For Michelle, the feeling of finishing Peaks Challenge for the first time in 2021 is a tough one to describe. Sitting somewhere in-between exhaustion and elation, Michelle crossed the finish line after 10 hours and 42 minutes out on the road.
Michelle has enjoyed riding her bike for 10 years now and with an unwavering passion for supporting more female recreational riders to jump on their bikes, she started her role as a coach; gradually evolving her skills into a full-time position.
Having never taken part in a ride this long, Peaks Challenge Falls Creek was a new challenge for Michelle. There were a number of women in Michelle’s existing Zwift riding group that first put up their hand and made the bold move to sign-up for Peaks the day after the 2020 event, with Michelle making the commitment shortly after.
By the time Peaks rolled around in 2021 there was a group of 20 women across different parts of Australia all completing their own training, but with one goal in mind – to get themselves across the finish line of Peaks Challenge Falls Creek.
It created a great sense of community – “when you know there are other ladies out there doing the same event and you know them, it’s a comfort thing knowing they’re there, even if you don’t see them out on the road", said Michelle.
Michelle had never done an event where she had to teach herself to constantly fuel up, so she recruited the perspective of a nutritionist, which was helpful for her, but she noted it was a luxury, not a necessity. Nutrition is different for everyone, and the time you need to test out different foods is important to know what works for you, but trust that things might also change on the day. You might ride harder or certain foods just won’t sit in your stomach the same, but this is ok, and in some cases to be expected so don’t overthink it, Michelle suggest.
In terms of managing your food and water consumption within your ride the key is thinking two steps ahead: "when you’re on Tawonga you’re not thinking about Tawonga, you’re fuelling for Hotham. When you’re on Hotham you’re fuelling to get to Anglers Rest. So even if you aren’t hungry, it’s important to eat because you’re preparing for what’s ahead."
Many things can be taught, and practiced, but at the end of the day confidence was a major player in Michelle’s ride. Having the chance to come over to the Alpine Region from Adelaide to ride the mountains prior cemented her confidence. Michelle says “my first time, I was so nervous at the bottom of Hotham thinking I’m never going to be able to do this two-hour climb, but it was fine, and I didn’t necessarily need to think it was going to be impossible – it’s not impossible. You just need to battle the demons in your head and keep one foot in front of the other and keep pedalling."
Although Michelle didn’t get the chance to descend Falls Creek prior to the event, everyone on that descent wants to get to the bottom safely, and Michelle notes that all surrounding riders were very courteous and give you plenty of room to go at your own pace, and you’ll find yourself safely at the bottom.
Remember also that if you are aiming to ride with a certain group of wave leaders that if you aren’t descending with them, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still make a certain time if that’s your aim; everyone climbs at a different pace, or stops at certain places where others may not, so know your ride and don’t stress too much. Michelle noted that whenever she was out on the route I was talking to other women, getting to meet them, connecting with other people; the buzz off the event, and the camaraderie was a massive support.
When it’s all said and done Michelle suggests to “just pace yourself, test yourself in the months prior, start thinking now what can I do, what can I do to convince myself that I’m actually worthy of challenging myself on the ride. Read all the information, read all the advice on the Bicycle Network page."
Outside of the 13-hour challenge with over 1,500 other riders is awaiting an amazing experience in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia. “Just doing the ride and experiencing it is definitely a really good feeling. Afterwards you’re so exhausted but so elated at the same time – it’s a very difficult feeling to describe until you do it. Whenever you’ve done something like that it’s “wow” that’s a big, big achievement. No matter how far you get on the ride, even if you don’t finish it – whatever you did do is still a massive achievement.”
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