Each day the headwind has been present but not until around 8am, so the idea was we would leave at 6am and get in some easy kilometres, and this worked a treat with 70km's covered prior to 9am. The run into lunch at 122km's was a trifle harder with the headwind now present and the ambient temperatures from our Garmins reading at 43 degrees. At both the morning tea and lunch stops our amazing road crew did everything humanly possible to keep us fed, watered and enthusiastically sent on our way with a rousing cheer of support. They are incredible and without them we would have 54 Smiddy riders to add to the road kill count!
It was after lunch that the highest temperature recorded during a Smiddy event happened when the Garmins were recording over 46 degrees. It was now official; the 2013 Smiling for Smiddy Bottlemart Challenge, thanks to the constant daily battle of headwinds and heat each day since we left Brisbane, is the reason why this year's event was the toughest ever on record in 8 editions.
The suffering that the riders went through to reach today's finish in Charters Towers was incredible to watch. I have never been more proud of a bunch of guys and girls in my entire life. Every day on this journey -and especially today- they just sucked it up and did what was required of them, with a minimum of fuss, and got the job done. If love ones back home could see -in real time- what their Smiddy riders and road crew go through they would be both horrified at the level of suffering but also extremely proud of their never give in attitude.
After our afternoon tea stop at Policeman Creek, which was just a dry dustbowl, the group had 34 kilometres remaining to reach their destination. The final 15km's into Charters is a voluntary A,B,C, scratch race, but due to the heat only a third of the field participated. Owen from Bowen was the worthy winner, who I think started in the first group off the ranks which was C. A regrouping took place and we rolled into The School of Distance Education, who were our hosts for the night. Swags were our accommodation for the night in the school grounds.
The huddle was formed and Geoff Honey, 2 time Smiddy rider was invited to speak and delivered a very moving message to all the riders and crew. A special welcome to Glenn Harriss from the Mater Foundation, who arrived in time to experience his first Smiddy huddle and tomorrow will be on board to help out the road crew and see the inner workings of a Smiddy event. A huge thanks must go to John and Anne Clark, who have provided assistance to the riders and road crew for 5 years now and represent the Lions and Rotary clubs for Charters Towers. They provided a great dinner and breakfast for the hungry crew and the use of the school facilities.
Tonights festivities included all the usual shenanigans with the very funny road kill count by Michael, Naomi and Nathan. Matt did a great job, considering he was suffering from severe dehydration, as he delivered his wrap up of the day's ride. The last two days journal readings that were written by the Townsville ladies, who covered day 5, and the Mackay ratbags who stepped up to the plate when Claire had to do an emergency trip home for her Father in hospital. Our speaker for the night was Bruce Goodwin, who spoke about cancer from a doctors perspective. Bruce also won the Team jersey award for his great work attending to all the sick riders this year as a throat, sinus and chest infection has gone through the peloton. Nick Thorpe was given the Inspired Jersey for his never give in attitude and just simply because he is one of the nicest and quietest guys in the peloton. Finally we had a surprise limerick and a 'Road Kill' song sung by the very talented Derek Hedgecock.
Well it is now midnight and I am dead tired and need to sleep. But before I go here are my top ten highlights from the past week as seen though my eyes.
1. All the stories and reasons the riders are on board this Smiddy journey as each night a rider or two would get up and share their experiences of life and the effects cancer has had on them. I take my hat off to you and thank you for being so brave and not being scared to show your emotions through your heartfelt words spoken each night.
2. Each day Mother Nature ramped up the heat and and wind. Each day the riders responded. Each day I was in awe of this amazingly strong bunch of riders. How lucky are we at Smiddy and the Mater Foundation to have these guys and girls join the rapidly expanding Smiddy family? Extremely lucky I tell you!
3. The biggest complaint heard amongst riders was of a sore butt. Haylee Lewis, Smiddy rider from 2008, who suffered incredibly painful butt pain, asked me back then; "Sharky is it possible to die from a sore butt?" Well I am happy to say to this day we have yet to lose a rider to this ailment, although Mackay girl Tamara will tell you she went close.
4. The biggest joy for me personally was having Ron Steel back in the bunch. Ron was one of the original 3 founding riders and his last event was back in 2009. Everyone loves him now that they have gotten to know him. A quieter and more humble man you could not meet. I am hoping by writing this that he will return in 2014 but Steely will see through my ploy!
5. This tour for me has been one of my worst in terms of my own personal performance. Feeling flat and getting sick I got to see kindness in the other riders and road crew who have nothing but concern for me. I am grateful for their support and I am also sorry for making them worry about me, especially on day 6 when I was invited to sit in the van due to my health issues at the time.
6. The amazing 15 female riders. Man these girls were not only machines but some of the nicest ladies you could ever hope to meet. Thank you girls for all that you have done for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation, for leading by example and for showing other female cyclists that this riding to Townsville business is not just for the boys.
7. Our road crew and especially David and Maria Smiddy for each year allowing this event to continue. We, the riders, are in awe of your sacrifice to give up 8 days of your time each September and we are indeed extremely grateful.
8. The kindness of the local communities, the incredible billets at Nanango, Biloela, Clermont and Blackwater. This event would not be possible with their never-ending support each year. Thank you!
9. The bonding between the Smiddy riders is a joy to behold. Complete strangers becoming like blood brothers warms my heart to no end. 54 riders who would do anything for their fellow rider. I am indeed fortunate to being able to call you my friends and thank you for taking up this immense challenge. Hold your head high when you tell people you are a Smiddy rider, as it is the highest compliment anyone can give you!
10. And finally, but in no way any less important than any of the other 9 points above, thank you to all the love one's and supporters of their chosen Smiddy rider. For without you and your kind donations and support there would be no money coming in for cancer research.