ROD Mills has been cycling for 45 years and admits you've got to be "a bit of a sadist at heart" to want to take on the challenge which is riding the Toowoomba Range.
Going on 75 years old, Rod still rides about 250km per week, including cycling the range a couple of times a month with his mates.
When asked the attraction, he laughingly answers "the pain and agony really".
Rod is limbering up to take part in just his second Rotary Club of Toowoomba Ride the Range event on Sunday, March 25, along with some 600 other riders.
This is the eighth year of the event, begun by the Rotary Club as its signature fundraising event in 2011 and raising over $175,000 for charity, this year including Toowoomba Hospice, the new Hope Horizons and RACQ Life Flight.
There are four routes, catering for most ages and experience levels, but event organiser Jo Capp from the Event Group, said the majority of riders were men in the 40-65 age group, followed by ladies 30-60.
"I think a lot of men gravitate towards cycling in this sort of age group and they love the social aspect as much as the health and fitness - it's a phenomenon across the world," Jo said.
While you might expect more riders to opt for the shorter Nifty 50 course - 58kms over two-plus hours heading down the range to Helidon, and a nice air-conditioned bus ride back to the top - Jo said the vast majority were out for the real challenges of the 100 Mile and the most popular event, the 112km Classic, which Rod took on a few years ago.
"The 100 Mile (164km) is registered as 'extreme' and only for fully accomplished riders," Jo said, explaining participants would cover 150km before facing the most daunting range climb. It gets a 9/10 degree of difficulty, compared to the Nifty 50's 5/10.
The ride includes over 1825m of climbing and takes at least six hours at an average of 30kph.
The Classic (rated 8/10) includes 1500m of climbing and will take at least five hours at an average of 25kph, while the Down to Earth 85 (rated 7/10) covers 85km with 1177m of climb at an average of 25kph.
Whichever of the longer events you choose, Rod said everyone faced that daunting final climb back up the range.
Riding in a group can be a boost both in morale and in letting someone else set the pace for a while, but Rod said, no matter how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of his friends, and people spoke of "a fun cycling day", nothing took away that competitive streak that is innate in the cyclist.
"You want to beat them, whether they're friend or foe; it's in our DNA," he quipped.
And Rod's a man that should know, having taken on some of the harshest rides in Italy, France and Spain over the years, not to mention Victoria's alpine region, which he says features climbs just as severe as Europe - a notion which doesn't seem too attractive to the non-cyclist, but warms his competitive heart.
To find out how to take part, go to ridetherange.org.au.
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