Average speed: 22.2 kmph
Maximum speed: 70.5 kmph
Temperature Minimum - minus 2 degrees atop of Cradle Mountain
Temp with Wind Chill factor - Minus 10
Temperature Maximum - 11 degrees at 2:30pm
Metres climbed: 3650
Ride time: 8hrs 38mins
Wind direction: Headwind, Crosswind, Tailwind, Everything wind
Different kinds of wet stuff: Front on rain, sideways rain, head splattering rain, sleet, ice and finally snow
Wow! How the bloody hell do you sum up one of the toughest days ever endured on a bike? I am not sure I will do it justice but here goes...
Obscene weather pattern hits the Smiddy crew
You see, what is happening over here in Tassie, while my fellow Queenslanders are enduring a bit of a heatwave is this: The 26 riders entered in the inaugural Smiddy Challenge, as part of my 7in7 journey around Australia, are freezing their tits off! First up this morning, with a six-am roll out time, the cold wet rain began in earnest precisely two kilometres into our ride. It did not relent for a long, four very cold and miserable hours. But in hindsight that was like going for a walk in the park for five minutes without an umbrella during a sun-shower. For what hit the group in the afternoon on the climb up to Cradle Mountain was some of the most horrendous conditions I have ever witnessed on a bike in 30 years of riding.
Do not stop or you will freeze in place!
It was shortly after our afternoon tea stop, with 50 kilometres remaining, that the group were left to ride to the finish under their own steam and no regrouping required. It was just too cold, too windy, too rainy, too sleety and too damn snowy for it to be anything but every man and women for themselves. Now this may come across as very un-Smiddy like, but seriously, it was as simple as this: if you stopped for any reason at all, to piss, to eat, to put on extra clothes or to take a photo you would not finish the day's stage. The main reason was mild hypothermia being the biggest problem and the lack of daylight that was seriously running out as our five-pm expected finish time blew out to the last riders dwindling in after six-pm. As it turned out 15 riders were pulled from the course and ferried to the top by Kevvy and the road crew. To give you an indication of how cold we all got out there this afternoon; it is now 10:15pm, some four hours after finishing and I am still cold to the bone and my fingers hurt to type due to the trauma they went through today. I know all the riders are feeling the same way. My utmost admiration goes out to some of the stronger riders, who sacrificed their own ride to help those riders struggling to get to the finish. Unfortunately they were also asked to get in the van with the deteriorating conditions and lack of daylight left in the sky.
High and lows of an epic day in the mountains
In some ways today was such a contrast of amazing highs and incredible lows. The highs being the sensational school visit to Devonport State School for lunch at 11:30am, organised by Smiddy rider, Kate Warren, who lives in Tassie and teaches at this school.
The greatest school visit in Smiddy history
The riders were met by their own personal chaperones as we descended upon a sea of hundreds of screaming school children all wanting a high five. Each child chaperone then took our bikes and placed them inside the assembly hall, we were then invited to take off our wet cycling shoes and don slippers that were all painted with Smiddy Smiley faces and our names. My companion was ten year old Colby and he fussed over me to the extent that he even cooked a special cup-cake for me that had my name, 'Sharky,' written in icing on it. The kids presented Kate with a donation on behalf of the school. We did the usual zinc face painting thing that is always a hit with the kids and riders alike and surprising Kate won the best design on her face as judged by her kids, when clearly she was not! Nicole Maloney was the clear winner and the kids thought it was hilarious as they all just wanted Kate to win because she is not only a great teacher but such a lovely person. Other highlights from that visit included the opportunity I had to give the children a sun-safe message, the yummy food, all supplied by their children and their parents, the indoor Smiddy huddle which included all the kids, teachers, riders and road crew, and the high fives as we departed from one of the most memorable school visits on record. A huge congratulations to Kate and the children at Devonport State school.
That bloody Cradle Mountain climb
The climb up to Cradle Mountain was both a low and a high. A high in the sense that it tested you to the brink of your mental and physical capacity. If you gave in, if the body was willing but the mind not in the A-Game frame, then it was on the benches for you. A low in the sense that I know all the riders wanted to, and could have finished, if just given the chance to finish under their own steam. To be robbed of that opportunity, due to the lack of daylight and the incredible hard conditions was sad to hear the disappointment as they verbally recollected that last horrible hour on the bike. But I also liked their attitude, like when Paula said that she was going to make up the ten kilometres that she missed today by riding extra kilometres after tomorrow's shorter stage.
