Peaks Challenge 2020 was Candice’s first shot at any cycling event. She had only began riding regularly in late 2019 with her partner Dave who had completed Peaks twice.
Peaks Challenge 2017 was still etched in to Candice's memory – when Dave came across the line knackered and in-between breaths said that she “could never do this” – this stuck with her.
In early 2020, four months into Candice’s riding days, she completed her first 100km ride and her partner suggested they do Peaks. With the memory from 3 years prior still stuck in the forefront of her mind, Candice is thinking, “it’s too hard, I could never do that, it’s this mammoth thing in front of me that it’s just unattainable." So, they started training.
But not with a training plan just yet, they started with a ride from Sydney to Byron Bay to build-up fitness. As time went on, they were using one of Bicycle Network’s training plans with some adjustments to suit their schedule. They were riding around 120km during the week, with their weekly Sunday ride spanning 180-200km.
Both Candice and her partner credit having someone to train with as being a big factor in their 9 hour and 14 minute finishing time – cutting roughly an hour off her partners solo time in 2017. Candice said they pushed one another further and the training was much more intense than her partner had done solo in previous years.
For Candice, the day was not the suffer-fest that had been built up in her mind. Besides a moment up Hotham and then getting dropped by the bunch through Omeo because she didn’t eat enough earlier, most of her day was spent in high spirits chatting to fellow riders, enjoying the scenery, and telling jokes like “can you believe we paid to do this?”
This positive experience all came down to the six months of training leading up to it; the two-week bike packing trip from Sydney to Byron, lots of Zwifting during lockdowns and as many all-day rides as they could fit in. Each month the event got closer their finishing time got more and more ambitious, but with a health set-back two weeks before the event, it forced them to ease up, take the pressure off and just go with the flow on the day.
Arriving at Falls Creek on the Thursday before the event allowed Candice and Dave to practice the first descent down Bogong-High Plains Road. With Candice being a self-confessed slow descender, this helped a lot by allowing her to experience it with less riders on the route, but also said that in her experience “on the day you get so caught up in everything and there are so many people around that you sort of go with the flow."
Taking part in Peaks Challenge is something Candice will never forget. “It’s so beautiful. Everywhere you look there is something to see, there are ponies in the paddock, and you look back and see the ridges where you’ve been riding, so there’s so much to distract you and entertain you, so you’re not really thinking about the pain”, Candice describes.
"There were parts of the event that went by in such a blur, especially when you’re riding amongst other people, constantly filling up bottles, re-fuelling, heading to the loo and hitting the road again."
Candice said there were times when she had only just finished in the toilet and her partner had done it all; filled the bottles, found the food and was ready to head off again, which was a great support. But pointed out that there are slightly different considerations for women than men so to allow yourself the time you need.
Candice soaked up advice all through-out her training; if not from her partner, it was from people she met on Bicycle Network training rides or from friends: be prepared for anything, pack different clothing because you don’t know what the weather will be, be aware that the food you train with might not be the food you eat on the day.
It just so happened that Candice was one of those people whose food completely changed on the day – “I just wanted carbs, so many carbs and I had never trained with carbs before the day”, but “people do say that women at different times of the month their body might be craving different things” so this could have been a factor as well.
All in all, the whole experience is a high, “when you’re there with everyone, it’s just fun being in the village knowing everyone around you has done all this training, and you’re all there to do your best at this challenge, and at the start line there were so many girls, and at the front as well which was just such a cool thing to see”.
At the end of the day, Candice just loves riding her bike. “I just don’t know what it is, but when I get on the bike, I just get this endorphin rush. So, my mood just lifts instantly once we start riding. I’ll just get really silly, and I’ll be singing so that helps”.
Final words from Candice: "It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been riding, or how expensive your gear is, all that matters is that you surround yourself with people that will support your efforts, and you do the best you can do – all pressure off, and just enjoy the ride!"
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