Ride Three of the Super Series – a 400km oddessey re-tracing most of the roads of the 200km and 300km – and adding a bit more at the end. Thanks to David M for a great ride report.
Back again and most of the same crew made their way up to Wongabel to this time participate in the Audax Super Series 400km ride.
Everyone rolled out at more bearable start time of 6am as a group of 8 into the cool Tablelands morning. Covered head to toe in warm gear for our impending climb up to Herberton to warm the legs up.
The group quickly split into a number of smaller groups with Dave and Virve together and Grahame at the front and the trio of Nola, Ian and Gayle right behind as we rode into the sunrise up the Herberton range and down through the spectacular upper Barron road. Nola, Ian and Gayle were joined by Mary Ann and Dietmar for their climb through Herberton and Longlands Gap.
The first checkpoint was Malanda at 55kms in where Virve and David caught up to Grahame. We were welcomed with open arms, and a large array of food and drinks on offer. Mark was also there to welcome us and join Nola, Ian and Gayle on their arrival.
The first checkpoint was the opportunity to quickly ditch most of the extra layers, and grab a snack before rolling out again to crisscross the rolling mountainside before making our way to Wongabel, not before David was apparently chased by a very ambitious Jack Russell / Corgi mix, and the group nearly had to stop for a gang of loud turkeys who were hanging out on the back road behind Gallo Dairy.
At our second checkpoint stop back at Wongabel, we smashed down food and very tasty and cool fruit smoothies to reload that Kim skillfully knocked up at a moment’s notice. Mary Ann and Mark finished their ride at Wongabel (as planned) but Dietmar continued through to Tolga where he met Jenny and became a volunteer. Ian and Nola and Gayle then stayed together for the rest of the ride.
Onward we rode over to Kairi, then Tolga and over to Springmount road steering us towards Dimbulah. After a brief fluid top-up at the end of Springmount Road where Mundi was all decked out with her sunbathing chair next to the mango trees, we had the chance to down a cold can of coke and wave to the Savannahlander, before we made our way to Dimbulah via the backroad loop for the next checkpoint.
Virve and Dave swapped their kits this time, and joined Grahame to be fuelled by a load of caffeine and questionable reasons as to why we ride these ridiculous distances we powered back to Mareeba directly into an unforgiving headwind.
Ian and Nola and Gayle kept a steady pace throughout on their way towards Dimbulah. A few dogs chased them on Springmount Road, but the dogs clearly overcommitted to the cause and gave up soon after meeting the last of the great dog whisperers, Nola and Ian! Word has it, Nola and the gang loved the wind to Dimbulah, and were lucky that it was easing off from about halfway back to Mareeba.
By the time Grahame and co had reached Mareeba Maccas night had fallen! The cheers we were greeted with from our ever enthusiactic support crew lifted our spirits which was great with a large side of fries from Maccas! From there and in the pitch black of the night, Dave, Grahame and Virve made their way on to Mt Molloy for the next checkpoint.
Again greeted by the support crew it really lifted our spirits at this point, whilst we were entertained by an eccentric local. By now fatigue was really setting in and it was becoming hard to eat or drink, but with hours still to go on the bike we were able to stomach a few light things. The two Trios crossed paths just out of Mt Molloy with words of encouragement all round!
It was getting quite chilly by now and we were thankful we had kitted back up with the base layers. The sky with no light pollution was on point. The Milky Way looking simply amazing which lead to Dave to pondering the big unanswerable questions in life looking up at the stars.
On final quick stop at Mareeba again before powering our way back to Atherton and then onto Wongabel. Virve, Dave and Grahame mostly rode in silence with their minds on the finish line and a hot shower,
Meanwhile, Nola, Ian and Gayle were also making steady progress towards the finish. Word has it, by then, Gayle was talking nonsense to Nola to try and keep her awake, noticing she had the definite nods all the way from Walkamin. Gayle kept making inane noises about how that was our last bit of highway, and our last big climb, and our last bit of Tolga. Nola was uncharacteristically monosyllabic in response.
Virve, Grahame and Dave made it back to base at 2:15am, after Virve went on a small mission to get her 200m to reach 400km for Strava. Ian, on the other hand, was doing hill repeats on Fraser Road at the end, as his Garmin had lost 3km along the way. Gayle reflected how it was all a bit weird coming back along Wongabel Road, trying to remember what it felt like riding out nearly 22 hours earlier. Surreal was probably the closest description. Gayle, Ian and Nola reached home base at 3.46am.
Finally, a MASSIVE shoutout to the beautiful people looking after us as support crew with all the baked goods, cheers and motivation.
They were so cheerful and encouraging at every stop, even when being hassled by that “colourful” character in Mt Molloy late at night. Even when Gayle asked them to relocate away from Mt Molloy to the truck stop halfway back to Mareeba, they quickly packed everything up, and were there with yet another full-on welcome and hot chocolates for us when we arrived. And they reckon we are good !! We seriously couldn’t do it without them.
David and Virve