The Peaks Challenge Falls creek is aptly named, it is a CHALLENGE!
From the intense training required to the variable weather conditions, finishing within the time cut off is a GREAT achievement.
The Alpine Passes of Falls Creek and Mount Hotham sit up at 1600-1850m above sea level. The weather can literally be four seasons in one day.
Being prepared for this ensures you have the confidence to succeed.
The Peaks event is a very well organised event. You can hand over 3 bags of food/clothing which will be dropped at 3 different locations around the course and there are plenty of water stops to keep you hydrated.
Starting off with the descent from Falls – temperature is likely to be 5 – 10deg Celsius therefore a Wind breaker of some sort (vest or jacket) is essential
Approx. 20-25km of downhill with a short climb thrown in – be very mind full of other riders on the road here, stay within your skill limit and be aware that others may not!
After a few short km’s through the perfectly named Mt Beauty, the climb of Towonga gap starts. This is a 7.5km climb averaging 6% gradient, careful not to get caught up the rush, this is the time to stay at the low end of Zone 3 and trundle up.
A drink station awaits at the top if needed, then a fast descent down to German Town approx. 14km, take caution as some of the right hand turns get tighter as you go through them.
On the false flat to Harrietville, time to refuel the legs and jump on a group for an easy roll, just make sure it’s not rolling too fast to sit in your Zone 2-3!
Harrietville is the first food drop station and a great place to refill the pockets, use the bathroom and check all vital systems to prepare for the climb ahead.
Mount Hotham is the highest sealed road pass in Australia and has three distinct sections -
Section 1 – 9.9km @ 6.6% gradient average with The Meg (you'll know when you get there) thrown in to test the legs. Stay in Zone 2-3 here and enjoy the moment.
Section 2 – 9km @ 2% gradient – spin up the cadence and flush the legs out, no need to break any records here the tough part is about to begin
Section 3 – The last 9km average 4.8% gradient but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with 3 sections averaging 8-10% with a couple of short downhill sections between. Take the time to enjoy the views here, as they are epic!
Roll on to Dinner Plain (the second food drop) for a well earned lunch break and change any clothes if needed. The next 42kms can be tough in a headwind, so best to wait for a group if possible. Not what I would call a descent, more of a gradual elevation loss with some considerable climbs before a fast drop down into Omeo.
Refill and stock up on supplies, between here and Anglers rest is a significant climb called Bingo’s Gap approx. 4kms @ 4% gradient. From the top to Anglers rest you are in for a real treat - a gentle loss of elevation through winding roads with exceptional views. Anglers rest is another Food Drop and if you have time you can slip in for a caffeine hit in the Blue Duck Inn.
The next 10kms is a chance to enjoy glimpses of the Omeo River, on a hot day it's tempting to park up the bike for a quick dip in the clear running waters.
Then the real challenge begins... the back of Falls Creek. you arrive here at the 200km mark and if you have dug too deep on any earlier climbs then this is where you will regret it. The first 9kms of this Hors Categorie Climb Average 8% with sections hitting 14%+. Something to keep in mind when training as if you haven't prepared your body for this it will not be an enjoyable experience.
Trapyard gap is a welcome sight and a quick water stop is recommended if you are running low with 23.5km to go. Keep on climbing and climbing for what may feel like eternity until you get a glimpse of the lake. a new wave of energy surges through as the finish line is within reach. Take the time to appreciate what you have just accomplished and congratulate yourself on the disciplined journey you took to get here.
Best of luck and may the weather gods be with you!
Brian "Bubba" Cooke
Lifelong (almost) cyclist, exercise physiologist and above-all-else just love riding my bike. Been lucky enough to ride some of the world's most epic roads and now live on the beautiful Gold Coast, hidden gem of Australian cycling.