Bicycle Network has made a name for themselves through tremendous cycling events. Around the Bay, Great Victorian Bike Ride, Ride the Night and of course the Peaks Challenge. These iconic cycling events provide a platform to raise funds for the amazing campaigns that improve cycle safety and infrastructure in Australia.
Peaks Tassie is of course the third event in the Peaks Challenge, an event that started in Victoria’s High Country has become recognised around the world for its 4000m elevation over 235km.
Several years ago I took part in the Falls Creek Peaks Challenge and was incredibly impressed by the organisation of Bicycle Network and their merry volunteers. Any organisation that can safely coordinate a bunch of mad cyclists descending Falls Creek at the crack of dawn must be organised.
Starting at Devonport at 6.30am Sunday morning, I was somewhat surprised by the participant numbers (550 this year). I expected more given the history of these rides and this being the inaugural Tassie event. It turns out the lower numbers were probably a blessing for the debut.
After a detailed briefing where the steepness of the descents was mentioned once….or one hundred times, we were off with a little trepidation. The misty conditions did nothing for the already sketchy downhill sections. One thing the mist did do however, was provide a special atmosphere. At times you would find yourself climbing a hill with no other riders around - only the mist, tall tree ferns and fresh air to keep you company.
It was somewhat unfortunate that the weather didn’t break when riding Echo Valley and Cethana Road. We drove that section the following day when conditions were perfect and the landscape is simply amazing. No wonder Lonely Planet ranks this area as one of the Top 10 places in the World to ride.
The first 110km up to the lunch break seemed to pass quickly. This was aided by the frequent change in landscape and a bubbly bunch of fellow riders that were always willing to chat. Its at this point a special mention should be given to the volunteers and also Police/motorbike support. The Tassie locals, Police and various governments groups have clearly embraced this ride and their enthusiasm certainly enhanced the whole experience.
After lunch, the mood shifted a little. With 110km in the legs, there was still plenty of riding to be done. The climb up to Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake involved open plains that have the potential to cause havoc due to the wind. This year wasn’t too bad.
As we rolled up to the car park of Cradle Mountain, it was somewhat disheartening to learn there was still 7km of climbing to go! But it was a nice climb that was appropriately topped-off with gorgeous scenery at Dove Lake.
The spirits were back up as we passed halfway and commenced the trip home. At this stage I found the wheel of Peter and Brooke and we commenced swapping turns. If there’s a time you want to roll turns and sit behind a nice wheel, this is the time as the open roads leave you susceptible to strong winds.
After the descent down Cradle Mountain to the Moina rest stop, there was an uneasy feeling in my gut. It wasn’t from the extra pieces of cake I’d been slamming down, but from a sense that the worst was still to come.
The three of us continued to work together through more brilliant scenery. We worked our way towards Spellmans Road which had been mentioned a number of times during the briefing. There was plenty of talk about gradients and how tough Spellmans was, but on some occasions the hype is not always accurate. In this case, the hype was deadly accurate. Spellmans Road is a belter of a climb that is guaranteed to be etched into cycling folklore in Australia. Compact cranks and a 28 cassette for this beauty.
After Spellmans, the remaining climbs into Davenport seemed easy, but nothing should be taken for granted after the long day of climbing. Just like the top of Cradle Mountain, there are a number of open sections that could potentially cause drama on windy days. The biggest issue during the closing kilometres however, was riding past the pub at Forth. If the sun was out, the ride would have finished there and a cool frothy promptly ordered.
As you meander towards the finish line, the coastal scenes provide a idyllic backdrop as you gain a massive sense of accomplishment. To think that at 6.30am we were on the start line.
To all of the team at Bicycle Network and the amazing people of Tasmania who made this happen, thank you. Really looking forward to heading back to Tassie for this ride and others.
Checkout the brilliant video from the day.