Friday, 5 September 2014

2014 Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge - Day 7 - Belyando to Charters Towers

2014 Smiling for Smiddy Bottlemart Challenge
Day 7 Report by Sharky

Statistics for the day
  Distance: 198 km's
  Average speed  27.4kmph
  Elevation climbed: 848 metres
  Riding time: 7:15:00
  Min Temp: 6 degrees
  Max Temp: 39 degrees

Road Kill by: Megan, Jarrod and Tom Tom
Kangaroos. 677.  2 cars. 1 stove. 2 Emus. 7 Birds. 2 cows. 1 cat. Adam's wheel. Melissa's bowel content. 1 Wombat. 1/2 of an Ornithorhynchus. 60% on right. 37% on left. 3% in the middle. 1% with maths teachers.

Category jerseys

Team Work: Went to Ben Pearson for his undying passion to Smiling for Smiddy over the past 3 years and even though sick with the flu continued to help any rider struggling.

MateShip: Was snapped up by the Father and Son combination in Ian and Jayden Swarbrick, who have returned for a second year in a row and are the best of mates.

Spirit: Went to Mark Colgate, who although crook for the past 3 days continued to support his fellow riders with a friendly pat on the back and decided to take photos of each and every rider with his iPhone as he rode past. Smiddy leader Matt Marshall looked away many times as this was considered naughty in the peloton.

Guest Speakers

David Mead spoke about beating testicle cancer and nearly losing his leg as a child to a bone infection. He confessed that originally he was on board so that he could say he had ticked off the Smiddy Challenge from his bucket list, but like most riders who ride for that reason, he soon got caught up in the incredible Smiddy spirit and was on board for the right reasons mid way through this years Challenge.

Ben Pearson followed on from David and spoke about many reasons as to why he is a Smiddy person. Besides having many Melanoma cancers removed personally Ben has suffered many loses throughout his life from this debilitating disease.

Thank you kindly to all my fellow riders who volunteered to take on the responsibility of writing the daily journals over the past 6 days. After riding 200 plus kilometres a day, then attending the community functions until 10pm and on back to your billet or swags, while all the other riders are tucking themselves into bed, you have been sitting down to write your journal through to midnight. I can't thank you guys enough!

So my journal is about day 7 from Belyando Crossing to Charters Towers and I have decided to take a different tack on today's ride and skim through it quite quickly. My reasons for this are because I wish to share some stories of the special people that have been part of the Smiddy Challenge journey this year.

Breakfast was scheduled for 5:30am with a 6:30am roll out time of 6:30am, of which we were right on time thanks to Garath not making me late like he did when staying with my billet in Clermont on day 5! The fatigue from 6 long days in the saddle was evident from the first pedal stroke and the consensus was that as we had reasonably good conditions, with light headwinds, dry heat of 39 degrees and time up our sleeves, that we would actually make an effort today not to push the group and try and enjoy the Australian countryside. But a 200km day is still a big day in the saddle whether you are pushing it or not, especially with 1250 kilometres already in your legs.

I can't begin to tell you just how well this group has ridden right from day two. The bonding as friends and riders has helped accomplish this amazingly quick translation from one of strangers, to best of buddies; buddies that you can totally depend on regardless of the distances or what Mother Nature threw our way over the past 7 days. And today was no different with each and every rider completely at ease and happy with going easier for the entire day.

Morning tea came fairly quickly after 70 kilometres and 2 and a half hours of riding. The feast the road crew delivered was the usual perfect delicious variety of everything imaginable that can be prepared in the middle of nowhere. And of course, delivered in the friendliest manner that we have become accustomed to by our beautiful road crew. Lunch was at the 122km mark and at this point last year it was 47 degrees and we were fighting a hungry headwind that wished to devour us all. But this time around, leaving a week early, seemed to have done the trick with the daily temperatures being cooler than 2013 by a good 10 degrees on most days. The Smiddy Challenge riders that returned from last year, of which there are about 10, were very grateful and commented to the newbies of last year's tortuous experiences. 

After afternoon tea the final sprint session was meant to take place but due to road works and the tiredness of the riders, Matt made the decision to call off the sprint and just roll in as a group on the comfortable pace that we had been sitting on all day. This was welcomed with a rousing cheer from the majority of riders.

