Monday, 9 September 2013

2013 Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge - Day 3 Journal

Guest author: Rowan Foster

Eidsvold - Biloela
Distance covered: 172 kilometres
Average speed: 25.7 km/hr
Climbing: 1900 metres
Temperature: Min 6 degrees Celsius / Max 32 degrees Celsius

Schindler’s List (road kill): tbc

Day three dawned and 170 kilometres on the Burnett Highway from Eidsvold-Biloela was ahead of us. The team slept in all corners of Eidsvold last night with motels, caravan parks and tin sheds all put to good use. For 20 of us lads who slept in swags at the show grounds it was a cold and noisy night. Grown men shivered and snored in the black of night, not one with the will to jump out of bed and close the shed door to keep us warm. We're men. We're tough.

Others had the comfort of the Star Motel and I must acknowledge Ron Steel for the sacrifice he made last night. As a great mate to Sharky for more than 20 years he could sense Sharky’s pain in being without his love Alyssa for just the second night in many months. Knowing Sharky would be on the road for the best part of a month Ron kindly offered to take the double bed with Sharky and spoon him. DMac, who is new to the Smiddy Challenge and was on the single bed beside them, simply popped in his ear plugs and drifted to sleep thinking this is just what Smiddy veterans do.

Breakfast was a self-catered affair by our amazing road crew and amazing it was!! Cereals, fruit salad, yoghurt - everything one could need for a big day in the saddle. It's easy to keep the pedals turning with road crew like this! Riders huddled together as they ate brekky with the breaking dawn seemingly dropping the temperature even more.

Strangely the two riders feeling the cold the most were our dear Scots - Jimmy and Kirsteen. I can understand Jimmy being cold; what with him being from the lowlands south of Edinburgh but Kirsteen - you're from the highlands of Inverness. Toughen up girl! Speaking of our Scottish folk it warms my heart that after so many years on the Smiddy Challenge Jimmy finally has someone who can understand him when he talks.

Some riders are already walking gingerly; a few aches and pains are settling in. Our super masseuse, the smiling assassin Sammi Jo, has found her life size voodoo doll for the tour in Nick Thorpe. With elbows, knees and the full weight of her body Sammi-jo gives the pain of sore muscles new meaning. We love you Sammi-jo. Thank you for your amazing contribution to the team!

I start the day with mixed emotions. Having completed the previous five Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge events, this is my final day on tour in 2013. I know what I’m going to miss out on after today and it’s a little hard to think about! Kev gave me the honour of ringing the cow bell to set the riders on their way. Thank you Kev for that real privilege – a new Smiddy experience for me.

Bathy and Megs were spritely as we rolled north out of Eidsvold. They knew they would be cheered into Biloela as the local heroes they are and sleep in the comfort of their own bed...if just for one night.

Not long on the Burnett Highway and the sight of 55 cyclists in red jerseys was a sight too good to resist for one stray bull. He galloped alongside and then seeing the added attraction of Julie Hamilton’s red hair decided to split the peloton there and then. I've never seen Jules ride so fast...so much so she was soon boasting she would set up a Strava segment over that 100m stretch of highway. Like a good matador our riders lived to fight another day.

I've always found day three to be a special day on the Smiddy Challenge. Gone are the nerves of day one and together with the achievement of day two, the riders have renewed optimism that saddle sores and tired legs can be kept at bay. They start thinking “gee I think I can do this”. Some riders are quiet achievers (people like Brenton Spehr and Kylie Adair) whilst others don’t go about their business so quietly (thanks JL and Jules...or should I say Krusty and Sideshow Bob). Certainly this could be said for Neil Klein who barely said boo for two days. But now within the first two hours of day three, he's yelled claim to 27 windmills and 16 white horses.

In the peloton you learn a lot about people in a few short days – we are from all walks of life and all ages. Amongst the riders there are fathers & sons, mothers & sons, husband & wives, great mates, old faces and new faces, all supported by an amazing road crew. It is the ever growing Smiddy family and every story makes it stronger.

