Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain Ride Review, Impression, How to Complete – Beginner’s Guide

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So finally I’ve been able to take my machine Guerciotti Eureka SHM50 Team CCC Polsat replica to the Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. After all the agony and the cramps that I experienced throughout the ride, I managed to be the last 3 riders to enter the finish line. Just 5.5 minutes before the 13 hour cut-off time; and yes I’m still proud of that. I’m not a strong rider at all; so for me to be able to complete this event was already a huge personal achievement.

In this opportunity I would like to share some of my experience and things to consider should you want to complete one of these Peaks Challenges.

First of all let me tell you my riding profile:

Height: 170cm
Sex: Male
Weight: 73kg
FTP: 220watts (based on indoor trainer figure). I can hold 30-32kmh flat at the top end of Zone 3 Heart Rate.
Weekly distance: 200-250km, never race just commuting daily to work 40km/day then long hill ride on Saturday or Sunday
Location: Perth, Western Australia. We are mostly flat but around the Perth hills, we have some steep ones. They are short in distance though. I’m yet to find a hill that is longer than 3km.


The bike is Guerciotti Eureka SHM50 Team CCC Polsat replica. Details are as below:

Crank: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical.
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra 6900 mechanical.
Front-derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical.
Rear-derailleur: Shimano Ultegra 6900 medium cage.
Chainring: Rotor Q-Ring QXL 50-34
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 6900 11-32
Tyres: Schwalbe One 25mm clincher
Wheelset: Ursus Miura C37
Brakepads: Swiss-Stop for carbon wheels
Saddle: ISM Adamo Prologue
Total bike weight including lights and bottle cage: 8kg


Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain is a mountainous road cycling endurance event. You would have heard of Peaks Challenge Falls Creek or 3 Peaks Challenge. It’s basically the same thing except they hold it in Tasmania for the first time in 2015.

When I entered the finish line my Garmin said 4198m total elevation gain and 239km total distance. You will start at between 630-645am depending on which group you choose (they start with the fastest group first). Then, you will have to make it to the finish line by 745pm ie. 13 hour deadline.

They have rest stops along the way (every 30km or so) and each rest stop would have had cut-off time assigned to it. You would have to continue riding from the rest stop by the cut-off time. If you don’t make it to the rest stop by the cut-off time, you would need to retire gracefully from the ride – which makes sense due to safety reason. They would have packed all the drinks, food, etc; and all the support vehicles would have left; and should you continue riding, you will be unsupported and can be very dangerous.

So that’s what the event is all about. The challenge is obviously to ride at a pace whereby you would complete the ride within the cut-off time and most importantly, not having a bad day at all. And this ain’t easy!

13 hours and 235km didn’t sound like much when I first heard about it. It only translated to 19kmh average speed. But now that I have completed the ride, I now know that this event is not easy. You have to be completely perfect in all aspects of your ride: legs, body strength, ascending and descending skills and even down to your bike condition. There are many strong riders who ended up not finishing the ride due to many reasons such as punctures, crashes, cramps or just simply having a bad day.


To accumulate 4000m+ elevation gain in 239km, this event had 5 climbs in total. Don’t trust the event page on the Bicycle Network website because it will just say something like “5km of 8% average” or “undulating but mostly climbing”. In reality “8% average for 5 km” means 10-12% for 5km with 50-100m of 4-5%. Seriously…the climbs were super hard!

At the last climb (after you’ve accumulated 199km on your legs to be exact and you would have climbed for at least 3000m by this time), they threw in a 11-18% climb for 3.5km!

The climate kept changing, too. We started at Devonport with cloudy weather of ~16deg (Celcius). Then as we headed towards the mountain, at some point my Garmin said 8deg. There were drizzles of rain at the mountains, too. The roads in Tasmania were narrow so a lot of the descends were dangerous. The organiser has warned us the night before of these descends.

There has been a nasty crash during one of the treacherous descends. I did not witness what happened but I saw a woman laying on the road unmoved.

You were also given 4 valet bags:
– 2 x Food only
– 1 x Food and clothing
– 1 x Return valet bag (ie. for any stuff you no longer need for the rest of the ride which you still want to collect by the end of the event at the finish line)

These bags were distributed at the designated pit-stops. This is useful to “re-arm” you for the rest of your journey. I will share later on what I put in these bags.

