Caroline Whitten

So, I came to Australia in 2009 for a (late) gap year – being 27 already!  At first I commuted by bike to save money. I just rode 5ks each way and saved my tram money for trips all over Australia. I bought a $70 bike on gumtree and that was it. The plan was to “do” Australia for a year and then go back to England and get on with the rest of our lives. Anyway, it didn’t quite happen like that and 7 years on I’m an Aussie citizen and have been through 4 bikes (though only have two at the moment!)

I was inspired to ride more by a colleague, we could call him a friend now but I’ll maybe stick with colleague since it’s funnier. Anyway he was fat and took up the couch to 5k running plan. Now, I’ve never been a runner and I didn’t think I could run but then here’s this guy who weighs one and a half me’s and he’s doing it. So I started to run, I liked it and that was great. Then he gets into cycling, I mean seriously gets into it; he’s riding the 7 peaks, then three peaks in sub 10 hours – the guy is crazy. So he suggests that my husband John and I try riding uphill. So, after saying no a lot of times and grumbling that riding hills sounded stupid and that my bike was a form of transport and not an exercise tool, I started. Anyway, we tried the 1:20 in the Dandenongs once and then bam he’s signed us up to one of the Domestique rides……..UP BAW BAW!
I was on my commuter.
I was not clipped in.
I had never ridden up a mountain before.
I had only ridden up the 1:20 once.
Anyway it was great (read horrendous!) but I did it.  I’m very pleased I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into otherwise this whole amazing, adventurous, ridiculous part of my life might not have started. When you go up Baw Baw on your second proper ride there is nothing you can’t do. So you have a go at things, you’re slow, it hurts, sometimes you have to get off, you fall (a million times when you get cleats because you struggle to pick up physical skills!), you get back on again, you climb another mountain and another and another and every time it feels amazing.

At the top of Baw Baw they have the best hot chips in the world.   At the top of Lake Mountain they have the best burgers ever.  Buller is lovely until the end where it gets really hard and then after the village, when you think you’re finished, the Domestique crew make you ride further up an even steeper pinch.   Buffalo has always been a nightmare for me but I’m going back to make my peace with the mountain.   At Dinner Plain there is the best hail.   And Hotham is just the most beautiful ride you can do in Australia.
To date I’ve ridden the 7 Peaks for two seasons, I got a taste for the hills and have ridden the three peaks course twice (once unsupported over 19 hours but that’s a whole other story). I’ve moved on to other hills too, riding in NSW and the UK but my heart is in the Victorian high country where my whole crazy love affair with cycling began.

There are fewer women who ride than there are men but those I meet are enthusiastic about a sport which gets under your skin, into your blood stream and which quickly becomes a massive part of your life (for us at least). Cycling is so many things; a challenge, a sport, a competition, a means of transport, a place to socialise, to burn calories and then consume some important sports nutrition and hydration in the pub or café afterwards (or during the ride in our case). The community is an inclusive one.

It is what you make it and gender only holds you back if you let it.