I’m a mum of four beautiful children who’ve all grown up and left home. I work part-time as a nurse, but found I had extra time on my hands once the children were adults – I was looking for a hobby. My husband had started cycling and was keen for me to join him, so he gave me a hybrid bike (which I named Thunder) for my birthday. We started off on rail trails and would take the bikes to Melbourne and ride the bike paths.

As I gained confidence I thought I’d try riding on the roads. A lady at work who cycled offered to ride with me … I was so slow!!! I needed a road bike. I got a cheap one (which I named Lightening) and my passion exploded from there. I would ride as often as I could and tried to increase my speed. When I was just starting on the roads, I tried a little hilly circuit close to my home with some 2% climbs. I remember calling my Strava ride, “Hills for breakfast. Maybe one day I’ll eat them up!”

But cycling alone or with my husband (whose enthusiasm was decreasing) was getting boring. I joined a group of Breeze ladies who rode on a Friday – we call our rides “Fabulous Friday” and refer to ourselves as “The Fabs” – such a lovely group of ladies, we are now all firm friends. I also joined the local BUG group and joined in their very social rides. Through the BUG group I heard about the 7 Peaks Ride. I never thought that I would do one peak let alone seven!!

I found the cycling community extremely friendly, welcoming and encouraging, and in 2014/15 I did my first four peaks with the BUG group and fell in love with the mountains. I didn’t enjoy riding the flat any more and started looking for more hills to ride.

This lead to buying a proper carbon road bike with all the bells and whistles and gearing suited to climbing (I named this one Flash).

In 2015/16 I did all 7 peaks and will do them all again this year.

Thanks to cycling I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life! I’m in my 50’s now. My kids say I’m fitter than them. They tell me I’m crazy with all the cycling I do, but I know they’re secretly proud of me as they recount my epic rides to their friends. Apart from fitness, good health and a reasonable figure for my age, the greatest gift cycling has given me is a wonderful friend. I met her a couple of years ago through a Breeze ladies ride and we just clicked. She’s a super-fit amazing person with an incredibly positive attitude, and her skills on the bike are awesome. We love the hills and have shared some incredible rides, The Ascent Ride and The Giro della Donna being two of them. I can’t keep up with her on the bike, but she’s kind enough to wait for me as I chase her through the mountains. The frustrating thing is, as I keep getting stronger, so does she!!

I believe the profile of women in cycling is slowly increasing. Women’s only programs like Breeze and women’s only rides like The Ascent are a great start, but we have so much further to go. I would advise women who are new to cycling to seek out some women’s groups for support. There are lots of groups in Melbourne who have rides for all abilities. Don’t think you’re not good enough – we all start slowly, but with encouragement you’ll get there.

Riding these peaks has changed my life. I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago. Cycling has given me confidence, freedom and balance. The mountains have given me perspective and inner peace. If you can conquer these climbs, you can conquer anything.

Bright is one of the most beautiful towns in North Eastern Victoria. The BUG group spends a couple of long weekend there each year to do the peaks. We stay in the camping ground and have a lovely social time both on and off the bike, wandering around the shops and eating out at the many restaurants. It’s great to see the growing number of cyclists taking on these peaks challenges. I’ll never forget the feeling when I reached the top of Mt Baw Baw – this was hard core stuff and I had conquered it! Mt Hotham was similar. I was proud of myself for having done something I never thought was possible.