There were about ~600 or so riders during the Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain. There were also “lead” riders assigned by the organiser Bicycle Network who will pace each group for 8-9-10-11-12-13 hour finishers. And at the very end of the pack they assigned 2 lantern rouge riders with red jersey. If they pass you, you will most likely need to retire because there is a big chance that you won’t make it to the next pit-stop.

The event started with 15km of flat then after that it’s all undulating, climbs and descends until the finish line.

The road condition was 30% chip-sealed (along Cethana Rd and the way to Dove Lake), 60% country road and 10% super-smooth asphalt.


I would admit by now that my preparation was actually not sufficient. I almost failed the event. I didn’t follow any training plans unfortunately due to personal life constraints and work commitments.

I started probably 5 months before the event started. I commuted to work daily for 40km/day and on Saturday I would try to climb for at least 1500m either through hill repeats or long undulating hill ride. The commuting would be recovery ride only ie. Zone 2 and on the long hill ride would be a combination of Zone 2 and 3. I trained using heart rate monitor and not power.

There was a good short hill near my house which I could accumulate 2000m in 5 hours of riding for. This will be my hill-repeat training. Then, I also need to train for distance to ensure my body is conditioned for riding 8hours or more; and this I would go through a route called “Death Valley”. It’s 170km in distance with 2200m of climbing.

Or other route I like is the 3 Dams route. 150km of 1800m elevation.

For people who live in Perth, the routes I ride are already quiet difficult. But I must admit now though that these routes are not comparable to the mountains! I will sum up later on in the conclusion section, but if I have the desire to do one of these events again, I would train in Zone 3-4 (Threshold) for more. During the event I noticed my heart rate was at Zone 3-4 (Threshold) most of the time; and my body couldn’t cope with it after few hours into the ride simply because I rarely rode in the Threshold at all throughout training.


– 3 water bottles because I drink like a mad man and I want to minimise my amount of stops.
– 350lumen front light that lasts 9 hours on strobe mode
– A bright-enough rear light
– Brand new Schwalbe One tires. Including the training ride few days before the event, the tires would have only traveled for about 40km max
– I arrived 4 days earlier to recover from jet-lag as well as to get my body used to the temperature and condition of Tasmania
– I wore a long-sleeve base layer; then cycling jacket; then cycling gillet. I also brought full-fingered gloves with me which I didn’t end-up wearing.
– I only planned to use just the two valet bags: the Food-Clothing and the Return. From my experience during my long training rides, all I needed was 3-4 gels per hour. I didn’t need to eat anything else. So I carried 20 with me then put the rest 20 in the bag which I then collected at the lunch stop. I also put in a change base layer because I know I would have got very sweaty by lunchtime.
– I only planned to stop 3 times: 1x optional stop for wee (5 mins max); 1x required stop for lunch and collecting my valet bags (15 mins max); 1x optional stop for wee (5 mins max). I don’t want to stop for more than 30 minutes for the whole ride.
– I had to sleep for at least 8 hours before the ride. It’s just me…some people can only sleep for 4-5 hours but for me I have to sleep for 8 hours otherwise I will feel weak and sluggish
– I planned to join the fast bunch first to accumulate as many kilometers as I can during the flat section of the ride
– I drove the route around Cethana Rd and Cradle Mountain area 2 days before with my wife just to know what sort of climbs I would face. Man…the Cethana Rd climb would be nasty. More to that later.
– Due to the road condition I would only pump my tires to 90PSI front and 95PSI back to smooth out the ride. I usually ride at 100-110PSI.
– I also wore an expensive bib short. It was ASOS and cost me about AUD$300. The padding was very thick which should give me enough comfort for the 13 hour ride.
– I also used the ASOS butt-cream, too. I have only used them once before during my training rides and kind of worked. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to use it again this time.
– I used Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 bag because with it I didn’t have to re-adjust any settings when I pack-up/set-up the bike


So the big day arrived. I managed to get a good 8 hour of sleep. In the morning I ate ~90gr of carbs for breakfast then I drove to the start line with my wife. Our hotel was only about 5 minutes from the start line.

All riders had to be at the start line by 610am for a 620am final safety briefing. Then riders were dispatched from 630-645am. I joined the second wave which contained riders who wanted to finish between 9-10 hours. When they went through the flat section ie. the first 15km, they rolled at 32-35kmh. Perfect….I saved a lot of minutes going with them.

