Thursday, 28 March 2019

Adelaide Smiddy Challenge Day 4 (Nurioopta to Victor Harbour)

Today felt like a real Smiddy day on the road. The distance was respectable at 164 kilometres, the course was Smiddy tough, with another 1400 metre plus climbing day. The starting temperature of ten degrees dropped to under five degrees once the sun started to peek its eyebrow above the horizon. 

The pace was hot all day. 30 km/h average into morning tea. 29 km/h average into lunch and 28 km/h average by the end of the day. And while we did get some tailwinds coming into lunch, the peloton was gifted with a good strong cross wind that was on the right side of the nose for the remaining 50 kilometres into our finish at Victor Harbour.

So with all of this combined, it made for our most challenging day of the tour thus far. I could not have been happier. Days like today bring out the toughness in riders that they don't even know they possess until tested. Our first timers all rose to the occasion and completed the distance. For  Neil Dempster, he was chuffed when it was recognized in the huddle this afternoon that he had just completed his longest ever day in the saddle.

So our usual roll out time of 7 am saw Zane ring the cow bell and send us on or way. The definite highlight for the peloton in the 72 kilometres it took us to get to morning tea at Woodside, was the long stretch on the Amy Gillette bike path. It was just plain fun and although the peloton got split up due to various reasons like the bollards and one puncture, I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed the experience of not having traffic to worry about for half an hour.

Lunch was at the 114 kilometre point at a place called Strathalbyn. The meat and salad wraps were devoured by the group and then the sleepies started to descend on the group. Sleepies come on after a hard ride for over 100 kilometres, followed by gorging on food until stomach says no more. Then just as you get a chance to lay down on the soft grass at the beautiful park the five minute whistle blows.

While the feeling of sleepies coming on and you don’t actually get to sleep sucks, there is a symptom even worse for cyclists called Dead Lunchtime Legs. So no sleepies, then back on the bike, all blood is now working overtime on digesting the food that gives you the sleepies. Which leads to a minimal blood supply available to the legs. This is where Sleepies and Dead Lunchtime Legs combine to make a rider feel at their worst point in time ever!

Thoughts of why am I doing this, the pace is already too high, I want to get in the van, why can’t the front riders start more gradual, how am I going to become a pro rider feeling like this, maybe we shouldn’t stop for lunch and just get lunch on the go like the professionals do? Etc etc. Then ten minutes into the ride your legs come good again and all those negative thoughts are gone. Replaced with shit I feel good! I’m turning pro next week. I hope the rider behind me is looking at my excellent cadence and my awesome calves. I hope they notice any veins in my legs that may be popping out. Etc etc

So the remaining 50 kilometres from lunch to Victor Harbour was a hard fast paced affair. That cross wind I spoke of before caused riders grief sitting on the right side of the two abreast peloton, while riding on the left you had the protection of the other riders and it was much easier. At times the pace was high and I felt for any rider that was struggling but at the same time admired their fortitude to tough those moments out. Cookie deserves more than the $500 he was promised from a very generous Matt “Maddog”Muir, when he rode for 30 kilometres dressed as a drag Queen. Hats off to Cookie who has a sunburnt crack to prove his dedication to the cause. And a big thank you to Julian and Neil for taking one for the team and having to ride behind Cookie for that 30 kilometres and not look at his crack.

The last ten kilometres or so was pretty special, as we were on and off a bike path, which afforded us glimpses and full on views of the spectacular Victor Harbour with the backdrop of the Great Southern Ocean.

Emotions were high at the finish as we celebrated our achievement in the usual sweaty hug way. Captain Kevvy and Luisa were given the honour of taking the huddle, and Victor Harbour residents were woken out of their afternoon slumber, when the huddle concluded with its usual chant of Smiddy Smiddy Smiddy.

With three hours still left to kill of the afternoon before the nightly antics of a Smiddy dinner began, the crew were left to explore the town, drink beer, or relax in their rooms. I’m rooming with Kevvy tonight and as I sat down to write the blog after a nice warm shower, he took a nap that entertained me with him turning over 15 times, talking in his sleep... something about fines I caught. But mostly he just snored or farted very loudly.

I just wanted to say a huge thanks to the road crew for doing what you guys do for us each day. Also to Kik, who was kept busy today with the mechanicals at each stop. I noticed K was doing the rounds and treating a number of riders as well. Kevvy for keeping us safe from behind and Janet and John for the awesome job you guys do in the lead vehicle. Thank you Genevieve and Denice for all the photos and stories that keep popping up on Facebook and the Smiddy site, which are great for all the families and supporters following our journey. Mr Smiddy your enthusiasm is infectious and most appreciated by everyone. To be paid out on by Mr Smiddy means he thinks you are pretty special. The ride leaders are doing an awesome job as per usual and the riders themselves, well if I could, I would take you all home with me at the conclusion of this ride. Wendy, Killer and Pagey, keep doing what you do. Your passion and dedication to the cause does not go unnoticed. The riders love you for it!

