Peaks Challenge Gold Coast Ride Review, Impression, How to Complete – Beginner’s Guide

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After I completed Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain (November 2015) and Peaks Challenge Falls Creek (March 2016), for few months I decided not to do any more of these challenges due to the amount sacrifice that needs to be made with work and family. And not just that, let’s admit it, these challenges will truly push you to the limit and are so painful especially if you are a weaker rider like me who will most likely race against the time cut every time. Now that I’ve conquered two, it is sufficient to give me a great sense of pride. I no longer need to prove to myself that I’m somebody.

This thought remained until one day I saw an email from Bicycle Network which stated: if I conquer the 3 Peaks Challenges in succession, I’m eligible for what they call Peaks Elite jersey – a special jersey which you cannot earn anywhere else other than conquering the 3 Peaks Challenges they hold in a row. The only Peaks Challenge I have not conquered is the Gold Coast one. If you are a cyclist, you know that it’s all about the jersey. Somehow the jersey gives you special pride and sense of achievement.

So, I finally gathered my mental, mind and strength; and I first needed to conquer my first “mini-challenge” which was to win my wife’s approval so she would support me during training and allowed me to go =O But seriously, without your family support it would be really difficult to partake in one of these sportive rides. This is not your normal weekend long hill ride. You need to train seriously for at least 2-3 months to be able to finish it. Then not to mention all the gear, nutrition you need to purchase. And if you live in Western Australia like me, imagine the amount of money you need to spend on tickets, accommodation, etc.

Long story short, I was allowed to go and massive thanks to her for her unending support during training. Peaks Challenge Gold Coast (PCGC) is also held in August meaning that training time would be acquired during winter. And you and I know very well that training during winter ain’t easy. So on this opportunity I would like to share with you my experience to prepare for the ride as well as the review of the ride itself.


See below for the Strava entry:


Height: 170cm
Sex: Male
Weight: 66kg – I have lost about 7kg since Cradle Mountain and 3kg from Falls Creek.
FTP 20 mins: 220watts (based on indoor trainer figure).
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.


I happened to get a new bike about a month before the ride. And I’m so grateful I get it! I’ll share in more details later.

Frame: AX Lightness Vial Ultra
Wheels: Lightweight Meilenstein Clincher
Shifters: Sram Red 22
Crank: FSA K-Force Light with Power2max power meter
Chainring: Fyber Lite 33-48
Brakes: eeCycleworks
Seatpost: Dash Cycle
Saddle: Dash TT 9
Handlebar: Fizik Cyrano 00 Snake
Front derailleur: Sram Red 22
Rear derailleur: Sram Red 22 long cage
Cassette: Shimano M8000 11-42
Bottle cage: Chinese made 8g each
Pedal: Crank Brothers Eggbeater Ti
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 700×23
Stem: MCFK 70mm

Total bike weight: 6260g

Compared to my Guerciotti Eureka SHM50, the AX is about 2.2kg lighter! The Guerc registers at 8.4kg complete with all the extras such as pedals, etc.


Similar to other Peaks Challenges, you would ride a 235km route and accumulate 4000+m climbing. And there is a time limit of 12 hours for Gold Coast. With Cradle Mountain and Falls Creek, they had 13-hour time limit. Why the reduced time limit? BN argued that the PCGC does not need the extra hour due to the larger amount of flats and less-technical descends; and the climbs are not as long as the other two Peaks Challenges. Therefore, you would be able to complete it faster.

OK in the end I completed the Gold Coast in 11h 32m – compared to Cradle Mountain 13h 03m and Falls Creek 12h 53m. I was about 1.5 hours faster. Although I must say that the climbs were more difficult than Cradle Mountain and Falls Creek! Yes they were shorter but boy were they tough! But I’ll share about the ride experience further down the article.


As mentioned before, my training started on Monday 13th of May 2016 which was about 3 months before the actual event. PCGC was held on the 14th of August 2016. I have also read Joe Friel’s book The Cyclist’s Training Bible as well as Training and Racing with Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan – which people say is the blueprint of all cycling training book – and tried to follow the training plan specified. In the end I must admit that I could not follow 100% of the training plan due to life circumstance.

Having said that, I still think that having a training plan for this kind of event is very crucial just so you know when to ride at what intensity when. For example, 5 months out I would be building base with long rides and daily commutes at lower intensity. But as the event drew near (about 2 months out), I needed to be focusing more on building strength and less endurance. Compared to Falls Creek (and Cradle Mountain especially), I was even more “in the dark” back then. I did not follow any training plans and just hoping I could get away with hill repeats and long rides. If you don’t want to suffer as much as I do, follow a training plan. It will certainly make you stronger and be “in-form” at the right time.