The lowered tire pressure was perfect, too. It truly smoothed out the ride. I didn’t get any numbness on my hands at all even though – as mentioned in my first ride review – the frame was super stiff.

Then the undulating part arrived. The first climb was called Union Bridge. This wasn’t too bad. I looked at the gradient percentage on Garmin it said 8-10% for 3km. I could still manage this. The weather was misty but not raining at all.

Then we hit the second climb called Echo Valley. This was quiet tough already. It was long and undulating. It went between 8-10% down to 4-5% then up again around 8-10% and it just kept going for about 10km. The weather was misty and a bit wet. It drizzled around the area. Again, I could still manage this. My strategy of eating 3-4 gels per hour seemed to be working (still). After the Echo Valley I stopped for a wee. 5 mins max as planned.

The next climb was the Cethana Rd which was the climb I knew would be very tough. And truth be known, this climb was nasty! It never went down from 8-10% then at the final 5km, it sustained for 11-13%. By that second half my legs were finished. And yes I unfortunately had to walk my bike to the lunch stop which was at the top of the Cethana Rd called Moina! By this time I thought my ride was finished. My legs were cramping, body was hurting and I had no more energy. I thought, “How on earth will I be able to finish the ride?”. From this moment on I knew that for any climb that was higher than 10%, I wouldn’t be able to ride it even though I was using 34-32T.

At this time, too I saw some sag wagons carrying riders who may have given up or have passed the cut-off time back to the finish line.

So I stopped to collect my valet bag, changed my base layer, collected my lunch (which I only took one bite because my stomach felt so bloated due to the prior effort) and took a wee. Total stop time was around 10 mins. By this time, there were already those fast riders heading back the other way for the finish. They were those 8-hour riders. Looking at them truly didn’t help the situation at all.

After the lunch stop at Moina we’re heading towards Cradle Mountain. The summit was located at a place called Dove Lake. The road to Dove Lake was windy (cross headwind). With my legs condition I could only ride at 21-22km/h max on the flatter section then 8-10km/h on the uphill section. The road was still undulating, more tending up. During this time confronting voices went through my mind. One voice said, “That’s OK Tommy just give up now…you can try again next year. With this speed you won’t make it to the next cut-off time anyway”. And the other would say, “Unless they tell you that your time is up, just keep going”. At this time my average speed was only 17.5km/h.

So I arrived at Dove Lake, the end of the road of Cradle Mountain. While still on my bike, without stopping, I asked the volunteer where the next rest stop and what the cut-off time was. Long story short, after my quick calculation, to arrive there on time I had to ride at a speed of 20km/h average. But this was the good news: the road on the way back was tending downhill! So I pushed a bit on the descends and a little bit of hope came up when I looked at my Garmin and suddenly my average speed kept increasing slowly! So I arrived at the next pit-stop. When I asked the volunteer I was actually 20 minutes ahead of the lantern rouge riders! This when I felt a bigger spark of hope in my heart. I thought, “Dang…I think I now have a chance!”. So I didn’t stop there and just kept continuing on.

Afterwards, I didn’t stop at all. I just kept going even though I had to hold my urge to wee. The good news was, the road kept tending down before we hit that very last nasty climb called Spellsman Rd. Along the way I was still faced with some undulations though. I kept going and going, by this time I have accumulated 195km.

So we then went down this fast descend before finally facing the very last climb. This very last climb was just mad. I looked at my Garmin and it said 13-18% and it didn’t stop for 3.5 km. So I had to walk my bike. I’m not ashamed to admit that my legs were simply gone. Next time I go on one of these challenges, I’ll train better. At this time I also saw several riders who rode ahead of me also walked their bike. Even walking the bike was very tough. It’s just so steep. The lantern rouge riders also came and passed me! I thought, “Is that it?”. The support car driver drove next to me and kept asking the question, “Do you want to continue? Are you OK?”. I nodded and I said, “Yap..I just walked it until the flatter section then I’ll ride again”. Those confronting voices in my head kept coming up but I still chose to push on until I truly passed the cut-off time and I had to retire gracefully.

