Well the Bike Qld 2008 event is over for another year, and planning has no doubt started for next years event. A big “Thankyou” to all the volunteers, organisers and people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this ride as much fun as it was! You’re all heroes in my book.
Friday – Bundaberg
The whole town is buzzing, pushbikes fill the streets, the cafe’s are full, and so are all the restaurants and pubs. My nerves are jangling like a set of windchimes in a tornado… visit my favourite 2nd hand bookshop, and to my surprise and the shock of the owner I don’t buy anything. Weight is weighing on my mind, as I need to be careful with how heavy my bags are, or risk a $50 penalty for having overloaded bags. Pedal round town for an hour or so, the bike is humming, running as smooth as silk. I’m still nervous but my faithful pushie’s being so well behaved that my confidence is building by the minute.
I register at the civic centre, this is the first of many long lines to come over the next week. I get my t-shirt, badge, some info, and a meal bag. Back to camp, feet up for a bit, several hundred more tents have sprung up in the last couple of hours.
Dinner time, I dress and stroll up town. Every eatery is packed. I find a pub, order a meal and wait for an hour and a half for it to arrive. I drink two beers, read a paper, and chat with a couple from Toowoomba about the upcoming ride. They’ve done several of these before and are looking forward to the run. By chance they are related to a person I know quite well in Gladstone. Everyone in Qld is related it seems… the inbreeding up here has really taken it’s toll : )
Up at dawn, packed my gear, loaded my two bags into a truck (I was 5kgs under the recommended weight… could have bought a book yesterday!) and set out toward the main street for the 10.30 am start. I wasn’t going to wear my bike pants, because after I put them on it felt like I was walking around naked. I take them off and put on my old work shorts. Ron advises me to put them back on because my work drills won’t cut it once we’re out on the road. I put them back on, bowing to Ron and Rods’ advice, they’ve done a few of these events around the country, and if anyone should know what to wear, then it’s these two veterans.
On the bike, I feel good when I’m pedalling, but very nervous when I’m sitting around waiting. There is a throng of people on the main street. Mulicoloured outfits, all sorts of weird and wonderful bikes, everyone is happy and smiling, and I start to relax a lot more. I keep telling myself, “It’s not a race, it’s fun, you are on holidays!” It works.
I line up along with 1200 other cyclists in the main street. I take a photo of my bike, tuck my laces into my shoes and get my breathing back to normal. My bike falls over, and the bloke standing next to me says, “That’s not a good start mate.” I shrug and laugh. I’m in the zone now. A woman next to me is smothering her children in sunscreen, she looks at me and asks, “Have you put yours on?” I shake my head, “No.” Her eyes widen in suprise, and the man next to her says in a low voice, “You’re about to be accosted by the ‘Sunscreen Nazi’. He was right! And I’m glad she did now : ) I even got two lollies for standing still while she slapped a bucket of cream over my exposed skin. At 10.30, after a quick briefing from Al, the motorcycle cop, we set out. The cue is so long it takes nearly 10 minutes for the riders around me to saddle up. We pedal through an arch in the main street, and we’re away. It’s pandemonium. People are roaring past me, others are blocking me, everyone is ringing their bells…
Smart Travel, Dumb Riders
In spite of being repeatedly told to call out when passing, stopping, slowing etc. a lot of people are doing their own thing. I see riders pulling out to overtake slower riders without looking behind them first, and in doing so, nearly get collected by cars, trucks, buses etc. The road is full of cyclists, all of them pumped up to get going. There are a lot of slower riders, and a lot of impatient fast riders. Not a good mix.
We hit the highway, and eventually settle into a rythym. The first stretch is 40 k’s, the longest distance I’ve ridden in my brief practice rides. For the first twenty k’s I’m ok, but then my bike starts to make creaking, cracking noises, I’m angry and frustrated with it, because I’ve been all over the damn thing for weeks looking for potential weaknesses, greasing, maintaining, repairing. At the 30 klm mark, by my little speedo, I’m thinking, “Gb, you are going to die. There is no way you’re going to make it to the lunch break, let alone Woodgate!” Then I remembered Henry Fords’ words, ‘If you think you can, or can’t, you’re right.’ I tell the negative voice in my head to take the rest of the day off as I’m busy. By the time we get to the lunch break at 40k’s I’m buggered, but sort of pleased with myself. I wasn’t last, having passed a fairly large number of people on the highway, and looking forward to the last 20 k’s.
Lunch is over a quick check of the bike reveals nothing out of the ordinary, the sounds I could hear are now non-existent, and everything is working as it should… I don’t like mechanical mysteries, and I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of this. Saddle up and away. We turn toward the coast on the Woodgate road, a headwind smacks into us and instantly I drop 5kph in speed. This is going to hurt. A pack of brightly coloured ‘boy racers’ overtake me and I surge to latch onto the tail rider of the group. Much easier pedalling now that these fellas are punching the wind for me.
I’m not selfish, so I take my turn in front of the pack. I’m the only one in the group on a mountain bike, and when I take the lead I’m like a Spanish Galleon under full sail in the head wind. The groups’ speed drops, I’m puffing like a steam train and the bloke behind me starts laughing. The group pass me again, and I latch back onto the tail rider. We pass struggling riders with ease, but the pace eventually gets to me. I drop off with 10 k’s to go, and go back to a speed that I can maintain. The head wind picks up as we near the coast, and the ride has now become a ‘death march’ as each klm slowly grinds by. My bike is making noises again, but I no longer care. People pass me, I pass some others, everyone is calling out, “Where are you from?” It makes the ride more enjoyable learning about the people around me. I’m stunned at the average age of the riders around me, mostly 50+. Many are from Brissy, but there a stack from around the country. A good mix. I know of only three riders from Gladstone, which is a surprise, and it saddens me a little because Gladstwon usually punches far above it’s weight when it comes to sporting achievement… maybe there are too many people up here too overweight to join such a fun event.
Woodgate Beach: I’ve been here a few times, and I’m so glad to turn the corner that leads us into this wonderful part of the world. The wind drops off, and one of the volunteer road marshalls waves us into the camping area, “Well Done!” she shouts, and I feel like I’ve won a great prize. No time for basking in my achievement, have to set up camp, wash my clothes, check my bike.
Went for a long walk along the beach. The sun is shining but the water is cool, and for the folk from Vic, NSW, SA, Tas, and NZ it’s too good to pass up. White limbs splash happily in the warm Qld water. I join them, and have a blast. Afterwards I go for another walk, and dry out fairly quickly. This is the life. Later in the evening I shower, after waiting in line for a while, eat (another line), and hit the sack. I’m asleep almost instantly, outside my little tent are hundreds of like minded people, their snoring doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s 8pm… tomorrow will be the longest ride of my life, and even though it worries me, my confidence is sky high. Bring it on.