Dedicated cyclists return to take on the 26th Fitz’s Challenge

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With October upon us, the thoughts of a growing band of dedicated cyclists are turning to the Pedal Power Fitz’s Challenge event on 26th October.

Now in its 26th year the event, which takes in a route along the stunning scenery of the Brindabella Mountains, is a firm fixture on Canberra’s cycling calendar as the capital’s biggest and best-known long-distance one-day road participation cycling event.

The Challenge attracts cyclists from a range of backgrounds and abilities due to its distance options of 255 km (Fitz’s Extreme), 250 km (Fitz’s Epic), 165 km (Fitz’s Classic), 105 km (Tharwa Challenge) and 50 km (Tidbinbilla Challenge).

In the run up to this year’s Challenge, Pedal Power spoke to some previous participants who are returning in 2014, about the physical and emotional highs and lows of the challenge…

Retired Treasury worker Chris Reis, who has lived in Canberra since 1977 told us: “I resumed riding about 16 months ago after a thirty–odd year break. Many of my Treasury workmates were keen cyclists and as I was stacking on the kilos from years of limited aerobic activity, I decided to start riding again. The more I rode, the more I realised what I had been missing out on all these years. The bike paths in Canberra are just amazing, and I have discovered so much whilst riding and also made many new friends while riding with Pedal Power.

“I was encouraged to take part in Fitz 2013 by several workmates who were also participating in the event. They were all doing the 105 Km Tharwa Challenge so I signed up for that event as well not knowing how I would cope. A couple of weeks before the event, I tried riding up Black Mountain and was unable to ride to the top without dismounting a couple of times. I subsequently downgraded my entry in the event to the 50 Km ride. Just as well!! For me the most challenging part of the ride was the hill climb after the Cotter on the way out. It was quite a relief when I reached to the top.

“However, by the end I felt amazing energetic and my memories are of an amazing day, with lots of riders and a festive atmosphere which left me feeling very excited about the ride. This year I’ll be doing the 105 Km Tharwa Challenge – in a much fitter state than last year and looking forward to the challenge, and also riding with friends.”

Peter le Mesurier added: “Last year’s Fitz’s Challenge was perfect for me as I had progressed from, initially the 50 km challenge to the 105 km ride the next year and by then had tried and tested a distance with the right mix for me of effort and rhythm.

“I train for the Challenge by riding each week, usually with two social rides and the odd ride of my own for one purpose or another, and I always look forward to the fete-like atmosphere on the day – stopping at the water and food-stops for a chat and refill before riding off to sample the next stall, before reaching the finish line. Nothing compares to that last coast downhill to the banner, knowing the km are under the belt and looking forward to an ice cream to reward and refuel me for the ride home!

“My main memories of the ride are the granite tors near Tidbinbilla. Go on the ride to see them, you won’t see their like in northern Canberra!”

And finally, previous Challenger Leigh Furlonger revealed her training tips for potential riders: “My base fitness is pretty good as I ride 80 – 90 km with the Wanderers every weekend. As such I don’t do any special training for the 50km event, however in previous years (for events such as the 165km) I have done hill repeats – Red Hill, Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain and Mount Stromlo are all good training hills for this. It’s also good to do a bit of a ‘dry run’ so to speak; for example I might do part of the course that takes in some of the tougher sections of the event sometime prior to it.

“Ideally you might start training 6 to 12 weeks before the event, depending how fit you already are for it. You start building up distance and/or toughness of your rides incrementally each week until about 2 weeks before the event itself. The ride in the second last week before the event should be getting close to the toughness of the event itself, and then you taper off. In the final week leading up to the event you should do easier rides and decrease your training to maximise your recovery – that way you can smash it on event day!


“What I really enjoy about Fitz’s is the training leading up to the event and the camaraderie you share with the others who train with you, the buzz on the day itself and the BBQ food you get to eat afterwards – yum!

“It’s a fantastic challenge and it tests your fitness, strength and endurance. Having done other mountain orientated events (such as the Hartley and various Alpine challenges) I can also confirm that it’s one of the toughest on offer here in Australia.

“My reason for doing Fitz’s last year (and this year) in particular is a little more personal however. I had a friend who was also a passionate rider, who died of cancer (melanoma) in January 2013. The 50km Fitz’s event was the last ride he did with me and another two friends before he died, so we like to do that event now in memory of him and in support of the The Kids’ Cancer Project The Kids’ Cancer Project which is one of the best charities out there – there’s a ‘rightness’ in this somehow.

“You can participate either as a rider or a volunteer – I’ve done both and it’s all fun, so get into it!”

This year’s Fitz’s Challenge takes place on 26th October, starting at Stromlo Forest Park. The official beneficiary charity of the event is the Kids’ Cancer Project.

Registrations are still open with discounted entry fees right up until 24th October. You can find full details, plus an online registration form at: www.fitzs.com.au

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