3 Peaks Challenge Tips

by CyclingTips

It’s been a while since I’ve been inspired to write anything on cycling “tips” but it occurred to me that the 3 Peaks Challenge is coming up this weekend and I just started thinking about everything I’ll need to do to prepare. Without exaggerating, it’s the toughest ride I’ve ever done and to simply getting around it is an enormous effort. If you’re like me you haven’t done nearly enough training to touch Nick Mitchell’s sub 8hr time, however, there are a few things you can still do to make it one of the most enjoyable and satisfying 235km of your life.


One of the most important things you can possibly do for this ride is put a 27t or 28t cassette on (or use a compact crankset, or both). Even though you don’t need it for climbing over Tawoonga Gap, it’s a good idea to use it and take it easy at this early stage. By the time you’re riding the final 5km of Mt Hotham your legs will be screaming. And you’re only half way done. The climb to Falls Creek will hit you like a tonne of bricks and you’ll need every last tooth of that cassette. I’ve seen some very good A-grade racers walk parts of this climb because their 25t wasn’t enough.


In these high mountains you could run into any kind of weather – no matter what the forecast says. Even if it’s 35C and sunny skys, I’ll always have a small rain jacket tucked away in my jersey pocket. I’ve never regretted that.

One of the most thoughtful things that the 3 Peaks organisers have done is provide a satchel for you to put in an extra set of clothes. They’ll label and transport it to Dinner Plain where it’ll be waiting for you to change into if you wish. You put your used set of clothes in another satchel that they’ll transport home for you. This might sound “soft”, but last year it was pouring rain at the start of the event. This was a lifesaver for me – I felt like a new man after changing. The others who I was riding with were cursing their decision for not using this service.

Since there’s the clothing valet service at Dinner Plain I would begin the day dressed for the conditions when you first start the day. It’ll be a cold at the top of Falls Creek at ~6:30am and you’ll be descending for 45mins straight off the gun. I’m always amazed when I see people out riding in 8°C with nothing but a jersey and knicks on. If the weather is good you’ll be able to dump your extra clothing off at Dinner Plain. Again, I can’t stress it enough, I’ve never regretted bringing too much clothing. It doesn’t need to be over-the-top though. On a big ride like this, always bring a rain jacket, armwarmers, vest and a good base layer. Oh, and don’t forget the chamois cream.


The wonderful thing about events like this is that they’re fully supported, but you do need to be 100% fully self sufficient. I’ll definitely be bringing a multi-tool, 2 spare tubes, a hand pump, and some tyre patches. The climb to Falls Creek is known for it’s razor sharp surface of white quartz which will slice right through your tyres.

For good reason there are a few pieces of equipment that are compulsory. Besides the stating the obvious, here’s what you need:

• White front bike light – If you rode last year you’ll understand why.
• Red rear bike light – same as above
• Nutritional supplies for Rider Valet Service – put some gels and bars into your clothing satchel which is transported to Dinner Plain.
• 2 x 750ml water biddons
• Puncture repair kit

Last but not least, I recommend you put new tyres on this week (I highly recommend Continental GP 4000’s). Don’t do this the day before the event. New tyres have a thin coating on them and can be slippery when new. You don’t want to be descending Falls Creek with new tyres that haven’t been ridden before.


You’ll never get through a ride like this without taking good care of your nutrition. One of the most important rules about nutrition is that you should not try anything new during a big event like this. A ride like this can be strenuous on the body and if you’re like me your guts will be the first part to let you know about it.

There are seven food stops along the course (not including the start and finish) so you don’t need an entire buffet with you. I’ll make sure I have a couple bars and gels with me at all times, but I’ll be trying to eat real food such as a sandwich whenever I get a chance at Dinner Plain or Omeo.

The only change that I'll recommend is that you treat yourself to a large pizza and a couple beer after the ride!

Nutrition and Hydration Before and During The Ride

For a big ride like this I’d definitely recommend carb loading. To look at exactly what carb loading looks like here’s the AIS fact sheet on the topic. I’ve written a lot about nutrition and hydration but our nutrition expert Alan McCubbin already wrote a post that’s directly applicable for an event like the 3 Peaks. I highly suggest you check it out.

You can read more about nutrition for the event here.

Riding This Week

You’re not going to gain any more fitness this week but you need to keep riding. You do not want to fatigue yourself at this point. We’re all at different fitness levels so I can’t give you a personalised training program this week, but here’s what I’ll be doing:

• Monday – rest

• Tuesday – I’ll get out to the hills and do a 2-3hr ride. If my day looks like it’ll be too busy an ergo session might be the only answer. I’ll definitely try to get my last solid ride on this day.

• Wednesday – easy 1-2hr ride.

• Thursday 2hrs- including 2*10 min of moderate climbing.

• Friday – very easy spin for an hour or take the day off.

• Saturday – go for a nice 2hr ride just tapping the legs over. I wouldn’t recommend riding down either side of Falls Creek and climbing back to the top. I’ll go for a ride over to the lakes on top of Falls Creek and go exploring around that area.

The Course

My ride details of the 2011 3 Peaks Challenge on Strava

Good luck to everyone doing the ride. It’s a phenomenal experience to ride the one of the best routes in Australia on closed roads and it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

You can read some other posts I’ve done about the 3 peaks route here:

3 Peaks Recon (lots of photos)
Victoria’s Secret (Beautiful short film about the area)
Comparing The 3 Peaks To A Grand Tour Stage

Download the 3 Peaks Ride Guide here.(pdf)

The road betwee Omeo and Falls Creek is one of the most spectacular in Australia

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