Rider Story - “That was the hardest thing… I’ve ever done.”

Little did Jess and I know that in little under a year after dipping our toes into the cycling world we would be attempting and completing a seriously challenging 165 km event known as Fitz’s Challenge.

Our initial foray into cycling consisted of the purchase of two flat-bar bikes, which at the time were considered to be perfectly adequate for our needs. Whilst mine tended to gather dust, Jess started participating in triathlons and was using her flat-bar bike in events. It wasn’t long before competitors shooting past her on racing bikes and tri-bikes became old, so she decided that she would like to get a ‘proper’ bike for her birthday.

Soon after Jess received her Giant TCR, she signed up for the Sydney to Wollongong ride. After a serious amount of arm-twisting and guilt tripping, I was convinced to join her on the ride, and I was allowed to get a ‘proper’ bike.

His and hers Giant TCR’s … matchy-matchy.

Sydney to Wollongong was successfully negotiated albeit with a certain amount of post event pain. We both enjoyed it thoroughly and decided to give this cycling thing a proper go. Now we just needed to find a group ride to keep up the momentum that we had achieved thus far.

It was recommended to us by Giant Sydney to check out the rides that MC Cyclery offers and thus began our association with MC. I popped into a few rides towards the end of 2014 and found that everyone was really warm and welcoming. I brought Jess with me to MC’s Saturday ride, namely the MC Classic, early this year and we have been hooked ever since. A combination of awesome people and awesome rides make the rides that MC put on truly unique. Another unique point to mention is the huge amount of rider experience that can be found with the MC ‘faithful’. Everyone is quick and eager to offer advice relating to rides, purchases and bike maintenance, which helps massively when starting out.

Earlier this year we decided to take the plunge and sign-up for the Fitz’s Challenge 165 km event near Canberra. Not only is the distance fairly large, there is also 3000 metres of climbing to contend with. The idea was to train hard and have a good crack at it. MC put together some nice long rides to ramp-up our training structure and help us prepare for the event, mentally as much as physically too after all 7/8 hours on the bike is a totally different landscape for most folks.

On one of these long Sunday rides through the Royal National Park, I unfortunately made a slight rider error and ended up coming off my bike knee first into the rough RNP tarmac at 35 km/h.

You know that have become a proper cyclist when you are more worried about your bike than you are for your own well-being! I was that quick to get my bike out of harm’s way and only then inspect the damage to myself.

A special thank-you must go out to the group of awesome people that were riding with us that day for keeping my mind off of pain whilst HC organised an express delivery of Jess and I (bikes included) to Prince of Wales hospital ER courtesy of a groggy James, who was suffering with flu. I am infinitely grateful to HC and James for being cool, calm and collected in helping me to get to hospital along with giving my bike a once over at the shop (luckily minor damage).

Further thanks to HC for the loan helmet and saddle and a big thank-you to everyone for all of the well wishes whilst I was in hospital.

I underwent minor surgery to clean up my knee and inspect it for any significant damage. I was released the next day on crutches and was off the bike for three weeks. This unfortunately put a significant dent in my training aspirations for Fitz, however, I was undeterred to pull out or do a shorter distance.

Our intrepid crew of Jess, James, Sam and Hamish (Megan of course did the 210 km) set off with full of enthusiasm on the Sunday morning to tackle the 165 km challenge. As can be seen below, we were all pretty fresh and amped 90 minutes in for the first photo op.

The first time we were properly challenged was approximately 75 km into the ride. The infamous Fitz’s Hill beckoned. To say that I thoroughly underestimated how tough this hill is would be a massive understatement. I went at it with a tad too much vigor and 2/3 of the way up I bonked rather spectacularly and had to push my bike up the remainder of it! The hill has a steep gradient of 12%, but it runs for almost 3 km! Kudos to Jess who could have completed the hill, but decided to get off her bike and keep me company. ;)

The below picture pretty much sums up my mental state after Fitz’s Hill

As you’ll see - we were all pretty enthusiastic after the hill…

We also thought that this was the turn-around point, but it unfortunately wasn’t. A lot more pain and climbing were still to be endured before we could turn around and start thinking about the journey home and the beers and burgers that were waiting for us back in Canberra Town.

After many further hours of toil and a lazy lunch fueled by ham sambo’s and cans of coke we declined the ever so tempting ‘sag wagon’ and finally crossed the finish line shortly after 5pm. We were in the saddle for approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes.

That really was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.

But we were still smiling.