Kevvy and a cup of tea
Well it is now 11pm and I am so tired but the words are still coming effortlessly. Kevvy has just entered the cabin that I am sharing with Mick Farrag, who is my Brother in Arms and the only other rider to endure 3000 kilometres of riding since leaving Brisbane on September 7. Mick was one of those selfless riders that hung back to help other riders struggling and paid the price and I love him for it! Rebecca and Peter Knight are also sharing and still out there doing the washing. Peter defected to road crew when he realised the pace was too high in the first 30 kilometres of the morning session. He was sick with the flu and did not want to hold the other riders up. His selfless attitude earned him the right to lead the indoor Smiddy huddle tonight after dinner. Anyway Kevvy is always concerned for me as he knows these blogs take some time to write. Hence the offer of a cup of tea, which I gratefully accepted. The great thing with Kev is that he then knows not to to talk to me, allowing me to concentrate on the job at hand. A greater more understanding mate would be hard to find...
Well the great thing about today's blog is no exaggeration is required, as no matter what I have written above, unless you were here today, it just can't be explained as to the suffering that these guys went through. All you need to do love ones and supporters reading this, is to be incredibly proud of your special rider doing this event for all the right reasons. The team at Smiling for Smiddy are blessed to now have another 26 amazing Smiddy ambassadors and we could not be prouder.
Finally just a few quick observations from today and I am off to bed.
1. Our road crew rock in so many ways. This afternoon was the most stressful and busy situation they have ever been put in and it is only day one. I would especially like to acknowledge Kevvy making the decision to tell riders to leave their bikes on the side of the road and to get them into the warmth of the car. The bikes were then collected by Peter Knight, who did an awesome job actually locating each and every one of the abandoned bikes.
2. All the road crew this afternoon went above and beyond their call of duty, I can't mention all their selfless acts or I will be here all night. But they rock and we the riders wish to acknowledge that we are in awe of all your contributions.
3. Greg 'Sausage-Roll-World-Champion-Marto Martin for proving that it is humanly possible to consume 16 sausage rolls for morning tea, another ten at lunchtime, and still carry his impressive spare tyre up Cradle Mountain and get within two kilometres of the summit before the sweeper van swept him up.
4. Paul 'Maso-Sore-Achillies' Mason for his comment at lunchtime that it is impossible not to put on weight during any Smiddy event. Referring to the fact that the riders are so well fed. Maso was also obviously delirious when he said to me over dinner that this afternoon was the most fun he has ever had. Obviously his brain is still in freeze frame mode.
5. Rupert Leigh and Matt Zaranski are the best of mates and took on this journey together. I loved the fact that after completing the first long tough climb of around ten kilometres after lunch, that they then descended down to the last riders and helped them all the way into the afternoon tea break. Nice work boys!
6. To Lisa and Natalie who battled onwards and upwards those last few hours of the day, always accepting help and bing so understanding when the time came to get in the van. Also to all the other riders who needed a lift and understood road crew were only concerned for your safety. Thanks also to Anna Tate for being the best female shepherd in the world. Chappy would be so proud of your performance today!
7. To Andrew 'Fox' Watts for sharing the first part of that hard slog up to Cradle with me. And then to my old mate Rowan Foster; so many shared suffering memories spring to mind my friend, and to ride that remaining 34 kilometres into the teeth of the fiercest and coldest wind and sleet conditions we have ever ridden in, was pure unadulterated pleasure to suffer by your side yet again. Another one for the memory banks champ!
8. To Kate, Pete, Mick, Bryan and Paula, to ride on a day like today when you have just completed the Adelaide to Melbourne leg was just awe-inspiring to watch. You guys rock my world.
9. To the lads, Tom and then Shannon, who suffered punctures in those terrible conditions, yet somehow managed to get them fixed with hands that had no feelings and went on to finish, job well done. Tim Smith thank you for helping Tom to get going and Shannon for your understanding at Rowan and I not stopping when you punctured.
10. And finally on a day when even the Tasmanian's in the field; Kate, Geevsey and Tim declared that it was indeed a bad day to be out on the bike and ensuring that even locals feel the pain.
Sharky's final words
Well Pete and Rebecca just walked through the door and it is now 11:50pm, and that it what our road crew do. First up and last to bed. Always looking out for the riders. Washed and dried and fresh clean clothes to wear thanks to these amazing people. Pete tells me that Jess and Maria are still there now and waiting to put the last load through the drier. I am emotional as I write this and tears come to my eyes when I think of these beautiful individuals. How lucky are we?
If you are inspired by todays events please visit our website and make a donation towards your favourite rider. Help us to achieve our Tasmanian goal of raising $100,000, to go towards our overall goal or raising $1 million dollars for cancer research in this 12 month period.
Thank you and goodnight.