Peaks Challenge Gold Coast is held on Sunday August 14 2016, Early bird pricing ends May 31. Buy tickets here
Since 2010, countless cyclists have pushed themselves to the edge of their ability in one of the world’s toughest rides – Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. While many have risen to the challenge, many have failed, succumbing to the unforgiving terrain, relentless grind and gruelling mental battle unique to Peaks Challenge events.
Born of this legend, Bicycle Network sought a route of comparable brutality in Queensland. It needed to be defined by its climbing—more than 4,000m of it. It needed to be long—235 hard-won kilometres. And it needed to be conquered in under 12 hours.
In 2015, Peaks Challenge Gold Coast was run for the first time, testing riders from around the world against some of South East Queensland’s toughest climbs. Set amongst the pristine, sub-tropical rainforests of the Gold Coast hinterland, Peaks Challenge Gold Coast is not for the faint hearted.
For 235km and 4,000+ vertical metres, you will journey into the depths of suffering. Your body will scream to stop. Your legs will burn. But this is what it takes to face Peaks Challenge Gold Coast.
The pain starts early, with arguably the toughest climb of the entire Peaks Challenge series – Henri Robert Drive. The first 2.5km, at 18%, will have you desperately clicking down for gears that don’t exist, or ascending by foot. This logic-defying, mind-warping ascent isn’t one to underestimate, with every painfully ground-out pedal stroke a quiet agony. At least there’s a stunning view at the top as you muster the motivation to continue.
A fast, narrow descent through the upper reaches of Mount Tamborine follows, as the scenery shifts from rainforest to farmland, and there’s a long flat drag from there to the second brutish peak of the day, Beechmont. Its 5.8% average gradient may not look like much on paper, but the reality is sobering—there’s a false flat, then a descent, but the meat of it is at 10%.
This section of the route winds its way through some of the most scenic stretches of road in the entire region, eventually reaching a plateau with jagged, jungle covered peaks rearing from a carpet of rolling hills. Ah yes, rolling hills. These are your constant, unwelcome obstacles on the way to the third (but kindest) climb of the day, Springbrook, offering a reasonably consistent 5% gradient. Like the sinuous vines hanging from the trees, the road wiggles this way and that, always stretching upwards.
A fast descent follows, with some very sharp drops. You’re here to go up, not down, so take it cautiously—better to make up time by working in a bunch for the false flat separating Springbrook from the next climb, Natural Bridge. The looming cliffs of Numinbah Valley at your shoulder help distract from the fact that you’re the best part of 150km into a tough ride, with more climbing in store.
With a shallow gradient of 4% but the probability of headwinds, Natural Bridge is unexpectedly arduous, but the crossing of the Queensland/NSW border signals a long flat stretch through canefields and farmland of around 20km, and a rare chance to recover. Although reasonably short at 4.4km, the 7.9% average gradient of the final climb, Tomewin—with its many cruel stretches above 10%—will have you dreaming of the finish line. By the summit, the end is in sight, but there’s a little suffering yet to come.
A brutal pinch after the descent hits 22%, twisting the knife a little, and there’s a few sneaky undulations on the remaining drag to the finish, but after many hours in the saddle you will be relieved to hear the cheers of the waiting crowd reeling you in to the finish.
You will finally, exhaustedly, clip your feet from the pedals and reflect on the depths of suffering you’ve gone through, and the glory that is your reward. The road has been a canvas for your own epic narrative, for Peaks Challenge Gold Coast is not just one ride – it’s hundreds of personal ones, each story a testament to the pain, triumph, sweat and tears of its hard-earned kilometres.