Friday night in Wongabel – the place was abuzz with cyclists and volunteers getting ready for a big weekend on the bike. Six cyclists (Grahame, Chris, Virve, David, Ian, Gayle) were ready to tackle the road, with five Super Series jerseys on offer. Multiple truckloads of food had been prepared. The volunteers (Kim, Mundi, Leanne) were working through plans. The weather was looking uncertain but the mood was definitely upbeat.
Thanks to Leanne for a “volunteers-eye-view” ride report, and to Chris for his “on-the-road” version of the event.
The Last Step – 600 kms
Six hardy souls, intent on achieving the coveted Super Series jersey set off in the small hours of Saturday morning after spending the night at Wongabel headquarters enjoying the never-ending hospitality and yummy food supplied by Gayle and Kim (well – mostly Kim really!)
First stop a drizzly grey Millaa Millaa and disaster strikes – Ian has broken his gear cable and all seems lost, until the wonderfully generous Peter at Wobble-In Cycles in Innisfail agrees to stay open on a Saturday afternoon until Ian manages to crank his way there down the Palmerston range in a single gear – OK until you hit the hill out of Beatrice River, I guess.
So – an amazing quick fix and It’s on to Flying Fish point where Cheryl volunteers at the next checkpoint and has baked enough goodies to feed an army. But it’s the great coffee I’m hanging for (after a mercy dash back home to Gordonvale and back to pick up Ian’s second bike – well just in case someone said. Who WAS that actually? My thoughts of chilling and reading while I waited evaporating!)
Ian fixing a puncture in Babina, after he’d fixed one for Gayle in Innisfail, then fixed her seized rear skewer….. Not his best bike-mechanic day.
The six riders have broken into three groups by now – Graham and Chris leading the charge, then Dave and Vee followed by Gayle and Ian. I follow Gayle and Ian into Bramston Beach, a beautiful afternoon appearing with the sun beginning to shine after a heavy rain shower coming down the range.
Water and food replenishments and they are off to Gordonvale, following a lush green scenic route via Garradunga and Eubenangee swamp. Darkness falls and they arrive at Gordonvale Maccas around 8pm… to be met by the ever cheerful and exuberant Sean McGuiness (ably assisted by Mary!) who tells Ian he has been waiting as support to ride with him up the range. What a great friend and cyclist!!
Unfortunately, Gayle is not feeling great and wisely pulls out here and off the boys go – Ian later telling me Sean chatted the entire way up the mountain and at one stage even told him he needed to slow down!! Kim awaits at Gillies Road House and then it’s the final push back to headquarters, for few hours’ sleep.
This is where I join everyone again on Sunday morning and follow Ian out on his third loop. Lush green gives way to dry and brown as the riders head out to Mareeba, via Springmount Road. Our friend Roy meets us at the bottom of his driveway near the end of Channel Road and supplies Ian with welcome cold ginger beers. Then a tough “into the swirling wind” ride into Mareeba where we support Maccas once again and eat a few hamburgers (well Dave, anyway!)
Fifty kms to go- and the end is achievable now! Along Chewko road, around the back of Tolga and onto Wongabel – Ian rides into the driveway and the great support which has been on show all the way rises to the occasion and there’s all the riders and volunteers standing to cheer, clap and hug him as he rides in.
All in all, a memorable weekend – the champagne quaffed at the end making it impossible for us to drive down the range and so another night at Wongabel!
A big thanks again to the huge efforts put in by Gayle and Kim to make it all happen, to Cheryl for the wonderful spread and fortifying coffee at Flying Fish Point, to Mundi who did the mammoth job of supporting all riders for the whole 600kms, to Sean for just being Sean, to the weather for holding and to the cyclists for just cycling!
And from Chris –
600k…. that seems like a long way, and probably painful…….
That was my first thought when it came to the 600 but for some strange reason the idea that I may actually do it started to seem not so crazy and the next thing I knew I was signing up. I must have a screw loose somewhere!
Stage 1 – 355 kilometres, 3,736 meters of climbing, 17 hours
So early on Saturday morning we set off and straight up the Herberton Range just to warm the legs up. A little foggy up the top and on and upwards to the Highest Road in Qld sign. Quick stop for a photo and then a nice fast run down to Ravenshoe.
Windy hill was windy with the usual mizzle but once past there the ride into Milla Milla on the Old Palmerston Highway was quite nice. Quick stop in Millaa Millaa for coffee and some snacks and time to head down the Palmerston. Of course, we have to head back up another hill again before we get to go down.
A few trucks and traffic to contend with here after having been on quieter roads for the most part. Onwards into a slight headwind with Graham and I taking turns on the front every few kilometres, we had a decent shower of rain but it didn’t last too long and soon we were heading through Innisfail on the way to lunch at Cheryl and Chris’s Place where Cheryl had an amazing feast set out for us.
After lunch we set off again on a tour of the back roads of Innisfail and then through the fields to Bramston Beach. Quick stop to refill bottles and top up on snacks and then the supposedly downwind stretch to Gordonvale. A bit disappointed in the tailwind which seemed to be mostly a crosswind.
Hot chips and coke at Macca’s to fuel up for the trip up the Gillies. Almost dark at the bottom of the Gillies and the legs and everything else is now starting to hurt. Steady steady up the big hill to the Gillies Roadhouse where we were very happy to see Kim waiting with hot soup and other goodies for us.
Now to finish it off, if I can manage to remount the bicycle without falling off. Bit of a wobbly start, around Lake Eacham, Kairi, almost to Tolga, through Atherton and back to Woongabel. Yay!!
Stage 1 out of the way so time for a bite to eat and get a few hours sleep before tackling Stage 2.
Stage 2 & 3 – 244 kilometres, 2241 metres of climbing, 11 hours
5.00AM wake up a bit stiff and sore. Breakfast and off we go again! Up the Kennedy Highway into a beautiful morning and a nice fast roll down Upper Barron to Malanda. Just starting to feel like the stiffness has subsided so straight through town and on to one of my favourite loops on Merragallan Road. Rolling hills through to Peeramon, Ball Road and Yungaburra.
Bit of a tour through Tinnaburra, just relaxing and taking in the views of the lake. Next up is East Barron and back to Wongabel for lunch, coffee and replenish supplies. Pretty happy with our speed, and we are about where I thought we would be time wise so far.
Now we just have to get through the last 145k or so. Heading for Springmount Road in the hottest part of the day, downwind so speed is good, but by Springmount Rd the heat reflecting up from the bitumen is fierce. Mundi manning the secret control at the turn off is a welcome sight with ice blocks and Coke. Really starting to feel the heat now and it is going to be all upwind and mostly uphill from here. We set off towards Mareeba into the headwind at a slow but steady pace, Graham and I still rolling turns on the front.
Mareeba finally! And we have arrived at the control before our support so check the time and take photos and push on up Chewko Rd. Not far to go now but hard work here still all the way to Tolga where the going gets a bit easier and it is now starting to cool off.
Through Atherton and we can sense the end is near so start to push a bit harder for the final run back to Wongabel
Made it – absolutely worn out! Awesome shower and dinner and a relax and debrief of the ride.
Thanks so much to Gayle and Kim for making it all possible, and the volunteers along the way – Mundi, Leanne, Cheryl, Mary and Sean who kept us fed and hydrated and offered encouragement where needed.
|Flying Fish Point|