The chat at breakfast was noticeably absent this morning as riders prepped themselves and their bikes for an immense day on the bike. 255km and 3,500m of elevation lay ahead – a distance only a select few of the riders had ever ridden before. An earlier than normal start to allow a little extra time to complete the ride also meant both riders and support staff were busy getting things finalised.
Ride Captain Julian called in the big hitters from his brother-in-law’s local group and the crew helped navigate the way for group 1 for the first 35km and once they peeled off the group got down to business, working flawlessly as a team to slowly but steadily tick the km’s over.
Morning tea at 65km signalled the ¼ way marker and we were welcomed with a delicious egg/bacon pie that Mary cooked from a recipe supplied by Kev whose skills seem to know no bounds (ask him about the time he met the Queen…)
If the distance itself wasn’t difficult enough, the weather in the second section was awful – with rain and strong winds combined with awful road surfaces and hills making it tough going but both teams continued to press forward. The lunch stop was brief with time of the essence but the food was again excellent and Mark’s skills behind the coffee machine to ensure riders got their fix in the middle of nowhere was greatly appreciated as the temperatures dropped. The lunch break also meant we had ticked over the half way mark and there was ‘only’ 120km remaining… but a few hills were still to be conquered
The third section started with a 40km descent into Nowra and a sprint at the bottom. Group 1 neutralised the sprint to ensure team cohesion wasn’t interrupted and Andy Ballas won the group 2 sprint in “one of the greatest sprints seen anywhere around the world” according to ride captain Jon. Unfortunately after the groups hit Nowra the enormity of the day slapped everyone in the face with the climb up and over Cambewarra (5km at 8%) at the 194km mark before a descent and short ride across the valley floor for the 3rd and final rest stop.
Section 4 we thought was pretty simple. 45km stood between the groups and a truly immense achievement, and also a small hill called Barrengarry Mountain – a 7.6km climb at 7.4% at the 217km point. It seemed harder and longer for some, but frustratingly effortless for the climbers as they took flight and monstered the mountain. Both groups regrouped at the top for what was expected to be a gentle 35km roll into Mittagong, but route planner and ride captain Sean (And some now believe he may be the devil) had one more trick to play – sending the riders on the ‘scenic’ route, adding an additional 250m of elevation up some truly horrible little stingers on tired legs before reaching the motel to the cheers of the awaiting support staff.
It was a day full of tension and pressure – for the riders just to finish and inside a time restriction, and for the support staff to keep them moving forward. All members of the support and rider group performed their roles with aplomb and while there are some battered and bruised bodies from the distance and time spent in the saddle, everyone made it safely.
With now ‘only’ a casual 137km stroll into Sydney tomorrow, the finish line (and a ride with a couple of special guests including Simon Clarke) await!