Well another year had come and gone and I hadn’t had a chance to hop on the bike since the last Oppy when Mark asked if he should book the accommodation in Port Douglas in May for our overnight Petite Oppy stop. I thought that there was a good chance that booking accommodation was a sensible start. I assumed that we would roll out with a variation of our regular team consisting of Mark, Nola, Jordan, Toby or Zoe (Mark and Nola’s very capable offspring) and myself. Before we had a chance to reach the computer there was the cry from the kitchen that Nola was riding in the Third Extremes this year. Yep, Gayle had poached one of my main support riders. No dramas – we should be right with the rest of the crew. Maybe both kids could ride this year. Alas Toby cracked a gig playing cricket in England, Zoe discovered Europe and Jordan had sold his bike. So it was down to Mark and I to try and find another rider who could enjoy the prospect of towing me to Port Douglas. After a few potential team mate false starts we cracked the code in the week before the Oppy with the ever obliging Kev Tomlinson.
It seems that Kev had been reading a lot of the press of the big boys who were going to ride from Bowen to Port Douglas and set a record in the process. He was a little concerned what average speed we would be riding at and which of his bikes he should ride to keep up. After a little while Kev realised that I was serious when I said that the longest ride I had done since the last Oppy was 56km the previous weekend. His aspirations of achieving a record in the Petite Oppy faded as we discussed the option of taking his trekking bike because we hadn’t been able to find a support driver either. Fortunately for the team, a couple of nights before we were due to set off on our ride Zoe flew back from Europe so we would have a support vehicle after all. For Kev it was back to the BMC fast bike and a trip to see Gary at Bicycle Central for some new super strong fast wheels.
We had set a crafty little course that started in the high country at Walkamin and finished in the lowlands of Mossman and Port Douglas. As luck would have it there was also a very helpful tailwind to assist us on our way. We set off from Mark and Nola’s place in Walkamin at a little after the planned 7am. From there we cruised around the back of Chewko Road into Mareeba for our first coffee break of the day with 23km under the belt. Kev decided that the riding was pretty easy and he needed a bit of light reading while we were riding and slipped into the Newsagent beside the coffee shop to buy a copy of the Women’s Day.
From Mareeba we scooted out of town towards Mount Molloy with the biggest tailwind ex Tropical Cyclone Ann could muster. I think I even managed to find myself on the front at some point during this leg. Just outside Mt Molloy a flock of motor bikes roared past. A few minutes later we cruised along to our designated coffee shop at 63.6km only to discover what the rush was all about. About thirty bikers had all sat down to enjoy their soy lattes. Not to be outdone Big Kev rolled his bike back in amongst the other hogs and threw his lycra clad leg over the saddle drawing a few crude comments from the biking entourage. We were famished after such a long stint in the saddle and went in for a bacon and egg burger and assorted drinks. The barista assured us that he wouldn’t be long with our orders so we settled in for some light banter with our Biking Brethren. There were some discussions about the merit of stretching and how it could actually be a helpful practice to adopt now that we were all getting to be old. Kev and I thought we should leave that to our young under fifty sidekick.
We set off from Mt Molloy with the expectation that we would meet up with Zoe in Mossman around lunch time. Mark was very pleased to see that Bushy Creek was behaving itself this year and he didn’t need to rescue brown snakes from the flood water. Shortly after Bushy Creek we took the Euluma Creek Road up past the Julatten School where we could have had our fifth Democracy Sausage for the day if we hadn’t just devoured half a pig in Mt Molloy. We could see evidence that the roads in this area had been under water recently so we were quite thankful that we had been spared that pain. Before we knew it we were at the top of the Rex Range looking out over a somewhat wet and windy Mossman. After a little stop to discuss the possibility of a slippery descent we set off down the Rex Range. Our fears of a slippery ride soon gave way to a beautiful dry bit of road that we were able to zoom down. As we entered Mossman I again found myself on the front of the bunch copping a fair bit of banter from my fellow cyclists. We arrived to find Zoe waiting for us and Googling flights back to Europe. At 100km it was time for lunch so we made our way to the Goodies Café about halfway down the main drag for a great chicken wrap and milkshake. About this time Kev started suggesting that we should add in an extra five kilometres to the ride so that we could say that we had done 100 miles in the day. Hmmm we will see.
