Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Farmhouse back to Farmhouse
Distance: 134km's
Ascending: 2123 metres
Descending: 2092 metres
Ride time: 5hrs 31mins
Avr speed: 24.2km/h
Temperature: 33 degrees

Apologies for the length of this blog. It was an epic day where so many stories unfolded. I do hope you enjoy. Cheers. Sharky

What's happened so far?
So to date we have ridden from the West coast back to the farmhouse over a 2 day period. Today we did a loop from the farm house, ascended two Cat 1 Cols, which are famous Tour De France climbs that will be utilised in this years tour. Col Peyresourde at 1569 metres and Col Du Aspin at 1489 metres. Tomorrow we drive to the East coast and spend two days riding back to the farmhouse. The farmhouse is situated in the middle of the Pyrenees', to utulise the farmhouse, which we have rented for the week, and cut down having to stay in Hotels each night, our tour operators Graeme and Neil came up with this idea. I hope this make sense but basically we will end riding the entire length of the Pyrenees' but just not in the one direction. It has worked brilliantly so far and everyone is happy as we get to spend more time at this idilic farmhouse.

Can Sharky get to bed early?
So after such a late night for me last night I am determined to get more shut eye tonight. We pushed off at 8:30 this morning and were back by 5pm. Which is our earliest return by 3 hours. So after our guest huddle speaker in Billy 'The Kid' Elliot, who has been done a Smiddy event every year since 2009 and is very deserving of the honour of leading the huddle, I made a beeline for the bathroom, grabbed some food, and started on this blog prior to dinner at 8pm.

The Hegarty email to the riders
So a quick rundown of today before going into the highlights of the day. Last night all agreed to an early start of 8am and back for a late lunch by 2pm. Which meant we got away by 8:45am. Before leaving I read out an email that Marty and Dallas Hegarty sent to the riders in response to our dedicating our day 1 ride to their sick 8 year old boy in Delcan Hegarty. We were all touched and moved by Marty's words and those words came back to help quite a few of us today, as you will find out as you read this blog. Tomorrow I will share those words from Marty with you.

Flatness does exist in the Pyrenees'!
Anyway today Neil was our tour leader on the bike and he showed us a small miracle by showing us it was possible to do a relatively flat ride in the Pyrennees' in the valleys that snake between all the massive monoliths towering above us. For 50km's our tired legs appreciated the long warm up before our first major climb up the Col Peyresourde. Just prior to that climb Neil pulled us up at a small town and said we had time for a quick coffee. The word quick in Smiddy terms is definitely different in English terms. It has taken me a few days but I have finally worked out when Neil or Graeme say quick they are referring to a minimum of 1 hour. So after the quick 1 hour coffee stop the climbing began in earnest. Once again the temperature was just over 33 degrees, and again a tailwind and no cooling effect on our bodies, had all of us feel like our brains were cooking. The 16km climb was more forgiving than the monster that ate us for lunch yesterday in the Tormalet and all successfully summited the climb.

The descent was hair-raising as all the way down there were sections freshly resurfaced and loose gravel made it very dangerous. Billy still managed to top speed of just over 80km/h and was braking while doing this speed. The Kid has no fear!

Climbing the Aspin in 33 degree heat
The second climb of the day was up the the Aspin and it went for 14km's and we all found this climb harder than the first. Gradient wise it was the last 8km's that tested us all with an average of 8%. Which probably does not sound like much, but with 3 days and 400km's of riding in our legs and over 7000 metres of climbing, we were all tired. At the top, Peter, who rode Clunker again, as his bike had still not been delivered from Toulouse to the farmhouse, made a friend with an old French chap that had a bike built in the early 1900's. The steeled frame original bike with lugs to join the tubing together, had wooden rims and solid rubber tyres, a fixed front chain ring, weird brakes and a type of 1900's pump I have never seen before, 5 gears only, and the original aluminium water bottles on the cow-horn shaped handle-bars. Photos were taken under the Col Du Aspin you-have-made-it-and-are-a-legend 1489 metres sign, and they parted as kindred spirits knowing they shared old equipment, while looking odd to the masses but has stood the test of time. Having said that Peter would toss Clunker the moment his carbon racing machine turns up!

From the top of that climb we descended back down the same way and once we regrouped at the bottom it was a fast slightly downhill or flat 20km's to get back to our home-base.

We have a huge day tomorrow, leaving at 5:30am to drive 3 hours to the East Coast of the Pyrenees', and then a massive 170km day with two major climbs that are close to 2000 metres altitude. I have just returned from our team dinner and time is slipping away on me. It is now 10pm and I have still have the highlights of the day to complete so let's hook in.

Michael's having a good time!
Michael is loving this trip like no other. He commented to me today how impressed he is with how well the group is gelling. Mick does not realise that all our Smiddy events the groups always gel well due to the fact that Smiddy only attracts good people. This group is no different, except the smallness of the group magnifies that feeling. Tonight over dinner; the story telling from today, the full on belly laughs and the friendship between the group is testament to what these guys are experiencing and the respect we all have for one another.

Jimmy soldiers on with one leg!
Old mate Jimmy asked me for a massage last night for an itb issue that came on late yesterday afternoon. I managed to loosen it up but the damage has been sustained and he found out today just how strong his pain threshold is when he managed to finish the stage but not before popping plenty of Nurefen and predominately using just the one leg to pedal. He admitted today that his respect level for Paralympian and past Midi Smiddy rider in Michael Milton, who has only one leg due to losing the other one to bone cancer when he was a child) has risen to the highest level possible. I massaged Jimmy again tonight and we are hopeful he will be a starter tomorrow.

