Lining up for Peaks Challenge Falls Creek, or planning to do so in the future? La Velocita doles out some handy hints to help you get that finisher’s jersey.
Words - Tom McQuillan
The Peaks Challenge Falls Creek is a ride of 235km around Victoria’s High Country, taking in three significant climbs.
- Category 2 climb up Tawonga Gap - Strava Segment 7.5km at an average gradient of 6%
- HC Mount Hotham - 30km at 4%, with 3 sections at 10%, and
- the brutal Back of Falls Creek 22.6km at 4%, with an opening section of 8km at 9%.
Riders must complete the course within a 13 hour time limit to earn a finishers jersey, with the first rider home typically taking between 7½ and 8 hours to complete the course.
It’s probably one of toughest mass participation rides in Australia, and was named among the 10 best sportives in the world by GCN a couple of years ago. Here are some hints to help you get the best our of your Peaks Challenge Falls Creek experience.
BEFORE THE RIDE
Get down to the event village in the Falls Creek resort early on Saturday if you can, and take your bike with you. You’ll be able to pick up your rider pack and get your bike fully checked out before the biggest rush of riders arrive in the early afternoon.
Go out for an easy ride across the top of the plateau behind Falls Creek to spin your legs out the day before your ride. It’s a good way to get rid of any nerves, and it’s a lot easier to ride the 10km or so back to Falls during the main event if you’ve already done it the previous day. Don’t overexert yourself – trust that the amount of training you’ve already done will be enough.
The ride organisers offer you the ability to send Valet bags ahead of you during the ride - one for food to Harrietville at 75km and Anglers Rest at 190km; and one for clothes and/or food at Dinner Plain, 115km in. Use them wisely!
Send real food and snacks that are awkward to transport in jersey pockets to Harrietville and Anglers Rest – think apples, sandwiches or cold baked potatoes – your stomach will thank you for choosing that option compared to another energy gel.
Some people opt for sending a fresh kit and chamois cream to Dinner Plain. This will have you feel like a new rider.
The organisers will have Winners Bars and Hydralyte available for you to take at each of the rest stops. It’s a good idea to try them before the big day to see if they agree with your stomach – you don’t want to scoff them down late in the ride when you’re desperate for energy having never tried them before.
DURING THE RIDE
The descent down from Falls Creek will make you seriously cold, even in ideal conditions. Take arm warmers, long fingered gloves and a gilet at the very least - a rain jacket is a good idea if you’ve got room given the forecast. Also, don’t be afraid to make it a truly pro experience by stuffing a newspaper down the front of your jersey to help keep the chill at bay.
All of the descents on this ride contain technical sections. There are a few corners that catch people out in dry, and if it’s wet the downhill takes on an entirely new proposition. Stay safe on the way down; don’t feel they urge to break speed records. Backing off just a few k’s an hour can make all the difference between saying safe and ending the ride badly.
After the dense crowds on the descent of Falls Creek and the ascent of Tawonga Gap, the descent from Tawonga and towards Germantown is the first time you can really build up some decent speed, and it’ll be tempting to bomb the descent. Hold back a bit – you’ll save a lot more time by finding a fast group on the flat stretch from Germantown than by taking unnecessary risks on what can be a treacherous descent if you’re overconfident.
If you want to guarantee a personal best time up Mt Hotham, you can skip the fuel stop halfway up the climb and top up your bottles at the Transit Lounge in the carpark at the start of the Mt Hotham village – it’s on your right as you’re descending, this can be handy if you want to avoid some of the crowds.
If you find your mind wandering as you ride, spend some riding time organising yourself for rest stops. Depending on how far you are through a ride, you may need to fill your bottles, grab some food, go to the loo, reapply sunscreen and add or remove layers of clothing. Having an idea about which you’ll do first is a great way to save 5 minutes per rest stop. Multiply that by 6 or 7 rest stops across the day and you’ve suddenly saved yourself half an hour.
There’s a 4km climb at about 5% gradient not far out of Omeo. Be ready for it, or it’ll give your legs a really nasty shock.
If you’re a little behind schedule for your goal time coming into the Back of Falls, don’t sweat it. The scheduling sheet included in the ride guide allocates more time for the Back of Falls than you’ll likely require, so feel free to take a rest or two if you really need it.
Don’t forget to save some energy for your finish line salute!
AFTER THE RIDE
Pick up any gear that you left at the Dinner Plain Valet – it’ll be available in the event village on the Sunday night only. No point getting through such a tough ride if you end up leaving half your gear behind.
Speaking of gear, don’t forget to grab your Finishers Jersey!
It’ll be one of the last things on your mind after crossing the line, but flushing some of the accumulated toxins out of your legs should be a priority if you want to be capable of walking the following day. Give your legs a light massage before going to bed or, if you’re a glutton for punishment, a foam roller.
Eat something really unhealthy and preferably containing protein to celebrate finishing – provided that your digestive system is up to the task!