What makes you sign up to cycle 230km in one day, going over 3 challenging peaks and climbing just shy of 4,000 meters?
Is it to test yourself against the course, to see how you measure up against the rest of the field or, as superficial as it may sound to get a cycling jumper? A jumper that proclaims to the rest of the cycling community that you have completed “Australia’s most challenging one-day ride” (The organisers words, not mine, but it sounds impressive)
Obviously my motivation is more than a jumper, though I would point out that you have to finish the course within an allotted time of 13 hours to get a jumper.
Late last year I was riding up a modest climb when this bloke rode up beside me and we got talking. He asked if I was training for something and I told him of my impending trip to France to ride in the Alps. He then enquired if I had ever done anything like that before, I wasn’t sure if he was impressed with my climbing ability or if he genuinely thought I needed a dose of reality as he went on to explain the 3 Peaks Challenge. As soon as I got home I had booked myself a spot and was on my way.
The plan was to use this as a confidence builder before my trip to France. Despite all the cycling I have been doing, the one gap in my preparation has been to ever climb what can be described as a proper mountain. So with a certain degree of trepidation I headed off last weekend to Falls Creek in Victoria, to take part in the Scody 3 Peaks Challenge.
Strange lot cyclists! The 1,500 participants came in all shapes and sizes. In a predominantly male bunch, there were your stereotypical cycling whippets that looked like they belonged at such an event, a smattering of females and the rest of us. The majority in expensive outfits and on bikes which really scream midlife crises.
I felt comfortable enough with the distance, the unknown part of the exercise for me was climbing up 20km+ mountain roads. Strangely enough it’s the same as climbing a 6km hill, just longer. I’ve learnt that you just have to find your pace and stick to it. Resisting the temptation to up your speed as somebody who you think shouldn’t be passing you sails past, or finding that you have good legs so ignoring the urge to push on to the summit and holding back for the next big climb are more about mental discipline than pure physical exertion.
I completed the challenge in an overall time of 10 hours and 51minutes. I paced myself and rode within my limits, it was a hot 34c+ in the valleys, so I invested extra time at the re-fuelling stops and was encouraged by the fact that I did the course in 9 hours 45mins of actual cycling.
We did go over an “easier” route than the traditional course due to the fire damage on Mount Hotham. This means we did not tackle the notorious Back of Falls climb and its 9km at a 9% gradient. After 200km, the final 30km climb up the front to Falls Creek was challenging enough for me.
On Monday morning I was feeling quite pleased with myself and carefully packed my “you have to earn this” jersey and set out to drive back to Sydney. Halfway home I received a text from the organisers congratulating me on my achievement. The email then continued “it takes a lot of guts to face the peaks, despite your time you should be proud of your achievement in taking on the SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge 2013″
Despite your time! Are they messing with my head? Is this some strange psychological challenge to make me do it again next year, a challenge to come back and ride the proper course in a faster time? Does my 2013 finishers’ jersey carry less kudos than previous years? Did the winner, 7 hours 20 minutes (ex-professional whippet) get the same email?
Good job I cycle for the pure enjoyment, otherwise I could be offended.
As it is, I am already analysing how I could go a little faster, for pure enjoyment of course and ignorant to the fact that if you go under 10 hours you qualify for an extra special jumper to tell the world how serious a cyclist you are.