You probably wonder why a road cycling event write-up is appearing on a mountain bike race team’s page. Well there’s several reasons. Firstly 3 peaks is all about climbing mountains on a bike, secondly it featured Australian Mountain Bike Marathon champion Andy Blair and thirdly there are so many places to ride a mountain bike nearby.
3 riders from the JetBlack MTB racing team took part: Elton Judd (finished in 8:51), Darren Covington (finished in 11:42) and Martin Freeland (finished in 12:38). Martin and Elton have written detailed accounts of their rides below. Unbelievably, Darren’s time included 2 ascents up Mt Hotham to go back and ride with some friends who were stragglers.
Back Again: No Garmin Failure – Martin Freeland
What a weekend. Full of laughs, good times, tough times good friends and amazing country side to top it all off.
It began Friday morning when Aaron and I started the long journey down south to Falls Creek. With a quick stop off at Lifestyle and Leisure for some last minute nutrition and arm warmers (which turned out to be the purchase of the weekend) we were set to go!.. almost, we had to make a quick detour back after Aaron left his phone and wallet on the counter while getting distracted by all the stuff they managed to cram into that small shop front.
After a fairly clean run down to Albury we were getting just a bit excited and nervous as we started to head skyward up towards Mt Beauty and then Falls Creek. We got into Falls around 4pm, got unpacked and relaxed for a little while before everyone else arrived shortly after. It took a bit of convincing but I was eventually talked into another one of Tai’s famous lung busting, leg shredding and longer than expected pre-peaks spins. Heading out at almost 7pm I was unsure how far this 30km spin would actually be, as it turns out though Tai was true to his word this time and we managed to stop before heading too far down the dreaded Back of Falls. After Aaron had his new Tinder pictures taken it was a sprint back to Falls before the sun disappeared behind the surrounding mountains, and what an amazing sunset it was.
Saturday rolled around and we were in for a much more relaxed day. Waking up at a more reasonable hour than the others who decided to head out for an 8am ride, I had my breakfast in no rush and we got ourselves to the bike safety check, picked up our rider numbers and got back to the apartment just in time for Aaron to return from the Winners stand with his 5 odd kilograms of bars, gels and chews. You should be good for the next 6 months now Aaron.
Later on in the morning we headed back out for another much easier 20k spin around the top of Falls with a bunch of the guys from Tai’s cycling club. This was at a much nicer pace. After we got back we decided it would be a good idea to head over to the only grocery store and buy out their entire Coke stock (well, almost), and drive down the Back of Falls to stash a few sneaky Cokes in the bushes for that extra kick up to WTF corner. There was Tai, Andrew and myself in the car bringing back bad memories from the years past and for Bill and Aaron we were creating some new painful memories. With the day over it was early to bed for everyone after a big carb loading dinner.
5am crept up a lot quicker than I expected on Sunday morning which was OK because it meant I had time to actually eat some breakfast – a rare occasion for me on these early starts. Getting pumped heading to the start line was easy. Staying pumped waiting in the 4 C temps was not so easy. Sure enough though my time came and I was flying down the Front of Falls thinking ‘I’m so glad I stopped at L&L for the arm warmers and took the time in the morning to stuff a garbage bag down my jersey’.
The first peak was Tawonga Gap and this was supposed to be the smallest of the 3. Finally getting myself up the top I filled up my water bottles and thought to myself ‘I remember this. I remember how much this ride hurt from last time. Why am I doing this again?!’
After descending Tawonga it came back to me, we have to hurt just the right amount to get through this thing and you’ll be rewarded with crazy fast descents, amazing scenery and comradery you can only experience from an epic ride like this one. At the bottom of Tawonga I managed to bump into another friend, Gav. We rode together for a bit and managed to work our way into a nice little bunch which just kept growing and must have had between 100-200 riders by the time we got to the base of Mt Hotham – the 2nd peak.
Even though I spent over 2 hours climbing this monster it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I think I remembered it from last time and just took it a bit easier, taking in the views and having a few chats to other guys and girls on the way up.
Getting over the top of this thing was an amazing feeling. Stunning views in every direction, photos don’t do this mountain justice.
Just a few more K’s to the lunch stop at Dinner Plain. I took my time here, sat down, tried to enjoy my vegetarian wrap and stuffed my pockets full of some more nutrition. Another 60ish KMs went by and I found myself at Omeo. Fantastic place to stop and buy myself a Frosty Fruit ice block as it turns out.
That was my motivation to get to Omeo, and now I had my sneaky Cokes stashed just before WTF corner to look forward to. Well that was the plan. All the bars, gels and chews my body isn’t used to finally caught up with me at Anglers Rest – the final rest stop before WTF corner. I was in a world of hurt, I just wanted it to be over so bad. Shoes off, helmet off laying flat on the grass and only decided to move once the shadow of the tree I was hiding under and the harsh Victorian sun started beating down on me. It was time to go, fill up the water bottles again and head off for the final 45km.
