The SCODY 3 Peaks Challenge was launched in 2010 by Bicycle Victoria in the Victorian Alps (High Country). The even provides cyclists with one of the world’s toughest & most picturesque cycling challenges. Starting and finishing at Falls Creek. Riders must complete the circuit within 13 hours to receive a “Finisher’s Jersey”. A must have trophy to the collection. In 2013 a special jersey was introduced to recognise cyclists who were able to complete the event within 10 hours.
3 Peaks challenge
Amongst recreational cyclists, owning a 3 Peaks jersey is quite prestigious. It offers you stature as a rider having completed it. There was a huge cloud over the 2013 Three Peaks. Sadly there were horrendous Bush fires raging that year. Organisers were not able to commit to the ride until the last minute. Due to extensive fire damage they were forced to revise the route. Instead of riding up Mount Hotham & the Back of Falls did a route up Mount Buffalo. Through Rosewhite Gap & returning up Falls Creek. The weather forecast was due to be high for the event. I wish that I knew the ride better as I would have prepared a whole lot differently.
I was so excited about doing the 2013 Three Peaks. Trained so hard, and planned out every little detail. My diet is horrendous. This was the only time that I actually stuck to a diet for the 5 weeks leading up to this event. Things didn’t go to plan & I tore a calf muscle 3 weeks out from the event. Luckily I had my single best recovery session & pumped out over 500 km the following week.
On the day of the event I screwed up big time. Due to the forecast hot day, I had planned on carrying a third bottle in my back pocket. But of course forgot to bring it, and in the morning couldn’t find my food pouch for the bike. I had to improvise & stuff food in my back pockets instead.
Let’s do this!
We showed up at the start line just as the first wave was leaving. I was pumped, and absolutely flew down Falls Creek. I lost count of how many riders I was passing, and had fun on the descent. As the sun was rising, the day was already starting to warm-up. I wasn’t pushing, but knew when I was approaching Tawanga Gap that I was in form. This was the first time climbing Tawonga Gap and cruised up it. I was passing riders effortlessly, and was thinking about the overall picture. Concerned that I could cook myself if I went too fast, so paced myself. So kept it in the big dog the whole way which felt like the right way to climb on the day.
The section from Tawonga to Mount Buffalo was really fast. I reached into my back pocket for some food. Somehow I accidentally spilled a fair bit of my food on the road. I was aware that I didn’t have the spare water I may need later on. No food, and small alarm bells were ringing, but I was flying. We hit Buffalo, & off I went. I was easily climbing it in the big dog. Given how easily I got up Tawonga Gap. I had this crazy notion that I’d do the whole thing in the big dog. After all I’d climbed the Reefton Spur just in the big dog once before. Given that I had never climbed Bufallo before, this was pretty stupid.
About 5 km’s up I was cruising and had been passing riders easily and things were looking good. A group of riders including the lantern rouge for the 10 hours passed me. I jumped onto the groups wheel, and started to speed up. My aiming was for 10 hours, so felt this was the best way to go about it. I was ferrel when I heard that she finished in a little over 9 hours, and was pushing a lot faster than what she should have been.
The organisers had set up lantern rouges for different times to help riders pace themselves. Not kill themselves, and she should have finished at 10 hours 🙁 About 7 km’s into the climb I started to go into the red zone. Stubborn pride wouldn’t let me get out of the big dog. The rest of the climb was a blur. I did it quick, as I was ranked 15th overall on the day.
With some very big guns that were riding the 3 Peaks that day.
At the top I was stuffed, and was able to pick up some free snacks to replenish what I’d lost. I bumped into the Climbing Cyclist Matt de Neef up there. And joined onto his group which had over 20 riders in it. The group did rolling turns at the front which I’d never done before. Really enjoyed the pace we were setting, but I was working hard. With the day was heating up, and there was little shade. I was down to half a bottle of water when the Peleton I was in flew past the next drink stop. I should have stopped & gone back. The third big mistake of the day when I kept going given that drink stops were 40 km apart.
