Tassie is an awesome place. If you have not ridden there you're missing out. It's also a harsh place, with limited services and back up options, so support or an organised ride is the way to go. Enter Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain.
I've been chatting with past riders to find out more about this ride and pick up some top tips to get from the start to finish.
Photography by Hormuzd Khodaiji, courtesy Bicycle Network 2016 ©
The Peaks Challenge series is on many riders' bucket list, including mine. And for me, Cradle Mountain is at the top. I'm planning on heading down there later this year to give it a crack. I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit scared. But I'm also excited. It's likely to be a freezing, wet and long day in the saddle. I'm also seriously excited as I'll get to sample some of the best and most unspoiled parts of Australia.
I've spoken to some seasoned Peaks Challenge riders to get the hot tips on how to get through this ride, and convince me that it will be all that it's cracked up to be.
WHY RIDE PEAKS CHALLENGE CRADLE MOUNTAIN?
Chatting to the riders that are coming back for another lap of this awesome course a trend in their responses emerged. Word's like iconic, beautiful, epic, perfect.
They tell me it takes in some of Australia's most spectacular landscapes (given we've got a couple of good views here in Australia, that's a big claim...) and I think it might just be spot on. There's quiet country roads, the world famous, World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain, open plains, ancient rainforests and rolling hills.
I'm told that this ride is something like riding in Scotland, something that I did a while back and found simply unforgettable. It's a long way from Melbourne to Scotland though, so Tassie sounds a bit easier to get to for the same experience.
I'm getting the feeling the scenery is on the right side of good.
As far as the actual riding bits go, there's road closures, marshalling and support from Bicycle Network, that I think is worth its worth its weight in gold on rides in inhospitable landscapes.
HOW HARD IS PEAKS CHALLENGE CRADLE MOUNTAIN?
This is one of those rides that has a base level of 'hardness'. It's a long way at 235km with plenty of climbing so will be a long day no matter what. The major factor in Tassie is the weather. This ride will become as hard as the weather conditions make it.
Riders from previous editions tell me that it's up there with the toughest rides they have completed. Its both a physical and mental game to get though this one, the roads are rough... it's a battle.
Saying all this, it's a ride that any average rider can get through with the correct preparation, and importantly kit for the day. I'm thinking covering these roads is going to be a step up from the well worn local loops and rides. Grabbing some adventure and getting to know yourself a bit better is good for us all.
10 TOP TIPS TO GET THROUGH THE RIDE
There's a theme from the riders I spoke to. Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain looks to be as much about your preparation and strategy as it is about your fitness.
1. Work with other riders, it's a long day in the saddle - Learn to ride in a pack so that you feel comfortable in the ride around others. Time goes quicker, you ride faster with the same effort and have someone to talk to and share the experience.
2. Start the ride within yourself and find riders with a similar riding style as you.
3. Prepare for all weather conditions and utilise the Bicycle Network clothing valet.
4. The Tassie roads can also be unforgiving, go for 25mm tyres and drop your pressures.
5. Make sure your bike (especially brakes) are in top working condition as there are some steep technical descents.
6. Slow down on some of these descents, stay upright and make the time up on some of the flat and rolling sections.
7. Have a structured training program and put the hours in the saddle to get the most enjoyment from the day.
8. Experiment with your nutrition on longer training rides so on the day of the event there's no surprises to your body.
9. Buy a compact crank and 30+ tooth cassette minimum!
10. And probably the most important part, make sure you enjoy every single minute of it! Once you've finished there's such an overwhelming sense of achievement in completing the most brutal of challenges that many people only dream of.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PARTS OF THE RIDE
On such a big ride like this it was hard for the guys to answer this one, but it gives you an idea of what to look out for and expect along the way.
1. Getting to the top of Cradle Mountain is a huge milestone. It's definitely the point where you feel like you've really broken the the back of the ride.
2. The ride into Dove lake is stunning, with winding rolling roads of pale bitumen culminating in a spectacular vista of the lake surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains.
3. All the mountains riding up to Cradle, Dove Lake at the top and all the rivers you ride along coming home.
4. Riding through the haunted landscapes of Cradle Mountain’s base. Eerily breathtaking!
5. And of course.... The last 30kms, all the climbing is done and in the legs, you start to see Bass Strait in the distance and its TT time to the finish line!
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN TASSIE
I've spent plenty of time in Tassie, it's a pretty magical place. Here's a few other things to check out and do while you are over there as long as you have some spare energy.
1. Get some more riding in. Around Launceston, you'll find some unbelievable roads, head out and take on Jacobs Ladder, or head down to Hobart and explore the roads of the south and East coast.
2. Chill with other riders. These organised rides bring together cyclists from all over. I've actually made some great friends at rides like these, so be friendly and say hello.
3. Enjoy the scenery on some very easy rides with plenty of coffee.
4. If you're one of those people that partake in this strange activity known as 'walking' take the opportunity to actually hike up Cradle Mountain. I know “shock horror” but seriously - the place and Dove Lake especially leaves a mark on your soul.
5. Tassie has some awesome restaurant and piles of fantastic local produce. So head out, eat well and explore.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most of the guys recommended flying in. The closest major airport is at Launceston. You'll need to drive from there to Devonport. Make sure your bike is very well packed. There's nothing worse than arriving to a ride like this with a mangled wheel, or worse, frame.
If you're a sea-going person you can get yourself to Melbourne and jump on the Spirit of Tasmania for a sail to Devonport.
So, overall I'm excited about this one. I think it's one of the rides that people overlook, instead heading to the spiritual home of the Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek. But for me this is the big one, the real adventure, a road less ridden and unknown. I'm still a bit scared but can't wait.