Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Sharky's Oz 7in7 The Final Leg
Bungendore to Wollongong - Day 6

Distance: 256.5 kilometres
Average speed: 25.1 kmph
Maximum speed: 76 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 1 degrees
Temperature Maximum - 29 degrees
Metres climbed: 2262
Ride time: 10 hrs 13 min
Wind: Very light winds all day

Road Kill by Nick 'Cougar' Bourns and Katrina 'KatPandaBalls Cousins
24 Kangaroos
6 Wallabies
5 wombats
13 lizards
2 foxes
1 crow
1 fluffy koala
19 bags of bones
15 unidentified bad smells
23 times Adriel blew his nose before morning tea
50 times KatPandaBalls swore riding on the dirt road

Category Jersey won by: William 'Bill' Bruce
A big man with a big heart who has finally conceded defeat and opted to conform in the two lines of the peloton instead of making his own third line. With big carbon wheels he also joined Panda in expressing his delight at rolling over the rocky dirt.

Guest Speaker tonight was Nick Bourns - who, after hobbling his way up to the front of the group with his ankle in a world of pain, spoke of how he first came involved with Smiddy, and why he returns each year for this 'life affirming' experience.

And a special birthday dedication - Happy 30th Birthday to Smiddy rider Claire "Panda Bear" Schneider... another member of both the Smiddy & Panda families.

The longest day in Smiddy history. Bar none. A whopping 257km... including 20km+ of gravel leading in and out of the old rickety wooden bridge of morning tea all combined to equal a history making day. Poetry in motion.... okay perhaps that's an exaggeration, but it was a thing of beauty all the same to see the group roll into the local outlet of our major sponsor, Bottlemart, at Towradgi Beach with the friends and family of local 'Gong rider Rusty Conway and 2014 Challenge rider Peter Buckley on hand to greet us.

While most riders were delirious with exhaustion having completed their biggest ever day, for regular Audax rider Diesel, who eats these kilometres for breakfast... and quite often before breakfast... there was plenty of fuel left in the tank. An impromptu strip dance that would have lighted up many a past and beloved road crew member was only halted by calls of 'this is going straight on Facebook for Kimmy' and 'stop...please stop...there are locals here'. Luckily, or unluckily depending upon your perspective, Rog did exactly that.

Sharky explained the rationale of a softer pace a day earlier to preserve the group but asked everyone to dig deep today - so everyone had their game face on and given the full moon was out, the energy levels were high. The group was focused to deliver their A Game in spite of Rossco's snoring antics the night before, so intense Sammi Jo took her life into her own hands by sleeping on her massage table in half-confidence she wasn't going to army roll it down onto the concrete floor - and if we were in any doubt that this was a day to focus... just before the ringing of the cow bell - local chef Mark cranked up Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line" and we were ready to roll with a steely look in our eye and a Ron Steely in our group. Disclaimer: lack of sleep equals lack of quality one-liners and humour.

While the other campers may have been less impressed by this blaring music at 5.30am - we loved it and choruses of (sung) "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine...I keep my eyes wide open all the time" echoed around the tin shed and we rolled out. It was particularly enjoyed by Russell in front vehicle - a country music connoisseur and quite the runner as it turns out... judging by how quickly he can move to run back to the support truck, jump into its passenger side and yell 'go, go, go' to make a quick getaway after some questionable driving cleaned up a street sign in a country town. Great work 'Terry'. Here we were thinking you had no edgy, dark side to you but you handled that runner was old school cool. Disclaimer: no actual country town was destroyed in the making of this paragraph... maybe just banged up a little.

It was only fitting that the two mates who started this journey seven years ago - Sharky and Captain Kevvy - each put their personal touches on what would be a historic day.

First, there was the bronze statue of the Gnome, etched in a classic pose, which greeted our riders by the road side. Sharky stopped to capture the image which has to be seen to be believed. We will leave it to your imaginations but it's a pose poor old Kevvy has seen poking out of bushes and scrub behind and in front of his trusty vehicle for the past nine years. That the good folk of Nowra thought to etch this gnome by the roadside was a nice touch. They were nice folk there too, blaring their horns and yelling at us as we took a Sharky shortcut through the town with a few extra turns. What was this historic day be without a few Sharky shortcuts? As it turns out... Russell is better at running from the scene of a crime than navigating... but this passenger seat of John's vehicle has been hexed all week. How F-ING hard is it?? Harder than one could truly think possible, it would seem.

