Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge, Day 4 - Biloela to Blackwater

Brisbane to Townsville 1600 kilometres
Day 4 Biloela to Blackwater Author – Paul Mason
Stats for the day – By David Colahan
Distance: 236.5km
Average speed: 27.5
Metres climbed: 1600m
Temperature min: 8
Temperature max: 38
Wind direction: Head-wind
Schindler’s List (road kill count) – 2 cockatoos, 1 fox, 1 black cat, 1 echidna, 6 kangaroo, 4 really bad spells(1 of which Nathan), 7 unidentified , 4 hawks, 2 rabbits, 1 smiddy killed rainbow laurrie
Matthew 11:28-3028 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Why would I start my blog on today’s ride with this quote out of the bible? Well I’m Catholic to start with and when I read this passage it was so Smiddy I had to use it. Why is it Smiddy? Well let me clear up something immediately – I don’t think Sharky is a God! In fact, just to divert for a second or 2... have you ever actually wondered where his nick name “Sharky” comes from? I knew Sharky early in his triathlon career in Mackay and I can assure you the name did not come from his swimming ability! He will tell you it’s because of his big nose. So for that to be true he would have to swim on his back – his nose would be the sharks dorsal fin so what part of his anatomy would then  be the tail fin??
Anyway back to why I opened up day four with this quote? How aptly does it describe all of us on our ride to Townsville? We are into the 4th day of our 1600km epic and I know I am certainly weary! But to have ridden this far with the yoke shared between all us has certainly made the ride lighter easier and more possible than if we were by ourselves. Furthermore, but not surprisingly, everyone I have spoken to on this ride is carrying some form of cancer burden - some of us directly and all of us with family or friends - some surviving the disease and in a lot of cases ... not. My own father died from cancer 5 months after he was diagnosed with it. I was very angry about this but when I rode this ride last year I shared my burden with my fellow riders and the “road” - my burden of this anger was gone. I believe for all us the sharing of our burdens with our fellow cycling Smiddy community will lighten all of our loads! We have had some of our rider’s share their stories so, tomorrow, ease someone’s burden and ask them why they are here! The other essence of our trip that keeps our weary bodies going day after day is our phenomenal road crew – they keep us safe on the road, amazingly well fed, always there to greet us with a bountiful smile and after some genuine Chinese torture release the tightness in muscles we didn’t know existed – they are indeed humble of heart and find us rest every night!

Anyway, today’s section was Biloela to Blackwater.  After leaving Bileola (20 minutes late) we rolled gently in Jambin where Ross's seat post decided to pack it in. Now it’s gospel in Smiddy folklore that if Jimmy can’t fix it can’t be fixed! Now my initial reaction to this was pretty disappointing - the whole message of the Smiddy Challenge is the 'Smiddy Spirit'! Where was Ross's Spirit - what did he need the saddle for? Why didn’t he just ride without it? But Ross has endeared with the Smiddy Spirit - with greater commitment that riding his bike without its seat he actually ended up riding Geeves 'antiquated' Canondale. Now I’ve seen Geeves's riding and I can tell you Ross rode that bike with more ability, style and speed than it has ever been ridden before.
Now we normally ride in 2 lines on the road but with a police escort, we form up in lines of 3 on the Capricorn Highway to shorten our profile on the highway. Now if you are selected you get to ride in the middle line of 3 – in business class - as we  call it. You don’t rotate off the lead and you get sucked along without much effort – perfect. But even in lines of 3 this afternoon's session from Weswood to Dululu was genuinely a really tough gig! We forced our way to Blackwater into a raging cross-wind and head-wind the true test of our spirit and fortitude! A really really tough day in the office! 
Following afternoon tea the horrendous head winds from the morning session had changed direction to over our left shoulder and decreased in intensity. Today is one of our longest days combined with the heat makes for a long tough soul searching day. Everybody’s legs were still carrying the residual but the climbs of the last 3 days were hopefully a distant memory!  A short water stop in Bluff  was now finished with the now traditional cry of “let’s get this done” and the call for the 3 'amigos’ was put out and  the whole Smiddy group drove the peloton into Blackwater at about 35k an hour – yeehaa it doesn’t get much better than that. One of those Smiddy moments that stays with the riders forever.
Now a real paradox of this ride is that the two of the keepers’ of Schindler’s List are POMS! (Nathan and Michael). I mean the keeping of Schindlers list is now a Smiddy tradition requires the counting and identification of dead Australian Wildlife killed on the roads we ride over! And we have entrusted this sacred duty to 2 bloody Englishman! You have to wonder!
Further to this and confirming my genuine concerns - another tradition in the Smiddy peloton is the spotting of white horses and windmills. It is a lot of fun and has the real benefit of making riders look up and outside of the group to enjoy the spectacular country we are riding through and not just becoming fixated on the black tyre in front of you. Now John Leyshon is the guru of this ‘game’ and Nathan a big activist also. My concerns over Nathan’s counting and identification abilities are highlighted by his questionable  record in this game – with much enthusiasm and passion Nathan’s cry of ‘white horse’ was heard across the whole peloton and support vehicles! His smile was a cockney as Cavandish winning another Tour De France sprint. Painful. However, on closer inspection the ‘white horse’ was big... slab-sided, grey, had horns...and a big hump between its shoulders ...namely one Brahman bull! And Michael today called possum and rang the bell. Upon closer look the possum had small snout strong short clawed feet and long orange black spines on it'd back. Possum? Hmmmm possibly echidna might be it I think. And they have authority over Schindler’s List..... But we love him and I’m sure doing the list proud!
Anyway that is day 4 and this is smiddy 2013

Thank you to everyone following this inspirational journey of 54 riders and 12 road crew. If you wish to help out by donating towards your favourite rider’s fundraising page please go to  or visit the Smiddy website at
Sharky’s OZ 7in7
Two days after the Smiddy Challenge Mark ‘Sharky’ Smoothy continues his 7 year journey to ride around Australia in 7 stages. If keen to follow Sharky and ten other Smiddy riders as they ride the 2400 km sixth edition of the Shark’s OZ 7in7 from Adelaide to Melbourne and a lap of Tassie, you need to visit or sign up for automatic updates at Sharky’s Blog

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