Cessnock To Gloucester - Day 9
Stats by David 'Stinky' Colahan
Distance: 176 kilometres
Average speed: 26.1 kmph
Maximum speed: 69 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 10 degrees
Temperature Maximum - 36 degrees
Metres climbed: 2264
Ride time: 6 hrs 43 min
Wind: No wind for most of the day until the 'Super Storm' hit at 12:30pm and initially was behind us until the infamous lefthand turn at the t-junction before lunch and bam 1000km/h headwinds (No Exaggeration)
Road Kill by Nick 'TinkerBell' Bourns and Hava Mendelle
Rogue sheep - potential road kill, bunch of stuffed animals in a tree trunk, Tinkerbell's bidon - again! 120 bad smells - including Roger, Stinky Dave and Hava, thanks to our sponsors Megaburn. 2 snakes, 3 lizards, 2 kangaroos, 3 cane toads (means we're getting closer to Qld!) and 1 flat black cat which is surely good luck!
Video by Liam
Want to see what a day in the Smiddy peloton is like on the road? Well thanks to our old mate Liam Cavanagh, or Cav, you can by following this link to see what he has come up with for day 2: http://youtu.be/CxSRqtE_5EU
Category Jersey won by: Geoff Honey, for 3 years of amazing support for Smiddy through 3 Smiddy Challenge events and now this final leg of my 7in7 journey. Geoff has raised in excess of $20,000 for Smiddy and is a great ambassador for Smiling for Smiddy and Mater Foundation.
Guest Speaker tonight was Mark Trembath; Mark spoke about his journey with Smiddy since his first introduction in 2009. Also how up until now he had never been touched by cancer or knew anyone with cancer. Well that all changed when his mate Paul, from Brisbane, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer not so long ago. Mark is riding for Paul now and we are so fortunate to have Mr T in the peloton.
A Smiddy Easy Day Coming Up - NOT!
On paper, today's 169km day, looked like an easy day was on the cards. One look at the day card and the course profile showed hills no higher than 206, with the majority of them under 150 metres of altitude. We were all planning on a relaxing afternoon once into Gloucester with a couple of extra hours up our sleeves. But as per usual, with the best laid plans, nothing is as ever as it seems. Roll out for our 9th day on the road was scheduled for 6:30am and full credit to all the riders who were ready on time as we hit the tar right on schedule. Kevvy and John were suitably impressed.
The first 30km's we were rolling along like a pro peloton on super smooth roads with the thought of getting this done and dusted and arriving ahead of our schedule. It was a fast first 15km's that was slightly downhill. But like all dream starts, they tend to never last for long, and so was the case when the rolling climbs started in earnest and continued on throughout the entire day. Our 30km/h average speed at the start quickly dropped back to a 26km/h average and the suffering set in for the day.
Give me a goat track any day
Now I will ask you to regress back to my blog yesterday and do you recall my dislike of NSW roads? Well that first 30km's out of Cessnock, I was prepared to eat those nasty words I wrote yesterday, as today those roads were hotmix smooth and obviously built by a road builder who was a cyclist. But I said nothing just in case our good fortune did not continue. And so it was, and once again, throughout a very bumpy, jarring and jackhammer type day, we were witness to roads that resembled 100 year old goat tracks. I can now honestly say, that NSW road builders, not only do not have pride in their work, but they really hate cyclists.
Mother Nature sends a cooling shower!
Now with my winge out of the way it is time to move onto the moment that the heavens opened with the force of a mini tornadoe as we were coming into lunch. From morning tea at Paterson you could feel there was a change in the air for the next 30km's. The clouds went from light and fluffy, to mean and dark and thankfully not green. Then the wind began after our toilet stop at Dungog, gentle cooling at first and miraculously behind us and pushing us along at a nice clip. Then we got to the biggest climb of the day that went up to 206 metres, regrouped at the top, descended like madmen at a go at your own pace expression session, regrouped at the bottom and then pushed off into a tailwind that was so strong it was pushing as along on the flats and we were averaging 50km/h! It was exhilarating stuff. All the time the clouds were getting darker and more threatening and as we approached a t-junction my immediate thought was if we turn right we will steer away from this storm, if we turn left we are are doomed! Then John turned on his left blinker! Shit!
Get me out of here!
