Spring into action & get Fitz

CASSANDRA ZORO

If you’re thinking about dusting off your walking boots, shaking out your sports-gear, donning your trainers, or simply wondering how to get more active this Spring, then cycling could be the answer you’re looking for. Canberra’s spectacular cycle event: Fitz’s Challenge provides an ideal opportunity to get out there, exercise and train for something achievable.

“Spring is such a good time of year to ride in Canberra. You’ve just come out of winter and want to get out in the good weather.

It’s an ideal time of year to set a personal challenge like Fitz’s. The short course is such an achievable distance and the scenery out there is so beautiful,” says Jen Faerber, who conquered the 50km route last year.

Jen Faerber cycled Fitz’s 50km

Fitz’s Challenge is best known for the course’s steep climbs, the infamous Fitz’s Hill and the spectacular scenery amidst the foothills of the Brindabella’s.

Michelle Inglis is one of the Canberra cyclists gearing up ahead of this October’s annual Fitz’s Challenge. When I talk to her, Inglis has just got in from being out on her bike early that morning. She is full of enthusiasm and energy as we talk about how she got into cycling later in life.

Prior to mountain bike riding, Inglis and her husband enjoyed getting their sports-fix as competitive water-skiiers.

Michelle Inglis enjoys mountain biking at Stromlo. Photo: David Blucher

She casually mentions she’s completed the Fitz’s Classic course “3 or 4 times.” That’s no easy ride. The 165km route offers 2940 metres of climbs and grades over 12%, with an 11hr target time.

Cycling has become a sport the Inglis family can enjoy together. Last year her husband and son also took part in Fitz’s Challenge riding the 165km route together. She says that entering an event like Fitz’s gives you something positive to aim for.

“Have Fitz’s as a goal. It’s an endurance challenge but there’s a great community spirit. It’s beautiful riding out on the course and you’ll feel a real sense of satisfaction of achieving it,” adds Inglis.

Facing Fitz’s Hill

The universal appeal of Fitz’s Challenge seems to be that it’s not so much a cycle race – but more about setting your own personal goal and then using your strength, stamina and willpower to achieve it. The cramp-inducing climbs of Fitz’s Challenge and in particular Fitz’s Hill itself, are legendary. Out on the course it’s mind over matter: just you against the uphills. There’s also plenty of positive encouragement from the Pedal Power volunteers and other cyclists along the way, to help spur you on, plus tasty snacks to fuel you up.

Cathy Douglas is a Canberra rider who has tackled the 50km and the 105km Fitz’s courses and come out smiling. “There’s some pretty challenging hills, but there’s no pressure. You can go at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery,” she says.

Douglas has always enjoyed cycling, but it wasn’t until a work colleague (who was a keen cyclist) took her out and convinced her to give cycling a serious try, that she really got into it. She used to share her husband’s bicycle and it was only when she bought her own custom-fitted bike that she realised how light and easy cycling could be.

She now rides to work every day – which gives her the chance to get an hour of exercise in, before she reaches her desk. “I start the day with a really good feeling,” enthuses Douglas.  

Cathy Douglas commutes 1hr to work on her bike

Tips for Fitz Training

Both Inglis and Douglas point out to me that you wouldn’t take on Fitz’s Challenge without some uphill training. There are some seriously steep sections which you need to practice for.

“You just need a bit of training. You need the strength for Fitz’s, otherwise it’s not really fun. You can start your training with Red hill, then Black Hill and Mount Ainslie and work your way up,” encourages Douglas. 

“The event is set up to support you in success. But you wouldn’t go into it without some level of preparedness. Pacing yourself to Fitz’s Hill is really important,” adds Inglis.