Well where to start…
The trip north for the race went well, and arriving a week before the event was awesome allowing me to be away from distractions close to home and relax before the start.
Staying with Miriam’s parents was great and Graham did a great job in assisting me during the race from Saturday to Wednesday.
The closer to the start the nerves started to kick in a bit, and Miriam and I talked pretty regularly. On the Friday night before the start she was proving a difficult to contact.
Miriam, called me later that evening, and as we were talking she arrived after flying up to surprise me before the start of the race. Miriam was able to be at the start of the race Saturday and Sunday morning before flying back to Brisbane.
Day 1 - Smithfield
The track at Smithfield I had pre-ridden earlier in the year so knew what to expect but also had a chance to ride the course during the week leading up to the start.
The start was a fast sprint with about 180 riders trying to get to the single track first. The resulting traffic jam for the rest of the riders was to be expected and a bit of push and shove followed for the first lap. It is amazing how some words cross the language barrier so easily!
I enjoyed the trails and went out to ride consistently for the first day of the race and finished 96th over the line, incident free.
The lesson learned though was, I needed to have a backpack with water.
Day 2 – Cairns to Lake Tinaroo
Having the opportunity to spend time in FNQ during June set me up for a majority of day 2. The first 14k were neutral where we rode together through the streets of Cairns and part the way up Lake Morris road.
The start began at 10am today and with a solid 12k of climbing to the top of Lake Morris road, the pace from the start was QUICK! By the time I reached the top of this first climb though I had already started passing people, which was to be a consistent pattern over the 9 days of racing.
The remainder of the days racing including some serious CLIMBING around 30 to 40% in some places and some great flowing trails.
The finish of the stage at Lake Tinaroo was one of the best camp sites for the event.
Time in the saddle: 5.25
Position over the line: 77th
Relaxing before stage 3!
Day 3 Lake Tinaroo to Irvinebank
We left Lake Tinaroo today at 8am meaning we were not riding in the heat of the day as much as we were in the first 2 days. The first 18k was ridden as a neutral until we arrived in Atherton where the start was officiated by the local mayor.
After the first two days of racing I had a much better start today and found the riding really enjoyable all day. The course included some really technical climbing and descending across different surfaces throughout the day similar to that found locally.
The finish today found us Irvinebank, an old mining town where we stayed for the next 2 days.
Time in the saddle: 5.34
Position over the line: 73rd
|Image Regina Stanger|
Day 4 Irvinebank to Irvinebank
Knowing we did not need to move camp today was great!
|Image Regina Stanger|
The Course today was a tough 24k loop including about 12 k of dirt road and 12k of single / double track. The dirt road was mostly in a good condition, but was been frequented by large trucks hauling gravel so there was more than a few times many of the riders were dusted well and proper by the passing vehicles.
The single track / double track was made up of an old rail line from the mining days in the local area. 2 sections which I was unable to ride included some very sandy riverbeds. One of the best parts of the course though was the awesome climb leading back to the township for completion of each lap.
The single track had some great sections and I started to enjoy these more as the day continued, though there were a few sections which still fexed me and saw me walking all day.
Time in the saddle: 6.23
Position over the line: 74
Day 5 Irvinebank to Mt Mulligan
Today saw me say goodbye Graham and hello to Gary .
A Luxemburg rider who had hyperxtended his ankle the day before, was unable to continue in the race and Graham volunteered to take him back to Cairns. As a result Graham and Verdi extended some great Australian hospitality and put up the said rider for a few days at their house.
One of the quotes of the race was made today by Graham. I asked if the new travelling companion knew any English?? The response, from Graham, was nah he does not know too much but will be AOK by the time we get back to Cairns…
The first ¾ of the day was wet with light rain falling. Meaning sticky trails = J! Though the trails early in the day were awesome and included some very, very technical descending with major washouts both sides of the trail The later part of the day was fast fire roads and a mix of climbing and descending. The Camp site today was directly adjacent to an escarpment, close to Mt Mulligan which was pretty awesome to see.
|Image Regina Stanger|
Today was the first stage Kate Major lost, the eventual winner of the women’s category. The second placed Alice Pirard received assistance from a number of other riders, including Mike Mulkens who pushed her the entire day in full view to all other riders.
