Tuesday, 14 October 2014
Sharky's OZ 7 in 7 Day 10 - Gloucester to Armidale
Distance: 224 kilometres
Average speed: 22.4 kmph
Maximum speed: 76 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 10 degrees
Temperature Maximum - 36 degrees
Starting metres -78
Highest point - 1315 metres
Metres climbed: 3561 m with 1 category one climb and 2 category two's
Ride time: 9 hrs 59min
Wind: Cold reverse tailwind turning late in the afternoon
Potential rogue cows
30 bad smells
15 bags of bones
6 turtles 3 still alive thanks to Diesel and the road crew
15 bags of bones
Special mention must go to Diesel who diligently keeps us safe avoiding 38 run over Smiddy riders.
Want to see what a day in the Smiddy peloton is like on the road? Well thanks to our old mate Liam Kavanagh or Kav
you can by following this link to see what he has come up with for day 3 http://youtu.be/SDdSylxnODE
Kirsteen Masson has been onboard with Smiddy for the past few years. She is a beautiful lady; a strong yet quiet achiever who gets in and does what needs to be done without a fuss. Always with a kind and encouraging word, spoken in her beautiful Scottish accent, it's an absolute pleasure to have Kirsteen riding with us.
I'd like to dedicate this Smiddy blog to my husband Pete, who, whether he knows it or not, kept me pedaling up and over that darn hill today. Your strength was my strength keeping me strong and focused and looking ahead to the crest and beyond.
Waking up for a 6am rollout is a bit of a dream departure time, doubled with knowing that the publican at the Gloucester hotel is getting up especially early to tend to our coffee whims - Smiddy life is looking pretty good. Thank you Adrian for spoiling us.
On the down side, the expected weather forecast for today was wet wet wet, so on going to bed last night, I shut my eyes and threw my request out to the universe..."if it must rain tomorrow, please can we just have a dry rollout" And wouldn't you believe it...the gods came through and a dry roll out we had. At least for the first 10km until the heavens opened their doors and the rain came down in buckets.
Not for long though. No sooner had we made the right hand turn onto Thunderbolt Way the rain cleared leaving pleasantly cooler conditions that we had experienced the past two days.
Hey Dad, we made it!
Now Thunderbolt Way is a significant section of todays route. A section that my dear dad had warned me of, as he has on many occasions has driven this road with caravan in tow. As you can appreciate, Dad has concerns as to how we are going to ride a bike up this hill, given his experience in a car. I try not to freak out and just give him Kevvy's phone number.
As we turn out onto Thunderbold Way we are treated to clearing weather, gentle rolling hills, beautiful countryside which varies from bushland to farms complete with running creeks and eeeaww-ing donkeys.
I now wonder if the donkeys were having a lend of us knowing what lay ahead.
With morning tea scheduled for a stop after the climb at a tiny town called Nowendoc at 76km, we have a quick pee stop and refuel roadside where Killer re-iterates the climb plan detailed the night before. A 7km climb with a gradient ranging between 10-15% - oh! and there is no where to get out once you start. Its a cracker! Holey moley!!! Killer continues. "If you're not confident that you're up for the climb, now is the time to decide whether or not you take the express to the top with Kevvy" Eeek!
So, decisions made, bikes and passengers loaded and riders fueled, we wave at the passing logging trucks and caravans ready to follow them up Thunderbolt.
So, the 7k climb starts at 43km and finishes at 55km. I'm no rocket scientist, except when it comes to knowing when our moment of misery is due to finish. When I get to the 4km mark, I cheerfully mention to Todd that we are over halfway, which was met with a grimace and a groan. Another km and we come to a whopping descent only to crest another incline. Surely thats it! It would seem not.
With stage 2 riders at day 3 - fatigue and soreness has set in, along with the accumulated fatigue of the riders who have continued on from stage 1, it would be easy for the riders to be in a world all of their own but instead take in the views, hear the laughter, the labored breathing and the intermittent chit chat, we get to the crest of the hill. Open arms with crew and riders to keep each other warm after stage one of the thunderbolt climb. Its only then that many of us check the day card to realize we have another 20k of up and down until we arrive at morning tea. Onwards we must forge.
With another Smiddy first in the making - morning tea at 76km, 5 and a half hours before anyone so much as gets a sneak at a sao! As we all roll into Nowendoc Hall, the crew quickly feed and water us and send us on our way, as by now we realize we are behind our daily schedule by oh, only an hour or so.
Back on the road and wouldn't you know it...a headwind! Who would of thought!
But you know what, this amazing bunch who have only been riding together for the past two days, pulled together and worked those rotations with such style and pizzaz, you'd think they'd been working at it for years. Each and every one rocked that peloton today and we made it.
Now given the late morning tea, its only fitting that lunch too would be later than usual. 143km in, the support crew have set up our lunch stop at Walcha. A cold cold cold park. Sandwiches, hot chips and a friendly hug. Warm jackets, towels and gloves.
It's here that Jess calls the group together to let us know that Russell, our road crew member since we left Melbourne at the beginning of this 7 in 7 journey, has been taken to hospital. Russell has been struggling with a flu and cough for the past 12 days which has unfortunately turned for the worst, leaving him with a terrible chest infection. Russell, will be unable to rejoin us for the rest of the trip, however we hope to see him on Saturday when we roll into UQ. Get well soon Russell, you will be missed.
30minutes and Kevvys whistle blows letting us know that we will be rolling for the afternoon session in 5 minutes.
With the weather looking to turn towards something of what we may have been hopeful to avoid, the wet weather and cold weather gear comes out. As we prepare to mount our bikes to get to the task of the final 80km of what has become yet another epic smiddy day the group is asked to listen for a moment as Sharky gives us a quick brief of what lays before us.
You see, with the days distance of 226km, the long climb this morning taking a little longer than anticipated and headwinds, it was now 3.30pm and we have 80km to go. It didn't take much to work out that we were going to have to hot tail it to make our destination by nightfall. Enter Sharky for a short but direct motivational speech. "Guys, if we want to get to our destination by dark we need to work really hard and hurt ourselves or we won't make the end of the stage. Right now we are at risk of not finishing the stage!"
Ah well, in my book and every other Smiddy rider here, that is simply not an option!
Revved up and prepped for what may lay ahead we all dutifully take on the task at hand. I kid you not! Through rain, wind and sleet the riders push through the first 15km of the afternoon stretch. Then like a switch was flicked, 178km and the rain and sleet stopped and the wind shifted to our behinds. As Sharky pedaled past me, he looked at me with his big shark like grin and said "Mel, Adam's looking after us. He'll make sure we finish this stage". Moments...
From that point on, as the peloton hung on tight and pushed through hard and fast pace lining, loving the free speed of the smacking tailwind, knocking off 40km and refueling before a quick stop in Uralla to regroup with the incredible riders who so selflessly sat out the last section helping to ensure the pace could be maintained and that Sharky made the nightfall cutoff.
With only 35km to go, the day finished as it began with beautiful scenery, peloton chatter and a few gentle rolling hills. Finally rolling into the Armidale Caravan Park at 6.51pm, the smiles, the tears, the laughter, hugs and stories of crew and riders - the gratitude of what we know and love as the Smiddy Huddle.
Today was one of the toughest days in the saddle for any Smiddy rider.
With 224km and over 3500m of climbing, whether you're a seasoned smiddy rider or this is your first smiddy adventure, it was an absolute cracker.
The strength and humility of each and every rider out there was nothing short of inspiring.
I can't wait to ride downhill with you all tomorrow