Luke’s Christmas Australian

Lessons learned riding up mountains.

During my recent trip to Australia I rode what is known as the “Three Peak Challenge” in the Victorian Alps with a friend of mine, Gussy. It wasn’t an officially organized event yet I suspect more planning and organizing was poured into our venture than the “real” race!!

The Three Peak Challenge is around 250kms of alpine roads including, in retrospect, FOUR significant climbs, Towonga Gap, Falls Creek, Mt Koscuizko lookout (bonus) & Mt Hotham. This equates to 4450m of climbing! Preparation would be paramount…

Gussy had persuaded his parents to fulfill the all important support vehicle role, a role that proved to be a major highlight of the day. Meg and Pete met us at four strategic points during the day and proved us with fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, juice, sandwiches, water, towels, a change of kit… all of which seemed like a God-send given the alternative of Power-bars, Gu and other such sugary sports snacks and supplements.

Training had been sporadic at best for myself and seemed all the more inadequate when compared to the serious miles Gussy was racking up the USA. Due to the modern wonders of the internet and a cycling website that allows riders to upload their training efforts I was able see exactly how much training my counterpart was undertaking. My training mainly involved buying a new bike and drinking coffee while looking at it. Would this be enough?!

We set off at 6am and enjoyed a crisp, clear morning that promised sun and warmth as the day progressed. We hit our first climb, Towonga Gap, after 10kms and noticed a few other cyclists were out enjoying the morning too. After a quick descent we commenced the more arduous climb of Falls Creek and soon realized that this was a very popular destination for cyclists! Hundreds of others were out pitting themselves against the mountain, it was brilliant.

After clocking 70kms and completing 2 of the official 3 climbs for the day we were at the top of Falls Creek and enjoying the first meeting with Meg and Pete. Banana, orange, watermelon, water… Simply superb! Oh, and not a bad view…

The descent was slow at first and then dangerously steep, uneven and loosely surfaced. So much so that I managed to lock up the back wheel and nearly crash. At the bottom we stopped, turned around to look up what we’d just come down. It looked crazy. The official race would actually go in the opposite direction to what we were, meaning that with close to 200kms in their legs competitors would have to finish the day by climbing up that crazy road! That doesn’t interest me in the slightest…

The next 100km were basically up hill to the top of Mt Hotham and included a sneaky climb to Koscuizko Lookout which seemed like absolute torture compared to the rest of the day. However, it was nicely broken up with another snack stop and a lunch stop which included fruit cake and short-bread! We were in serious danger of actually putting on weight in spite of cycling for around 10 hours!

Reaching the top of Mt Hotham was especially satisfying as my uncle Michael had cycled up from the other direction and met us at the summit! I was nearly as happy to see him as I was to see the watermelon!

Fully armed with another rider and completely stuffed full of fruit, cake and drinks we descended Mt Hotham. We carefully negotiated some monstrous crosswinds and then after a brief and almost heated discussion as to the proper mechanics of a team trial we settled into a nice rolling rotation and averaged 40km/hr all the way home. We were but 40 mins from Bright and the appropriately named Bright Brewery. Motivation was not an issue in as much as looking forward to a beer and getting off that saddle!

We made it back at 6pm. A 12 hr day. I was exhausted, smelly, sore, and wouldn’t have changed a single thing about the day! I did however learn a few lessons:

  • Buying a new bike is nice, but is no substitute for actually doing some serious training.
  • Do some serious training for a serious event.
  • Being slightly hungover is less than optimal when cycling 250kms.
  • Make sure the town you’re staying in has a brewery. Thank you Bright Brewery.
  • If you’re not completely prepared and organized for such a ride, then ride with someone who is. Thank you Gussy.
  • Have Meg and Pete as your support team. Thank you Meg and Pete.