Day Four - Mount Surprise to Georgetown - 94 km
The days ride ride was a warm day starting with some rollers heading towards the Newcastle range, this would be the only significant climb on the route after we left the Tablelands. this was a short punchy climb of a couple kilometres long with a great view back to the Undara Volcanic National Park
Of course our superb support crew had everything set up for us once we got to the top, where we stopped for lunch.
After lunch it was downhill all the way to Georgetown, this was to be a fast descent, but as luck would have it, I missed out, the spokes in my front wheel had loosen and when I got to 56 km/h the bike would wobble. So nursing it down to camp, I dropped it off to the boys at Pump and Pedal, who were the tours support mechanics for a bit of tender care.
Fran, our Support Crew Boss was released from her duties, jumped on her trusty stead and rode into Georgetown, cunningly Fran picked the longest downhill section for her first ride!
|Fran and John in Pack Three|
Once again we had the joys of camping in the local rodeo ground, this allowed us to spread out, clean and service our bikes, enjoy hot showers and re-hydrate!
|Bikes cleaned and serviced ready for the next day|
|The long shadows as the evening draws closer|
Day four - 92.6 kilometres - 616 metres of climbing - 2 hours 56 minutes ride time
Day Five Georgetown to Croydon 146 km
|Waiting for our Pack to depart|
The first of the two big days, with lunch at the halfway mark we rolled on out Pack Two was absolutely smashing it great rotating meant it was a reasonably easy ride, lunch was once again provided by the locals at Gilbert river. It was soon to heat up in the afternoon getting to mid 30's and for this kiwi boy coming out of winter, it was on the hot side!
|Team One Good Leg!|
Today was noticibly flatter which was going to set the tone for the rest of the event, we had 504 metres of climbing but we had descended 679 metres, so were now only 117 metres above sea level with some 228 kilometres to ride!
|Deb and Cli on the front|
We pulled into town, stopping at the local waterhole for a cold XXXX and to ice my knee. It had finally blown up in the last 20 kms ... well that wasn't to bad an effort after 569 kms!
Day Five totals - 148.5 kilometres - 504 metres of climbing - 4 hours 27 minutes ride time
Day Six - Croydon to Normanton - 151 km
RACE DAY!!! Today Packs one and two were going to race the tourist train, The Gulflander, from Croydon to Normanton 151 kms. The organisers had co-ordinated this with Queensland Rail, the train averages about 35 km/h, so for Pack Two it was going to be a bit tight ... we just didn't know how tight!
|Packs One and Two with the Train and its Driver at the start|
Of course being cyclists, the rule book was consulted ... it gave us a start line ... a finish line ... a route ... and that was it ... plenty of room for interpertation!
Now the railway pretty much followed the road crossing it in several places, so we were able to follow each others progress. Of course the train had to stop at stations, we had to stop for food and water, the 1951 train had 102 horspower we just had two legs! But we had a few tricks up our sleeve ... the first was we had a lead vehicle to draft off, we were able to sit on 38 kms an hour, but our trump card was Waughie our friendly Police Officer who was spending his weeks holiday escorting us from Cairns to Karumba, Pulls up at one of the train stations, goes on board, breath tests the driver and then checks the ID of every passenger! A nice wee delaying tactic.
We hit the first water stop at 50 kilometres, but my knee had blown again, with the intensity of the pace we were riding at and the weeks mileage adding up, I was not a happy camper! So while the team was refilling their water bottles I threw my bike on the lead vehicle and jumped in ... it was going to be no good pushing through the pain and causing longer term issues.
Meanwhile the train driver had his own ideas, he was able to skip a couple of stops and make up a bit of time!
Of course, the team was feeling pretty confident, so confident that they stopped for a photo opportunity!
With about a kilometre to go and 20 minutes before the train was due in (1.30 pm by its schedule), heading into Normanton, we hear the train blowing its whistle, there was a sudden realisation by the riders they actually needed to sprint, cross the train tracks, take a sharp left hand corner to get to the train station before the train.
From the car you could see the riders looking at the train then looking at the rail crossing then back to the train trying to judge whether they would make it or not!
Pack One was already in some ten minutes earlier, Pack two were out of their saddles sprinting the train was having to slow to stop at the station ...
Pack Two had made it with only seconds to spare!!!!
The Gulflander was twenty minutes ahead of schedule! Possibly a first for Queensland Rail.
Day 6 Totals - 50.3 kilometres - 32 metres of climbing - 1 hour 18 minutes riding time.
Day Seven - Normanton to Karumba - the last day!
It was a day just to enjoy each others company, a few bevies along the way, today Pack Two cruised plenty of chatting until we rolled into the outskirts of Karumba.
For the last two days we had been travelling through the Savannah lands this is flood plain country plenty of streams and marker posts showing the depths. The terrain, flora and fauna had changed every day, for me who had not been here previously I absolutely enjoyed this aspect of the tour.
Eventually all the Packs rolled in, the Dirty Boys arrived, together the 200 riders rolled into Karumba together.
|My Aussie family - What a team!|
|Karumba Gulf of Carpenteria Sunset|
Day 7 - 76.6 kilometres - 89 metres of climbing - 2 hours 27 minutes riding time.
More than a few beers and whiskies were drunk in celebration, during the evening it hit me just how far I had come in the last 12 months ... it overwhelmed me ... one year ago lying on the forest floor with a fractured femur ... I had managed to ride 680 of the 780 kilometres in seven days ... I was pretty much back, a lot of mental hurdles had been conquered this week.
To Paul and Sam, the biggest thanks for inviting me to share this experience with your families, for the support over the last year, you are both special people!
We spent the next day and half driving back to Cairns, spending the night at Innot Hot Springs, before heading to Daryl's place in Palm Cove to unload pack up and go our ways.