After a COVID interupted Oppy in 2020, the FNQ TrOppy was back in full swing in 2021. Two Big TrOppy teams and five Little TrOppy teams took to the roads of FNQ on Saturday 27 March 2021 with all surviving to tell their tales at breakfast in Port Douglas by early Sunday morning.
Here are their stories:
Are We There Yet ? – Nathan, Chris, Adam, Juanita (362km, 4000+m)
What started as an ordinary Oppy plan turned into an extraordinary adventure after one of our team members suggested a Tablelands route that included 4,000 m of climbing. The starting point for this Epic adventure was the Osmosis Café on Collins Avenue in Cairns – coffee all round and a snack to get us up and ready to go.
At 7.00am we headed up Collins Av and straight away passed the ‘Bike Bitches’ going in the opposite direction, sensibly heading downhill. We however had for some crazed reason chosen to head uphill (at least for the first 2/3rds of the ride). Through the suburbs to the south of Cairns, and the first flat tyre of the day for Chris. Gordonvale for a quick stop to refill bottles etc and on to the first challenge – The Gillies. Halfway up the Gillies and flat number two this time for Nathan. Cannot find anything in the tyre so will continue with a new tube. Of course, by the time we are at Heale’s Lookout the tyre is going down again so check every small cut and eventually found a tiny piece of glass.
Into Yungaburra where it is market day so incredibly lucky to find a spot at the Whistle Stop Cafe for brunch. While at brunch Nathan changed out the tyre full of small cuts for a brand new one to try and avoid that problem.
Next up through to Malanda via Ball Rd and English Rd, top up water bottles and start climbing up Upper Barron Rd heading to the highest point. Getting very hot now in the middle of the day, especially when climbing at slower speeds. Had to stop for a quick breather in the shade just before we got to the Highest point. Nathan’s first time to ride from the coast to the Highest Road in Queensland, so stop for photo opportunity and now a nice fast run through Tumoulin to Ravenshoe.
Of course, all cafes in Ravenshoe closed 10 minutes before we got there, so IGA and dig into the support vehicle supplies and then a late lunch in the park under a tree.
Leaving Ravenshoe it is starting to look a little misty, or is that the light rain that is typical of the region. We headed into the wind and turned right onto Old Palmerston Highway and into the Misty Mountains via Malan Rd. Very picturesque here, but also now raining lightly. Number 3 stop for a flat tyre after one of the wooden bridges. Soon the welcome sight of Millaa Millaa emerged out of the Mist/Rain.
Millaa Millaa still has Café’s open so a stop for hot chips, coffee etc. Wow those hot salty chips are tasting so good! Next up is the climb up East Evelyn Road (lucky it is now dark and misty so can’t see the top) almost back to the elevation of the Highest Road again and the welcome sight of the turnoff to Herberton. WhooHoo! Nice mostly downhill and downwind run from here to Mareeba now. Quick stop in Herberton to fill water bottles and then down the range to Atherton. Stopped at Atherton Macca’s for coffee and another snack (some questionable patrons here).
Through to Tolga and another nice fast run down Channel Road. Out of the misty rain now which is nice, but everything is starting to hurt so will be nice to get to Mareeba for a shower and a hot meal prepared for us by Allison .
Yay!!! Mareeba. Allison, Henry and our fantastic support driver Lauren are all waiting for us at the front gate. Showers and Pasta and now a couple of hours sleep/rest until heading off again.
Alarms go off at 2.30am! Where am I? What’s going on?!?
Get everything ready, quick coffee and snack and head off into the night. We will have to push a bit here to make it on time so set up the pace line and heads down, Mt Molloy here we come. Another quick stop to top up water bottles and rest our sore behinds. Pace line again into the early morning with the moon setting in the west and a last few undulations through Julatten.
The Top of the Rex Range at last!!! Whoosh down the hill, but carefully in the dark on a wet road. Turn right at the highway at the bottom and now straight into a good headwind – Ouch! Looks like we will make it on time though so one last push into Port Douglas.
There it is, Gayle is out on the finish line taking photos and we are all definitely ready to get off our bikes and tuck into breakfast at the Lure Restaurant. Made it with 20 minutes to spare.
Big thanks to Gayle and Kim for all the work they do to organize these events, and also a huge thanks to our support driver Lauren who spent the whole time roaming around the course and meeting us at control points with supplies. Also, a big thanks to Allison and Henry for accommodation for the night, and waiting up almost until midnight for us to arrive.
