Over the long weekend 1,500 cyclists took part in the SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge in the Victorian Alps. Due to forest fires on the road to Mt. Hotham the course needed to be changed at the last minute and many people, including myself, drew a sigh of relief thinking this year’s course would be easier than the regular loop. It was anything but …
My goal for the day was to ride the route in 10 hours with a bunch of my mates. This event isn’t a race and I don’t take it as such. What I love about the 3 Peaks is seeing hundreds of other cyclists that I normally wouldn’t encounter in the regular races or bunch rides I participate in.
I should know by now that no matter how you slice it, 230km and 4,000m of climbing should never be seen as easy. However, the new route, which incorporated many of the popular climbs in the Victorian Alps that I’ve seen in the Tour of Bright and other events, gave me the false impression that I know these. In my head it’s not as daunting as the “Queen Victoria” loop which takes you to remote places past Omeo which make you feel like you’re on another planet. There’s absolutely no other reason to go into that remote part of Australia for someone like me, unless I’m put to the challenge of course.
Previous editions of the 3 Peaks have not always been so kind with the weather, but on Sunday we were blessed with warm temperatures. These pleasant conditions actually got a slightly unbearable at times with my computer reading 38°C in Happy Valley early in the afternoon.
Just over 1,500 cyclists started off in waves at about 7am with the sun just getting ready to rise. Since the event begins at the top of Falls Creek, it’s almost a 45 minute descent straight off the gun with only the the dim lines on the road and flashing tail lights to follow. If common sense prevailed this shouldn’t have been much of a concern, but with hoards of ultra-competitive men trying to make up some early time with ambition outweighing ability, I decided to take my time. I hope nobody was injured …
The first climb of the day was Tawonga Gap, which I wouldn’t really consider a “peak”, but it’s enough to burn a few matches if you go too hard. I wanted to be fresh for Mt Buffalo which I knew would take about an hour, but what was really playing on my mind was the climb back up Falls Creek.
I felt good tapping a steady pace up Mount Buffalo and when I nearly got to the top I saw the front bunch come past us, already on their way down. They were absolutely hoofing it and it was then that my competitive juices started flowing. I wanted to be in that bunch. At the pace they looked to be going though, I knew that it wasn’t going to be …
We made our way down Mt Buffalo and after my ego was put into check I enjoyed sitting down for lunch at Porepunkah (thank you to the gentleman who gave me two sandwiches). By this time it was really starting to heat up and we still had more than 100km to go. It was in the section from Porepunkah to Ovens that it struck me that this was going to be a long day in the saddle. We would typically ride this road at the Tour of Bright at about 45km/hr and it goes by in a flash, but on this day it seemed to drag on forever. The turn-off into the Happy Valley was when my over-zealous eating habits started to backfire and caffeine levels were getting dangerously low. All I could dream about was having a nice cold can of Coke. I began to drift further back in our bunch and at this point I wondered if I was even going to finish.
Once we got into the shade at the beginning of the climb at Rosewhite and I started to get into a rhythm, the hazy thoughts began to fade and I miraculously came good again. I’ve always enjoyed this climb and the descent even more so. Apparently there was a feed station somewhere up the road and I couldn’t wait to pour some cold water down my back. I would have given anything for that Coke at this point, but the fruitcake was a nice treat.
The one part of the loop I seriously underestimated was the road through Happy Valley. I’ve ridden this bit of road dozens of times and consequently neglected to consider it in my mental course-breakdown. We continued on our way to Falls Creek and stopped at Mt Beauty just before our ascent to get that Coke I’ve been dreaming about for the past 80km. My caffeine levels were back in check and felt like a million bucks in the first 10km of the climb. As we ascended the temperatures began to fall and I felt like I could have ridden all day like this.
Then KABOOM. Nuclear meltdown. Things were starting to get hazy again and we still had over an hour of climbing left. Fortunately there were some running streams near the road with ice cold water. Myself and a bunch of others took turns cooling ourselves down and that seemed to do the trick. I was riding with three of my mates who wanted to waste no time getting to the top of Falls Creek so my time was limited. There was no way I was going to let them beat me.
We made it to the gatehouse which is the marker to about 4km remaining. I knew I had the legs to have one last go, so I put the pressure on and pushed myself to the limit in this last section to the finish. It was looking like I was possibly going to go under 9 hours, so I set myself that little goal to keep that pace. My 17-year-old mate Adam held my wheel and then, without any problems whatsoever, he pushed me deep into the red. I had to hold him back by saying, “alright, let’s back off the pace Adam. Even though it doesn’t look like it, there’s 10km to go. Listen to me young one …” The village slowly approached and eventually so did the finish line. I “let” Adam come in ahead of me to boost his morale for the coming years ahead.
In the end I found this year’s 3 Peaks more difficult than every other. Even though many people’s times were much faster than previous editions, I found that ending on a climb made me finish much harder than I would have otherwise (the previous course finished on a plateau). I was absolutely wrecked that evening and couldn’t even make my way down for the post-ride celebrations at The Man pub afterwards. However, by the sounds of it most of you had a pretty good time and had no trouble backing it up.
Congratulations to everyone who finished this year’s SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge. I had the pleasure of riding with many new faces and it was great to meet each and every one of you. See you next year.
Note: I spoke with a mate of mine who finished in the lead group with a time of 7:46. The bunch of ~20 up at the front only stopped for a total of 7 minutes for the entire ride. It couldn’t have been easy, but if you want a good time, it’s all those stops that add up!
Full list of rider times and results can be found here.
– Total cyclists: 1,575
– 17% of 2013 riders did not finish, mainly due to exhaustion or mechanical problems
– Previous event participation numbers: 2010: 1,442, 2011: 1,137, 2012: 1,036
– 47% Victorian cyclists, 52% interstate cyclists
– International cyclists came from Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore