Friday, 29 June 2012
SMIDDY PYRENEES' CHALLENGE - DAY 5 REPORT
Ax-Les-Thermes back to the farmhouse
Ascending: 1368 metres
Descending: 1547 metres
Ride time: 5:41:00
Avr speed: 27.6km/h (Our highest for the entire 5 days)
Temperature: 36 degrees
Max 84.6km/h By Billy
Five day Stats
Total distance: 804.8 km's
Time in saddle: 32 hours (give or take a few minutes)
Total climbing: 12,446 metres
Average speed: 25.1 km's
Well it is now 6pm on Thursday June 28 and I am extremely pleased to report that the first Smiddy Pyrenees' Challenge has successfully finished. I say successfully because if we get every rider to the finish of any Smiddy event in one piece then it has been a success.
Let the celebrations begin
The past 5 days have seen us cover some pretty amazing territory, which comes with an extreme danger factor due to the amount of descending. Our priority is always the riders safety and once again I like to think my old mate Adam Smiddy gave us a helping hand when it came to getting every one home safe and sound, not to mention extremely happy! As I write this the first beers have already been drunk, the obligatory jump into the pool has been done, plate sized snacks have been devoured, showers to wash off the sunscreen, sweat and grime are done and dusted, and riders are lounging on the front lawn discussing the past 5 days and happy laughter drifts quietly to my ears, love ones have been called or emailed and the last huddle has been completed, which was pretty special, as the honour of speaking went to the 3 DeAngelis Brothers, who between the three of them have raised in excess of $30,000! Their words were heartfelt and emotional, and we at Smiddy are not only lucky to have them on board as important fund raisers and riders, but what an honour to be able to call them our friends! Same goes for all 13 riders present. What we put ourselves through was only ever going to bring us together as close as family, and for now that is exactly what we are, a Smiddy Pyrenees family and now part of the ever growing extended Smiddy family!
Sharky gets excited
It does not take me much to get excited, from an invite to watch cartoons on TV, to an invite to eat a sponge cake with the folks over a cup of tea, or a suggestion to ride around Australia, my excitement levels are pretty much the same, as in over the top. I just am excited about life in general. So when it was revealed that to get back to the farmhouse we would be climbing one last Col, the Col De Porte at 1249 metres, I got excited. But best of all we got to experience two more seat-of-your-pants descents; the first one straight out of our hotel for a massive 25km's where our average was 40km/h as a group, pretty cool hey! And the second descent was after climbing back up to the Col De Porte, (average was more like 10km/h for that one-not so cool hey?) where we were rewarded with a technical 12km's of fast descending with heaps of blind corners that you could take at pace. Then a quick regroup for a further 22km's of gradual descending, where the entire group rode 2 abreast and pace-lined all the way into the town of Saint Girons for lunch. (That was also very cool, as we had a Smiddy moment and smashed it down there to average 40km/h for that 22km section.) Now isn't that worth getting excited about?
Actually to be truthful there was one overriding factor of today that I must admit I did not get excited about... and that would be the heat. Once again Mother nature turned up the dial at 36 degrees and sent us a day that would be perfect if you were going to the movies to eat popcorn and sit in an oversized chair and watch Titanic in the comfort of air-conditioning. But heat is preferable to rain, as rain and descending fast is not a good mix. So what the bloody hell am I going on about? We love the heat now! It's quite ironic actually, that while we are riding in stifling hot and humid conditions, Brisbane is feeling the effects of the coldest Winter since 1978 with temperatures dipping as low as zero. No offense but I think I know where I'd rather be...
So after a leisurely one hour lunch at a quaint little french outdoor restaurant, where I gave the owner a kangaroo pin for filling up our water bottles, while some of the lads went for a dip in the fast flowing river that we had just followed for 22km's, we pushed off into the searing heat with 70km's remaining. The course from lunch back to the farmhouse was either flat or slightly downhill, although a few small climbs did pop up occasionally to remind our tired legs that they were indeed tired! It was a pretty excited bunch of riders as we crested the last rise to arrive at our finish destination to our beloved farmhouse. Bikes were quickly tossed to one side and we whole-heartedly and with much gusto hugged and congratulated one another on a job well done.
So that basically wraps up my wrap up, so onto the highlights of the day, and there were many! It is now 8:30 the next morning. Too much going on last night with the group to concentrate on blogging. But today I awoke to look out at the normal beautiful view of the Pyrenees', only to see thick blankets of dense fog and rain! How incredibly fortunate are we? As much as it was hot climbing, how disastrous would it have been not to be able to smash the downhills... Anyway to the highlights.
King and Queen of the Cols
Over 5 days we climbed over 12,446 metres, which involved 38 categorised climbs from as small as 222 metres to the highest un-categorised climb at 2115 metres, which of course was the tortuous and unforgettable Tourmalet. In each of these climbs Katrina was the first female and comfortably takes out this prestigious title. Rowan won hands down all of the climbs and is emphatically, the one and only, inaugural Pyrenees' Smiddy King of the Cols. Great work out there mate.
Shark's attack and hide tactic fails miserably
On the final climb of the tour up the Porte at 1249 metres I tried to recreate my now famous (due to it working once on the A'bisque back on the first day) Sharky attack and hide tactic. On a slight uphill I made my move, then pushed hard down the last small descent before the climb began in earnest. Rounded a corner, attacked as hard as I could up the first section, all the time looking for a place to hide, I then redlined, blew up like a burst balloon, and without looking behind hear Row and the boys shout, "Were not falling for that one again Sharky." Then left me in their dust.