And the team even made the local paper –
Cairns OFIL Oppy – Sean, Helius, Kevin, Mike, Warren (361km)
A group of Cairns based cycling mates, self described as the OFILs, put together a beer induced cycling calendar during a gathering of its members. Post event, one of the more achievable options put forward was this years Fleche Opperman All Day Trial. Team Cairns OFIL Oppy was born comprising a team of five, being Michael, Sean, Kevin , Helius and Warren . Control support was provided by two of the participant’s wives, Maree and Douline – AKA life savers!
Our route was settled after several days of chat group bickering and three reconnaissance rides along most of the route in the weeks leading to the event. Most of the changes involved avoiding some of the hills that were somewhat ambitiously included in the original draft of the course. Departing from Atherton, we looped around to Kairi, Tolga, Dimbulah, Mareeba, Mt Molloy and after a 10 km out and back towards Mt Carbine, across to Mossman with two coastal loops finally finish at Port Douglas.
Departure went ahead as planned although Kevin was dismayed to discover that he had no back brakes, the day after a service on his bike. A range of repair options were considered, but the original bike servicer agreed to do a warranty job after he closed the shop for the day, and we were met at the Mareeba control point (200km) to resolve this. This was critical for a later night descent of the Rex Range to Mossman.
Great pace was maintained for the run to just past Dimbulah with a useful tailwind assisting us for the first 120 km. At this point we had to turn into the wind and head back to Dimbulah for lunch at 128 km. By now the day had warmed up considerably, the road tilted up towards the dividing range, and the wind blew against us enthusiastically for the next 70 km to Mareeba. The author certainly struggled along this section, and there was general agreement that it was pretty tough.
A decent break and repaired brakes at Mareeba (198 km) had us departing slightly refreshed for the long slog over to Mount Molloy. Endurance riders describe the highs and lows experienced during any distance event, and some of the team reported this as a particularly trying segment, but some heroic work on the front by various members of the team saw reach Mt Molloy (240 km), in the fading light at the end of the day. No one was excited by the out and back towards Mt Carbine, but the wind blew us strongly towards the turn around point and with the cooling temperatures, the pace was picking up a bit.
At the turn around point, it was back towards Mt Molloy and a night run via Julatten, towards the descent of the Rex Range. There were mixed feelings at the top of the descent – no pedalling for a while, but it was dark, wet and slippery, so with caution we proceeded down the range and successfully arrived at the bottom, and made our way to Mossman (298 km) for a late dinner stop.
Arrival was at around 20:45 where there was pre-ordered dinner and bit of a break waiting for us. We had a final 27 km loop around Mossman to complete which commenced at 2130. On the home straight to complete the days riding, disaster struck, when Sean came down on a wet set of cane train tracks. He landed derailleur side down so after determining Sean was okay we set to work gently tweaking his hanger back into some form of alignment. This was successfully completed and the days riding ended some 20 minutes later on arrival at our motel (320 km), for about four hours sleep.
We were out the door at 0500 the following morning, for the final 40 km to Port Douglas. This leg involved riding out to Yule Point, hopefully to witness a motivational sunrise, a lap around the Mowbray Loop, then into Port for the end of ride and breakfast.
The ride started with yet another disaster, when Sean fell off on Tram Tracks AGAIN!! – But we knew he was okay because he bounced up immediately, let off a few swear words and stopped just short of kicking his bike into the nearby cane fields. We straightened his derailleur hanger (again) and off we went for our final 39 km. We passed or crossed paths with other Oppy teams giving us encouragement that we were not the only idiots out at that time of morning. On arrival at Yule point, we witnessed the inspiring colours of first light peeping over the horizon. After a photo, it was back on the bike and around the Mowbray loop. Approaching Port Douglas, it was calculated that one of the riders would pull up a kilometre short of the magic 360km so we did a quick detour on the outskirts of Port, in order to obtain the requisite distance.
We rolled over the finish line at 0650 and joined the other Oppy teams for a very enjoyable breakfast.
Certainly bits of the ride were tough, lots of it was exhilarating, and the changing and diverse range of scenery made it very enjoyable course to ride. Perhaps in places fatigue diminished the beauty of some of the places we passed through, but once it was over there was that overriding smug sense of achievement that we had completed something special. We were all a little bit proud and really happy with what we had done.
Pirates in Tight Pants – Stan, Steve, Bob, Rex, Tony (180km)
We had a team decision to push on earlier in our ride on the 27th due to health safe reasons to escape some of the arvo heat, as a few of our riders have a bit of age concerns. We managed more kms earlier in the day pushing hard in the cool to get to Mt Molloy with 115km up and feeling fine. The Rex Range was wet, pouring rain and real challenge.
