Brisbane to Toowoomba
Distance: 204 km
Climbing: 2350 metres
As I write this it is 9:30pm and we have all just returned from a great feed (once it came out 90 minutes after our arrival) from the Southern Hotel Motel. I am tired and a touch sore, which you will discover why later in this blog, but for now I welcome you to the third running of the annual Midi Smiddy event. A 3 day ride that encompasses 570km's of hilly and challenging terrain. First stop is Toowoomba and let me tell you if you drive here it will take you 1 hour 15 minutes and measures 120km's. But if you choose to enter any Smiddy event, the shortest way is never an option. Therefore we meandered towards Boonah, which is south, Toowoomba is west. Eventually getting back on track as the course wound its scenic way through quiet rural towns like Rosewood, Grandchester, Laidley, and the flood ravaged township of Grantham.
Flagstone Creek Climb - Nothing else matters!
By the time the riders get to the base of the Flagstone Creek climb they have accumulated 195km's on the clock. In front of them was a 3km climb that should have a signpost at the bottom that reads - "Continue at your own risk, if you suffer from heart conditions do not proceed any further, and kids, please do not try this at home." But no such sign exists, so we stop the group and have a chat that went something like this - Riding is preferred on this 18% gradient climb but any means of forward motion such as walking, crawling, catching a taxi, getting in the support van, is surely recommended. Most people reading this will be familiar with the main climb up the Toowoomba range. A tough 3.5km climb that had a reputation for cooking cars in the Holden EH, HR era of the 60's and 70's. Well the Flagstone Creek climb makes the Toowoomba Range feel like a dimple in the road.
Now lots of things happened out on the roads between our start at 6:30am from the Qld Uni Aquatic Centre -where we were farewelled by a small but enthusiastic crowd of dedicated friends and family members- and to the base of the Flagstone Creek climb. But all those stories will be shared at the end of this introduction in my 'highlights for the day package.' Really today was all about 'the climb'. Some riders talked openly about it, while others appeared cool, calm and collected. Regardless of the approach, we were all quietly shatting ourselves. Even the silly buggers like Chappy, Oozo, Youngy, Rowan, Tim and myself who had done this stupidly hard climb many times before. That climb is my nemesis and each and every time I approach it with a hardened resolve to find a miracle cure to get my aging body up it without falling off my bike. Today my secret weapon was thanks to a man named Ian Watson and his Coffee Coaster Van. Ian has kindly offered 3 days of servicing the riders and road crew coffee needs, a first for any Smiddy event. I have not touched any form of caffeine since 2004. Ian conjured up a half strength coffee and I downed it 10km from the base of the climb at our afternoon tea stop. To cut a long story short the coffee tasted so darn good but the Shark climbed like a beached white pointer that had been out of the water for 3 hours!
There were so many amazing performances on this climb that it is impossible to single out all of them but here are a few:
1. Holly Berry started cycling just this year and the young lady showed the group her heart and soul by having a crack and successfully summating this climb.
2. The two young guns, Nick Read 15 and Simon Otero at 16 doing their family and friends proud by not only making the climb but doing the entire 204 km's today.
3. Robert Boyd, Rowan Foster and JJ for getting to the top first and then immediately returning down to the last riders and lending a pushing hand.
By the time the last rider made it to the top it was fully dark, foggy and the sweat from the climb had cooled the riders to shivering point. 11 hours had passed since we left the Uni and arrived into our lodging for the night at Jeffries Hotel. The riders had done Smiddy proud and all had certainly earned the premise of a nice long hot shower and a belly full of food. The Smiddy huddle was performed with road crew receiving a rousing cheer for their amazing efforts today to keep all the riders fed, watered and safe. Without these beautiful people giving up 3 days of their time this event would not be possible. While on the subject of beautiful people, a huge thank you to all the donors out there who have donated to their nominated rider. Smiddy is incredibly lucky to have so many people out there who care enough to help us in our efforts to fund cancer research!
