FNQ Audax Does Oppy 2022

In FNQ, we’ve established something of a reputation for not following convention. Maybe the tropical heat and rain, or the higher latitudes have affected our ability to do things strictly by the book. Or maybe, sometimes we just get it plain wrong. Whatever the reasoning, FNQ Audax saw no reason to change this happy culture for the 2022 running of our part of the nation-wide Audax event.

Since the first episode of the FNQ Tr-Oppy in 2017, there have been numerous teams who have challenged themselves through heat, floods and cyclones to finish a Big TrOppy or a Little TrOppy, arriving at Port Douglas ready to share their adventures with our over-excited and bleary-eyed group. In 2022, two Big TrOppy teams hit the start line. Sweat and Gears opted for a longer and flatter course, starting down south near Crystal Creek. With a line-up of noted hard core cyclists, it was always going to be an adventure. Chris, Keith, Nathan, Juanita and Melanie completed 405km, most of which were even planned in advance, with thanks to Lauren as their supporter (they definitely needed her). Thanks to Juanita for her ride report.

Sweat and Gears

The Audax “Oppy” or, TrOppy as we call it in FNQ, was on again at the weekend. Last year our team headed for the hills with a ridiculous amount of climbing so this time around we were deserving of a nice flat route. Having done just over 360km last year we had to aim higher – naturally!

Once again we had the usual suspects lining up for more punishment – Captain Chris U (Turtle), Nathan S (bad dad joke bloke), Juanita B (midlife menopausal mamba), our support superstar Lauren E and two new additions – Keith F (aka Bridget ?) and Melanie B (Townsville Terrier) which completed out team Sweat and Gears.

Getting off the highway Not all roads are what they seem Hinchinbrook Lookout

We started our ride at Crystal Creek, which is just outside Townsville, on Saturday 19th March at 7.00 am sharp. We were fortunate the weather was favourable, considering the past few weeks of constant rain and heat wave like conditions prior to that. We arrived at our first stop in Ingham for coffee when disaster struck! Nathan’s Di2 shat itself leaving him in only one gear. This called for an adjustment to our pace to accommodate the fact that Nathan would now be riding a fixie. With this little hiccup we soldiered on like disciplined troopers.

1. Lunch at Cardwell 2. Escaping the heat at Tully 3. Man Down!!! Nathan down, but certainly not out

We stopped in Cardwell for lunch as midday approached and the mercury began to rise. We were throwing back the drinks like kids at Schoolies Week and at our next stop at Tully, a bag of ice for our water bottles and a handful of cubes down the bibs was nothing short of a god send.

We welcomed the cloud cover as midday turned to afternoon and our route took us off the Bruce highway to the back roads. We reached Innisfail at dusk. With all our supplies topped up again, night lights and high vis gear on we braced ourselves for the long haul in the dark to Babinda.

We had quite an unexpected but interesting money-can’t-buy experience in the Eubenangee Swamp around 9.00 pm but you know how it is ……..what happens in the swamp, stays in the swamp!!

The swamp area 24 hours earlier ….. We leave the rest to your imagination

Stunned, delirious and weary we rolled into Babinda around 10:00 pm an hour behind schedule. Wonder Woman Lauren had hot fish and chips waiting for us which we scoffed down like boarding school kids at dinner time. With belly’s full and spirits lifted we powered on to Gordonvale for a brief loo stop.

We finally reached Palm Cove in a zombie state at 1.00 am Sunday morning. A hot shower melted all the tiredness away but for some it brought on a whole world of pain associated with water hitting parts of the body where the sun don’t shine. But after a couple of pieces of consoling pizza we put our heads down at 2 am for a nap.

  1. 1. 5.00 am Sunday = Go time to Port Douglas!      2. Arrived in Port Douglas     3.Racing to the finish line!     4. And some prefer to cruise

The alarm sounding at 4 am was like a sledgehammer to the head and the temptation to turn it off and go back to sleep was something we could have easily done. But hey, we’re not a bunch of quitters and our mission had yet to be accomplished. We left Palm Cove at 5 am sharp and carved up the scenic route to Port Douglas in the dark. We arrived with smiles from ear to ear and 30 minutes before the 7 am deadline.

WE DID IT! Big TrOppy 2022 completed! 415km with 14.40 hours moving time, 23:34 hours elapsed time and an average speed of 28.3 which is freaking awesome considering Nathan had to ride most of it in one gear so a thousand kudos’s to that.

