Want to be part of the legendary Fitz’s Challenge but not sure which ride to tackle? No matter which ride you chose, you’ll be up for a challenge. To help you chose the right distance for you, we’ve prepared a guide to what to expect from each of the rides, and the type of training you’ll need to make sure you are well prepared on event day and have a successful ride.
Cycling coach and masters racer Dr Michael Hanslip gives his tips for choosing a distance that suits your abilities and the time you have available for training…
Whether you have completed Fitz’s in years past, or you are a complete newcomer to the Challenge, this guide is intended to assist you to select the optimum distance for your abilities and available preparation time.
Take a look at the course maps on the website to see what the climbs look like, and importantly, the training programs I’ve designed for each distance. These training programs should be considered the bare minimum to complete each ride. If you cannot commit to the training, don’t commit to the distance! I’ve had lots of feedback from people who did the training and completed the distance just fine, and from others didn’t do all the training and subsequently failed to complete the course or had a really miserable day. Consider yourself warned!
50 km Tidbinbilla Challenge
This is the entry level event, but don’t let that fool you. There are some decent hills and if you aren’t prepared you’ll find this route too much. Like all the rides, the Tidbinbilla Challenge begins at Stromlo Forest Park and heads out onto Uriarra Road for an anti-clockwise lap. There are three important hills on this route: the climb out of Uriarra Crossing, the Pierces Creek climb out of The Cotter and the climb from The Cotter back toward the start. There is almost zero flat terrain on this ride – it might be only 50 km, but it is a very lumpy 50!
105 km Tharwa Challenge
The Tharwa Challenge is exactly the same course as the Tidbinbilla Challenge with an additional 27 km to Tharwa and back. This section has no added big climbs, although the terrain is constantly lumpy. Still, it is double the distance and double the climbing so a large step up from the 50.
165 km Fitz’s Classic
This one is called the classic because back in the day when there was only one route, it was this route. As “Century” rides go (100 miles = 164 km), this one is fantastic as a challenging and rewarding ride. Instead of turning at Tharwa, you continue on into Namadgi National Park over the eponymous Fitz’s Hill and all the way out to Rendezvous Creek.
The route adds several more imposing climbs. Fitz’s might be the one the event is named for, but I find the short section of 17 per cent incline just before the turn at Rendezvous is by far the hardest climb of the ride (I’ve seen people fall on it when they couldn’t keep the pedals turning). Once you turn for home the backside of Fitz’s is also an imposing climb. The sting in the Classic’s tail is the climb from The Cotter back to Stromlo, which feels even harder after all the distance.
210 km Fitz’s Epic
When someone decided that the classic distance was not enough, they created a truly epic ride. The Epic is identical to the Classic with the addition of two more mega-climbs for your pedalling pleasure. Once you turn for home at Rendezvous Creek and descend Fitz’s Hill, you will turn left onto Apollo Road and head up and up and up some more to the old tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek. This is a dead-end road, so you get the full enjoyment of descending what you just rode up. But you aren’t done yet! About half-way back to Stromlo from the bottom of Apollo Road is the Corin Dam Road turn. This one is about the same amount of climbing as the one you just did, with a gentler average slope and several descents thrown in for good measure. From the summit, you turn around and head down before riding back to Stromlo. It might only be about 40 extra km from the Classic distance, but 20 of them are uphill for an extra 1,000 metres of climbing.
255 km Fitz’s Extreme
The Classic is a pretty big ride, but one a cyclist who regularly trains can do without extra preparation. The Epic is bigger – something momentous that all but the most hard-core riders will need to prepare for. The Extreme, however, is just that – extreme! It takes the route of the Epic and adds three extreme variations. After the turn-around at Rendezvous Creek you turn left into the Orroral Valley. This road is neither long nor steep, but it is also not flat and it is an extra 20 km round trip. The second variation is on Corin Dam Road – instead of turning at the summit like the Epic riders, you descend the backside to the dam wall before climbing back up again. The final variation comes when you start the climb out of The Cotter. Instead of continuing with the other riders back to Stromlo, you turn left and head up Mt McDonald to Uriarra Homestead, over Uriarra Crossing and up the Three Sisters back to the start. This extra 50 km adds around 1,000 metres of climbing for a 5,000 metre total for the day.
Check out our route descriptions for more info on each of the rides.
So now you know what you’re in for, which ride will you be tackling?
Dr Michael Hanslip has been racing, recreating and commuting on a bike in the Canberra region for 25 years, and coaching other cyclists for 15 of those years. After winning two National Masters titles on the velodrome and two more on the road, he turned his attention to mountain bike racing. Michael is a level 2 coach with Cycling Australia, a level 1 coach with Mountain Biking Australia and a level 1 skills instructor with the Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association. His writing can often be found in the pages of Bicycling Australia and sister magazine Mountain Biking Australia. Michael’s coaching website is www.michaelhanslip.com.
Image: Michael Hanslip