Our finish into The School of Distance Education was a happy occasion for all as a great majority of the riders are suffering this year from sore bums, neck and shoulders, dodgy knees and sore wrists from the vibration that 1450 kilometres of Qld country roads subjects us to. The honour of the huddle went to Mark Gleeson and Michael Dunne, who were very appreciative of being asked. Thanks Mark and Michael for the lovely words spoken to the group. I would also like to thank Geoff Honey, who will complete his third Smiddy challenge event in a row tomorrow when he finishes in Townsville, for the great insightful words that were spoken to the group immediately after the huddle. Geoff is a very wise man and his words made immense sense and meant a lot to the group. 

The nighttime function saw the road crew, and I mean all the road crew, get up and keep David Smiddy company while he read out the journal that they wrote last night in Belyando Crossing. They finished with an amazing war cry that my Auntie Marie came up with that had the whole room buzzing.

Matt needed a night off from his MC duties and handed it over to Anna. Who did an exceptional job. It was funny when she was asked as she was concerned at not being able to be as funny as Matt, but let me assure you she killed it and all in the room were in fits of laughter. The night finished as always with some thank you gifts handed out to key people that help Smiddy out each year. A huge thank you to John and Anne Clarke, who for 6 years now have provided food and the use of the school grounds for the crew to take over for the one night.

Sharky's top ten most memorable moments from this years tour

1.     Witnessing the amazing improvements in the following riders that struggled through the first 3 days. Hannah Hogan, who was close to not even starting the event but start she did and was beside herself with excitement when she completed her very first day in its entirety when she rolled into Clermont. To date she has also completed all of day 6 and 7 although in a great deal of pain due to saddle issues. Vanessa Trott is another lovely lady who was meant to start last years Smiddy Challenge but had to pull out due to injury. This year she once again battled with injuries but still managed to start but well underdone in preparation. Vanessa completed day 6 and 7 and like Hannah her fitness is growing along with her confidence. Jack Coward is living proof that the impossible can be achieved as long as you have some self belief. Jack rides with a colonoscopy bag and although he trained long and hard for this event he will be the first to tell you that nothing prepares you for the pace that the riders need to average to finish each day before sunset. Jack completed his first full Smiddy day on day 6 and he has always said that without the help of most of the riders this would not have been possible. And finally Tracy Keogh did it tough to start with but by day 4 was completing each and every day in its entirety.

2.     If we were handing out awards for courage while still grieving then my vote would go to two very special people in the Smiddy peloton. Firstly Zane Williams for even starting this ride when he had every right not to. You see he lost his best mate to cancer just 3 weeks ago. That best mate was his Father. He has really struggled at times both emotionally and physically as his preparations for this event were hampered by first the wonderful news early in the year at becoming a Father for the very first time and then the sad passing of his Dad. Then there is Claire Schneider, who last year got as far as Belyando Crossing and got news that her Dad may soon pass away. She missed those last two days of the Smiddy Challenge but got to the hospital in time to say goodby to her Father. Well our beautiful Claire is back to finish the journey and I assure you she will finish it and finish it having ridden every single kilometre in memory of her father. To Zane and Claire I say to you that the entire team are so incredible proud of you both and you know we mean it when we say we love you.  

3.     This year is extremely special for me, not only because I have the immense pleasure of sharing this experience with 4 of my family members in my Sister Kay, my Brother Terry, my future Brother in-law Glen Jacobs, (hurry up Glen) and my Auntie Marie, who is the the fittest best looking and friendliest lady in the entire world at the spritely age of 74 years of age. Marie does not look a day over 60 and she and Terry have enjoyed their first Smiddy challenge experience as road crew immensely, while Kay is a veteran volunteer with 6 editions now under her belt. Mr Smiddy indicated to me that all the current road crew are under orders to return next year or there will be trouble! When David is pleased, we are pleased.

4.     I get such immense pleasure out of not just seeing the riders form unbreakable bonds, but when the road crew gel as well, and gel they always do no matter what the year, but 2014 was something entirely special again. Their closeness and respect for each other was none more evident when my Auntie Marie lead them in their own war-chant to honour Adam Smiddy. They performed it tonight after David Smiddy had finished reading out the journal. The room erupted and a new act was formed to rival the great Von Trapp family from Sound of music fame.