After lunch the group hit a section of road where it was actually melting. The sun was at it strongest and it was possible a freshly laid road, not sure, but at the time we were pace-lining and it felt like the road was trying to suck you in to become part of the road itself like some freaky horror movie.
Michael's cycling etiquette lessons continue
So since my last ribbing of Michael he said to me before we pushed off yesterday from the Hotel car park, "Sharky you watch me today, I am going to be the perfect cyclist, you'll see!" Watch him I did, very closely in fact, especially if I was on his wheel, allowing a couple of extra metres to react to any 'Micko Moments'. But he was true to his word and riding superbly, even getting up Rowan for leaving a gap between riders. He had fully redeemed himself and I had even forgotten his words at lunch when he treated himself to and announced that it could be his undoing. Two hours later he touched a wheel and somehow stayed upright and thankfully no-one came down. Back to square one mate. You are still a runner!
How Mark visualised winning a KOM title
Mark De'Angelis has rode like a champion the whole tour for someone that dislikes the heat more than Queensland winning 7 straight titles in the Origin. Today at lunch his head did the old slow chin-drop, he was instantly asleep, he then began to drool a little and a long line of saliva drifted elegantly to his chest. Then the talking began, something about wanting to win one KOM challenge. Strangely enough when he awoke, with all the other riders pretending not to notice the sloppy mess on his cycling jersey, he had that glint in his eye that suggested he knew something really important. 3 hours later he won the final climb of the day just prior to the finish on a Cat 98 climb of 2% gradient and 400 metres long. His dream was now real. Well done champ.
"Union de Quatro" makes a stance
Billy informs me that he is the team leader of this new groupetto within our group made up of Mark, Billy, Mick and Pedro (Phillip). Who joined forces to conquer the final climb of the trip up the Porte. I knew they were trying to catch me prior to the summit so I did what all master tacticians do, I hid in the bushes 1km from the summit. They spotted me unfortunately as I lay in the grass surrounded by cow poo. I quickly popped up and joined them and we crossed as a group 5 abreast. I felt like a ring-in but what the heck.
Jimmy returns favour - Not
Do you remember on day 4 how I paced Jimmy for 15km's up Col Du Puymorens? Well yesterday after my 'attack and hide' failed, I then rode solo and was really struggling due to that one stupid effort. Meanwhile Jimmy's knee has come good and with 10km's of the climb to go, he blows past me, a look of steely determination on his face, and mumbles something like; "Hey Sharky sorry I am going past you and making you look so ordinary, but I am on fire, you are riding crap, and sorry bud but I gotta go!" Thanks old mate. I'll remember that one! But seriously it was great to see him riding so well and I was happy to be smashed by a mate.
Stupid highlight moment
Every day I ask the riders if they have any highlights that would like to include in this blog. Billy informed me that Adam fell in love with a French Cocker Spaniel dog. That is all I'll say about that.
Welcome back Anna
Anna's injury has improved so much that she was back in the peloton today. She rode all bar the 14km's up the Porte. Erring on the side of caution in case the climb blew it up again. Coming down the decent on the other side I was presently surprised to look behind at the bottom of that technical 12km's and see Anna right up our clackers. She told us she had to learn fast being the partner (Jimmy) of the greatest descender in his street back in Brisbane. Great stuff Anna. Jimmy is a lucky man.
Video by Adam
Adam has a video camera set up on his bike and he records all of the main descents. Tonight we got to watch the 15 minutes it took the front group to descend down the Porte and what a delight it was for the group to see that footage. Great work Adam and a copy for all please. Adam has also been my stats man for the trip, so thanks heaps mate for all your help with all my questions each night. You are a good man mate.
Day 4 blog reading
Each night the previous days blog is read out to the group, just as on any Smiddy event. Each night a different person is asked to read the blog and tonight Pete did a superb job, picking up my spelling and grammar errors along the way. As a footnote to his bike saga I am pleased to tell you that Pete's bike worked a treat, even minus 4 teeth on the front chain-ring.
Missing in action
Today we lose Adam, who is on his way to Paris to watch the prologue of the Tour de France. Jimmy and Anna are off to the French Alps to climb Alp-de'Huez. We will miss them tonight when we read out the journal but they have promised to do their own private Sharky blog reading to each other.
Sharky's last words
With the trip done and dusted it is the leaving that upsets me the most. As on any Smiddy event a welcoming harmonious environment is created, strong friendships are forged and I wish these moments could be sustained indefinitely. But everything must come to an end eventually, and that is what is happening now as we speak. The great thing is that we have one day of down-time prior to the group all going their separate ways, bar the 3 riders mentioned above. So today is all about socialising and reflecting on the past 5 days of sensational riding. I believe we are going for a swim in a nice lake, followed by lunch in a small french town, so that will be good. I will probably get out another blog or two if anything exciting comes to hand, so keep an eye on this space.
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Katrina, Bad Boy Johnny and myself are staying on in Europe for a further two weeks. On July 15 the 3 of us will be competing in Ironman Switzerland, before flying out on July 18 for sunny Brisbane. I will be sending out a blog from time to time if you care to follow our journey.
Next year's Smiddy overseas adventure is a 5 day tour in the French Alps and we already know where we are staying and some of the famous climbs we intend to conquer are Galibier, Columbia, Alp de Huez, Madeleine, to name just a few. If you are keen for more information just go to our website at www.smiddy.org.au or contact me for more information at email@example.com
Again thank you for sharing this journey with us through my blogs. All the crew here really do appreciate your support and encouragement back home.
Take care and all the best.