Cycling, vineyards, rolling hills, big open skies and 170 kilometres and more than 2,200 metres of climbing to cap off the perfect country weekend escape.

Cyclist first laid eyes upon the Newcrest Orange Challenge in 2016. In a state notorious for a lack of sportives and fondos, we welcomed the news. Eagerly awaiting course details and even scoring a sneak preview, the 250km drive for a weekend ride was – in our eyes – absolutely worth the trip. For the majority of New South Wales residents, an escape from the city’s urban sprawl to quiet country roads is simply too good to pass up. The unassuming town of Orange has got us coming back for the fourth time.

Next year sees the introduction of an all-new Prologue, held on Saturday around the streets of Orange and provides the perfect way to fire-up the legs and open the lungs ahead of Sunday’s main event. For the quickest male and female of the bunch, it’ll be their shout at the local favourite Hotel Canobolas as they ride away with $1,000 cash each! But it’s not the attractive prize pool that keeps us coming back to Orange.

Orange provides the perfect backdrop for a cycling event, late-summer weekends amongst wine country and rolling hills. Bicycle Network has picked out the perfect spot to bring their expertise interstate and after 2018’s success, they’re sticking with the new three distance format: 70km, 100km, and 170km. Cyclist has always attempted and, knock on wood, finished the 170km affectionally nicknamed ‘The Brute’ however, last year proved just how popular the other options are becoming. Logistically, Bicycle Network has also made it a breeze for those not wanting to take on the full lap.

The 70km course is a one-way ride descending from the heights of Orange to the lower slopes of Canowindra. It sounds like an easy roll down the hill but there are enough false-flats and punchy rollers to keep things interesting. Stepping up is the 100km route following a different course from Canowindra to Orange tallying a total of 1,430 metres of climbing with a few refreshment and lunch stops on the way. Riders are transported to the start in the morning via coach – so you’ll have time to stuff in some last-minute breakfast.

Searching for bragging rights? The Brute is waiting, that is if you’ve got any legs left after the Peaks Challenge, or if you’ve been contemplating an attack on Peaks this is the perfect step up. At 170 kilometres with 2,200 metres of climbing, this is no easy ride. You might have taken on longer and seemingly tougher rides (on paper) in the past but the Orange Challenge saves the best for last. Trust us when we say you’ll be hanging for that post-ride refreshment by the time you reach the finish. The course begins and ends in Orange, completing a full loop of both, stitching together the 70km and 100km routes.

All riders will be treated to plenty of on-road support including mechanical assistance and refreshments, just as we’ve come to expect from any Bicycle Network event. If the delicious rest stops aren’t enough, reward yourself by exploring some of the local wineries and restaurants. Don’t drink and ride, so book your accommodation early.

Early Bird entries are now open and Cyclist readers can use IMWITHCYCLIST at checkout to receive a discount off entry. Enter here

Newcrest Orange Challenge

Sunday 31 March 2019
Orange, NSW
Routes: 70km/770m | 110km/1430m | 170km/2200m