Preparing for Fitz’s Challenge


At 105km Fitz’s Tharwa Challenge is the second shortest distance on offer.

Note: This is by no means a comprehensive guide to preparation for a challenging ride.  However, as I did make it back alive, in one piece and under the cut-off then I can say that these tips helped.

Know the route

There is something exciting about riding in a new place and experiencing it for the first time.  But unless you are experienced at similar distance and gradient, riding Fitz’s Challenge without reconnaissance is insane.  Riding Fitz’s with reconnaissance is merely foolhardy.  I drove the 165km route, which proved that my recollection of relationship between Fitz’s Hill and the turnaround at Rendezvous Hill missed almost 20km of route.

I knew that I could climb everything this side of Fitz’s Hill, so I stuck with the 105km Tharwa Challenge.  The 165km and beyond is for another year.

Preparing the bike

My mate Stuart Pedro had a flat 20km into the Great Ocean Road Ride because of badly-worn tyres and it only went downhill from there, which was unfortunate because there was a great big hill up ahead.  Stuart climbs hills very well, but now he was sad.

To avoid sad, here’s the list of things I changed:

  1. New tyres (Continental Grand Prix 4000 II)
  2. Had my bike fit checked (10mm more saddle height)
  3. Adjusted brakes for quicker response and cleaned the pads
  4. Degreased chain, adjusted derailleurs for 11-32T 10-speed Deore cassette
  5. Repacked headset
  6. Cleaned bike
  7. Packed saddlebag: two new tubes, full-size 2-6mm Allen keys plus mini tool

Did you know that Randonee rules in Europe used to stipulate mudguards?

Preparation of body

My physical preparation was nearly non-existent; a combination of illness, hay fever and a packed schedule saw to that.  I even had my right knee in a Thermoskin supporter for the week before, which came good on the day!  But I did a few things:

  1. Aussie Butt Cream – for comfort down under.  I covered my gentleman’s area with it before and used a little afterwards.  Top Tip: Apply butt cream before you attempt to apply Dencorub.
  2. 3/4 knicks – I was prepared to wear the Thermoskin, but the 3/4 knicks offer just enough support and added sun protection.
  3. Arm warmers in Strava orange – the start was cool, but as I found in the Bobbo the arm warmers feel cool when the temperature increases.  And they are UV-proof.
  4. Arrogant Bastard Ale jersey – to stand out from the crowd and as a conversation-starter.
  5. Netti UV tube thing – I wore it to protect my neck, but it has 21 other uses, apparently.

Preparation of mind

You’ve got to enjoy it.  There’s is little point going hard without taking in the sights, sounds and sensations of the ride.  My mate Christopher saw an Antechinus on the Amy’s Ride in March. Don’t keep your head down and miss something like that.

If like me you are slightly unprepared physically, you must make it up with brain.  Don’t let the steep climbs grind you down.

Nurse the first third

The experienced riders watch the guns take off, safe in the knowledge that they will overtake the exhausted shells of the fallen.  No matter how fit you are, take it easy for the first third.  At that point you will have an idea of how the rest of the day will fare.

So… how did I fare?

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