Sharky was not to miss out as the Smiddy team presented him with a special and particularly tacky souvenir from Kiama on the South Coast - complete with a couple of wild eyes. Sharky thanked everyone on behalf of sharks everywhere. We are sure it will make a wonderful addition to the family home of Sharky and Sharkietta as we count down to the wedding of the century next February.

You can imagine the delight on the faces of Sharky and Diesel as we approached a 20km section of gravel. Diesel, AKA the 'peacock', began strutting his stuff and telling any rider who would listen the techniques required to navigate such conditions. His feathers were on full display.

Adriel and Tinker were also like pigs in mud - stepping on the gas and sliding their way through corners as John and Russell in the front vehicle attempted to keep their pace at bay.

Things weren't looking so rosy at the back of the pack, with several riders dribbling in looking less than impressed by the dusty conditions, with Sarah eventually rolling in before Kevvy and Co. Miles from the sanctity of her nearest bamboo branch, KatPanda did her best to camouflage herself in the NSW hinterland with pink zinc balls around her eyes. Oooohhhh. She's so cuuuuute. Several other riders got into the spirit with an array of coloured zinc emerging in the peloton to match Sharky's mood.

Because while most riders were questioning the sanity of people who all sleep in a tin shed in swags on a 3 degree morning only to ride 256+km ... the smile on Sharky's face was beaming and his excitement overflowing as he told everyone to get excited. Little did he know the amount of riders ready to throw him and his bike into the river at various stages of this 10hour stint in the saddle.

The historic nature of the occasion had the big man up and about, and telling the 26 very special riders only they will ever hold that record in the entire big wide world of completing the biggest Smiddy stage ever!

The fresh, masculine and beautifully sculpted legs of day rider Tom Tom came in handy during the 40km descent as he and 'Mr T', Mark Trembath, sporting his own look with some dubious knee strapping tape, rocked it out - pushing the group down the mountain at break neck speed before the 'easy boys' call went out from Sharky and Killer... who were struggling to hang on to their wheels.

Racking up 170km before lunch gives you an indication of how epic this day was - and our riders were pleased to see the road crew present hot chicken sandwiches and hot chips for lunch. The Smiddy spirit, and vegetarian diets, were temporarily shelved as our riders dug in... with elbows and forearms used to jostle into line for the hot chips. If they'd captured a glimpse behind the scenes at Country Rooster... they perhaps would have been a little less enthusiastic.

On a serious note - it's great to see our riders get Smiddy - and what it's all about. Fundamentally this is the fact it's not about you, its about something far bigger and greater. It's about thinking about others - not yourself. Hoges is one great example of this. Not only has he raised over $15K, this dentist who has been telling all the riders to tuck into their lollies this week so he should see a spike in business as a result of this week, Hoges has kindly lent his bike to Mini Hicks for the final stage. This could possibly save Mini Hicks from some serious repercussions given it will replace his tank - a 25kg Panzer Wagon the likes of which has never been seen on Smiddy. How the little guy can even pedal that thing is beyond most of the group. As Hoges would say... That's not a bike, THIS is a bike!

While Hoges or Croc Dundee's fundraising for cancer research has topped $15,000, Billy's is up to over $8000 - and the group have now raised over $187,000 for cancer research. This gave the group an extra sense of pride after their achievements today - particularly after Nick 'Tinker Bell' Bourns - who hasn't been the same since his bell tragically joined yesterday's road kill count - spoke about his Smiddy journey and his mum's battle after a triple negative diagnosis. Tinker is a pleasure to ride alongside and share this journey with and that's a sentiment everyone on board would agree with.

To finish this historic day, I would like to acknowledge the courage and toughness of Katie Dick - who struggled all day but hung tough. Well wishes to her mum, Liz, who has a collapsed lung after spending four days laughing way too hard in the Smiddy family. We have missed her and Peter being with our group since their departure mid-week and they would have been immensely proud of their little girl today as she ignored nausea and vomiting and fatigue to power home with an extra kick from Sharky's 'break only in the case of emergency' caffeine tablet that left the big man himself in dire straits in the home run after some quick-lipped locals stole his Freddo - or his 'choccy' - as Kevvy distributed some treats for the final run home in the 'Gong.

Congratulations to all on what was another epicly epic Smiddy way full of laughs and tears.

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