I had bumped into Rob at this point so we stuck together up to WTF corner, found my Coke stash, downed one each then prepared for the final peak – The Back of Falls.
There’s a rule amongst the group of guys I’ve gone down with this time and last – Big ring to WTF. This is a rule I didn’t break last year and I managed to keep again this year. I’m not convinced everyone else kept to this rule but I guess I’ll never know for sure. I don’t blame anyone for bending it though, it’s a bit ridiculous.
Heading up Back of Falls I reverted back to all my single speed riding I’ve been doing over the last year, just sit back spin when you can, grind when you can’t. I tried to distract myself looking at everyone else around me suffering and imagine myself doing better than them. I don’t know if that was true or not but I was convinced they had it worse than me. Trying to keep a smile on my face I set in for the next 23km of gruelling climbing and false flats.
I had made it to the final water stop for the ride. I sat down here again for longer than I should have and found getting moving again a bit of a struggle with slight cramps creeping in everywhere. I had found myself a friend to suffer with for the final 23km up the last few climbs and around the dam at the top of Falls watching that Falls sunset for one last time.
What a feeling to pull into the village and cross that finish line. There’s nothing else like it.
Pasta as we crossed the line was a very welcome feed after all the ‘nutrition’ I had been consuming for the last 12.5 hours. I dragged myself back to the apartment to find most of the other guys. Congratulations were in order for everyone on their massive efforts.
More real food, a shower then bed. I don’t remember much after that other than I was hot all night.
The next morning we packed up the ute and made our way to Wodonga Maccas and bought out half the store. After that we had a really good run back home and found ‘Bob’ around Tarcutta in the white Toyota Camry pace car and followed him and his wife the whole way back into Sydney. We felt like we had a special bond with this man we had spent so many hours so close to but yet still so far away from. Aaron can fill you in on the details here.
All in all it was an epic weekend. Big thanks to my road tripper buddy Aaron, the room mates Tai and Andrew and all the other guys down there for the weekend who made it what it was for me. Unreal experience yet again.
Will I be back again for more hurt next year? Only time will tell…
It all went to plan – Elton Judd
Originally I’d planned to MTB this weekend at Buller MTB Festival but made a spur of the moment decision as entries were selling fast (event sold out in 10 days), many of my cycling friends were doing it and my wife Kyla encouraged me to do it. I’d always wanted to do this ride as its the closest thing in Australia to a Tour de France stage as well as being where I spent many winters skiing before I left home.
Once the ticket for the event was purchased we got on to booking our accommodation only to find there was nothing available on the mountain because many of the apartments are privately owned and are closed across the summer. Fortunately a week later one of the booking agents rang us to say she had a place suitable for our family of 4 and we jumped on it!
As a goal oriented guy, I decided to target sub 10hrs to get a special jersey and started with a training plan which began in November building endurance by doing 10-15hpw of low intensity rides on flat terrain. I did my first 200km ride in early Dec out to Wisemans Ferry and along the Hawksbury with my friend Aran who also die 3 peaks with his wife Katie.
I also purchased a power meter as knew how important pacing would be up the long climbs and utilised it in my training. From mid-Dec I did 15hpw of riding which typically involved two 4hr high intensity mountainous rides each week on back to back days. To maximise family time I usually did Sunday (often riding to the beach through Galston Gorge, Bobbin Head & Akuna Bay) & an early-long commute Monday. Also tried including endurance mtb events including both wsmtb 4hr rounds and AMB100 at Mt Stromlo, ACT.
On the Australia Day weekend, a couple mates wanted to do a 200km training ride and I planned a route through Berowra Waters up the Old Pacific Hwy through Peats Ridge to Bumble Hill which had almost the same vertical metres but much shorter climbs. It turned out to be a 35C day and one of my mates, Steve had just arrived back from a month’s skiing holiday in Canada.
A few weekends later, I attempted the longest climb I’ve ever done North Richmond-Warks Hill twice with the second ascent via the steep Bowen Mountain.
As I spent the last 2wks tapering, a couple of mates reckoned I could do sub 9hrs and as I can never resist a challenge, a new goal was spawned. As an extremely analytical person I’d printed out the 9 & 10hr time guides for each segment and taped them to my top tube.
I left on Fri with my family at just before 8am, stopped at the Grit Cafe in Goulburn for one of the best Salmon eggs genes for breaky (the breaky wraps the others had looked pretty good too). When then drove onto Beechworth for pies, coffees and sweet treats at the infamous bakery followed by a roll around the local Beechworth Chaingang mtb park for an hour with my 7yo son.
Kyla then took over the driving and we went thru Bright to reccy the Tawonga Gap climb and descent then up to Falls Creek. As we drove through Bright, Kyla suggested we come back and stay a week and with amazing mtb in Beechworth, Bright, Mt Beauty and Falls as well as the road climb up Mt Buffalo, I agreed. It hit me as we were driving up falls the potential chaos of 2000 riders descending together at the start.