With the kilometres clicking over under perfect blue skies I took a moment out to think. As with every Smiddy ride, an amazing spirit and camaraderie is building in this group. I know so many of our riders share stories of loved ones lost to cancer or ride for those undergoing treatment. It gives a real sense of purpose on the road.

Just prior to morning tea Captain Kev had his first blow up for the tour and got cranky at the riders. Kev’s priority as rear escort is to get every rider to Townsville safely and he takes his job as seriously as anyone could. The riders responded - we'd just got a yellow card. We sure as hell didn't want to hear what a red card sounded like from Kev. Thanks Kevvy, every rider appreciates what you do to keep us safe. Smiddy is so lucky to have you on board!

72 kilometres down we stopped for morning tea at Monto and a visit to St Therese’s Catholic Primary School. The sun safety message was delivered in style with Matty Marshall up front and six students taking to our riders with zinc for our face painting competition. Jules came out looking like a French mime but Zane Williams was king of the kids and took out the title.

Pushing out from Monto the day’s main challenge was ahead of us - a taxing ascent up the Monto range. The peloton was quickly put into purgatory and split as riders found comfort in climbing with those of similar ability. It was wonderful to see bunches of riders cresting the summit together knowing they supported one another all the way.

Descending the other side we knew lunch was near. Seeing a high visibility vest of road crew in the distance always elicits a cheer - that or spotting Wybrand in the bushes taking photos. Now something strange happened at lunch, something I’ve never seen in six years of Smiddy riding. The riders actually queued up to be fed. Sure we line up politely at community functions when we’re on show but when its lunch, and just us, we’re like locusts on a fresh crop. You could have knocked Maria over with a feather.

Rice salad was a new and exciting addition on the lunch menu today and the riders loved every mouthful. After lunch the riding was a little disjointed, perhaps because each rider had half a kilo of rice salad in their belly. Damn you catering crew and your tasty feeds!

We were soon at Thangool State School to see the kids – our seventh visit. Grade one students way back in 2007 are now in grade seven. They know the Smiddy story so well. Sharky and Tim Gado did a great job entertaining the students while the parents of Thangool SS laid out an unbelievable spread for afternoon tea. So much so that riders became anxious about how they could possibly sample everything. The parents sent us on the way with containers of food loaded for the days ahead. Thank you to the very special Thangool community.

The final 14 kilometre run into Biloela is the first of our Smiddy Smash sessions where riders get to go at their own pace on a quiet country road. A good number of riders took up the option to stretch the legs, only to regret how many homemade sausage rolls they scoffed just minutes prior.

Ken Woods and Melissa Oostenbrook were the victors on the day and were presented with the ‘I'm Not a Toad I'm King of the Road’ trophy at the community dinner. JL was awarded the Spirit jersey and Bathy and Megan received the Teamwork jersey. Well done to all!

Support from the Biloela and Thangool communities has gone from strength to strength in recent years, providing amazing support on our journey north. All 71 of our team are billeted with local homestays and the hospitality is first class. At the community dinner more than $8,000 was raised for cancer research at Mater thanks to these wonderful supporters. We are so proud to call them part of the Smiddy family.

I want to especially thank my homestay hosts Dave & Trish McNee for looking after Matt and me. They so generously donate food for the community dinner each year and more groceries for our trip north. Thank you!

It will be hard to wave goodbye to the Smiddy peloton as they roll out on day four. This is more than a bike ride. Why we ride is of greater importance. Being part of the Smiddy bubble on the long road to Townsville is a life affirming experience.

To the riders and road crew enjoy the good times ahead. May the wind be at your back and the countryside full of windmills and white horses.

Ride safe.

Your friendly day rider,
Rowan

P.S. Special shout out to Daphne Smoothy, mum to Sharky and road crew member Kay Kay. Daphne has been ill of late and I know both Sharky and Kay are thinking of you dearly. Get well.

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