Five minutes later the drops started and they were big an heavy but sparse enough that if you wanted you could have dodged them. Not 2 minutes later the wind surge was strong enough to bring our speed back to 8km/h and the rain have turned into a torrent of water. Just picture someone with a hose spraying your face as hard as they could inside a wind-tunnel, now throw in some pretty darn scary lightning and thunder, 33 terrified cyclists, (except for Roger who was grinning like a Cheshire cat) in tight formation trying not to bring each other down but staying close for protection. There were huge gum trees by the side of the road, these trees are also known as suicide trees, for to sleep under one encourages them to drop their branches, that weigh up to a ton, on the sleeping person below. I was looking at the wind gusts bending those branches sideways and praying that they would not break just as we were going past them. There was no where to stop safely so Christian, Kev and John made the call to keep going to lunch which was just another 5 minutes away in Stroud Road. It was the right decision and thankfully we all made it safely to our very worried road crew, who by some miracle, had lucked onto a verandah which was still open to the pouring torrential rain and wind but miraculously a gust of wind blew the doors open and Jess said she took it as a message from Adam Smiddy that it was okay to use the premises! Thank you Adam!
For the rest of the afternoon the threat of rain was there but never materialised thank goodness. One scare for the day was well and truly enough. We still managed to arrive ahead of schedule and Gloucester was a welcome sight for the relieved and well run in riders.
Here a few mentionable moments from today's ride:
1.Our 169km day turned into a 176km day thanks to our super navigator in the front vehicle, Belle Stephenson, deciding to miss the left hand turn at the bottom of the big descent so as we could have a refreshing shower. You see had we turned left where we were supposed to we would have arrived into lunch before the storm hit. But body hygiene is important to Belle and we all understood...
2. For 9 days now Roger has been telling the group about his record breaking Audax ride of 770km's in 72 hours. Each and every time he starts the story with "Four weeks ago". Riders now know when he speaks those 3 words to politely excuse themselves and ride as fast as they can away from Roger...!
3. The road crew had originally set up on the verandah of that hall for lunch that was supposably closed and locked. The wind and rain was still wetting everything as it blew in like Forest Gump sideways rain. Then that gust and the doors blew outward nearly knocking Jess off her feet. Jess was not arguing with this gift from the Gods and immediately rallied her troops to get everything inside before the riders arrived. Nice work Jess and road crew. It was so appreciated by the soaking wet and cold riders.
4. Still at the hall and all the road crew were so concerned for us riders and fussing over us like never before. My friend of 37 years, Cathy Jennings, hugged me and began to cry. Her tears were of relief and also of awe as each and every rider trudged through those doors and not a complaint could be heard. All we felt was immense appreciation for our fabulous road crew. Cathy opologised later for getting upset. I explained that no apology was necessary as it was beautiful that she cared enough to show her emotion.
5. Back to Roger again, for years I have wondered why his laugh is so familiar. Today rolling out of morning tea it hit me. His laugh and voice is a dead ringer for John Jarratt, who plays the roll Mick Taylor, a backpacker serial killer in the Australian movie Wolf Creek. That was a nice mentionable moment wasn't it?
6. When that storm hit and just as we passed those trees I was worried about, a tree came down on the other side of the road. The first car swerved and avoided hitting it, the second one slammed on the brakes as he could not swerve due to Kevvy being there in the rear vehicle. A third car brked hard and slid into the rear of the 2nd car, while a 4th car, towing trailer slid off the side of the road to avoid hitting the 3rd car. All this happened without the peloton seeing it but Roger and Kevvy, who were at the back of the peloton. Although some of the riders heard it against the roar of the storm. Scary stuff that I only found out about once safely in that hall that was our haven.
7. The honour of the huddle went to rider Joy Yip and her husband Geoff, who is part of the efficient road crew. This lovely couple are from Papua-New Guinea and living in Australia for a year. They came on board due to a fellow Smiddy rider who was originally meant to ride but had to pull out due to injury.
We have a huge day tomorrow of climbing over the Barrington Tops Range, which is part of the Great dividing Range. The bartender thinks there is no way any of the riders are capable of making it to the top as told to me by road crew member Mick Jennings. I am pretty sure we will prove him wrong, even with the forecast of rain and an average gradient of 10% with pitches of 15% for the 7km climb!