Long story short, I kept my 40km daily commute; and during base period I would go out occasionally on the weekend to do long hill rides at lower intensity. But majority of the weekends (mostly Saturdays) – as it was winter – I would ride indoor using this training program called “Mountain Kitchensink” (read Andrew Coggan’s book, it’s in there). It’s a 4-hour indoor training exercise which would just draw you to tears. But it worked! In the end I could push same high watts for longer which has proven very beneficial during the ride.

I now realise how hard it is to even increase 5 watts. In 5 months since Falls Creek I probably increased only 3 watts in my strength. Now I can appreciate more how much training someone like Chris Froome goes through!

Anyway, in summary, my training consisted of the following:
– Daily commute 40km/daily;
– Occasional weekend long rides on Saturdays mostly. I alternated between Saturday and Sunday. If I rode on Saturday, then Sunday is rest day and vice versa. I did the weekend long rides about 4-5months out. Distance was ranging but I tried to accumulate about 2000m of climbing and 5-6 hours saddle time;
– About 3 months out I started doing Mountain Kitchensink indoor instead every Saturday. Duration was 3-3.5 hours. I was never able to complete the whole course for 4 hours due to fatigue. This exercise was hard; and plus the lack of airflow indoor made it even harder.
– About 2 weeks before, I did another long ride on one weekend (~8 hours in the saddle) just to remind my body of what it took to be on the saddle that long;
– On the last week before PCGC I started tapering: maintaining intensity but reducing volume.


Similar to Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain, my ride plan is as follows:

– 2 water bottles this time instead of 3 because I found out I never needed the third one. 2 water bottles were sufficient to get me to the next rest stops;
– 350lumen front light that lasts 9 hours on strobe mode;
– A bright-enough rear light;
– Brand new tires. I chose Clement LCV this time;
– I arrived 3 days earlier to recover from jet-lag as well as to get my body used to the temperature and condition of Gold Coast;
– I wore a long-sleeve base layer; then cycling jacket. I also brought short-fingered gloves instead;
– 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 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 base layer and jacket change 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 (10 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 complete that first flat 20 kilometers as fast as I can before hitting the first climb;
– The day before I would drive the route around the notorious first climb Henri Roberts Drive. People were all talking about the difficulty level of this first climb so it’s good to familiarize yourself prior so you know what to expect;
– 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 12 hour ride;
– I had power meter installed on my bike so I would ride on my wattage. At any given time I should never go beyond 220-230w for too long or else I would blow out;
– 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.


PCGC started at 530am – one hour earlier than Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain. I must admit I’m not a morning person so it was a bit of a stretch for me. I went to bed starting at 700pm the night before! It was a chilly morning probably about 6-8 degrees. Me and my wife drove to the start place at CBUS Stadium in Robina. As I arrived at 520am, there were already hundreds queuing. Learning from Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain, I would never go with the last wave just so I could pocket a bit more time. So I went with Wave 3 the 10-11 hour finisher group.

As per my initial ride plan, I rode with the bunch at a steady 32-35km/h for that first flat 20km before we hit the first climb: The notorious Henri Roberts Drive. I was so grateful that I drove the route the day before so I knew what to expect. People were still chatting and smiling when we first turned into Henri Roberts Drive. But it soon all stopped when the 18% sign appeared about couple of kilometers in!


The weather was cold in the morning. We started at 5.30am and it was 6 degrees then. But as the day went by, it would be 10-15 degrees in the hills and 23-25 degrees at the flat section. It was sunny however throughout the entire ride which was perfect.


Henri Roberts Drive

On BN website, the climb registers as 7.6km at 6.5%. On paper this looks relatively easy but boy was I wrong! As we enter Henri Roberts Dr, for the first few kms the gradient ranging between 6-8%. Then we saw the 18%-for-2.5km-ahead road sign and the pain would soon start. I could tell you that it didn’t go below 16% for that 2.5km. And this was a really-really tough climb! I should thank my bike and my 11-42/33-48 combination because I could spin at 70rpm on my lowest gear. Even at that lowest gear (33/42) at 70rpm I was already on 210w and 6km/h only! With my strength it meant I was at an almost threshold/upper tempo effort. Everybody else was either grinding or walking! That 2.5km took about 20 minutes to finish. It was just madness!

