Climbers take on Canberra’s toughest peaks

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It’s a tough bike ride: 109 kilometres from start to finish, five peaks in just one day and more total vertical than the legendary Alpe d’Huez on the Tour de France.

In 2013 most of the 380 bike riders who entered managed to reach the summit of all five peaks but it was tough, according to Gemma Dodds who says she’s fairly new to cycling.

“The ride was fabulous but hard. I had to get off my bike and push it up a couple of hills but I got to the top of all five peaks. At the end I was absolutely exhausted but so elated. I’ll be back again this year,” said Dodds.

Four hundred cyclists are expected to enter this year’s Rotary Rides 5 Peaks Challenge, now in its ninth year and fast earning legendary status. One-third of all entrants are likely to come from interstate.

John Armstrong is the Executive Officer of Pedal Power, the organisation that runs the event.

“There’s no doubt this event attracts a certain type of rider: the lean, gritty, tough climbers who live to ride their bikes up hills, hardened cyclists who just put their head down, grit their teeth and keep pushing those pedals around until they reach the top. It’s quite a sight to see, especially as they ascend the fifth and last climb,” said Armstrong.

That last climb takes riders to the top of the iconic Black Mountain, right in the heart of Canberra with the easily recognisable Telstra Tower at its summit. The best riders will arrive at the base of Black Mountain having already reached the top of Mt Stromlo, Red Hill, Mt Pleasant and Mt Ainslie and ridden 109 kilometres.

But the ride is not just for the best climbers in the country. Most who enter are regular road cyclists looking for a challenge. Because the road up and down each peak is the same, each rider can choose which peaks to take on.

“They must follow the course but can simply ride past the hills that are just too hard. It’s a great event because you can design your own challenge.

“It could be a lot like Alpe d’Huez on Black Mountain this year with spectators encouraged to dress up and cheer their favourite riders on,” said Armstrong.

The event was originally devised by the Rotary Club of Woden and this year’s ride will support two non-profit organisations – Lifeline and The Australian Rotary Health Research Fund.

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