The inaugural La Ridley Retreat; exploring the Yarra Valley

The retreat

I had the idea of holding a retreat for a weekend, which would encompass a day for ‘La Ride’.

After a few different ideas, I eventually came up with a date and location and advertised the ride on Facebook through a few channels. When it came time to commit, we had a group of seven for the weekend, which I was very stoked with! This number would make it easier to find accommodation and a lovely sized group to look after on the road.

Special connections

One of the things I love about cycling is all of the people you can meet and the opportunities that open up to you.

From the six that signed up to join me for our weekend; Kat and I met last year when I put on a ride for the RCC. Belle and I met on a training ride for the Melbourne’s Women 100 only a few short months ago. I met Rhonda when she was in my group for the 2016 Women’s 100 in Adelaide. Jemma and Sunny were in my group for the 2017 Women’s 100 in Adelaide. I had never met Philippa, she was a good friend of Kat.

Kat knew Belle and Philippa. Philippa only knew Kat. Rhonda only knew me. Jemma and Sunny knew each other well and knew of me. Belle knew Kat and myself. So holding a retreat was a great chance to make new friends!

The team! Belle, Jemma, myself, Sunny, Philippa, Kat and Rhonda.

Night One

We all made our way up to the retreat after work, arriving quite late for dinner, laughs by the log fire before piling blankets onto our beds to keep warm over night. The main surprise of the night was that our accommodation was on top of a 20% climb! We couldn’t wait cycle that one up at the end of our rides!

Day one

We woke up to a beautiful low-lying mist over the mountain but a fair deal of rain. A team decision was made that today would be more of a relaxing day with a ride later once it cleared up. Starting the day with a drive up beautiful Mount Donna Buang to the SNOW! It was here that we had snow fights, snow angels, reverse snow angels, writing our names into the snow, took the stairs to the top of the tower and explored local history in the shelter.

We returned to the town of Warburton for a warm drink and brunch at my favourite, the COG Cafe and Bike Shop. This is a bike shop and cafe that is super friendly and designed for bike riders, on the edge of the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail. It’s a highlight of the area for me and I knew we couldn’t miss stopping by!

Day one ride and run, a duathlon?

Finally the sun came out to play and we all spent time rugging up for a 35 km hilly loop. Half way through, it begun to shower…soon after, it begun raining and shortly after that it begun raining in earnest! We ended up drenched and this was the gravel part of the ride! Of course it was ! It also meant that our 20% climb back to our house was in the rain and quite slippery. Luckily, we all know how to #BeTough.

To top off our day, we walked down the hill to Little Joe for world class wood fired pizzas! The walk/run back up to our house was hilarious, with it being dubbed as the “La Ridley Great Pizza Relay!”. Fair to say, Kat and myself woke up with very sore calves the next morning and we were amazed by the pushing strength of Sunny!


We woke up with a mixture of excitement and nerves for what was to come ! a 105 km loop, 2100m of climbing, a 13 km gravel climb near the finish. It was bound to be a big day out!

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect! It may have been -2 degrees but it was a crispy blue sky and that means one thing, an amazing day ahead!

We were so lucky to have my partner Roey give up his weekend to be our ‘super swanny’ (soigneur). This meant that we could put layers and extra nutrition in the car, a luxury rarely provided. A few of us joked about packing ‘second outfits’ as it was meant to get to 17 degrees by lunch time! Funnily enough, it never really got that warm but it was nice to think we had options !

A fresh start!

Along the route

The first 20 odd km was quiet, rolling roads. Well, usually they’re we were joined by a Porsche Club! Thankfully despite their numbers, almost all of them were very respectful and gave us plenty of room. They even chatted to us at the turn off and wished us well, surprised to see a group of women conquering this route. This was something they hadn’t seen before! How cool.

After the turn off, the real climbing begins! It’s 30 km, but the first 10 km  is the most tough with a steady gradient of 7-8%. Following this there’s false flats and low gradients and we regrouped at the 20 km mark.  The final 10 km involved numerous steep pinches but it also had a sweet, sweet descent for a few km. Bliss. Once we reached the top, at the Lake Mountain turnoff, we had ten km of descending into the beautiful little town of Marysville.

We made it to the Lake Mountain turn off!

Lunch time! Despite planning on ‘taking our time’ I didn’t expect us to be there for well over an hour, but hey we were sitting in warm sunshine in a great location in awesome company. What more can you ask for! Why rush something so good.

Rhonda climbing up to the turn off

Acheron Way

The immaculate Acheron Way!

We eventually set off for the 10-15 km of undulations before turning onto the highlight of the route, Acheron Way. Imagine a beautiful road, lined by tall trees either side, towering over you with magnificent pride. A very quiet road, as there’s a 13 km unsealed section further along. We meander our way along the 1-2% road, with the entire group mesmerised by it’s beauty. Our legs are tired but we finally hit the dirt, for a ten km climb to the Donna Buang Rainforest Gallery. The gravel road was quite wet but otherwise was in good condition. Until the top where we had to dodge many pot holes.

Phlip & Kat conquering the wet gravel climb to the finish!

Finally, after five or six hours, we hit our final descent back into town! We all enjoyed the ten km of rainforest before arriving safely back in Warburton. Here, we could reflect on our achievements throughout the retreat and celebrate with one another.

Wrap up

What can I say really? everyone looked after one another all retreat just as I expected. Any egos were put aside and everyone regularly waited and rode with one another. It was awesome how we had all become friends in such a short amount of time! I think we were all really proud of each other and of ourselves. What a team!

Rider profiles

In the following days, a profile of each of the superstar riders will embody a blog of their own! Stay tuned team!

There are still six sleeps to complete your own La Ride 100 km challenge!



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