Battle to win first Aussie Vertical K

TrailRunMag 30.11.2015

The overall winner of the inaugural Vertical K – Mt Donna Buang event at Warburton on Sunday 29 November was not a trail runner (unfortunately) but a cyclist, Cyrus Monk. Not for the weak hearted, this unique event pitched man and bike against one of the most notable climbs in Australia: Mt Donna Buang.Ralph_Street_first_runner

Cyrus Monk, who rides for the African Wildlife Safaris Team, had a real challenge on his hands in this new style of event that encapsulates the true essence of the word ‘tough’. The battle was on from the outset with the trail runners and cyclists lining up side by side at the start line in Warburton, eyeing off the competition. Then the race was on!

The cyclists were lulled into a false sense of ease as they got up to speed with 800m of flat riding before ‘The Donna’ climb started in earnest. The road then kicked up to a moderate 5% gradient as it climbed through the magnificent temperate rainforest and the fog.

Overall, the cyclists had to ascend 1,077m throughout their tough 17.8km race, over an average gradient of 6.4% that proved extremely testing for many.

Cyrus Monk and second placed cyclist Tim Beardall had a tight race until the final climb where Monk managed to pull away from him to finish just 4 seconds ahead, in a time of 48mins,27sec.

“The idea was to go hard from the start so nobody could hold on but Tim was right there the whole way so I was starting to doubt myself towards the end,” said overall winner Cyrus Monk.

“Then when I saw the 1km-to-go sign I just thought “I’ve got to go for it” but in the fog it felt like that finish line was never going to come, it was a huge relief to come over the line first. Tim was a really tough one to beat but that just made it more fun,” he said.

In the women’s field, Georgina Beech from Beaconsfield finished nearly 4 minutes ahead of the next cyclist Kate Scarlett however the top 2 female runners (Judith May and Lucy Bartholomew) finished between them.

The trail runners also had a nice warm up for the race, starting out with 1.5km of flat trail along the river before cruelly being turned onto Martyr Road. This is known to be one of Australia’s steepest residential streets with an average gradient of 20% and 31% on the steepest stretch. Ouch!

Overall, the runners climbed a 1,098m vertical ascent over just 8km, in what was Australia’s first sanctioned Vertical Kilometre SkyRace.Cyslists_v_Trail_Runners

The runners also had a tight race as Ralph Street from the UK and Ben Duffus from QLD battled it out over most of race until Street found some extra oomph in the final 600m, finishing 46 seconds ahead in a time of 53mins,23sec.

“It was absolutely fantastic. I thought the course was marvellous and lovely and green, it was really good,” said Ralph Street, winning runner and seventh overall.

“I was running with Ben (Duffus) most of the way. He got a gap on me in the steep stuff and then I got ahead in the run-able section. Then I saw a sign saying 600m to the top and I thought “I’d better give it a go”.  It was a really good day, thank you to all the sponsors and the organisers and to everyone for coming and competing,” he said.

International skyrunner Ben Duffus finished second in the run and eighth overall.

“He (Ralph Street) was too strong in that run-able section towards the finish. It was just heartbreaking to watch him pull away from me but a well-deserved win to Ralph, it was a great run,” said Ben Duffus.

“It’s quite a narrow single track with the trees right amongst you so it’s quite different to the races I’ve done in Europe where you run well above the tree line, it was probably more technical today,” he said.

In the women’s field, Judith May – a former Australian Mountain Running Champion – got the better of Melbourne-based international trail runner Lucy Bartholomew, beating her by just 34 seconds.

“It was pretty tough. I knew it was going to be steep but it was harder than I thought it was going to be, I haven’t run this type of hill for a long time. I assumed we were going to be beaten by the cyclists but it wasn’t by much, it was good fun,” said Judith May, winning female runner and second female finisher overall.

“It was hard but I loved it. The course is really unique with such a long single track climb and being so steep. I ran probably 70% of it but in some sections it was actually faster to walk. It was awesome,” said Lucy Bartholomew, second female runner and third female finisher overall.

A critical junction in the race was when the trail runners joined the cyclists for an 800m stretch along the road at the 13.5km point in the cycle climb and just after the 5.6km point in the run course. This allowed competitors to gauge how they were sitting in the field before the final push to the summit.

In the final section to the summit the road kicked up to a 10% gradient to really push the cyclists through to the finish and similarly, the runners had to really put their heads down for a final 1.2km push.

“It was as good as I expected; it was phenomenal. It was probably one of the toughest runs I have done and I was actually surprised that we finished so close to the cyclists, I thought they would have been light years ahead of us as parts of the course just weren’t even run-able. It was a great event and clearly everyone has really enjoyed it,” said Cheryl Martin, third female runner.



Overall male winner:          Cyrus Monk, Cyclist 00:48:27
Overall female winner:      Georgina Beech, Cyclist 1:07:02

Top 3 Cyclists:


  1. Cyrus Monk 00:48:27
  2. Tim Beardall 00:48:31
  3. Adrian McGregor 00:51:03


  1. Georgina Beech 1:07:02
  2. Kate Scarlett 1:10:50
  3. Nonie Carr 1:10:59 

Top 3 Trail Runners:


  1. Ralph Street 00:53:23
  2. Ben Duffus 00:54:09
  3. Peter Bray 00:55:29


  1. Judith May 1:09:57
  2. Lucy Bartholomew 1:10:31
  3. Cheryl Martin 1:11:18

Check out the full results from the Vertical K Mt Donna Buang here: Vertical K Result

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