Thanks to Captain Chris who planned our ride with meticulous precision, to Lauren who made this ride possible by serving as our lifeline and the rest of the crew, Nathan, Keith and Mel who made this fun-filled experience an incredible one and so worthwhile. Thanks also to FNQ Audax honchos Gayle and Kim who run this annual event.

Where do we sign up for next year?!!

There’s nothing quite like those finish line feels – While the sense of achievement is short lived, the memories created last forever

Because why not ?????? Our lovely Lauren, super support champ that we seriously wouldn’t have been able to do this ride without XXX

The Fourth Extreme

Another version of the original Extremes made an appearance again at the FNQ Big TrOppy. Maybe not the famous singing kind, but more of a “some-of-us-have-ridden-most-FNQ-TrOppys-since-the-first-one” kind. This year, Gayle and Mary Ann were joined by Verena and Bernie with both of our newcomers tackling the Oppy (or any ride over 300km) for the first time. While Mary Ann and Verena worked hard on their ride prep, Gayle substituted training time with efforts to find the ultimate downhill, down wind, climbing-avoidant course. And we just kept Bernie in the dark about the finer details of the ride. And then hoped that Kim’s fabulous ride support and lashing of good food would keep us going to the finish.

From here, Mary Ann takes up the story.

March 19th dawned and surprisingly there was no heavy rain on the roof! Always a good start to the Oppy ride.

Our intrepid team, Gayle, Verena, Bernie and I set off at 7am from Upper Barron Road, determined to be there at the end and ready to enjoy a long ride on the bike.

Misty (non-rain) at the start

Our route, carefully mapped out by team leader, Gayle, took us on a tour of Atherton Tablelands back roads, scenic rural vistas and small towns as we wound our way to Mt Molloy and down the Rex range to the coast.

As darkness fell, our route took us on a wild adventure down an unfamiliar road through Biboohra…. thoughts of the movie Deliverance definitely entered our heads as dogs howled, residents were seemingly unwelcoming and the remoteness of our location was slightly unnerving. However, we made it out safely and continued on our merry way!

Our secret weapon was undoubtedly Kim who made coffee for us at every checkpoint, found pizzas and other goodies to keep us fed and hydrated and generally made our ride experience as good as it was.

The “Kim” secret weapon – in action at Mutchilba

We reached our accommodation at Pt Douglas and gladly put our heads down for a few hours’ rest before the final assault on our Oppy ride.

There’s a certain satisfaction in completing a long ride and personally, I think Team Fourth Extreme rose to the challenge and acquitted ourselves admirably!

There was a point where one of our members vowed to sell her bike, never wanting to ride it again, but overall we had a great day out!

Thanks especially to Gayle and Kim without whom this Oppy 2022 ride would not have been possible…. see you all next Year!

2022 saw the return of the Pirates in Tight Pants – a long-suffering local crew, captained again this year by Bob and ably assisted by Brian and Ray. Thankfully they had Kaylene as support. It’s always a delight to see the Pirates showing up for breakfast in Port Douglas, complete with bandanas and eye patches, and bubbling with enthusiasm. Thanks for the ride report, Bob. (You can almost hear him telling the story !!)

Pirates in Tight Pants

This was my third little Oppy – last two were quite tricky with cyclonic type weather. This yr 22 event was a dream ride 180k. 

We left Atherton with our small team of three riders and one support vechile with spares and tucker for along the way, Kaylene driving. Nice earlier start to miss some of the late day heat . 6am headed out of town Hasties Rd through to the lanes off Malanda Hwy heading for Kairi drizzly rain ? getting heavier as we rolled along. Sun up by 6.30 am then left onto Tolga Rd into Tolga. First 10ks was rain not too bad then lifted and by Tolga some blue sky looking north. 25k down twinkle stop at Tolga and a smile as the day was clearing. Bit of a stretch and on our way round the back way to Rocky Ck and on to channel rd turn left onto it and enjoyed a great tail wind onto Chettel rd  pulled over for a snack and quick stretch again I need those stretches or I’d never make it . Now past the prison farm heading to dimbula rd  then right towards Mareba for breaky at the Deli main st  . Kaylenes there waiting for us and we all enjoyed a nice cuppa and toastie 45min break and back on the hwy nth 70ks done and heading for Mt Molly tail wind still great Help. We’re at Mareeba by 8.30 . Kaylene rolled past us out of town a we leap frogged each other on our way . We’re all felling ok. Av over 31 Kph so far .

