That OMG… Death Valley Hill

Written by Dave Norton on . Posted in News


by Bill Whalley

It was always billed as the glamour event of the season starting from the damp and drizzly shores of Sorrento. A huge number of riders gathered for what is now a choice of the annual “Death Valley” ride or the new option of a more social “Happy Valley” ride. The event is timed for a perfect hit out, three weeks before the eagerly anticipated Busso Half. A record field lined up

for the Death Valley ride and around 20 for the Happy Valley ride. However it was difficult to get an accurate headcount due to the number of males sheltering in the toilets, with the general reason being it was raining?

The pace was sedate early as Chris Balde led everyone out and spent a few K’s at the front keeping everyone honest. However, this managed to catch up on him at the 110k mark as he died a thousand deaths much to the delight of fellow riders.

The pace picked up a little on Hepburn Ave, east of Alexander Dr from the young guns Eric and Blake. It wasn’t long before the appearance of the TT bikes of Mickey, Blake and Co, who reeled the young lads in and set a nice Tempo. Once onto Reid Hwy, the excitement of nearby hills saw a surge in speed, causing the group to split, until “Uber” coach Arron Robertson decided to take control and keep the pace to a sensible level. Not to be outdone, the ladies showed they had the leg strength and tenacity to stay comfortable (well, they looked like they were enjoying it?) within the group. A guest appearance from Ironwoman age group world champion June Ward, and experienced riders Helen “Kona” Vagnoni, Lisa Hitchcock, Judy Whelan, Anna Woodhouse and Carrie Prosser, meant “the Girls just wanna to have fun”.

Onto Great Northern Hwy, and it was Chris Balde and Eric Watson pushing the pace to Oakover Road, which saw everyone safely turn right from the Hwy, good to see a safe riding ethic on a busy road, which had all turning onto Oakover safely. Once into Oakeover, it was time for Nino, Dale and some of the lads to have a “nature” break

Continuing on with the ladies, saw Lindsay Richards enjoying a social chat on Campersic Road and a sneaky turn up from Michelle James. Michelle! where did you come from?  An amazing turnaround from Michelle, who rode strongly, after what has been a frustrating lay-off due to injury. Welcome back! Lindsay Richards rode within herself as did her coach John “Boris” Xfit Champ” Domican. It is now revealed, they were tapering (in Death Valley?) for a 90k TT they entered the next day.  Well done Lindsay as I believe you had a 10min PB over the distance. Speaking of John Domican, he may well be on the sidelines after copping a one match ban from the tribunal for treating the Valley with contempt. This is unsportsmanlike behavior and I dare say this is not the last suspension he will attract, but with loading from this penalty, he may be looking at additional time on the bench if he continues to offend.

Anyway, back to the ride and the “hills were alive to the sound of groaning”! With Brigadoon hill soon followed by the now infamous “wtfOMG” rollercoaster of Lancewood Road.  However, as expected, the leading group, of Chris, Arron, Blake and Mickey, failed to check the route prior to riding and continued to the top of Brigadoon. While the group on the correct course regrouped, and waited, The leading group re-appeared with the excuse of “If you are going to ride a hill, you may as well ride the COMPLETE hill.” Thanks Arron! however, this failure to check the route beforehand will require the return from archives of the “knob of the valley” trophy, which will be presented in the near future. In the meantime, while waiting, Lisa Hitchcock took the opportunity for a “nature” break. Off she dallied into the nearby bushes,but  only to hear a local landowner call ” If you gunna do a pee on my property, I’ll set the dogs on ya!”. This saw Lisa scurrying back to the group with chamois at knee level!

Back to Lancewood road,and on the first hill we saw a current committee member  Craig Wright stationary, because of wrong! gear selection, mumbling,” this is going to be hard getting back on.” And also, just to keep Craig company, long term club member (surname is a colour, but no names mentioned) also with a dropped chain!!  I finally got to see Craig in action over a hilly course, and I  was impressed with how he lugged that big frame (not the bike) around the valley. It is difficult to ignore his credentials and the quality of person he brings to this event, particularly considering the crew he hangs with after hours (Hoffy senior) would deem it necessary to give this fella some slack – he truly is a unique individual, and so with much humility we open our arms to the man and embrace the furry animal.