So I kept walking and walking and finally we hit a flatter section after 3.5km. Then I knew it would be downhill again. Luckily I descended pretty well. I have been training on my descending for several months. So again, I gained speed on the descend. There was the last rest stop after that nasty last climb of Spellsman Rd. At this time the lantern rouge riders have already been standing by at the rest-stop. But I didn’t stop and decided to keep going. This caused me to be ahead of them by another 20 mins! AHA! Another hope sparked in my heart.

The road kept undulating towards the finish line but more tending downwards. Long story short, after all the agony, I managed to finish just 5 mins before the 13 hour limit. I managed to pass 2 riders who were ahead of me back then. I just couldn’t tell you how happy I was when I saw the finish line. Sure, for strong riders this was just an another finish. But for a weaker rider like me, this meant a lot and very personal!

I also haven’t told you that about 2 months before the event I had an accident on the way to work and broke my collarbone. So I had to get off the bike for few weeks. I thought my chance was over but after I recovered a little bit, I restarted my training again.

So when I hit that finish line, I truly couldn’t contain my emotion. The finish line was already empty; everybody would have left by then. It was 7.40pm but it was one of the greatest days of my life.

Just a note on the comfort, the ISM Adamo Prologue saddle truly worked like a charm! I didn’t have any stinging wee or anything like that. My butt didn’t hurt at all at the end. And the cream has also worked like a charm.


Doing any of the Peaks Challenge: Falls Creek, Gold Coast or Cradle Mountain, you cannot afford having a bad day at all. I have seen strong riders who were minutes ahead of me ending up in DNF (Did Not Finish) due to punctures, crashes, etc. So make sure you use new tires. Good new tires wouldn’t puncture.

Like I mentioned earlier, if I could restart my training I would train more for Zone 3- Threshold. During my commute to work or my training rides, the average heart rate would be 142bpm which put me in Zone 2. But during this event, my average heart rate was 150bpm which was in my Zone 3. It cost me a lot more energy because I’m not used to it.

I will still keep doing at least 1700-2000m elevation on one of the weekends (either Saturday or Sunday) but I’ll just simply increase my intensity. During work days I probably would still like to ride at recovery pace. Otherwise, my body will get too tired at work and won’t be able to recover for the next day.

Also, do train on your descending skills because you can make up a lot of time.

Rest well. There are training plans that tell you to push and push. But I found out that having enough rest is as important as having a hard training. Especially on the week of the event, try not to ride as much as your weekly training. I would accumulate about 250-300km during my weekly training; but on the week of the event I only totaled (including the 239km Peaks Challenge event itself) 300km. For me, fatigue will cause difficulty to focus, headache and non-responsive legs. The body just simply won’t respond.

Reduce your tire pressure by 5-10PSI. It smooths out the ride by so much.

Eat about 1gr-per-1kg-per-hour of your body weight. So for me as a 73kg man, I have to eat about 73gr/hour. If you don’t eat enough carbs it will only cause your legs to start cramping and losing momentum. They will no longer want to spin.

Try not to stop too long. In fact, my word of advice would be to just keep going (even if you have to walk your bike)! By stopping you can easily lose minutes! As soon as you stop, you will easily lose count of time. So just keep going even though you’re suffering. My total stop time for this ride was about 18 minutes.

Finally, make sure you’re comfortable on the bike. Get a good bike fit. I get one of these Retul fit which uses computers, etc. It seemed to work like a magic. Wear a great padded expensive short as well as the butt-cream. You won’t regret them. And finally, find a saddle that truly gives you comfort 100% of the time. You need to test all these settings during your training rides.

Do NOT change any of your bike settings 1 week prior to the event. You need to be all set by then. This is why I used the Scicon Aerocomfort 2.0 bag as well. It’s tempting though to tweak your saddle and all; but please don’t.

Below is the Strava record even though my Garmin lost signals half-way:

All in all, this event is truly an eye-opener. It makes you a stronger, better and more humble rider. To even finish it is already bloody difficult. It’s so worth doing! The event is very well organised, you are supported all the way. The road signs were very clear. There is no way that you would get lost at all. Finally, I hope you enjoy reading this article.

Enjoy some photos below:

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Written by

A web solution expert who has passion in website technologies. Tommy has been in the web industry for more than 10 years. He started his career as a PHP developer and has now specialized in ASP.NET, SharePoint and MS CRM. During his career he has also been in many roles: system tester, business analyst, deployment and QA manager, team and practice leader and IT manager.

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