Got safely to the bottom to have one of our team slip on the railway line and come off his bike. A few stickers at Mossman Hospital fixed him up. We all completed the Oppy clocking 27km average for the day. The sunrise on Four Mile Beach together was unforgettable. Our thanks to Audax for organising all our rides.
Surecrank Redemption – Deb, Lloyd, Mikey, Ray, Peter (184km)
The early Saturday morning sun rose over a group of extreme, chiselled athletes, eager to embark on their epic adventure. It also rose on the Surecrank Redemption. At the allocated departure time, plus one minutes, Surecranks were off. And thanks to modern GPS technology, the 160 km first day started with a missed turn by the lead out man at the 1 km mark. This was going to be a long day. But after a pep talk from Captain Deb, Surecranks were in action.
After some riding in Atherton, and then to Tolga and a back roads route to Mareeba (along which enthusiasm produced a KOM Strava segment record), there was confidence in the team of five. Into Mareeba right on schedule…. time for coffee. But at the Mareeba Deli a shock. The Pirates in Tight Pants group were already there, eating plates of baked beans and cake. Carbo loading! They left as we ordered our coffee. But no worries…something to chase. This wasn’t competitive (Ha).
Back on the road again, and the Surecranks melded into the practised pace line that would have impressed Mitchelton Scott. Kilometres flew by as Mount Molloy was targeted. It had nothing to do with the tail wind, or slight downhill gradient. And just before Mount Molloy, the Pirates were caught and a combined pack rode to a park for a break and snacks.
But the sneaky Pirates were not to be outdone. They rode off as a Surecrank member visited the public toilet. But there was no need for concern. They were passed again as the road rose towards the start of the Rex Range, and were not seen again.
The Pirates weren’t seen, but the rain was. Descending the Rex Range was a slippery and slow event. RSI set into the hands grasping those brake levers. Upon reflection, the sign at the top saying 7 km of riding road must have lied. It went on and on, all the time eating into the impressive average speed that the Surecranks had already achieved. What is it about the Oppy Audax and rain?
At the bottom of the range, the track to Mossman for lunch was like riding through a car wash. Slippery train tracks, road water and reduced visibility….it would make a less professional team quake. But at last … a very pleasant lunch in Mossman to await the passing of the rain. All safe, but a bit cold.
The break in the rain lasted about 2 kms into the final stretch into Port Douglas. A detour off the highway around Cooya Beach gave the Surecranks a pleasant respite from the traffic, but then it was back on the Highway into Port Douglas. Of course, the 160 kms culminated at Hemmingway’s brewery at the Marina, where liquid replacement was a priority. All safe, after what was an enjoyable ride.
The final 25kms were completed the next day with a ride to Mowbray. Captain Deb said it was a very picturesque ride. It was ridden in pitch darkness. But, anyway, it was now time for breakfast.
Bike Bitches – Jane, Trudi, Mary Ann, Stefan (196km)
When the clock finally ticked over to 7am, the Bitches leapt onto their bikes and pedalled away….For about 100 metres – at which stage Captain Bitch Jane decided it would be prudent to know which way to turn in order to stay true to our route.
Once our direction was sorted we headed around Mt Whitfield, then headed on a southern meander through the suburbs, Mount Peter Road and the back streets of Gordonvale. By this stage Honorary Bitch Stefan could not be kept away from coffee any longer so we stopped for morning tea at The Trolley.
The second 50kms took us around Green Hill, out to the Boat Ramp, and then back north to the Whiterock General Store, where Coca Cola presented appropriately named cans. (Although we are no longer allowed to use one of those names as the weekend is over and Princess insisted we could only use that name for the duration of the Oppy.)
During the day’s final (and rather melty) 50 km, conversation turned to where the route could be detoured from and back to best fit in a visit to MacAlisters. Bitches Mary-Ann and Trudie were clearly motivated by beer and raced away to grab the best table.
Fully refuelled by beer and the most delectable hot chips ever, we cruised to the day’s finish line at Pepper’s Palm Cove.
We reconvened there early the next morning and enjoyed a lovely tailwind to Port Douglas and arrived with plenty of time to witness a bloody gorgeous sunrise at the beach.
Perfect finish to a hugely enjoyable Oppy!
The Comeback Kids – Chris, Cheryl, Liliana, Matt, Gayle, David, Connie (180km)
Oppy season normally conjures up thoughts of doing big and crazy things on a bike. For some of the Comeback Kids, simply wheeling the bike out of the shed was a super big thing. Our training rides (all three of them) were peppered with stories of how little riding we had been doing and how many flagging riders our super supporter (Kim, of course) could fit in his truck on the day.
