With a “real” wet season visiting FNQ for the first time in years, picking a route that will keep everyone above the high water mark has proved a challenge. Hence our FNQ Audax year started a little later than normal with Atherton Altitude Loop. As usual, we started precisely on time…… with everyone racing out of the blocks as soon as humanly possible.
The route started with a snappy jaunt along the rail trail, with riders encouraged to admire the mature trees on Stage 1, give due credit to our efforts on Stage 2 (while ignoring the wet bits), and dream about the possibilities of bridging the five creeks along Stage 3 (rather than taking the 5km detour along the main road). It was then time to start the 7km stretch up Herberton Range on the narrow track beside the railway, which is arguably the most scenic riding spot on the Tablelands. There were some tricky bits, with a few riders having spills in the narrow gap between the edge of the sleepers and the rocks. Ahhh…..we dream of a nice wide gravel pathway all the way, making it a safe and accessible route to Carrington Falls and the tunnel.
Kim, Mundi and Rex were waiting at the control at the top of the range with the usual range of Audax snacks. The ride briefing had emphasised the challenge of the next (rough) section across the top of the Baldy Range and back into Atherton. The message was clear – if you don’t love it in the first few minutes, return the way you came. Apparently this challenge acted as an encouragement rather than a deterrent, with most riders heading straight for the hills.
A more cautious handful headed back down the range beside the rail, enjoying the most consistent 7km of downhill riding available. For these riders, Route B continued onto Deep Creek Road, where the crossing into Deep Creek was steeper and muddier than usual. There were reports of the approach being done “bottom side down” by several riders but everyone made it safely across the shallow creek and onto Hemmings Lane. From there, it was a very scenic and relatively unchallenging ride back to Atherton.
Everyone safely negotiated Ridge Range Road and found their way back to the finish with minimal damage and protestations that the ride briefing had been over-stated. It was declared a wonderful loop, despite mud, washouts, slippery bits and the occasional cramping legs. FNQ Audax is off to a good start for 2023.
Thanks to Jimmy for his ride video !!
(18 January 2023)