Anna retires 10km's into today's ride
Unfortunately Anna and her itb issues did not improve overnight. She started but was in pain from the very beginning and made the tough but right choice to retire from today's ride. As our support vehicle would not meet up with us until the top of the first climb she was forced to limp back to the farmhouse, where she rested up for the day. Tonight over dinner the group presented her with a Tormalet Tour De France souvenir and a team Sky cycling cap (her favourite pro team) to hopefully ease some of the disappointed she is surely feeling.

Panda Kat Balls kicks arse on Col Du Aspin
Katrina's nickname continues to grow, just as her stature as a climber and descender. This trip her descending skills have improved dramatically. But today she came into her own when she climbed so well up the Aspin that she bested 6 of the male riders. Kat is now not only the best caller-outer-er girl of stuff on the roads, such as stick, pothole left, grass right, trees middle, sky above and cows 1km to the right, but is also now the best girl climber and in the top half out of all the riders. Great work Kat.

Five finish Aspin together
On that same climb where Kat dealt us her cruel blow to our male egos, five of us were having an extremely hard time. Billy, Mark, Peter, Michael and myself were all struggling at some point during that 14km climb up the Aspin. Michael was near delirious, Mark was commenting on how much he dislikes a European Summer and wished he was back home in a good old Sydney Winter, (mind you if he was here surfing it would be a completely different story) Billy was the same as yesterday on the Tormalet and dizzy and incoherent and mumbling, " I can't let Sharky beat me up another Col again", and Peter on old Clunker had run out of water, so Billy gave him an empty water bottle just to play mind games with him! Pete was seriously considering turning around half way up the climb but he said the Smiddy spirit would not let him. I gave him the last of my water, which amounted to 2 tea spoons and Pete nearly swallowed the water bottle as well as he opened his mouth so wide in the hope that more water would emerge. Meanwhile Michael is cramping and yelling out to anyone that would listen indecipherable words such as "Ahhhrrrggggg" and my favourite was Eeooouuggmmmm! With 1km to go we decided we were going to cross the top together 5 riders across the road arm in arm. This was all good and indeed great, but when 5 dizzy riders, that are salivating pure salt from their mouths as no moisture was left in our parched bodies, it was comical to watch but extremely emotionally moving. I would love to show that photo to you guys but I never have enough time to upload any photos to these blogs.

Bike saga continues yet again!
So we get back to the Farmhouse and there is Pete's bike case. You little ripper! A hasty build to make sure all is right and at first appearance we are happy. Then Jimmy casts his professional eye over it and picks up that 4 teeth on the big chain ring have been broken off. Pete now has 2 choices. One- ride his new girl Clunker. Two- ride his bike but only use small chain-ring. I believe he is going for option 2, but I am not sure as he is definitely falling in love with his new girl.

Ride leaders world wide get lost!
With Neil riding with us as ride leader we knew we were in capable hands. The first 12km's of today's ride all was good. And then it happened; the hand signal for stop come up, stopping was called, and Neil said "sorry lads we need to turn around, I missed a turn back at the roundabout." It was the only mistake he made all day and while it was just 400 metres back to the roundabout, I could not let an opportunity pass to pay out on a fellow ride leader who takes wrong turns!

Chicken, chicken or chicken?
Out of everyone here I am the biggest fusspot when it comes to not eating certain foods. No pig products, no seafood, no processed meats, which has been our staple diet since the start of this trip. But not tonight! God damn it I love chicken and chicken the size of large ducks was on the menu tonight for the team dinner. Along with salads, pasta's and baked chips it was a meal that any Shark would be happier to tear apart with his razor sharp teeth. Thanks Graeme and Neil, you guys are the best!

Michael goes pig hunting
Now as a cyclist Michael makes an extremely good runner! This tour has been such a good learning curve on the etiquette of cycling in a group. We have got him holding a good wheel, he is still learning how to pace-line without dropping the entire peleton but he is getting there...Climbing he loves going out with the leaders, blows up and then drops back through the field. Descending, now that leg he is actually alright at. Until today that is! Coming down the Col Peyresourde after cresting the top, there was gravel all over the road for nearly the entire 10km descent. Neil and Graeme warned us to take extreme caution, which Billy totally ignored of course! But Michael was feeling pretty confident and was descending at speed and came to a corner where, blow and behold there was gravel, where did that come from? He left the road, jumped a ditch, stayed upright, plowed into the bushy scrub, which help to not only slow him down but to keep him upright. He came to a full stop just in front of a wild pig. The pig took one look at Michael and his disheveled I-think-I-just-shat-my-pants look, and ran away quicker than you could say this little piggy went to market! Besides his stained bottom he was fine and the riders behind who witnessed the while thing had a good laugh once they knew he was safe.

Sharky's final words
I so wish all the riders love ones and supporters could have witnessed what these guys put themselves through today. The courage and commitment they showed today would have made you so extremely proud of them. They left a small part of their physical and mental being out there on those mountains today, they put their heart and souls into an effort that left each of us wasted. This was due to the acumaltive affect of what we have done the past 2 days, but also due to another day of debilitating hot and extremely windy conditions that sucked the moisture from you faster than it could be replenished. Bear this in mind as well - The climbing we did, while just on 2000 metres, was all completed in just two climbs, during the hottest part of the day, up two massive mountains, with the rest of the course being either flat or downhill. Anyway just wanted to mention that as I think they are all legends.

Take care.


PS: finished at 11:30 tonight. I am hopeless!

1 comment:

  1. Great blogs. Keep up the good work. Only one day to go. It's been tough but you probably don't want it to end and to just keep riding everyday. If only hey?