Tonight our guest speaker was Wayne Messer, talking about his reasons for riding Smiddy events. Category jerseys went to John and Janet Curran for their services to Smiddy since 2006. Kevvy auctioned off a set of accommodation keys lost by one of the riders, which Brett bid $1000 for and won! Had to be there for this to make sense... And Dom read out tonight’s blog.

And that’s a wrap.



Wednesday, 27 March 2019

2019 Adelaide Smiddy Challenge: Day 3 (Baroosa Valley Loop)

Today’s blog will go down in history as the shortest ever blog I have written in 13 years at just 500 words. Which I feel will be duly accepted well by this playful group ☺

Today’s stage of just 90 kilometres saw the enthusiastic peloton biting at the chip to once again depart at seven-a.m. Absolute crystal clear skies, not a breath of wind and a starting temperature of ten degrees, combined for another perfect start. Before each roll out a roll call is done to make sure everyone is accounted for. A nice polite cheer went out when Dom’s name was called out. It was great to have him back in the peloton. Just to be sure he was okay to ride, Dom and our practitioner from Allsports Physio, Kieren Egan, went out for a half hour warm up ride to make sure Dom’s knee was okay. Captain Kevvy chose first time Smiddy volunteer in Luisa Patel to ring the bell today.

Really not a lot happened in the short time we were out there today. The riding was superb, the roads quiet with very little traffic and I’m told we travelled through several famous vineyards such as Peter Lehmann Wines at Tanunda, Rockford Wines and Seppeltsfield Winery.

Morning tea was at 56 kilometres at the town of Tanunda, where we indulged, thanks to the road crew, in a morning coffee. It was here that David Smiddy approached me and said that someone that knew me, not in our group, was asking if I was there. So I went over and spoke to an old running mate of mine from our Toowoomba years in the 1980’s. Albert Van De Wyk and his partner Janet were on holidays in South Australia, who just happened to be in Tanunda, visiting that same coffee shop, at that precise moment that we were! I love chance meetings like that. So cool.

From morning tea the highlight for the peloton was a go-at-your-own-pace session for nearly ten kilometres up Menglers Hill Road. While it was long, it was mostly gentle climbing after the initial couple of kilometres, where we took a right turn into Tanunda Creek Road. 

Zane took off immediately from the start of the climb. His tactics were to totally demoralise everyone with a short explosive attack, in which no one could respond to. Seem to have worked, although Stephen, Cookie, Garath, Wayne, Johnno and Dom, had a play as well.

The peloton regrouped at the top, which was at a touch over 500 metres of altitude, and then the remaining 21 kilometres was mostly downhill fun, with a short stint on a bike trail thrown in for the ride back to the Motel.

We were back to the Motel before 11a.m. The huddle was done and dusted, an early lunch had been prepared by the road crew and the group then had time to relax until the 1.30 pm Vineyards tour. A tough day at the office in Smiddy land today...

By all accounts the tour of the three wineries went well and was appreciated by the group.

The category Jersey at tonight’s dinner was awarded to Wayne Messer and his co-worker Neil Brown. 

Wayne has been a longtime supporter of Smiddy and the Mater, while Neil and his enthusiasm as a first time Smiddy volunteer has been well appreciated by the group.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

2019 Adelaide Smiddy Challenge: Day 2 (Hahndorf to Nurioopta)

Wow what a difference a day makes! Yesterday it felt like the world was ending. Today, Mother Nature delivered a majestic day so perfect that I was beginning to wonder if yesterday’s nightmare weather conditions were just a bad dream.

Roll out from Hahndorf was once again scheduled for seven-a.m. The honour of ringing the cow bell was presented to Dom, who sat out todays stage to give his body another 24 hours of rest. Dom has been nothing but super positive and happy and more than willing to help out with road crew duties.

On roll out it was a brisk ten degrees, but once we got rolling it felt a few degrees cooler. Most of us started with leg and arm warmers and thermals under our jerseys, just in case, we were taking no chances. As it turned out the temperature stayed at around 12 degrees for the first few hours so not much in the way of clothing removal was necessary.