After a lovely lunch we said our goodbyes to Zoe who had a better offer back up on the Tablelands and set off for Wonga Beach. The tail wind, rain and tram tracks provided an interesting ride for most of the way up the coast. Just after Kev had reminded me that I had just doubled my longest ride for the year there was a little section of Bamboo Creek Road that managed to twist back on itself pointing us directly into the wind for the first time all day. Kev decided he should take one for the team and jumped on the front and proceeded to punch out a very tidy 30kmh into the wind. Unfortunately my legs were not quite up to snuff and I popped off the back just as quickly. Before long the wind was on our back again pushing us towards Wonga Beach. A little navigational glitch meant we rode all of the back streets of Wonga Beach hoping that Kev’s Garmin would assure him that he was on course again. We decided to take a quick stop at the servo to top up our water bottles and regroup navigationally. While at the servo Mark had a curious discussion with the local Iceman about ownership of his chicken wrap. Fortunately the kimono wearing drug crazed local found a car to jump into before being sped away.
About this time discussions of how far we had to go started up. We all seemed to have slightly different odometer readings. Mark was the furthest along the road (I thought his should be the official measure), I was in the middle and Kev brought up the rear with two options to choose from (one up to three kilometres less than the other due to a button pressing error early in the day). We ultimately decide to add in a bit of extra distance to make sure that we all had at least 160.9km on the clock when we stopped for the night. Mark and I chose to ride as far as Kev’s Garmin needed to go to reach the distance and then left Kev to sort out the difference between his Garmin and watch without our assistance. OCD is an interesting affliction. Ultimately we rolled into our accommodation at the Mossman Holiday Park (aka The White Cockatoo, apparently clothing optional in its day????) all very happy with a good day on the bike.
After a beer and a car shuffle to Port Douglas we ventured down to the local bowls club for fish and chips and a beer. We noted how important it is to keep the food and drink up during exercise. During dinner we were getting updates on where the Third Extremes were at and decided that they wouldn’t be in to Mossman until about 12pm. This was important information as we had a couple of them sharing our cabin later in the evening. After deciding that election night viewing was pretty limited we turned out the lights and waited with our eyes closed for the girls to arrive. Pretty much bang on cue around midnight the Extremes rolled into camp and whispered to the whole resort what a great ride they were having.
The next morning alarms seemed to come way too soon, but it didn’t take long for the hive of activity to start. The Third Extremes beat a hasty departure headed for Port Douglas. We got away a little later and headed off towards Cooya Beach in the dark and rain. Just as we approached Cooya Beach we saw the tail lights of the Third Extremes come back onto the main road. We thought that we would catch them pretty soon as we had less distance in our legs. Boy were we wrong!!! Those girls were tapping out a cracking pace into the headwind and we only gained about 20 seconds on them in the 12km before they turned off to drop into Port Douglas. Our course took us a bit further south to Craiglea where we turned towards Port Douglas and came in on Old Port Road. When we finally hit the smooth asphalt with a tail wind pressing gently in our backs the pace soared and before we knew it we were approaching our destination.
The Petite Boys were pretty proud of their humble achievements and started talking about next year and who needed to be released from the roster so that they could go and ride a full Oppy.
I would like to thank my fellow Petite Boys, Mark and Kev for dragging me around the course. What great company you were and what a fantastic ride we shared.
As a post script – the name Petite Boys (Not the Fat One) came from a misunderstanding that I had for many years about the meaning of Petite. When I was much much younger we had a visitor who said to my mum that her daughter was a “Petite little thing”. I had always thought that the girl in question had a striking resemblance to Kermit’s love interest so made the assumption that Petite must mean somewhat large (pre Google days of course). I should have looked in the dictionary when I first heard the word as it wasn’t until many years later that I was in an argument saying that somebody was not at all petite that the error in translation became apparent.
(23 May 2019)