Day 5 - 2 May 2022
Atherton to Cairns - 123.5 kms
Written by: By Kate Parry & Matty Marshall
There was the usual buzz amid the riders and road crew as the final day of the Challenge in the Tropics dawned - with a mixture of sadness and excitement that our time together was drawing to a close.
Perfecting the art of road crew duties - Jenny and Luisa used the final scoops of baked beans and mushrooms for the last riders - another perfectly catered road crew breakfast acheived!
Lined up to roll out - the riders were reminded “it ain’t over til it’s over” and to help the outstanding ride leader team to keep everyone safe on the final day by doing their bit. And with those final important words, the rollout commenced, with a very special Cow Bell ringing by Lesley Ray from Mater Foundation. Lesley, a local to the Atherton Tableland region & Smiddy luminary, reminded all the riders of how special the Smiddy family is and the importance of our fundraising efforts.
Lesley also reminded us all of the 263 turns we were about to embark on as we rode from Atherton, through the Gillies Ranges to the final stop of the trip – Cairns.
As the sun peeked through and the clouds lifted, the riders were uplifted by a spectacular Rainbow in “all the colours of Maria Smiddy’s socks” across the sky. It was a pertinent reminder of Maria and Adam and our WHY – which was what we all needed at the start of Day 5 (Riders and Roadcrew alike).
The riders were spoilt with sunshine and glorious green rolling hills to our first pit stop of the day at Lake Eacham. An ancient extinct volcano, Lake Eacham has since filled with clean clear spring water forming an amazing lake surrounded by rainforest.
From Lake Eacham we rolled around to the 500 plus year old Cathedral Fig Tree where we stopped for our last Sao’s of the trip at Café Maria, lovingly prepared by our incredible Road Crew.
From Morning Tea at Café Maria we ventured towards the infamous Gillies Ranges.
The Gillies was a particularly beautiful but tough ride today with its 263 turns and approximately 945 caravans and utes eager to bust past for home after a long weekend at the races. Our long 18 km descent didn’t disappoint - with glorious turns and scenery and a reprieve from the pedals for those not making it a “pedalling descent” but instead cruising down amid the stunning vistas.
At the bottom of the Gillies, all 59 riders assembled with beaming smiles from the utter joy of this amazing descent.
Once again Smiddy legend Brenton “Copey” Cope proved invaluable in keeping us all safe during a smooth but hot and tense ride along the highway to Gordonvale and a pub lunch courtesy of our amazing friends and supporters at Bottlemart, where finally those annoying, fussy people with dietary requirements were delivered their meals after everyone else. The smart money was with the steak sandwiches. Delicious!
After everyone had fueled up and filled their bellies, we ventured back outside into a steamy hot NQ day. But - with a brilliant “Sharky’s shortcut” route mapped out by Killer & his crew - we were able to avoid the Highway and enjoy a gentle ride into Cairns (not so gentle for Sandra, who was forced to put the afterburners on with Mag Dog Matty Muir, aka Big Dog, and long-time major sponsor Zane Williams riding her back into the peloton under Kevvy’s supervision.
We regrouped - the blue team taking onto final wrong turn up a dead end street with an 8-percent gradient courtesy of Habo and Dayle - before being greeted by the happy, smiling faces of the trusty road crew, family & friends at the finish line.
A special huddle - our final Smiddy chant of the week - and it was time to scrub up for the celebration dinner and cherish friendships new and renewed. Finally out of Lycra and ready to party - Sakas, Sam & Ryano got the memo to wear leopard print.
Michelle Meredith-Herlaar spoke beautifully of her inspiring and long-term Smiddy journey and her family gave $500 donations to two very popular road crew members - Copey and Ra.
Special kudos was given to the awesome ride leaders – led superbly by Krista & Claire (Blue) and Stinky Dave (Red) - for their tireless work in orchestrating a fun, tidy and safe peloton through some typically challenging Smiddy sections, terrains and conditions. This is a massive responsibility and was handled with class by all those on the radios. Thanks guys - you are all rock stars & we appreciate the care you display in mitigating risk and keeping us upright.
On behalf of Mater Foundation - Rowman thanked David Smiddy, Sharky and our incredibly generous sponsors - spearheaded by Zane Williams (Professional Cleaning Services), Stephen Russell (Russells Law), Wayne Messer (Alphasport), Same Wood, Keiren Green & Cheryl Patchett (Allsports Physiotherapy) and late absentee from the Tropics tour, David Gyte (Bottlemart).
Tired, sore and emotional - our riders and road crew eventually said their goodbyes - with Boofy riding into form late with a transition straight from the dance floor to the departure gate for the red-eye flight on Tuesday morning.
To wrap up another life-affirming journy in the 'Smiddy bubble', we leave us with some memorable highlights of our time together:
- The ‘welcome to country’ in Palm Cove to kick off our journey
- Smiddy huddles - from Cape Tribulation Beach in the Daintree to the Cairns Esplanade
- Habo learning repeatedly, as it turned out, that the golden rule of Lead Vehicle driver is to go the right way. You had one job, champ.
- Nettie. What a champion, both on and off the bike. Three-time world champion, three-time Olympian Annette Edmondson - was a great Smiddy ambassador.
- Bottlemart’s Central Hotel in Port Douglas - perfect way to finish Day 2
- Claire & Krista’s beautiful tribute to Maria Smiddy and explanation of Cafe Maria for our first-time riders , and a memory that Maria really did give the best hugs.
- “The Queen Stage”. Day 4. It had absolutely everything. Tough & rewarding day with the Smiddy spirit shining bright.
- The banter between the champion Blue team and also-ran Red team
- Jonno’s stitch up of his mate from Springsure, Ra - promising a couple of hours leisurely driving a truck, followed by an arvo of fishing (sorry Ra, we are just as disappointed as you are about this one!)
- Swim at Mossman Gorge, a Morning Tea at Millaa Millaa Falls and an amazing Daintree ice-cream for lunch in the rainforest. Incredible.
- An incredible, inspiring road crew & rider group sprinkled with new and old faces alike - all contributing to something truly special.
Challenge in the Tropics 2022 - done!