Ask RIDE…3 Peaks wrap-up

Visibility on the slopes of Mount Hotham was at around 15m.

Visibility on the slopes of Mount Hotham was barely enough to see around the next bend.

“The hardest day on a bike I have ever had. I could not have underestimated this event more – it was brutal”.

Everyone I talked to suffered. There really aren’t many words that can describe the experience one has when riding through rain, wind, heat and rain again, for close to 10 hours. I was in the box from Hotham onwards and was actively thinking of excuses I could use to justify pulling out. Luckily (not that I liked it at the time) Alex pulled me through to the base of the Falls Creek climb before tackling the gradient on his own.

Alex and I talked about how we thought the day would unfold on the drive down from Sydney to Falls. Obviously Alex has a lot more race experience than me, but the 3 Peaks Challenge was the first ‘Gran Fondo‘ for both of us. This event deserves as much respect as any race, one of the most challenging aspects of the course was working with groups of, at times, disparate fitness and skill. On the climbs (especially Hotham and the start of Falls) it was pretty much every man for himself.

Speaking of the climbs…Tawonga was already the longest climb I had ever done, so I couldn’t have known what was to come on the slopes of Hotham. Probably better because I doubt I would have been a willing participant in such a mentally devastating climb. The mist, fog or clouds – I don’t know what it was specifically, nor do I care – made the climb incredibly isolating. Visibility was at about 15m which meant by the time you passed someone, or you were overtaken by someone else, they had already disappeared and you were alone again. This also meant that when the road ramps during the last 10km of the climb, I couldn’t see the end at all. Unless you have been in a similar situation, I am not sure that anyone can comprehend the doubt that creeps into your mind when you can’t see more than a few metres in front of you.

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Never been so happy to pull over. "You've only got the hard 11kms to go now!" One of the volunteers told another rider. The rest stops were essential and the volunteers were very helpful.

I am not sure how long Alex was waiting at the summit for me, but by the time I got to him the wind was howling up over the side of the mountain and the fog spilling over the road like water.

p3130336Once we got to Dinner Plains, Alex and I went straight to a café and ordered a coffee and some warm food. After, we took to standing around a by a wood fire by the front of the store. Cyclists were huddling around in a desperate attempt to dry their layers of clothing. It was at this time, with our clothes smelling more and more like wood fire, rather than drying out that the sun came out and we hit the road.

Fire may warm but we had to put up with a distinct smokey smell.

Fire may have warmed us a bit, but we had to put up with a smokey smell. I only noticed this when I returned to the room though. While on the road, I think my senses started to switch off...

We had passed a couple of these signs before choosing to pose for a photo. A sign before a wooden bridge read "Bike Eating Bridge Ahead", Alex quickly turned to me and said, "I hope it isn't hungry."

We had passed a couple of these signs before choosing to pose for a photo. A sign before a wooden bridge read "Bike Eating Bridge Ahead", Alex quickly turned to me and said, "I hope it isn't hungry."

I had seen the course profile and thought that the section between Omeo and the base of the Falls Creek climb would be easy but it was terrible. I was completely boxed by this stage. No talking. Struggling to eat. Drinking all my bidons and sucking wheels. Then a tight left-hand turn onto the Falls Climb and suddenly, it looked like a bomb had gone off. People were strung out all over the road. In the 25-tooth cog, I could only pedal out of the saddle. Riders were walking, others weaving across the road, while those lying on the side of the road were panting heavily and trying to convince themselves to get back up.

The first 10km of this final climb must have averaged 10%. It was excruciating. The last 25km was easier but was nonetheless a hard slog as we went above the treeline and into the wind and cold. As the kilometer count continued to tick down, finishing in 10 hours became the goal. As the rain came  in the final 5 kilometres, I quickly put my jacket back on and charged over the last rise and over the line. Day done…

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John

John is the Office Assistant in the RIDE office.

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