Tuesday, 13 March 2018

2018 Tassie Smiddy Challenge - Day 2

Bridport to St Helens
Written by: Mark 'Sharky' Smoothy

Stats by Matty Muir 
Distance: 136 kilometres
Ride time: 5 hours 31 minutes 
Average speed: 24.4 km/h
Maximum speed: 78 km/h
Temperature minimum: 5°C
Temperature maximum: 28°C
Elevation: 1941 metres

So as I settle in for an exciting night at St Helens Caravan Park with the Smiddy crew, I find myself sharing a delightful cabin with my two buff Smiddy boys; Wayne Messer and Sam Cooke. 

The huddle has been done and dusted, recovery food devoured, washing has been handed in to the lovely Smiddy washer girls, my bike sent to Ben Hola for a rattle adjustment, showered and I now have exactly 80 minutes to get this blog written before its fish and chips time for dinner tonight. 

Day two on  the road was an absolute cracker! With close on 2000 metres of climbing over a 136 kilometre day, it was never going to be an easy day, but it was a day that will stick in the memory banks for a long while to come.

The scenery was the usual, natural, stunning Tasmanian beauty that resembled the hills of New Zealand or the back country roads of England.

Of course the excellent company of 42 super fit riders and 12 caring road crew members also always makes for a great day.

The locals were out in force in the small towns we passed through and stopped at, cheering us on and a few small donations were collected along the way.

The motorists over here are either ‘grey nomads’ or locals, which include a lot of logging trucks on today’s roads, and while most have been amazingly receptive in slowing down or giving us a wave or a toot on the horn, it only takes one clown to put a damper on things, which I’ll get to later.

What set this day apart from yesterday was the half dozen climbs—including three major ones that had the potential to break us, or make us, and I am happy to report that each and every rider decided they would not be broken. 

And while there was plenty of suffering going on, no one quit, no one folded, and no one did van time. The stronger lads all stepped up once again, as if the notion of ending the ride prematurely was never an option. 

What I personally witnessed today warmed my heart to no end. You see, at some stage over the course of the day, the strong climbers all had a crack at being the first to the top of any one of the numerous climbs. The impressive heart-warming thing about this is that rather than have a break, they stayed back to help those riders who were struggling. 

And let me assure you, it is not easy pushing a rider up any climb, let alone one that goes for as long as four, six or even eight kilometres. 

On the final climb of the day, what transpired at the front of the peloton, I feel gifted, and in awe, to have witnessed firsthand. 

I was happily daydreaming while climbing at a comfortable pace, when Leachy and Frieby and Zane, overtook me. They were sharing turns to push Chris Hertle up the remaining four kilometre hill with an average gradient of seven or eight per cent. 

I sat behind and watched in awe their selfless devotion to help a Smiddy mate get over a climb. I was later told that, at the same time, Killer and Mad Dog were at the back of the peloton doing the same thing with Rebecca. 

I’m sure there were others—there always are—helping out that will not get mentioned here in this blog, but they don’t do it to get a mention, they do it because they are not only strong enough to be able to help, but care enough to want to help! 

It is stuff like this, that keeps feeding my Smiddy soul, and why I have to keep coming back year after year to participate in Smiddy events. 

Human nature shows its caring soul during our training days, but never quite like it does during a challenge. I could not be prouder of this current crop of individuals. 

This afternoon, Scotty Gleeson and Chris Hertle were asked to do the huddle. Both these lads have needed not only physical support over the past two days, but moral support as well. Gleeso’s great mate Archie was there for him today, while many others stepped up to the plate for Chris. 

During the huddle both of these lads choked up with emotion and I know that I felt incredibly proud of both guys, and I know all the other riders and road crew were as well. 

For you see, tears shed at any time during in one of our events, is not uncommon, nor is it a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a powerful sign of strength of emotion as it usually means the person has poured their heart and soul into either their effort on the road, or the telling of their story. Sometimes both. 

This is beautiful raw honesty and in our normal day-to-day busy and hectic lives, this emotion is not allowed to surface. 

But Smiddy people don’t judge; we don’t think we are better than anyone else, we are just incredible lucky, gifted and grateful to have found likeminded human beings with whom to share the ride. 

Personally I love the toughest days in any Smiling for Smiddy event as it brings out not only the best in people, but also draws a group together to be unbreakably tight for the remainder of the journey. 

For some, today wasn’t their toughest day on the bike, but this is for those who went through that emotion today. We have all had those days that you experienced today, and I can assure you that for each and every one of us, there will be many more to follow in years to come. 

Sharky’s Ten Favourite Moments from Day 2
1. David Smiddy bogging the rear peloton bus that tows the bike trailer at the start of today's ride. If anyone else had of done it he would remind them about it for years. (He still has not forgiven me for taking Maria and him to a vegan cafe back in St Lucia in 2008 and shouting him a falafel burger!)
2. The first climb of the day today after the first toilet stop at Scottsdale and I climbed most of it with Chris Johnstone. We stopped at the top, which was called BillyCock Hill at 345 metres and took a happy snappy. 
3. Coffee at morning tea in Derby shouted by Whippsy. Thank you, and sorry I didn’t share my melting moment with you!
4. There were so many King and Queen of the mountains today, six in total. I know Frieby took out one, Pagey and Paula got one each as well, and Scott Carpenter over the final climb of the day. 
5. The locals and grey nomads, who came out to cheer us on at the pub in the Paddock who put on lunch for us—the chicken soup and sandwiches were a real treat and gave the road crew a little breather. 
6. That final descent where we lost 400 metres of altitude in just five kilometres. I latched onto Leachy and Frieby’s wheels on that descent, and it was the most hair-raising and fun thing so far this journey—except for dodging the dead snake splattered all over the road half way down. 
7. A big thank you to our massage therapist Sammi Jo and physio  Keiren Egan. Your efforts so far are most appreciated and I know you’ve already helped keep many riders on their bikes. 8. Michael Fordyce was given the honour of ringing the Kevvy’s cow bell this morning. 
9. Congratulations to Lachlan Airey for completing what was a much harder ride today than yesterday and confirming what we all knew—that he has the heart of a champion. Well done mate. 
10. Thankfully the peloton was not reduced to road kill, although we did come a wee bit too close for comfort due to one very impatient car driver who decided to take on an oncoming semi-driver. It was a very close call indeed. 

The night finished with two of our favourite segments; our guest speaker and the announcement of the day’s category jersey recipient. 

Tonight’s speaker is no stranger to the Smiddy peloton. Zane Williams has been not only a long time rider but a sponsor of Smiling for Smiddy with Professional Cleaning Services. He spoke eloquently of his own experiences with cancer; losing his dad to cancer as well as having an aunt and uncle both currently undergoing treatment. 

He reiterated that what the riders, road crew and their donors do on this ride is something special and is making an incredible impact in the cancer research space. 

Finally, to wrap up the evening Pagey and Killer announced the Category Jersey winner. 

As mentioned above, it was a tough day—relentless climbs and turns and a few hairy spots at traffic. What is important to acknowledge is not only the strong riders who pushed their fellow riders up hill after hill, but also the riders who accepted the help. To have the courage to ask (and accept) assistance can be difficult and we applaud every single rider who accepted the ‘hand of Smiddy’ to help them up.  

The Category Jersey was given to Scott ‘Gleeso’ Gleeson and his emotional story shared at the huddle was a true reflection of how this ride has already changed him. Gleeso, we’re all so much better off having you as part of the peloton. 

Now it’s time for day three so let’s hope for calmer drivers and longer straights.


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