Cairns to Cape Tribulation via the Daintree
Welcome everyone to the day one blog for the 2021 FNQ Smiddy Challenge.
This morning was an early start for all involved, after a 14 month hiatus of no Smiddy events due to the pandemic. But it was well worth the wait. With 52 riders and 20 dedicated road crew, we awoke to the hustle and bustle of the Cairns nightlife in full swing.
With a quick brekky on the rooftop of the Oaks, we assembled out the front for the tropical adventures that lay ahead of us. Cairns put on the weather for us after a couple weeks of torrential rain, which had a few people nervous. The sight of clear blue skies and a touch of humidity was a blessing. But the best news was that there was a stiff breeze from the South, which is now the perfect reverse headwind.
A few changes to the traditional Smiddy rides this year included, for the first time, two seperate peletons, which provided an extra challenge to the escorting vehicles. This would also be the start of a rivalry only matched by the State of Origin each year - with the pelotons shaping up with a few friendly challenges.
Peloton 1 departed right on time, looking very sharp led by Mater Smiling for Smiddy’s number one son, Rowan Foster. Although his son Harvey wanted to know why daddy now had "Mummy’s legs”. In other overheard conversations, Road Crew legend Jenny was heard to say, as her parter in crime Bruce departed, “Bruce is now gone, I can play up”.
As Peloton 1 sailed off into the distance, Peloton 2 waited for their turn led by Smiddy stalwart David "Stinky" Dave, giving words of wisdom and strong encouragement as to why P2 was far superior to P1. Both peletons made a solid start, with the help of an ever-increasing tailwind with a pretty impressive average speed in excess of 30kph for the first hour.
P1 arrived at morning tea stop early, putting pressure on our tireless Road Crew who were preparing morning tea. It was later identified by members of Peloton 2 that Peloton 1 had found a little short cut, explaining the early arrival. Not only did they short cut about 5 km of riding, they also missed out on spectacular scenery.
P2 rolled into morning tea and were thankful that there was still plenty of food left.
In another Smiddy first, we were treated to table service rather than the usual self-serve feeding frenzy. All a part of the 'new normal' we are now living.
At 110 km, the riders were stopped in their tracks by the mighty Daintree River - where the signs made it very clear that swimming was not the recommeded way to cross. So, the Daintree ferry was considered the better option to move 52 riders and 6 support vehicles across to continue the journey through the stuning Daintree Rainforest and on to Cape Tribulation.
Safely across the river, the riders were faced with the biggest challenge of the day. This was an elevation gain of close to 200 meters with an average gradient of 8 per cent but pinches of 14% really tested some tiring legs. Rowan Foster however showed some top pedigree setting a cracking pace and took out the KOM for the climb - with a blistering time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds. The climb also claimed a couple casualties, with the most spectacular going to Jay Coverdale with severe cramps just metres from the summit stopping him in his tracks! Tough, but Jay recovered at the lunch stop atop the climb and continued on to finish the day and take his longest ever ride - well done Jay.
The end of the climb was greeted by the spectacular views of Mount Alexandra lookout. The only thing that matched the view was the lunch provided by the Road Crew. What more could you want - other than the rewards of climbing - the downhill.
After lunch, the riders enjoyed a rapid downhill section through the majestic scenery of the Daintree rainforest. Both pelotons safely arrived at the beautiful Ferntree Rainforest Lodge where riders and road crew celebrated the day with the traditional “Smiddy huddle” COVID style lead by the Townsville crew.
In another Smiddy first, long time Smiddy rider Michelle Grey had an up and personal experience with one of the world famous golden orb spiders. Her screams could be heard from Cairns. Luckily, no humans or animals were hurt in this encounter.
With the riders and road crew relaxing in the pool, or with a well deserved massage in the rainforest - we offer special thanks to our family and friends that support us in so many ways, including our fundraising efforts, where to date this entente alone has raised nearly $400 000 for cancer research. To each and every one of you, we say thank you. If you'd like to contribute to funding cancer research please donate to a rider today at https://fundraise.mater.org.au/event/fnqsmiddychallenge/donate.
Thanks to Mick "Booba" Young and Copey for the blog.