As the training weeks rolled by (yep, three of them – it was a short roll), spirits were lifted by the realisation that Audax sees bikes as more count-worthy than people in an Oppy team. Hence our team grew to include three single bikes, two tandems and seven cyclists, with Cheryl and Lil now very keen to participate as stokers and watch the scenery float by from the back seat (or so they thought).
Our ride plan was simple. Find the easiest course available, ride as slowly as possible, stop whenever we needed, and eat as much we could. I am fully satisfied that we achieved all our goals. The Kids took off from Atherton following the course David had plotted for the aborted 2020 Oppy. A gentle Kairi loop with an obligatory stop for coffe and a chat with the usual cycling crowd at Tolga – after a stunning hit out of 22km.
There was a mild bit of elevation through the backblocks of Tolga and before we hit that wonderful downhill run towards Mareeba.
Unfortunately, Mt Uncle distillery wasn’t open for a quick refreshment but we took a photo opportunity anyway. Then another at the Granite Gorge lookout to admire the view, stretch the legs and take a few snaps……..before rolling into Mareeba for morning tea, which seemed to turn into a gourmet extravaganza. There was just so much to chat about over our quick break before we retrieved our bikes an hour or more later.
The day was heating up as we headed north towards Mt Molloy. We formed a steady paceline, sharing turns on the front until we found Kim quietly melting on the midway truck stop. Another 20km finished !! Definitely snack time.
From melting heat to pouring rain – the FNQ TrOppy didn’t disappoint. We found our first downpour heading into Mt Molloy, although it fortunately eased enough to allow us all to enjoy our picnic lunch at the rest area.
The team then rolled on towards Julatten, sensibly taking the back road away from the highway to enjoy the views and a more relaxed approach to the ride. And a short stop or two to rest tired legs and sensitive bottoms around the 120km mark, while we congratulated David, Connie and Lil for their longest ever ride. The rain visited again at the top of the range and we huddled in someone’s driveway trying to look as inconspicuous as you can with seven cyclists and a bevvy of bikeware.
We all managed to get down the range, with Matt and Lil setting some sort of land speed record for the tandem descent. We reached Port Douglas still upright and smiling, ready to head for the pool and to eat mountains of pizza with the Pirates in Tight Pants and Surecrank Redemption teams that evening.
Before sunrise on Sunday, we were up again and ready for action. We tackled the loop around Mowbray River Road, seeing the tailights of several other teams flashing around the area. The sunrise was sensational as we rolled back towards breakfast at Port Douglas. Just outside the Lure, we suffered our only mechanical issue of the trip when Connie punctured with 1km to go, but fortunately not interupting our well-made breakfast plans.
Thanks to all the Comeback Kids for working together for a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Port Douglas. I hear plans are afoot for an even bigger team in 2022.
Five School Day IPAs…..Cheers (Paul, Chrissy, Peter, Anita, Darren)
We left Macalister’s in high spirits and warmed up down the highway before taking on the “Beast”?It was a beaut climb up the Gillies, but there was a lot of traffic with the Yungaburra markets on. Brunch was taken at the Whistlestop Cafe in Yungaburra. Crazy busy ?
Then we snuck through the back way on Mark’s Lane to Tolga for a quick beverage mid ride ??
Then it was time to raise the spinnaker and we flew downwind to Mareeba, stopping in at the Heritage Museum for a cold drink.
We steeled ourselves and battled the brutal wind back to Kuranda. An unplanned stop at Koah was required, for a break from the heat, before we were snaking our way down the range for some post ride recovery drinks.
First order of business at Macalister’s “”Five School Day IPA’s….cheers”????? There may have been a few more rounds, 5 I think, but I can’t fully recall?, whilst we devoured some hot chips and poured over the days events.
We then saddled up, headed home our separate ways for some well earned shut eye in our own beds! We re grouped again in the morning….at Macalister’s at 0445!
It was a fast trip up the coast road to Port, enjoying the magnificent sunrise over Four Mile Beach. Not sure who suggested we add Flagstaff Hill (may, or may not have been me?), but Paul suggested he was the wrong person to ask, so I checked with Chrissy, she said yes, so it was up Flagstaff Hill for the view before rolling down and in to Lure for breakfast to join the other crazy Oppy crews?? Whilst there was no record attempt this year, it was a great day out and we all enjoyed it immensely. Even Anita and Chrissy who swore over breakfast they were getting a lift and not riding back from Port…..they were wrong!?
Thanks goes to my team mates Paul, Pete, Chrissy & Anita for a fun weekend.
(2 April 2021)