The run into morning tea at 61 kilometres at Mt Pleasant, took us through so many quaint little towns and small villages, and an interesting array of back country roads that were either up or down. There were some amazing descents but the ascent that was the talk of the peloton was Checkers Hill.  A climb used in the Tour Down Under that saw a number of riders having to walk up pushing their bikes. Long Time Smiddy sponsor, and our favourite Larrikin in the peloton, Zane Williams (I had to say that, keep giving us money Zane!) let loose and arrived first to the top with his heart rate maxing out at 185. The short but steep climb has an average gradient of 14.2% and maxes out at 20%. The view from the top is worth the effort getting up there.

The road crew hit their straps and delivered a great morning tea. The riders arrived hungry and all was as it should be on a normal Smiddy day. 

Captain Kevvy was in a good mood and shouted me a coffee at the local Mt Pleasant Bakery. While I was there I did some investigative journalism and found this most interesting story about that bakery; it was established in 1905 and as cars became more and more popular in the 40’s and 50’s the owner then decided to branch out into selling cars. Creating a small slice of history by becoming the first bakery to sell cars!

So on that note I left the bakery with a lightness in my step and thought about how many hidden stories there are in all these little towns that we pass through. It wasn't long before we heard the first Kevvy five minute warning whistle and before I could get down my fourth Hot Cross Bun as supplied by the road crew, the peloton were on their way to the first of two school visits today.

That 34 kilometre stretch between morning tea and our visit to Cambria State Primary School saw the riders really enjoying themselves. The pace was awesome and the final descent, that saw us lose 400 metres of altitude in a few kilometres, was not only exhilarating, but a visual feast of the surrounding landscapes that could be seen as far as the eye could see.

About 30 little people greeted us at the school. They had never seen a bunch of sweaty cyclists, especially a strange man wearing a Shark hat, and they were wondering what we were there for... Well to have fun of course! After a quick educational sun safe message, eight Smiddy riders and road crew were assembled for the children to cover their faces with as much zinc as possible in 60 seconds. 


Our delightful and talented bike mechanic and also riding in the peloton, Kik and her two children took out the super zinced award. Not a spot on Kik’s face was not bright pink.

So back on the bikes and an initial blistering tailwind assisted ride, followed by some head and cross winds, then a five kilometre climb that had us going back up from 100 to 400 metres of altitude. Each of the riders crested the top with either a grimace or a smile but definitely with a contentment of a job well done. Seven kilometres later saw us at the Keyneton State Primary School for our second school visit of the day at 122 kilometres.

As we arrived during the kids lunch time period, the riders got to eat their lunch before entertaining the children. This time, the  wonderful Krista Page accompanied me to lead the small group of about 20 children through a dry land triathlon. Adam Smiddy loved triathlon and we wanted the kids to experience a healthy sport by going through the motions in three separate groups, with the riders joining in of course. It’s silly and a lot of fun and once again the kids loved the experience.

From there it was just a meandering 18 kilometres to our finish at the beautiful little town of Nurioopta. I’m not sure how it’s pronounced but it’s a pretty cool name. After a successful, day in the saddle, and getting the day done, the feeling was jubilant all around. Hugs and back slaps were the definite order of the day. Spirits were indeed high. Just as it should be.

The huddle was taken by long time Smiddy rider Brett Goebel. I have lost count of how many Smiddy events this great man has been part of, but we are indebted to him and his service to Smiddy and the Mater, not to mention his incredible friendship.

I just wanted to mention that today was a very up and down type of day. I believed we climbed over 1700 metres of altitude. For the experienced riders they take this in their stride. For those new to cycling, new to Smiddy, new to big days in the saddle, it is a different experience, which can be quite painful at times, not to mention stressful, having to go faster than what they are used to. So to riders Sterling Grant, Julian Walsh, Neil Dempster and Christine ‘Kik’ Rice, competing in your first Smiddy event, the entire team are incredibly proud of your efforts and know you have the goods to complete the next three days.

Lastly, for what I just mentioned above, there has to be, and always will be, other riders who are strong enough to help these riders achieve their goals when the pace is a little fast, the climbs a little steep or long, or the winds not being favourable. At times like this, they step up and help out, by extending that strong reassuring Smiddy hand placed on the persons back. The energy that exchanges between the strong and the struggling is staggering. Is is palpable and when witnessing this exchange it warms your heart. To those riders who never have to be asked, they just do it, like Zane, Cookie, Bretty, the Russell’s, Hollywood, Wayne and more, you know who you are, thank you for displaying that incredible Smiddy spirit.

A little history of this town to follow. The name Nuriooptpa is an aboriginal name reputed too mean the meeting place. It was first discovered in 1838 and settled upon shortly after. The town is  famous not just for its wines and vineyards in this Barossa Valley region, but has been cited as an inspired community development. Meaning they invest their time and money into the community in such a fashion that other towns follow their operational manual. From a sporting perspective the 1950 Australian Grand Prix was held here and a stage of the 2014 Tour Down Under.