The turning point
Rosewhite Gap beckoned and we were flying when we hit the base of the climb. This coincided with me running out of water. Rosewhite Gap is 4 km in length & a challenging climb on its own. Climbing it in mid 30 degree heat without water is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was dying. I had ridden the Amy Gillet Ride in 43 degree heat without water the year before. Having experience in riding in extreme heat helped, but it was not pleasant.
I begged sips from 3 riders who lent me their bottles, and it helped. After the climb was done and dusted I was crawling by myself. Desperately looking for someplace that had water. Chris Cox flew past me, and I hoped I could catch him to beg for some water. He flew off down the road & I had wasted what little energy I had left chasing him.
When I got to the drink stop, I stuck my head under the tap and poured a tonne of water over my head. I drank, and drank, and drank some more. Suffering heat exhaustion, and with over 70 km’s to go, knew that it was not going to tickle. I bumped into a mate Jordan who seemed worse off than me. I suggested we ride off together. And took the wind for him from Rosewhite Gap back to Mount Beauty. Knowing I was helping someone out helped to inspire me. I was able to go into a zone & really had a blinder through this section, and started to ride stronger. It was over 36 degrees at this stage, and there was no shade but things were looking good.
At the base of Mount Beauty we stopped, and I felt good. I was a lot stronger than Jordan & knew he couldn’t keep my wheel up Falls & said I’d meet Jordan at the top & headed off. I was riding beautifully over the first 10 km’s of the climb up Falls Creek. Smashing it past a large number of riders passing well over 100 riders along the way. Then the lights went out. I had one of my classic bonks. Probably one of my best/worst and it felt like I had completely ran out of fuel. I had a fair bit of water with me, and had been drinking. Figuring my body had had enough and was telling me to f#%k off!
The remainder of the climb was pure hell and I was crawling. I came upon a rider who was worse off than me, and I spoke with him and he said that he was out of water. Glad to repay the favour from earlier in the day, I passed him my drink bottle. I was a bit mortified when he started sucking from the bottle, and almost drank it all. I was a bit germaphobic about touching the bottle afterwards. Because he drank so much, I was now running low on water myself. I did such a good deed that the guy suddenly got some energy and left me for dead. The story of my day. I was lucky as Jordan’s parents drove by me and pulled over. I was delirious, and not very coherent, but they had water on them that they graciously let me have.
Then with 7 km’s to go Jordan flew by me, and guess my motor pacing him early on really helped.
I tried to ride as hard as I could, but nothing was in the tank. At the gate to Falls Creek, there was more water that I was able to grab. Even though the climb was well sheltered it was hot, and I was pretty dehydrated. The last 6 kilometres were hell. I could see the finish, but it was so far away. When I got to the end I used every last ounce of energy and sprinted over the line, and got some cheers. I was on track for a 9 hour finish at one stage, and ended up crawling in at 10 hours 20 minutes. I was elated, but also horrified at the conditions that we rode in today. The 3 Peaks is one of those mythical rides, that seems to make you as a rider and I had now finished it. What now?
I was dazed and bewildered
I sat around for ages just trying to make sense of it all. Occasionally going up and congratulating someone that I knew. Chris of course blitzed the day, and did sub 10 hours. His brother, also rode and had a cold and hadn’t done much riding leading up to the 3 Peaks. He managed to get halfway which was tremendous in the conditions.
I’ve had horrendous luck with a large number of events I’ve gone in. I don’t know if it’s just me, or whether I attract extreme weather. I’ve had 3 events with heatstroke & dehydration, 2 with hypothermia, and 5 I’ve copped 60+km winds. I’ve considered returning to the three Peaks, but after what I endured this year. I’m not too enthusiastic about returning. I talked with Chris about it after. He said that we should come back later in the year and just do it the two of us which sounded a heck of a lot more challenging. But that’s another story…….