About 10 k out of M Molloy Ray and l felt a bit of soreness so pulled over for another stretch and snack bar , on our way again and slowed the pace a few Ks as we were only 10 k out of Molly so eased for a bit . Got to Molly about 11.15 Kaylene had lunch laid out at the ol PO 111ks down . Had a well earned rest boots off for 45m full tummy plenty of fluids an off again . Ray and l had a few yrs on my mate Brian from Tville . Brian is only 53 y.  Ray  73 and myself 66 . Took quite a bit to hold Brian back but he made an awesome wind break . Thanks mate . More stretches and 40k of climbing in front of us through Julaton on the Rex ra decent , pulled over on second lookout for pics and check our legs were still attached .

Rolled on very clear fully on wet range rd to Mossman hwy pulled over to check on each other  then head wind and tired legs turned right for the next 15k into The Port . Arrived about 1pm  155ks done and into the pool ?‍♀️ with a coldy . The motel bed was heaven for avo camp . Great meal at the verandas pub up town and watch the Cowboys on the big screen .  

Up at 5.30 and we rode off down old port rd found a beach more pics and back for breaky we’d completed our 180 plus . Was great to see all the other riders at breaky on the wharf   Shame numbers were down this yr . Thanks again to Gayle and Kim  organising everything as usual .??BobA  Pirates ..

Each year, a lot of FNQ locals ask about doing “variations” to the rules of the Oppy. And some have just done variations. Team reports over breakfast in Port Douglas can sometimes sound like true confessions. So this year, we let it rip (apparently it’s the fashionable thing to do). And the FNQ Fl-Oppy was born. The rules were simple – register for the FNQ Little TrOppy, give the RO some vague idea of what you plan to do, and do whatever you like. And if you could show up for brekky and let us in on the story, it would be awesome. Three teams took up the inaugural FNQ Fl-Oppy challenge.

Fast and Furious Sometimes

Our first foray in the Fl-Oppy was fabulous with a few fast and furious moments during the 180km!

Team Fast and Furious Sometimes members: Allison, Jimmy, Akemi, Kellie, Merrilee and Glenys are a group of Cardiac Challenge riders of varying strengths/fitness levels/ages from Mareeba and Cairns. The Fl-Oppy took the pressure off and we just had fun for the weekend. Some team members made 50km, 103km, or 155km on Saturday and the intrepid Allison rode the extra 25km in Port Douglas to finish off 180km by 7:00am on Sunday. A highlight was the largely downhill loop along Channel Road, followed not long after by the downhill along Chewko Road, our best FnF moments of the day!

The new flexible Fl-Oppy category meant we could do out and back loops from Mareeba using our house as the go to point for lunch, top-ups and even a short Shiatsu session by Akemi! This gave us the confidence to tackle the 155km in one day.

Some say it was the pink lippy sunscreen and great team spirit that helped each of us to break through and ride further than other training rides. Two team members drove to Port Douglas Saturday night and finishing up the next day before breakfast was a lovely way to wrap up and we enjoyed hearing other team’s stories about their intrepid rides.

We are very appreciative of the FNQ event organisers’ willingness to offer the flexible option and we’re now planning to take on the ‘normal’ small OPPY of 180km point to point event in 2023!  We’ve also been spreading the word amongst other Cardiac Challenge riders to try the Fl-Oppy in 2023! Hundreds of riders each year complete the FNQ Cardiac Challenge, a 337km, 3 day ride from Cairns to Cooktown to raise funds for new cardiac equipment at the Cairns Hospital with just over $500,000 raised by the 2021 event.

And we even got a “Jimmy’s-eye-view” of the ride. Thanks Jimmy.

The Turtles

Twenty year old Elena and her father, Joe (of undisclosed age), were a last minute entry in the Fl-Oppy, seeing it as a great training ride for the Cairns half and full Ironman events in June. Elena’s tackling her first 70.3 (half) Ironman and Joe’s lining up as the only competitor to have completed each of the 10 Cairns Ironman events (3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42km run).

Elena and Joe rode 155km on Saturday heading south from Mareeba along Chewko Road turning into Channel Road after Walkamin to head back to town and then north to Mt Molloy, turning east to head down the Rex Range to Port Douglas. They were early to rise Sunday to complete the last 25km with Allison Sciani from another Fl-Oppy team, Fast and Furious Sometimes. 

