Would you ride 255 hilly kilometres for a tub of rice pudding?
This October will be Damien Walker’s third Fitz’s Extreme, and with that wealth of experience comes great wisdom: “Don’t miss the rice pudding at Tharwa”.
Damien was first to register for this year’s event, with the lure of the challenge too strong to miss.
“This will be my third time doing the 255 km, and I also did the 165 a few years ago. Now that I’ve done the 255, I can’t go back and do anything shorter”.
It’s the difficulty (as well as the rice pudding) that draws Damien to the event. “Fitz’s is hard – it’s one of the hardest rides in the country, no doubt about it,” he says. “When you’re out there riding on your own, you’re just questioning yourself and whether you can get through it. The first year I rode it, I was really struggling, but for the last 50k I joined a bunch of other riders, and they helped me get over the line. I made lifelong friends that day, and we still keep in touch,” he says.
Damien says it’s the “sense of accomplishment” that keeps him coming back. “It’s not an easy ride, but when you cross the finish line, you get that sense of achievement, and that’s it, that’s enough”.
It will take Damien around 11 hours to complete this year’s course. “People I work with think I’m crazy for doing it. They say they could never do something like this. Well, ten years ago I couldn’t have done it either”.
To maintain the level of fitness needed for endurance events, Damien rides 20 km to and from work every day, despite being a shift worker. “I ride to work all year round, rain, hail or shine. My roster makes it hard to do the distances I’d like, but I just make sure I ride to and from work. Riding home at 4am is a different experience, it gives you time to think.
“And then I find some hills in the nearby national park on weekends”.
When asked what advice he’d give anyone considering riding the Fitz’s for the first time, Damien points to the number of options for people to choose from. “There’s something for everyone, just give one a go.
“If you’re just getting into it, the 50 or 105 is a good starting point. Or for the full experience as a newcomer, the 165 is good. You’ve got all day for it, it’s a pretty tough ride, but you can do it,” he says.
And don’t miss that rice pudding at Tharwa. “It’s something different, it’s a nice change from bananas and gel”.