We arrived at our apartment with beautiful mountain views and awoke the next morning to do an 8am roll of the flattish 15km run into the finish with Bill and Mark who I sometimes commute with. It was a chance to test what clothing combination to go with for the cool temperatures at tomorrows start. On the return we stopped and took photos of the stunning scenery. After getting my bike checked and completing registration, I went back to the apartment to chill with my family.
At 2pm, I went for a gentle mtb roll on the Falls Creek mtb trails (built by Worldtrail) with David from nearby Wodonga who I’d met via the Men In Action Peleton facebook group. I was glad to have a 2×10 drivetrain to save my legs by spinning up the long climbs using the 28-36 granny gear! The descents were very flowy and heaps of fun!
Woke the next morning at 5:30 ready to go and rolled to the start group for my chosen wave #2. My face felt like it was going to freeze on the 28km descent from Falls to Mt Beauty which made it hard to chat with Aaron who rode with in the MIA Dirtriders a few years back. The descent was long and fun and very different to anything I’ve done before. We were told in the rider briefing we were told to hold our line on the descent rather than the normal cut the apex. I kept to the middle of the road and kept the brake-burners to the left and the speed demons to the right and surprisingly the descent was quite orderly.
Not long after the bottom of the descent the first and smallest climb of the day began up Tawonga Gap (7.6km at 6.3%). I rode to plan holding 90% of my FTP which felt comfortable but was important given the distance and climbs to come and was at the top 26mins later. At this point I was 4mins behind a 9hr time and decided not to panic and keep riding to the plan. The descent down the other side was a similar length and gradient but by then the bunch had thinned out so it was just a matter of following the train of cyclists down.
At the bottom of the descent I continued on with the plan and rode in a bunch of about 30 riders sharing the load from Germantown to Harrietville at the base of Mt Hotham. I then began the 31km climb (at 4.2%) up Mt Hotham where most of the climbing was done in the first 10km followed by a 10km false flat and then the final 10km which contained two steep pinches of 1km each at over 10%. I kept to my plan of riding at 90% of FTP completing the climb in 1:33. Then it was around at 12km descent to lunch and my first stop at Dinner Plain. I arrived 8mins ahead of a 9hr time so it was game on! I stopped to get ride of my arm warmers, vest, long gloves etc which I could send back on the valet to Falls Creek. After filling water bottles and having a few bites of the veggie wrap, I was back on the road. All this took 15mins which went fast but is factored in the 9hr guide.
I soon caught a bunch of 3 riders and we ended up catching more riders to form a group of around a dozen which included a Bicycle Network 9hr pace rider. We worked together down the descent which as a surprise included two lengthy climbs each on par with one of Sydney’s gorges. As we reached Omeo most of the riders pulled off at the rest stop but as I was feeling good and had sufficient food and water decided to continue on at a steady pace to save the legs for the back of falls. This section also included a climb again like a Sydney gorge. On reaching the Anglers Rest stop I stopped for 2mins to refill my bottles and left with a group of 4 riders and we worked together for the 10kms to the back of Falls climb.
The Back of Falls climb rudely began with a steep section in excess of 10% round a hairpin bend (aptly named WTF corner) with no respite for the next 5km. This section seemed to take ages and was just a matter of dragging myself up it. At the 5km mark there were some Subaru girls handing out cans of coke of which I willingly took and drank on the run. I reached the final rest stop at Trapyard gap which marked the end of the steep climbing (the last 9km averaged 9% gradient). At this point I knew I only had to average something like 15kph so was pretty much going to make sub-9hrs. I again took 2mins to fill my water bottles which I had almost completely consumed on the climb.
I continued on knowing a few more kms of steady climbing then a slight downhill run to the finish. I reached the top of the climb to be greeted by a 30kph headwind which did not subside for the remaining 15km. I rode alone putting what energy I had left into the pedals. Coming up to the last pinch climb before the finish a rider came flying past me and I was determined to jump on his wheel to grab some respite and then rolled down the hill, round the last corner, finishing off which a sprint across the line. I was greeted by my family cheer squad with Kyla yelling out “c’mon you can make it under 9hrs” as the clock read 8:58 but as I started in wave #2 my time was slightly better at 8:51 and 95th out of approx. 2,000 riders and just over 10mins behind Australian XCM champion Andy Blair. After feeling I really struggled with the final climb, I was amazed that I’d done it in 1:48 which was in the top 35 times for this climb on the day (with my total cumulative time for all 3 climbs in the top 45). It was a great feeling to be hugged and congratulated by my family.
It was great to come back to the finish and see most of my friends cross the line around the 12hr mark. I slept well and ate well that night and the following day and appreciated my wife, Kyla for driving most of the way safely back to Sydney.
Strava file from my ride