The new Fl-Oppy category provided the opportunity for anther great father/daughter bonding moment, indeed 180kms of moments, with Elena breaking through 100km which had been her longest training ride. 

Team Turtles are looking forward to finding other team members so they can tackle the ‘proper’ Little Oppy in 2023! A very special thank you to Gayle and Kim for organising the event, very much appreciated!

Our Third Fl-Oppy team evolved from an idea that was several years old. Some of our FNQ riders prefer riding in the dirt, particularly in the cool of a moonlight night. But things like sticking to 180kms and riding through the heat of the day were less attractive options. And so team RIC was born. Version One of the story is told by their supporter Leanne, with a rider’s eye-view version from, Chris.

Supporting the Oppy Floppies

It sounded like a reasonable request until I was awakened at 12.30am Sunday morning by Team RIC ….  Roy, Ian and Chris firing up the coffee machine to get their first hit!

I staggered out to see the three bikes disappearing down the driveway and into what was a fairly light night as the moon was a few days off full. Back to rest (not sleep!) until 3am when I arose and made a thermos of strong coffee and took off to meet them at the bottom of Quaid Road. They rode the back way to Mareeba, along Chewko Rd – a more pleasant alternative to the highway, headed to Mt Molloy before turning down Quaid Rd. My timing was quite impeccable I believe as I was 20 minutes earlier than the arranged meeting time of 5am, but arrived to find them already waiting at Wangetti Beach, apparently gunning it to keep up with Chris on his dinky bike Friday with the little wheels. So deceiving!

Fortified with coffee and a short rest then it was out along the highway, with first light beginning to filter through. A quick stop at the crocodile viewing platform at Mowbray River and an inspection of the weird bike path and bridge to nowhere that seems to form part of the elusive Wangetti Trail. Then the last push to Port Douglas, arriving around 6.30am – great breakfast and coffee and a few stories told. Me I was practically asleep on my feet by now and wondering how long it would be before I could actually lie down.

Thanks as always to the great organisation by Gayle and support by Kim.

Chris described the ride from an “on-the-bike” perspective.

Flexible Oppy

Team RIC (Roy W, Ian K & Chris H)

Ride distance: 112 km

From Walkamin West to Port Douglas, via Mareeba & Quaid Road.

Metres gained 795, metres descended 1379!

Bikes – two gravel grinders, and one 20 inch wheeled BikeFriday.

We started at 1 am on Sunday morning at Roy’s place near Walkamin West, at the western end of Channel Road. Roy and Ian wanted to do a night ride, and I was the ‘lucky’ third rider to join. We had some sleep at Roy’s place and then took Chewko Road into Mareeba, then headed north towards Mount Molloy. The Chewko Road section saw some close encounters with a few curlews, and some owls. Fortunately birds have faster reactions than stupid night cyclists and the nearest we got was about a metre away. We had a brief stop near the turnoff to Quaide Road. The weather had been quite warm, under a bit of high cloud, and no rain – Yay!

I have only been on Quaide Road (west) twice. On both occasions it was in the dark, and on my bike, and both rides were Oppy rides! Memo to me – must ride that in the daylight sometime.

We arrived at the eastern end of Quaide Road, around 5 am, and our back-up driver Leanne pulled up about one minute later. What great timing. Thanks Leanne. We had some thermos coffee and a snack, then remounted.

We were now slightly ahead of schedule and as Roy and Ian left me behind I kept muttering, “Slow ride into PD is fine”!  We rode north along that magical section to Mowbray River. It was a pity it was in the dark and we were unable to admire that great view. We did get an introduction to the day as daylight crept up over our right shoulder. We stopped at the Rex Lookout to get a photo – just three faint faces and lots of reflective gear.

We stopped at Mowbray River to admire the partially completed cycle bridge (to no-where), contemplated dangling a bike into the river to tempt any crocodile, and then rode on.

As we came off the Captain Cook Highway we detoured via a few beach points to add a few hundred metres to our beyond 100 km goal. At Four Mile Beach we met a group of familiar riders who were about to start their Sunday morning ride. We then finished off with a ride down Macrossan Street to admire the other early morning venturers.

We pulled up at The Lure restaurant to have Mr Reliable (Kim) take our photo and our Brevet Cards – at about 6:35 am.

Many thanks to Gayle and Kim for organising another excuse to ride with a few mates in stupid circumstances around north Qld!

Chris H

(1 April 2022)

"No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle" Winston Churchill