My only claim to fame in this regard was one day Cadel turned to me and asked “Keiran, how do I become a better cyclist?” to which I replied, “Cadel, you’ve got to learn to love hills.” We then proceeded to do some leg crunching repetition climbs up a steep hill.
Cadel went on to get formal coaching with the reknowned Damian Grundy, who was running a bike shop in the district and riding as a successful elite mountain biker. Damien then became the AIS mountain bike coach.
Rides like this one will do wonders for your fitness; it seemed to work for Cadel.
Jacksons and Rankines roads are quiet dirt based country lanes that take you north towards the Kinglake Ranges as you skirt the beautiful Strathewen Valley. This is very scenic farmland and as you ride you see a scar on the mountain ahead. This is Bowden Spur, a four-wheel drive road that has plenty of hairpins alongside the electricity transmission lines. We have a downhill ride beside the spur and you will see parts of it to your right as you climb. The view from the top is really quite dramatic and at one point you also have a rather unnerving view into the deep gully on your left. This area was incinerated in the 2009 fires but the powerlines survived and the bush is now regenerating.
Take care on the Beale Avenue descent, as it gets very fast and a fire truck or four-wheel drive coming up the other way is always a possibility so you need total concentration. At the bottom you pass through the sleepy hamlet of Strathewen where nearly every building was destroyed in the fires, including two mud brick homes my family built. You will notice many very beautiful letterboxes along the road. These were made by the locals as part of a community rebuilding program.
Rolling hills on quiet dirt roads take you back to the finish. Allow half a day for this ride and watch the sun as there is little tree cover.
The ride starts near St Andrews, approximately 35 kilometres northeast of Melbourne. Take HeidelbergKinglake Road (C746) north from Hurstbridge into St Andrews, turn left on School Road, drive a short distance to the start point, at the intersection with Hildebrand Road, Melway 394 D6.
Food and Drink
St Andrews has a milkbar and hotel. No other facilities along the ride, so best to stock up before you start. Hurstbridge, on your way, is the closest for general stores, and has some nice cafés also.
33.485 km / 20.807 mi
858 m / 2,814 ft
632 m / 2,072 ft