We ventured to Australia’s capital to ride ‘Fitz’s Challenge’. The roads are good. The climbs are unrelenting and tough.
The scenery is a photographer’s paradise. 254km and 5,000m of climbing. It’s going to be a long day.
Words - Mike Boudrie Images - Andrew Clifforth
It’s our second year heading out to Canberra for this ride. Last year we took on the 165km Fitz’s Challenge. This year we’re here with Glenn Landers and Glen O’Rourke, two of the rider’s from ‘Team Brevet’ known for taking on some of the most epic rides you could dream up… So this year it’s the Fitz’s Extreme, 254km and over 5,000m of vert.
Canberra is a 7-hour drive from Melbourne or a shorter 3-hour trip from Sydney. A long way from Melbourne, yes. But you’ll be glad you made the effort. The riding in the area is simply stunning. There’s a plenty of routes to choose from and once you’re out of the city there’s minimal traffic to worry about.
Big rides bring nervous energy, and this one was no different. The queue for the bathrooms 5 minutes before the start was substantial…. On the start line the atmosphere is good. Quiet with nervous chatter. All of the Fitz’s rides are strictly participation focused. It’s about the personal challenge, it’s not a race.
When we’re waved off, the morning is clear and we’re into the rolling hills within a few kilometres. This sets the scene for most of the ride, it’s amazing just how little flat land there is in the ACT, you’re either rolling down hill or climbing.
The road takes us out of Stromlo toward our first check in and brevet card drop on Brindabella road. From here it’s a 180 degree turn and 50km of riding through epic landscapers, hills and country to Tharwa Village along Paddy’s River Road. We’re feeling good when we reach Tharwa, 75km down. So far it has just been a warm up. We fill the bottles grab some fruit and we’re on our way.
Out of Tharwa is where things really start to get interesting. There’s an almost endless series of ups and downs, tough pinches followed by short fast descents. The first big climb is ‘Fitz’s Hill’ only 2.5km long but with a average gradient of 10.7% including a short flat and descent section half way up, it’s a tough climb. Over the top were rolling through more up’s and down and by the time we reach Rendezvous Creek at 106km my legs are starting to feel the effects.
From here we turn and head back for Stromlo, except on the way home there’s three cheeky turn offs that we have to make, all out and back sections hiding climbs between 7km and 12km in length. First up is Orroral. Its full of up and down. Pinch after pinch with a low overall elevation but feels a lot worse with multiple sections over 10%.
Off the back of Orroral, we’re back up and over Fitz’s hill before turn off number two. Honeysuckle Creek, 7km of climbing, now in midday sun and sections that feel pretty brutal. We pass plenty of people walking sections of this climb and there’s times where I seriously consider getting off… but there’s no return once you go down that path. The summit resembles a war zone, there’s people and bikes strewn across the check in area. It’s quiet with the odd whisper of pain. On the up side it’s a great descent, fast and a ‘free’ 10km in the bag.
Soon we are back at Tharwa, 175km down, and time for some lunch and a drink. Out of the break we’re flying. Riding with the two Team Brevet guys from here is a humbling experience; they are both looking fresh and are pushing into a big headwind at 40kph. I’m just trying to hang on for the experience.
We make the final turn off to Corin Forest, a 10km climb at just under 5%. On this climb, as 200km ticks over on the computer I’m cooked. I have not hydrated enough in the last 20km and the rapid pace has bought me undone.
I make the horrible decision to call it a day. I’m feeling confused and getting out a couple of words is tough. I’m hating myself for giving in and it’s the first time I have ever not made it through a full ride. There’s some learning’s I’ll take away… I will be back next year to complete what I started.
From here to the end of the ride we are subjected to a display of strength from Glen and Glenn… The pace is increased and the guys cover the last 54km in little more than an hour. Amazing. The early evening light makes for more magical views as we work our way back pas Cotter Dam and back into Stromlo.
In short, go riding in Canberra. It’s amazing. You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks to Pedal Power for providing us with entry to Fitz’s. They do a great job of looking after all the riders along the way with ample water and food stops.