Written by Anna (Taser) Tate
Stats for the day by Raymond “Georgina” Smith
Course:Eucla to Nularbor
Distance: 197 kms
Ride Time:8 hours 35 min 58 sec 21/100th
Metres climbed:443 metres
Temperature min:6 degrees
Temperature max:26 degrees
Wind direction:Dead East (blustery headwind gusting to 40+km/hr)
Most impressive road stretch: 120km along the great Australian post
Road Kill Count by Rusty Balls
0 x Skippy’s – (weird hey?)
1 x Crow
3 x Snake (including a phone in from just Ray’s wife just outside Moranbah Airport – Ray loves Telstra)
1 x Emu
2 x Blue Tongue Lizard
1 x Cat
2 x Rabbits
2 x UFO (unidentified flat object!)
and the Big One, the one that Tiny has been praying to all the gods for 1 CAMEL
We woke this morning, not to the calming sounds of the ocean as I had hoped, but instead to howling winds and in my case a blistered and swollen lower lip. Things got significantly worse for me when I realised that my carefully calculated 15 day lolly supply had already run out. While the more experienced (and sensible) riders use various combinations of supplements, powders and potions to support their daily efforts, I have been taking advantage of the calories burnt reading on my Garmin to indulge in my all time favourite thing – lollies. It is my comfort food of choice and these little gems in my back pocket have kept me going so far.
I am not sure what I found most distressing but suffice to say I had my first real tears of the trip as I realised that we were actually going to have to take on today’s 198km leg in these winds, me without my security blanket.
As Sharky has mentioned in previous posts I am by far the least experienced rider of this impressive crew, and in the lead up to quell some of my many nerves I managed to convince myself that not only would it be flat and straight (ideal for someone who is yet to master corners or descents) but that the winds would be tail like and we would merely glide across the desert. Welcome to reality.
The one good thing about headwinds is that tears don’t last long. They tend to dry up before they even hit your cheeks and instead leave little crusty traces in your corner sockets. I felt better once I was on my bike, as with most things it’s the anticipation and the waiting at the beginning that is the real killer.
And as everyone keeps reminding me this trip is not so much physically as mentally challenging, you learn pretty quickly that really about that where the mind goes the body will follow.
That is not to say it was easy. Today was like nothing I have ever experienced. There was no respite as the winds seemed to pummel us from every direction. There was some hope from resident weatherman Ray, that the meeting of two weather systems might lead to a wind change, but apart from a small post-lunch patch, those winds stayed strong.
It is in conditions such as these that you really understand what it means to be a team and for me this is one of the main attractions for doing a ride like this.
We are 10 individuals from very different backgrounds. Some of us have known each other for a while, some of us have just met, but we share a common goal and we understand the greater purpose and that for me makes this crazy adventure pretty special.
Today there were some incredible efforts by the guys as they spent excessive periods of time at the front. I felt pretty strong today and every time I came to the front I would convince myself that this was the time I was going to stay on pace for more than a minute, pretty much every time I was blown off in less than 10 seconds! I remain in awe of their prowess and generosity and their willingness to take another hit for the team.
But teamwork from this team goes way beyond the peloton. I see it and I experience it everyday. Since the ride began my clothes have been washed, my chain cleaned, my tyres pumped, my belly filled, my water bottles sanitised, my muscles massaged, my love of diet coke quenched, my back patted and my ego pumped as each member has gone out of their way to support me and the rest of the crew in their own way.
Back to today. We crossed the state border early, paused for the photo by the sign where Rusty performed a perfectly executed yoga headstand, before hitting the coastline to travel along the Great Australian Bight. It was at one of our first pee stops, just after Mel and I flashed our ‘beautiful bottoms’ at a passing truckie (his words not ours) that Gorilla spotted whales in the ocean below. A pretty special scene, but with progress a slow 20km per hour the pressure was on to keep moving.
Free from his road count duties, Craig’s mind strayed to other numbers and it was he who picked the 1000km point which the group paused to acknowledge sometime before lunch.
We continued on. In this environment the scenery doesn’t change particularly quickly nor is it particularly varied. To be honest this actually suits me as I typically have my eyes glued to the wheel in front. I remain terrified of bringing down the peloton. So it is not the scenery that breaks up my days. It is instead the banter, the jokes, the conversations. Today I traded dating disaster stories with Sharky, I learnt that Tiny’s Dad represented Australia in figure skating, covered most of JL’s childhood as he admirably kept me out of the quiet room and discussed how Ray will introduce the introducer of the Premier at his upcoming Mining Safety Function. As those of you who know me know I love to chat. You can imagine how happy I am to have found a captured and somewhat trapped audience.
The day continued. Breaks were shortened with progress remaining slow and some concern that we may never arrive at our final destination. Due to my heads down, eyes on wheel in front policy, I often miss items on the kill count. Today with Rusty new in the role, the selection had been slim, but no one could miss the shreek of pure excitement from Tiny Dancer when we spotted a dead camel. Since Day 1 the Big C has been on Dancer’s hit list and so happy was he to spot such a sight that he overdid his timeslots on the front, so much so that the other Big C (Coca Cola) was to feature not once but twice in his afternoon – shocking I know.
Two killer sessions pre and post afternoon tea sessions including a 10km off the front stint by Craig and Ray, brought us back on target and I am confident that I was not the only one to feel relieved and pretty proud when we rolled in to the Nullarbor.
The Nullarbor Plain is actually only 17km wide. It’s beautiful but not spectacular and as Tiny classically stated on arrival– “There’s really nothing here, we’ve ridden a bloody long way to see …..nothing.” He’s right of course, and I fear Mel and I might struggle to find appropriate coverage at loo stops tomorrow, but there is no denying the awesomeness of this land. There is nothing quite like looking out from the front of the peloton into a clear horizon that seems to go on forever and there is nothing like arriving at your destination each day with such a genuine sense of achievement.
If you had told me 6 months ago that I would know what chammy cream was, be able to clip in (most of the time) or understand the true beauty of lycra, I would have laughed. While my knowledge of cycling and bikes remains (worryingly) low, Smiddy and the 7-in-7 has undoubtedly changed my life and despite the current state of my bottom I look forward to many more days in the saddle. I am incredibly grateful to Sharky for inviting this rookie to be part of this adventure.
Before I sign off I want to thank you all for answering Sharky’s call for messages. They were a wonderful addition to our nightly journal read and boosted spirits no end. Please do keep them coming, we love them!
And finally to my mate Karen, for who I ride, keep going mate, I’m channelling your fighting spirit, it’s helping me no end and I hope that our efforts are inspiring you at this tough time.
Thank you to all our supporters out there and Rusty sends his regards to the two ladies who donated on his behalf. Russ is a real looker and a lovely peaceful man who never shouts any louder than 300 decibels! Anyway if you wish to make a donation be sure to follow the team page and choose your favourite rider.