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This is definitely the Ultimate Alpine single day cycle challenge. Definitely not for the under prepared cyclist!
Start in Howitt Park in the early morning and head up the Mount Buffalo climb (HC) for your first checkpoint with food and water at Dingo Dell. Then it’s back through Bright to start the trip to Omeo. It’s a false flat all the way to Harrietville, but the excitement of the occasion will probably sweep you along so that you hardly notice.
Then you begin the climb up Mount Hotham (HC) – your second mountain for the day. The first 10km is hard, before a leisurely uphill with a water stop (No 4 Chain Bay, Star Extended Spur, 17km up from Harrietville), to the ski resort entrance gate portables, where the really tough stuff begins! The smell of the forest is beautiful at this time of day, even though the impact of the 2013 bushfires is still apparent.
Cresting the summit and the ride to Dinner Plain from Hotham Heights is majestic, with sweeping views across the High Plains. A second breakfast at Dinner Plain is followed by the largely downhill ride to Omeo for the third checkpoint. It is worth picking up food here, even if you are not hungry, to make sure you are well fueled for the very long and hard climb up the Back of Falls (HC). From Omeo, you follow the Omeo Valley Highway, along a truly gorgeous section of road following the river, past Anglers Rest, until the turnoff to the Bogong High Plains Road and the dreaded Back of Falls. It’s steep, it’s hot and you have 220km in your legs already. You start to grind the 21kms up to the High Plains, filling up your water again at Shannonvale near the bottom.
Another water stop at Raspberry Hill near the top and you know you’re going to make it. It’s now only 80km further with the hardest climbs behind you. Ahead an undulating ride across the High Plains, often with a head wind, before crossing the Rocky Valley Dam wall and into Falls Creek for a very well earned stop to refuel.
More to eat and drink at Falls Creek and you set off for the descent. Worth taking it a bit slower on the descent than you might normally, as you’re quite tired and need to save something for Tawonga Gap.
Before you know it, you’re in Mount Beauty and the Gap is looming. The last water stop is a couple of kilometres up the climb and provides an excuse for a welcome rest. Tawonga Gap (Cat 2 – 885m) isn’t as steep as expected after the Back of Falls or Hotham and you will probably be surprised how much easier it feels.
You finally make it to the top. Take a breather at the top of the pass and take in the gorgeous views across the Kiewa Valley to Mount Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak (but please be careful when turning right into the car park).
Now it’s just 20 kilometres to go and almost all of it is down hill. You’re probably tired so please take it very carefully on the descent, as the Bright side of Tawonga Gap has a very high incident of cycling accidents. At the bottom, push on as hard as you can for the run into Bright. Over the timing mats, your name in lights and spectators cheering you on. It’s all over, you’ve mastered the ULTIMATE!
We’ll do our best to keep you safe on the day with food and water on-course, mobile moto marshals, and comprehensive medical and emergency services, but you must be well prepared for this ride if you expect to complete it successfully.
This is a very long ride with a huge amount of climbing and you will need to be extremely fit and carry sufficient water and food with you on the day. Remember that conditions in the High Plains can be extreme and very changeable, and that for significant portions of the ride you will be out of mobile phone range, particularly on the section between Omeo and Falls Creek.
Even though this ride is held at the height of summer, it is not uncommon for conditions at Mount Buffalo, Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and on the High Plains, to be freezing, with rain, hail or even snow, when the heat is stifling in the valleys.
You should ideally have done similar rides such as the 250km ACE, Fitz’s Epic or the 3 Peaks ride before signing up for this one.