5.     Jo Lester, from our sponsor bike shop, AvantIPlus The Valley, was our mechanic for the past 7 days. Jo was kept busy but with all the riders adhering to a full service of their bikes prior to the event, the majority of the mechanicals were minor. The sponsorship from Maxxis Tyres worked a treat with each rider wearing Maxxis Refuse tyres and only 7 punctures were recorded for the entire trip to date. Surely a Smiddy record! Anyway a huge thanks to Jo, who came in ready to be a mechanic, but not ready for the life changing experience that comes with volunteering for a Smiddy event.  Jo has now been converted into the Smiddy family and has indicated he would love to return next year. Due to a wedding on Saturday we are losing our new friend and another employee from AvantiPlus, Julian Lang, has flown in for the final day. While we will miss Jo the group warmly welcomed Julian into the fold.

6.     To the following people I tip my hat to for these reasons: Rowan Foster, for flying in and joining the group from day 4. The peloton never feels right without the big man riding. Michael Young, for returning after many years away and enjoying the experience without his closest friends by his side, but a new batch, not better or worse, just new. I know he does this in memory of his Father, whom he had an amazing relationship with up until cancer robbed him of his best mate a few short years ago. Paul Martin, the quiet American who has been living in Tassie for a few years and great mates with Jason Overton. I loved it when Paul rode past me on day 5 and asked me how I was going. His first words to me and from that point in time he spoke often each day. Paul came for the ride and got the Smiddy injection that changes lives forever. Welcome to the family champ! Captain Kev, who fronted up for his 8th Smiddy Challenge in a row. Mate you are irreplaceable! Sammi-Jo, the bubbliest massage therapist disguised as a Ninja Assassin that you will ever meet. She stands 4 feet tall and will take you to levels of pain unknown to man, but do it all with a smile on her face. We love you Sammi-Jo. Stemmy and Mia our new lead car driver and photographer doing the great Geevsey out of a job? You guys rock, thank you so much for keeping us so safe, topped up with water and photographed more than the legendary Wybrand Detoit. Helen Merry for coming up with the Smiddy war chant that we performed in Blackwater. Why she waited until day 4 is beyond me? It was brilliant, although now rated second best behind the road crew chant. Ray Francis, who is as little and as light as Sammi-Jo, for returning to the Smiddy peloton. Ray did his first Smiddy in 2012 and had to be pushed every day. This time around, even with a cracked rib, Ray was the one helping other riders out and smiling each and every minute of every day. An absolute pleasure mate to have you in the peloton.

7.     The most popular name on this years Smiddy challenge was a draw with Mark and David scoring 4 a piece, while the name Ian was a close second with 3. Kevvy and Paul and Michael came in with a tie for third with 2 a piece. We had 19 girls in the crew this year and all their names were different.

8.     On day one, while taking the Sharky short cut up and over a 20% gradient climb and dirt roads and creek crossing; my old mate Zane Williams was riding beside me just as we began to climb. He looked across at me with the Armstrong Stare, and said, see you at the top! He then proceeded to drop me! From that point in time I knew I had been put in my place. Thanks Zane?

9.     On day 4 Matt asked me to speak to the group just before pushing off from a water stop. I was feeling a little emotional and after telling the group job well done and take care I let out with a really loud Sharky "I love you guys." I recall that Youngy looked up and was quietly amused. As we pushed off, Rowan rode up by my side and said; "Sharky I don't think the group realised the significance of that call." You see Row will affirm this as fact, that only once throughout any Smiddy event will I let out one of those calls. While I meant it, I now wish I had of saved it for day 7 when by then we were inseparable.

10.  The best for last is of course Maria and David Smiddy. How lucky are we that you allow this event to continue year in year out for 9 years now? Thank you so much guys for your acceptance of each and every rider and road crew member that enters your lives each year. I know I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say that to be embraced in a Maria cuddle is something special indeed. Even David has got in on the act over the past 5 years. Smiddy events reflect these two wonderful human beings and I can't wait for the tenth edition of Smiddy Challenge in 2015, just so that I get to hang out with the Smiddy family again. I love you Maria and David tend I ask of you your permission for this event to continue in 2015?


1 comment:

  1. Well done to all the Smiddy Road Warriors who made it safely into Townsville today. 1600 kms in 8 days is very impressive. The pain fades but the memories remain. Susie and Rossco.

    See you in Brisbane on October 18!