Fitz's Challenge is a long standing ride, celebrating it's 27th year in 2014. It is organised by Pedal Power Canberra Region (www.pedalpower.org.au)as a participation event. It's a cracking ride, with multiple distances from 50km to 255km that takes you from just outside Canberra south through the ACT.
We leave Melbourne on Saturday morning on the seven plus hour drive to Canberra. The night before is spent in the usual way, consuming calories, preparing the bikes and setting alarms for an early start.
We wake on 26 October to a clear and still morning. Soon we are lining up at the start line at Stromlo State Forest with a few hundred cyclists that are waiting to take on the 165km of terrain ahead. As we head off, Kangaroos watch us from the road side. The group roll cautiously along, not wanting any falls so early (or at all) to spoil the day. Fog sits in the valleys and the air is fresh. A perfect morning.
The first few kilometres set the tone for the entire ride. Up and down. No flat. We ride out of Stromlo, along Uriarra Road, before making a left turn into Brindabella Road. The road takes us through pine forests, open rolling hills, past a huge dam and through small towns. Roads are pretty good and there are hardly any cars out. After around 40km the large start group has split up. We are sitting in with the lead bunch on the road flying along with big grins on our faces. As we continue south along Paddy's River Road the pace is picking up when we hit the first check in at 60km, Tharwa Village. We pull in for some food and water while the lead guys keep powering through.
We feel well looked after by Pedal Power Canberra. Cakes, muffins, snakes, fruit, water, sports drink, sunscreen and more are all waiting for us. The friendly helpers chat with us about what lies ahead. Fitz's hill. At 2.5km it sounds pretty short, but with sections over 12% you'll have a grimace on your face when you get to it.
Rolling out of Tharwa Village we team up with another small group and continue to eat up the kilometres. It's then that we hit Fitz's hill. It's a good one, steep and consistent. When we reach the top I look at the people around me. Grimaces. Good.
We brace for the high speed descent along Boboyan Road. Once down we are soon climbing again through rocky landscapes with awesome views. About 5km before turning at Rendezvous Creek we spot the lead guys on their way back. They are flying along but it's not looking so smooth as on the way out. As we have reached late morning, a Northerly headwind is blowing down through the valleys. It's going to be a tough ride home!
The road back is challenging, the day is getting hot and shade is limited. The groups have broken down and at times we are split down to single riders for 10km to 20km stretches. Fitz's hill in reverse is a battle. We are glad when we pass the turn off for the 205km and 255km rides. Maybe next year.
We work our way back to Stromlo, this time taking Cotter road for the last 13km. We are glad to put the bikes down after crossing the line. At 6 hours 40mins for 165km and just under 3,000m of climbing the Fitz's Classic is a solid ride. If you have not done it before it's well worth making the trip.
Ride – Fitz's ChallengeTerrain – Rolling hills, some peaks on longer rides.
Roads – Good roads, take it easy on Fitz's hill.
- 255 km FITZ'S EXTREME - a long grueling hill grinding odyssey with 5,000 m total climb requiring you to keep up a high average speed to complete within daylight hours (13.5 hour time limit)
- 205 km FITZ'S EPIC - a hill grinding odyssey with 4,030 m total climb and a 13.5 hour time limit.
- 165 km FITZ'S CLASSIC - a daunting challenge with plenty of climbing (2,940 m total climb) and a 11 hour time limit
- 105 km THARWA CHALLENGE - this one will sneak up on the complacent with 1,660 m total climb and a 7 hour time limit
- 50 km TIDBINBILLA CHALLENGE - designed specifically to challenge newcomers with 880 m total climb and a 3.5 hour time limit
Hydrate – Check out 'Bent Spoke' brew house for great beer and food (all cycling themed).
Tips – Train a lot. And train in the hills.