Sharky's Top 10 Highlights from today:
1. Road crew magic! I have already mentioned the amazing job the road crew do, but here is another one for you. One of the riders, Jon, today cracked his frame towards the end of the ride, game over, too dangerous to continue tomorrow. Road crew Jae Marr offers to drive back to Brisbane and collect a second bike that Jon owns at his place in Paddington. Jae missed out on tonights dinner and celebration due to his selfless act of kindness. My heart -and all the riders hearts in fact- went out to him.
2. We had a professional photographer following the riders for half a day; Jack and his co-driver in Nicole were everywhere gunning for that perfect shot. That perfect shot came when they bogged their car on the side of the road and our road crew were required to tow them out.
3. Our youngest and clearly most enthusiastic road crew member is Jack Geeves, who at just 12 years of age is counting down the years until he turns 13 and can ride in his first Smiddy event. We look forward to riding with you Jack in 2015.
4. Pat Howard has the hairiest legs I have ever witnessed on a Smiddy ride. With so much hair the wind resistance is scientifically proven to slow him down by as much as 10km/h. But the big man just grins and bears this injustice to his cycling performance, soldiers on without a word of complaint and a promise to never lose the hair in case he is mistaken by his mates at the Cricket or Union for a cyclist.
5. Our bike mechanic, Jimmy Acomb, who was riding as well, lectured in his Scottish accent -that no-one can understand- for months to the riders about bike maintenance and service. Don't let the team down by turning up with a poorly running bike. At roll out from the Uni Jimmy discovered he left his battery pack at home for his nifty Shimano electronic gearing. End result; Jimmy misses 25km's of the ride while retrieving his battery and earns the greatest ribbing from the great Row Man at tonights wrap of the day. Jimmy turns a nice shade of bright purply red!
6. Craig from Townsville said to me her goal today was to complete at least 100km's of the ride prior to doing van time. Jodine not only killed 100km's but managed to ride the entire distance including the climb up Flagstone.
7. First fall of the day was taken out -very narrowly- by retired union player Anthony Herbert. Now Anthony is used to winning; in 1991 he was part of the winning Australian team that won the Rugby World Cup in England. The big man is 45 years of age now and has transitioned successfully to the world of cycling. He will not admit this but as I was sitting on his wheel I detected a ploy that suggested he needed a rest. A wheel was clipped, Anthony threw himself to the ground as if he had just tackled himself, let me tell you, impressive stuff! He extended an invitation to me to join him and it was too good an offer to pass up. I am now proud to say that I have been thrown to the ground, while on my bike, by an ex world Rugby Cup champion. I could not have been prouder to have some lasting memories of a dislocated shoulder, that popped back in immediately when I came to a stop half on my head and shoulders, a bruised right throbbing foot and a hip tattoo to replace the one that has faded from my 2008 fall when 8 riders came down on the ride up to Townsville.
8. Father and son teams in the Midi consist of Simon and Andres Otero, with Wife Francisco helping out with road crew duties. Michael and Flyn Van-Ewik, Michael, Sean and Tim Russell and road crew in Chris and Jack Geeves. These families bring a great flavour to the Midi Smiddy and it is a pleasure to have all of them on board.
9. Brent Chapman, Oliver Clissold, Jimmy Accomb, Kevin Enchelmaier, Chris Geeves, Wybrand De-Toit, Rowan Foster and Mick Young. All these guys have been in involved with Smiddy for a minimum of 5 years. They are now life long friends and we are so incredibly lucky at Smiddy to have such dedication to our cause from these people.
10. And finally but not least; all the new Smiddy riders that have joined us for their first Smiddy event. Thank you for not only coming on board the Midi Smiddy but thank you today for showing patience under extremely difficult circumstances. What you guys achieved today you should all be so very proud of your efforts. I often wish that family and friends could see up close and personal the immense effort that our riders put in during these Smiddy events. Most of us do it tough but let me ask you this? Is it not worth the patience, the suffering and pain, if through our actions we can one day stand up, stand tall, and say, "we helped save that persons life"? I think the answer will always be yes!
I am so proud to ride with you guys and girls and I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to welcome you to the ever growing Smiddy family.
It is now 12am and my eyes are as heavy as the fall I took today, but my heart and mind are in a good place!
If keen to help Smiddy reach their fund raising goal for the Midi Smiddy of $100,000 please visit your favourite riders everyday hero address or go to www.smiddy.org.au