During the climb several people commented and praised the size of my cassette. I knew some would be sarcastic but I didn’t care. First of all, I wasn’t as strong as them so I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that I needed every low gear I could get. Let me tell you this, watts is watts. Power is power. But riding 200w at 50rpm would consume your legs a lot sooner than 200w at 70rpm. So if you want to do this challenge and you are a weaker rider like me, I suggest you get yourself an 11-36 cassette or go even as big as mine: 11-42. That would save your legs for the long haul.

After that 2.5km the gradient didn’t go down below 10%! I think why it registered as 6.5% because that initial few kms were slightly shallow.

Finally after you arrived at the summit, it would be steep downhill and then flats to the next climb: Beechmont.


The second climb registers at 7.2km at 5.8% but somehow I found it to be about 12km in length. And the gradient was 10% most of the time! The second climb was as tough as the first one. Man, seriously. Compared to Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain, I would now prefer the climbs at those two! Throughout PCGC, very rare would you find a climb that was less than 10%. And you as well as I know that any climb above 8% is steep!

This second one was long; and if you had to go through 10% for 12km, that would certainly zap your legs. Yes you had occasional 4-6% but most of it was 10%-13%.

If you look in the race result, many people failed after the 2nd climb. What’s worse was the road undulated. Just as you were about to get into rhythm, gradient changed from 10% to 6% so you had to accelerate for 50m then it would go up again to 10%. Again, lucky I had the gearing I need. I was on 33/28 (standing) or 33/37 and 33/42 most of the time just so I could spin 80rpm.

After summit, it was again followed by steep descend and flats.

Springbrook, Natural Bridge

The third (Springbrook) and fourth (Natural Bridge) climbs were the “easiest” of the day. I’m talking about 6-8% gradient for about 7.7km and 5.3km respectively. But you could never get into rhythm in PCGC because road undulated.


The somewhat-final climb of the day. It registers as 4.4km at 7.9%. This was a tough climb! The actual gradient was between 10-15% all the way with occasional 6-8% as the road undulated. By this time I could barely push at 170w. I was on 130-140w. My legs were almost gone. That 4.4km felt like 20km but I kept pushing on and was finally rewarded with another descend.

The Final Climb(s)

During briefing organizer mentioned about 2 more “little hills” that would come after Tomewin. And yes, they were about 500m in length but gradient reached 20% on both of them!

And not just that, just as you finished those 2 little hills, on the way to the finish line, you would face another (if I counted properly) 5 13-16% climbs! I heard some cursing around and people (including myself) said things like, “This ain’t funny anymore. Who would put something like this at the end?”.

You would be able to see these little climbs on the Strava link above.


The descends in general were a lot more treacherous compared to Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain. As most of the climbs were 10%+, the descends were, too. Therefore, they were mostly steep. Roads were narrow so you had to be extra careful going down. There were many off-camber turns as well as U-shape turns.

There were always cars coming up from the other side (ie. towards you) while in Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain, they were a lot quieter.


I stopped the quickest this time. Only 15 minutes max which I was surprised myself! Should you do any of these timed sportive ride – try not to stop too long. You would lose time very easily! I stopped slightly longer during Falls Creek and Cradle Mountain: a total of 30 minutes.

I also disabled the auto-pause on my Garmin just so it kept recording average speed and time. You could see that you would lose 0.5km/h easily when you stopped for 5 minutes – and that was huge! To give you a perspective how valuable 0.5km/h is: if you ride 0.5km/h faster, you can arrive about 30 minutes quicker at the finish line. So if you stop too long, man, would you lose so much time!


The big question remains: which one is the hardest? All of them are hard in their own manner.

Cradle Mountain

Tough for the undulation and the amount of climbs it had especially that last one: Spellsman Road. In general you would also face stronger head/cross wind. The descends only came about 3/4 of the way that was after the summit of Cradle Mountain/Dove Lake. Therefore, you could lose a chunk of time for that first 3/4.

In terms of the steepness itself, Spellsman Road (the fifth and final climb) was the steepest and came at 200km. Now that I’ve done PCGC, when I looked at Spellsman Road now, it was only 11-16% for 3.5km then followed by undulation but mostly (90%) descends. I was on 34/32 on that day and had to walk it. In fact, I had to pretty much walk on any 8%+ starting from the way to Dove Lake. Sigh…. Had I used 33/42 maybe it could have been a different story.

To complete Cradle Mountain you need to have enough gearing especially that first 3/4 of the ride. You cannot lose too much time on the first 3/4 of the ride because after that mostly would be descends so you can accumulate time then.