With the job almost  done, on Lancewood we saw “Uber” coach Robbo, leaning over his bike in what appeared to be a traditional Ironman athlete vomit position. Left into O’Brien and we are in the valley for a 2.5k downhill followed by  3.5k uphill and re-group on Ewing Road. With Gilly “King of the Mountain” Chitrau happily, one of the front runners on this, biggest of valley climbs. Excitement emitted from the Group as it appeared all riders had managed to drop Arron on the climb up to Ewing road. Unfortunately this was short lived as it is now confirmed he was not vomiting, but had a broken spoke ( or maybe he broke the spoke?) Everyone accepted this except Kate Vernon, who wishes to believe she still dropped an elder statesman of Aarons ability. Aaron was gladly assisted with his technical problem by the support crew, consisting  of the smilling assassins  Moya “its nearly my birthday and I’ll get chaperoned around the valley if I want to” Jones  and Dennis “Paparazzi” Tan, along with Driver and vehicle owner Mark, who gave Arron a replacement front wheel. What fantastic support.

Chris Buck, Declan McDermoot,  Big Hair Adam and Kevin Kelly continued to ride strongly through the valley and the ride appeared uneventful until Mickey threw his water bottle into a paddock for what I thought was a traditional worshipping gesture at Peter Brocks memorial!  Not to have the Mount Panorama gods after me I thought I better throw my bottle also, however, once stopped Mickey suggested his bottle fell out of its cage and had nothing to do with being dropped from the lead group, so, back to collect his bottle and we both rode steady to the Gidgy servo, where he explained to his buddies he was okay, but had to stop. to pick up his bottle. ( at least this method is cheaper than breaking one,s spoke!).

At Gidgi, we were met by the one and only Paul ” I jagged a lottery spot for Kona” Heyes. Paul had decided to sleep until six and still managed to ride to Gidgi before most of us. He is riding strong at the minute and if he can maintain that form you better watch out for a good bike split on the big island in October.

So, whilst the violinist packs up his strings, the real focus should be now attended to who is going to ride the hardest and strongest for the 40k’s back to Sorrento SLSC on the flat and who will win the mighty ” I sucked on wheels in the hills for four hours and am now the strongest along Reid Hwy” trophy.

. A number of finely tuned athletes are vying for favoritism this year, with the second place getter, behind Paul McSweeney from 1993, Billy likely to toe the line a heavily backed hotpot. Ors has obviously put in a massive season and is reaping the rewards; he is taking all before him. He will have to overcome the two-time Reid Hwy champion of  Arron Robertson though. however, Paul Heyes, Eric Watson and Young Hoffy are going to have to back their form,  History says no, the bookies say no, Heyes surgeon definitely is saying no, but like old ladies in the queue at the shops, he refuses to hear them, and will enter the race with the spirit and hopes of a nation riding.

This year also saw the return of one of the stars from the nineties and North Coast life member in Peter Hall. Peter “I am stoked to be getting a leave pass this weekend” Hall will be looking to gain some much needed points if he is to climb those hills. And in the tradition of old school athletes, left the group at the top of Brigadoon with a grunt and ” I don’t draft like you softies” and continued to ride the valley on his own. I love the old school mentality of, Budgie smugglers, Lycra tops on the blokes, no socks and calling in at Woolies during an Ironman for a coke and a mars bar. Well done Pete!

Leaving Gidgi, the front group was going to set the pace non-stop back to Sorrento, while it was suggested the second group re-group at the service station at the bottom of Redhill , This would ensure everyone rode in a group, or at least a number of small groups, which is safest on Reid Hwy at 10.00am in the morning.

To all the riders I failed to mention, I apologise. Some I met for the first time on the day, and some names just do not come to mind at the time of writing. If I could remember, you would all get a mention. You know who you are. Thank you for riding the valley

And to close, the Valley is ridden for one more year Good to see a few join up for Coffee and a debrief at Sorrento after the ride. Until next year, good luck folks, may the spirit of the valley be with you in the eternal quest for honor and glory, and in the words of the great Ron Burgundy,

When in Rome……………..


On a sad note, it is necessary to inform every one of some serious issues which occurred in the Valley. These concerns are being reviewed by the disciplinary committee and I expect there will be a tribunal hearing before the week is finished.


The clubs disciplinary committee consisting of Erle Franklin, Anne Blatchford and Kim Tyler –Lees  have deliberated during the wee small hours and have confirmed that Helen  Vagnoni, Will Vagnoni and John Domican  will receive suspension and possibly transferred to Exceed Tri club.

The concerns noted during the ride necessitating this discipline: and in no particular order:

Helen Vagnoni – For continually smiling throughout the valley, even on the toughest of hills. A complete lack of respect for the valley.

Will Vagnoni –  Yes folks, The other Vagnoni, who remained seated throughout the entire ride!!. This has never been seen before in the valley. Such a serious act of contempt could see the clubs first 12month suspension.

John Domican – Once again, continued contempt of the valley, by continually talking and giving his opinion on how easy it was, as this was his recovery, taper ride.

Thank you support crew and paparazzi. A wonderful job and much appreciated by all riders. Again, thank you.