Hello David, I made it!!
This was my first attempt at a Peaks Challenge ride and sat out there as something too ridiculous to even contemplate.
I retired a bit over 12 months ago and needed an obsession, cycling quickly went from a pastime to that obsession.
I hopped onto the 26 week 13 hour program from the start and did my best to fit it around those all important social rides with a group of likeminded retirees. I live within easy access to the NE Vic mountains so there was always somebody keen to climb the big hills.
One of the joys of retirement is that you have much greater control of your time so I did not need to cram in indoor sessions. I would have done 95% of my training on the road using the set programs as a guide. There really is nothing like finding some 16%+ hills and grinding your way up them to prepare you for the back of Falls.
I was able to do some big rides along the way including 7 Peaks, Le Tape and Alpine Classic 200, rides which all worked nicely into the program.
I then did the CI Bright Boot Camp in February which was a great way of bringing all the training together and getting my head around the challenge. It was a great opportunity to discuss it with first timers and experienced hard nuts. Probably the biggest lesson I got from the camp was that, “the work is done now” and gave me a strategy to approach the ride without burning out before the day.
For a fortnight I was pouring over the weather forecast hoping for something good. Every day was doom and gloom, on the Monday they were still forecasting rain all day on every part of the ride. Thankfully that all evaporated by Sunday to really pretty ideal conditions.
The ride down to Mt Beauty was a gem on the closed roads, pretty soon over Tawonga and heading for Harrietville. The breeze was at our backs and I managed to latch onto a group for my speed and soon we were filling water bottles ready for the Hotham Climb.
I took Hotham fairly conservatively as I had never ridden over 200k so very wary of the day ahead. Hotham is always nasty and CRB hill and those nasty ramps started to take their toll on riders.
Arrived at Dinner Plain for a quick lunch, wasted too much time there and need to get that better sorted next time.
The roll down to Omeo was brilliant a building tail wind really shoved everyone along, that got me back on time at Omeo, so a quick bottle fill and off again. A cruel little 16% climb to get out of Omeo then heading north to Anglers Rest into that damned wind. Simply long slow and hot for the first half to the Rest, luckily I was able latch onto a group to share a bit of the grind.
Anglers Rest, bottles filled and food, gotta eat and get going, time is tight!
WTF, arrives, I did it once in training as a return trip from Mt Beauty but this time I had done 200k. It’s just a nasty grind, I checked the Garmin to see how far I had come, what only 2 k! I vowed not to look again until Trapyard Gap. Right from the start of the climb from WTF corner is when the carnage of the back of Falls really starts, the road was littered with bodies and bikes, cramps and exhaustion after the heat up from Omeo was really telling. I had done the training so was confident I could keep grinding away.
Happy that I had put a 32 tooth cassette on the back. Eventually Trapyard Gap arrived, more people wrapped in space blankets. Quick drink, food and off again.
More uphill to Mount Cope but more forgiving you could start to appreciate the ride and the high plains, they are magnificent. At last the sign simply saying “The Top” arrives and you know you have a glorious down hill back to Falls.
Falls Creek finish line crowds are still hanging around and cheering on the riders as they come in, it is dark now but they are still enthusiastic.
My mate Tom who finished about 20 minutes earlier than me has waited for me to finish, both very very happy with our efforts, what a challenge, but what great feeling of achievement. Next year I will aim for sub 12!!
Thanks David for your support through this challenge, the weekly programs are excellent and gave me the base to achieve this goal. The seminars and discussion on the forums all useful sources of information to bring it all together.