Weather was a bit wet in the hills. The descends were treacherous and they had a lot of off-cambered turns. And it was foggy too so visibility was limited! At the start line (645am) temperature was about 16 degrees, but at the hills it went down to 8 degrees. Weather throughout was cloudy but on the hills it was drizzling.

Falls Creek

The leg-zapping one was Mt Hotham. It ain’t steep but looooong. Yes you had an occasional 14% pinch but very short. The problem was the length of the mountain itself. It was a 30km climb and would take 2hr 40m on average to climb it. I was on 34/36 and found it still very difficult when gradient went beyond 10%.

Another challenge was the ride to Omeo. The time cut was very tight and it was false flat for about 50km. Therefore, you would need to shelter yourself in a group to ride at a good speed and reach the time cut at Omeo.

The final climb (Back to Falls Creek via WTF Corner) was also very long and steep and came at 200km! The steepest part was only at the beginning (~2km in distance) and gradient was 11-16%. The rest was at 5-8% for 20km. I was on 34/36 and had to walk some of it.

To complete Falls Creek you need to have enough gearing especially during Mt Hotham and WTF Corner. Many people gave up on that last climb because their legs couldn’t continue. With the road itself, it’s less undulating so you can get yourself into rhythm.

Temperature was cold in the morning. It was about 8 degrees at the start line 645am. Weather throughout was sunny. It was very hot during the day. When I did it, temperature reached 35-36 degrees on the way to Omeo from lunch stop.

Gold Coast

I must say the climbs were the toughest compared to the other two! Yes they all looked shorter but boy were they steep and hard. Expect 10%+ gradient for 90% of the climbs. The road throughout was also undulating so it’s hard to get into rhythm.

The time limit was reduced by 1 hour. That’s a lot! The only saving grace is the amount of steep descends and flats. You would also face less head/crosswind throughout the entire ride.

To finish it you have to make sure you have enough gearing throughout the entire ride. That first 2 climbs were the leg-zapper. But not just that, on the way back, that last 20km into the finish line was tough with all the steep little hills. Try to also limit your stop because you only have 12 hours this time.


Throughout the ride I kept saying to myself why I was doing this. Regret? When you were in pain like that, absolutely! But when you hit that finish line and you collected your jersey, the pain was all washed away. And you would be reminded of all the sacrifice you have made and all would have been worth it.

If you decide to do any of these events make sure you get yourself correctly-fit bike. Then you need to have enough gearing! I know what it’s like to feed that ego that tries to prove yourself (and to other people) that you are strong and all; but don’t let yourself suffer more than you need to. These Peaks Challenges are not your usual weekend long ride. Where I live in Western Australia, I would have been able to complete any hill on 34/28. But don’t underestimate these challenges! It’s about being strong for 12 hours and complete the ride. And you wouldn’t survive if your gearing wasn’t sufficient.

Had I used my Guerc, I would certainly fail. I could guarantee you that. I wouldn’t be able to complete those fifth climb Tomewin and all the little hills that followed which would have registered at 13-16% throughout. My Guerc was a lot heavier and not having sufficient gearing. Do a test on your FTP so you know how strong you are; and that would dictate what gear options you need.  One of the advice from BN lead riders was to use 11-28 or 11-30 cassette and a compact crank (34/50). I can tell you right now that unless you can hold 230-250w for at least 1 hour, there is no way you can use that combination. A 10% climb done on 34/28 standing (ie. 50-60rpm) would cost about 230w power. Question is, if that climb is 1 hour long, can you hold 230w that long? Then what about the subsequent climbs that come after that? Can you still hold 230w throughout? Had you had lower gears, you wouldn’t need to output 230w in the first place. Again, if you’re a strong rider then this advice will not be applicable.

Losing weight is also very crucial (and yes, that includes your bike weight). This is an opportunity for you to treat yourself with some light bike components. People say that it’s all about the legs. That’s true. But it’s also about the weight. Including my bike, I have been able to cut almost 10kg in weight, and boy did it feel a lot easier to go up these climbs. So if you can, shed as much weight as you can.

So all in all, this has been an another huge achievement for me especially now that I qualify for the Peaks Elite jersey! Massive thanks to Bicycle Network for their awesome organisation. The road signs, etc were all very clear! The volunteers were so friendly and the police presence along the route was just taking this event to the next level!

Therefore, if you haven’t done any of BN’s Peaks Challenges, you better do! You won’t regret it.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog. Enjoy the photos below:

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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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