The annual FNQ Audax Colt has traditionally been a time to explore. New tracks, new venues, new pubs……this ride has it all. The 2021 version headed further into the wilds with the happy discovery of a network of dirt trails around Ravenshoe.
And despite the multiple threats of wet weather, COVID and a long drive, over 100 riders took the plunge and signed up for the new adventure. Thanks to Kim, Herbie and Mundi for volunteering throughout the ride, and to Kaylene and Jann for jumping out of bed early to help at check-in. Yep, we were ready to roll.
Cyclists started to descend on Ravenshoe from Saturday and proceeded to explore the tracks and contribute to the town’s economy. The pub was overflowing on Saturday night but managed to provide great meals and good service. Those who tackled the early morning drive were well rewarded by a spectacular sunrise.
And those of us who kept the faith basked in the early morning rain-free sunshine.
From here, the story is told by Sue P (one of the 80-something dirt riders) and Ian J (a stalwart of the dozen or so road riders). Many thanks to them both for providing their persective of the day in a Ride Report.
The Colt 2021: Tailenders’ perspective (Sue P)
We stayed the night before the ride at the gorgeous old Ravenshoe Hotel, one of those early double storey timber buildings with big verandahs, where we had cups of tea and shared cheese and fruit. We had dinner in the dining room, which is decorated with antique furniture. The owners were very happy to have a full house of merry cyclists.
We set out at 6:30am the next day on our mountain bike ride under a benevolent sky. Rain was forecast, but fortune favours the brave. Sometimes you just have to do it.
Just out of town, Lorraine’s chain came off, so then the three of us were well and truly at the end of the first wave of riders. That first section through the Ravenshoe State forest was quite tricky, as we are not experienced MTB riders. There were some steep sections into and out of gullies. It had been raining so there were some slippery bits and there were some running creeks, so we did some walking and got our feet wet. In a long section of muddy water, we came across a rider who had hit a thick stick in the mud. She had come off and hurt her ankle, so Gayle came to the rescue in the vehicle. We hope the rider has made it home safely and is recovering.
Lorraine and I had the route downloaded onto our phone and Garmin, so we managed not to get badly lost this time, which is a first for our Audax rides. Gayle provided some wonderful photos to help at the tricky turnoffs but the track looked different due to the rain and not quite like the brochure.
We made it out of the forest and onto long lanes of huge eucalypts, past orchards and beef properties. We had been debating whether to do the whole distance. The food stop was in the bit we could have chopped off, and I really wanted some watermelon and a packet of chips. And the other two sounded like they wanted to have a go.
We even made it all the way to the East Evelyn Pioneer War Memorial, which was at halfway. At this point, we weren’t last, as a group of riders had taken a wrong turn and done an extra 10km. They were looking tired.
After the food stop, we were on the tail end again. We headed for Tumoulin and then off into the Tumoulin forest reserve, where it started to rain. Margie was in the lead as we came up to a creek crossing. “Go for it Margie”, I yelled and she did, but it was deep and sandy then rocky and she just saved herself from going for a swim. Lorraine and I quickly decided to walk it and we all washed the mud off our bikes in the creek. The rain got heavier, so Lorraine and Margie transferred their car keys to a waterproof bag. Imagine how much fun it would be, at the end of a long ride, to get back to your car and not be able to start it. Then Margie picked a careful line for us down the muddy hillside, through the running water and the ruts and we suddenly popped out on the main road at the bridge just on the western side of town. We rode past the pub and got a cheer. I yelled to my husband, “We did the whole thing!”. We had arrived at 11:30am, after being out there for 5 hours, and riding 48km. He’d been back since 9am.
Thank you to Gayle, Kim and all our wonderful Audax volunteers. Thank you to Audax for showing us new places and allowing us to challenge ourselves. We will be back again next time to make some more new memories.
AUDAX Colt 70 Cycle Ride, 10 January 2021
Ravenshoe, Far North Queensland (by Ian J)
At 6:30 a.m. sharp an expanded baker’s dozen road cyclists, complete with scanned QR codes, headed out from Ravenshoe’s Grigg St. park onto a softening-up circuit, prologue to a modest 70km excursion. It was roughly 17°C, stunning pale blue sky after the previous day’s drenching. The world sparkled as we rode by a delicate Millstream Falls and back through Ravenshoe village, passing by the Top Pub. Yes! The highest pub in Queensland, boasting adjoining dining rooms that overflowed the previous evening with cyclists and fellow travellers. Its genteel character recalls a near forgotten nineteenth century era, but its chefs served up delicious country-style meals – ideal for cyclists.
Our route took us roughly NNW through Tumoulin to Check-Point #1 where sanitized hands and virally distanced QR code checks sent us on past Queensland’s highest geographical point (1 143m), all the while absorbing the freshness and breathtaking beauty of a spectacular Tablelands morning. No rush. Lockdowns and dreary stuck-at-home TV repeats never crossed our thoughts.
A major turnaround was the lookout towards Millaa Millaa, down a hill called Gentle Annie (‘Gentle’ being a wry misnomer). It overlooks Malaan National Park, but revealed a vast, mist-shrouded valley. (We could imagine ca 1 500km south there might just be a town called Brisbane – or so we believed).
Then an equally hilly journey homeward via those famous windmills and an idyllic, rural diversion along the Old Palmerston Highway and on to Ravenshoe. By then our blue skies were covered by massive cloud as we headed into solid, cascading rainfall – hardly unexpected, of course. While driving wet season rain hammered down, my tropic-centric perspective was corrected by co-cyclist Mary, originally from chilly Co. Cork, Ireland. She declared herself invigorated, cycling in a drenching downpour at 20°C, having not long before ridden 100km ‘back home’ in temperatures hovering between –1°C and +1°C! Warm rain was an absolute joy.
Oh yes! The QR code at 1.5m to finish.
And of course – Jimmy’s video of the ride.
FNQ Audax Calendar 2021
And a general collage of photos from the day (thanks Kim, Luke, Sarah, Sue, Adam and Stuart)
(18 January 2021)