On Sunday 10th March, over 1000 cyclists took part in the Scody 3 Peaks Challenge. This 234km single day event contains over 4000 meteres of vertical climbing through the spectacular scenery of the Snowy Mountains.
Among the riders were Karmea athletes, Sheryl, Rob, Joan, Isabell and Sarah Anne. Temperatures on the day reached 44 degrees, turning an already tough and challenging event into a battle over mind and body.
Sheryl shares her experiences of her day out riding the 3 Peaks Challenge:
As they said in the ride briefing on Saturday you will come out of this ride a different person. The day was indeed EPIC.
I was a tad nervous at the start line- with a 30km decent in the dark with hundreds of riders (descending with the 1000plus cyclists isn’t something you get to practice in training!) … but I found my groove- overtaking lots of guys, luckily due to closed roads we had both sides of the road which made it a spectacular decent into Mount Beauty.
It’s always surprising to see so many mechanicals so early on in and event like this – flat tyres, disconnected pedals etc. I checked and double checked my bike pre race.
After the long decent (30km mark) we all stopped in Mount Beauty to take off our jackets/arm warmers as day was already starting to warm up. We knew what was coming, the first big climb of the day Tawonga Gap. A 7.6km climb with a 6.5% avg gradient and 498metres vertical climbing. It took 32.37 mins to climb, seated and enjoying the first challenge of the day in warmish temperatures but you could already feel the heat building. Without stopping at the top for Food/drink stop – we decided to descend as we were in a really good rhythm.
We did however see a guy half way down- in gutter, with ambos- who apparently took the corner too fast- hit the wall and bounced into the gutter- resulting in a fractured Pelvis-OUCH. I hope he is recovering well. It was a good reminder to stay alert and switched on during the descents.
On the flat we linked up with a peloton and rode through the Town of Bright and onto the first stop for the day to refuel and top up water bottles.
The ride to the base of of our next climb was fast and we managed to tag onto a nice bunch and get a good pace going.
At around 90km- we started the 2nd Peak- Mt Buffalo, a 20km climb averaging 5% gradient. The seated pace was good and we enjoyed chatting to fellow riders on the way up. I always tried to stay in the smallest gearing (25) and stay on top of the gears at all times. As the saying goes-” if your feeling like your working too hard- you are!!” And it was going to be a long day- so tried to never get lactic in the legs.
This 20km climb wasn’t too steep(climb took me 1.32.38 mins)- we never had to get out of the saddle (only when we started I was accidently in the biggest chainring- and my friend kindly pointed this out to me- thank you Sarah-Anne). We also had to return back down the same route so we got to see the first bunch of riders descending. We again saw an accident- with a rider taking some gravel on the descent and crashing- with ambos attending to him.
At the top of the 2nd climb- there was Food/water stop, with a massive line to refill bottles- we decided to cycle 500m down road- and get water from an alternative spot- to not lose too much valuable time. We generally spent 5-10 mins at each food/water stop- toilet/ refill/get food bags etc.
The descent coming down from Mt Buffalo was magnificent. We then had to cycle approx 25km to get to lunch stop- now the day was heating up and you could see the mood of the riders around us change, people were now starting to suffer. If you could link up with a peloton to get pulled along you were lucky. At the Lunch stop people were sat down in the shade, eating food, drinking, recovering and reapplying sunblock. We took 20 mins at this stop and then quickly got on our way again.
After lunch, at the 150km mark we went through an aptly named town called “Oven”. The temperatures were we to learn after the race had reached 44 degrees heat. This was where I hit a lowpoint for next 10km. After joining a fast peloton of 4 riders, they broke away, I found myself riding on my own- as everytime I caught up to another rider, their pace was just too slow for me. I was running out of water and needed to get to the next refill at 175km.
This is where the carnage started to appear as the heat took it’s toll on everyone. Riders were pulled to the side of road – vomiting, laying under trees, heads in hands, scattered all along the country road some trying to cool their body temperatures down under trees or in streams.
There was no civilisation at this point, just fields and I was dreaming of a general store- some cold water. At this point a van pulled over- opened his boot and offered riders water- thank god. At least the water was few degrees cooler than what was in our bottles. This was a saviour. We then encountered what should have been referred to as the 4th PEAK- 4km of climbing(no one expected this).
At the 175km mark- I rolled in to drink/food stop- and a few minutes later my friend Sarah-Anne rolled in. We refuelled and set off just the two of us. The next 25km were undulating roads and to my wonderful surprise at 195km I saw a General store. I pulled over and walked into air conditioning where heaps of riders were seated in chairs looking like they would never leave this premises. I bought bottle cold gatorade and water and then set off again.
At the last stop- 200km mark, we refueled for the last time, this is where the business end of the day started- 30km of climbing back up the decent from the start of the day to get home and finish the day in Falls Creek.
Sarah-anne and I set-off together but decided we would have to climb at our own pace. The half way mark, Bogong Village, there was the option to stop, check hydration and if we needed to eat more food. But when I got to this point- I just wanted to keep going. I got into a really nice rhythm, seeing the speedometer going from 215km- 220km- 225km……..i was overtaking people, and feeling good……I never had to get out of the saddle as the gradients were never steep enough.
Again I saw so many riders pulled over to the side of the mountain destroyed, feet in water creeks, or bathing in them. Passing through the Gates of Falls Creek National Park was the 4 kms to go mark. The last 4kms were probably the hardest part. The road steepened just enough to give the legs one final sting, but I just pushed on- elated to be finishing. Just as I neared the top- the clouds got dark and a few drops of rain fell, ti was bliss! They made us cycle up the hill another few hundred meters then do a u-turn and cycle downhill through the finish Shute…..I WAS SMILING FROM EAR TO EAR- finish time 10.43 hrs. The last climb home took 1.58.21 hrs.
This was definitely a great ride- would I do it again- YES! I’m keen to do the original course and see, can I beat 10 1/2 hrs???
It seems this race is destined for the hardy female cyclists out there, but we’d love to see more faces in the crowd in 2014. We had a bet on- how many female cyclist had registered. Last year 1000 riders with only 50 female riders-thats 5%. Based on 1500 + riders this year it should have been 75 female riders. Come on girls! This is such a great event to add to your bucket list for 2014.
Sheryl Rotondo is a good friend, amazing athlete and regular at our Karmea rides. She is also an amazing personal trainer (just ask Sarah Anne!) and runs OTO Health and Fitness based in Vaucluse. You can contact her for training via email@example.com
Karmea Rider Finish Times
Sheryl Rotondo = 10:43:25
Rob Ballard = 10:42:25
Sarah Anne Evans = 11:00:50
Isabell Beck = 12:36:50
Joan Khurrman = Pulled out at 160km due to heat stroke. HARD CORE!