This was really disappointing to see and difficult to know what to say as Guy Sorensen, myself and Kate Major struck up a great friendship over the course of the race and spent a lot of time together. The end of the stage gave Guy and I chance to talk about what we had seen and worry whether to make mention to Kate of what had been seen during the day.
|L-R Guy, Me, Andrew and Kate|
Making the decision to speak with Kate later in the day, she explained she had seen the assistance too and made the organizers aware. However, no action was taken but warnings issued against any assistance of this type occurring further during the race.
Time in the saddle: 5:09
Position over the line: 71st
Day 6 Mt Mulligan for Maitland Downs
The first 65 k toady was on fast flat fire road with very few ups and downs. At the 65 k mark we started heading, upwards and peaked out at around the 100k mark.
The climbing over the 35 k’s was a mixture of surfaces and gradients, which suited me. Thought the last 27k of dirt road today was one, which I found difficult. The course took us through an environment made of sharp creek crossings and steep climbs on the other side of the said, creek crossings reducing the ability to gain a good run up leading into each climb.
The thing I did see today and over the proceeding days and throughout the event were many people experiencing flat tires as a result of riding heavily through creek crossings. I was lucky to not have the misfortune of flat tires for the entire race!
The final 10k of the course was on main roads and a simple farm trail leading finish line and camp site for tonight. The Camp site was amazing as it was forested with River Red Gums, which are such a striking tree.
|Today was a tough stage!|
Time in the saddle: Just over 7hours…
Position over the line: 76th
Day 7 Maitland Downs to Maytown
We are over the hump and on the downward slide to the finish
Today we rode from Maitland Downs to Maytown. Due to a harder then expected stage yesterday and knowledge it was going to be a very hot day we were informed the stage was shortened to only about 90k. The course although shorter included more climbing than expected topping out at 2200m. The surface was made of mainly lose gravel over hard pack and a few sandy creek crossing resulting in fast times for everyone.
The fast stage was good considering the max temp reached today was 54 degree in the sun and I think high 40’s in the shade which was in short supply. Gary and Judy (Guy’s wife) did an awesome job getting us a shady spot to set up camp. The support t team also did a great job of moving on a small family of cows to secure a shady tree for our camp tonight.
Time in the saddle: 4:20
Position over the line: 73rd
Day 8 - Maytown to Laura
After the hottest day of the race yesterday and the shortest day ahead of us, I was thinking it was going to be an easy one!
The technical ascending and descending, was tough though enjoyable. I picked a few bad lines at times and needed to correct myself but overall the first part of the course was awesome!
Once we reached the summit of the climb and started descending towards Laura, the heavy sand sucked the life out of me and quite a few others. I estimate I would of walked maybe around 5 to 6 k of sand, which I was unable ride.
The worst was yet to come for me on this stage.
Unknown to us until later in the day water had been pumped from a lagoon overnight treated with iodine and was used to refill water bottles at the water stations during the stage. I did not need to use this water until the second last depot. After this I found the water very difficult to drink and the result was I drank way less than I needed for the last 30 odd k’s and crossed the line a bit cooked.
Overall I was happy with my effort for the stage and crossed the line in a good position and consistent with my results over the previous stages.
Time in the saddle: 5:15
Position over the line: 73th
Day 9 – Last Day - Laura to Cooktown
The last stage started as a handicap with the first riders (the slowest) starting at 7.30am and the last rider rolling off at 10am. I rolled out at 8:15am with a group of 10 riders.
There is not much to say about the stage apart from the fact it was super quick! 140k mostly flat with a few little climbs to keep everyone honest. I enjoyed the riding and looked forward to finish with a few moments of regret knowing it was all going to be over sometime later today.
For the first 65k of the stage the 10 riders I started with in my group mostly stayed together. After the second depot though we broke apart a bit and I focused on maintaining a good tempo. As in the previous stages I started picking off the people who had headed off into the distance later in the day.
The head wind which we were warned about and we had for a majority of the stage was difficult at time but not as bad as I though it was going be.
Reaching Cooktown the last hurdle was the 1k climb up to the finishing line, and the 20odd stairs. It was certainly a very sweet end to an awesome experience and one which I will not forget for a lone time.
Time in the saddle: 6.20
Position over the line: 69th
Would I do it again? Hell yes!
But there are a few other races which I want to tick off first.
Thanks very much to, Gary, (aka: Pommy) Graham, Shannon, Rach, TR, Miriam and Verdi and everyone else who helped me along the way in getting to and home from this event in one piece.