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Starting as a humble ride in memory of a mate, Smiling for Smiddy has morphed into a wonderful series of challenges conquered by a circle of friends, with each member bringing their own stories and passions.

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2021 Far North Queensland Smiddy Challenge

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FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE

INTRO BLOG BY Mark "Sharky" Smoothy

Welcome to the intro blog for the inaugural Far North Qld Smiddy Challenge. Who would have thought, just over a year ago, that we would go an entire year without a Smiddy event on the calendar... Well the stars have aligned and here we are in tropical Cairns, the night before the big event.

While tonight, over the pre-ride dinner, we celebrate each other's company and the successful coming together of Smiddy event number 69, tomorrow morning the real work begins.

At 6:30am, 50 apprehensive but excited riders, along with 20 enthusiastic volunteer road crew members, will begin the hilly and arduous task of riding from Cairns via Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas, Atherton, Ravenshoe Loop and finally back to Cairns. Ahead lies either 680 kilometres and over 8000 metres of climbing for those riders doing the five day event. Or 410 kilometres and 3700 metres of climbing for the three day event.

And let's not forget, the real reason we are all here and what started this entire journey back in 2006... For our fallen comrade in Adam Smiddy, and along the way raising important life-saving funds for research. Of course each and every person on this ride are here for their own personal reasons.

In 2006 with just 3 riders and no support crew, none of us three could have completed that first epic 1600 kilometre event without helping one another. Sixteen years on and nothing has changed, sure it’s bigger now with more riders, and thankfully road crew members, but as any experienced Smiddy rider will attest, its the team of individual Smiddy riders looking out for one another, that makes the difference in, not only surviving the 3 or 5 days ahead, but arriving home safely into the waiting arms of love ones.

For the road crew it’s the same. This year we have many new faces ready to tackle the job at hand. Possibly what you're not prepared for is the emotional journey you are about to witness. It is what makes any Smiddy event so spectacular, the human interaction, the loving and caring affection that you will see over and over again, not just amongst the riders and road crew, but the communities that we pass through and their incredible acts of kindness.

As founder of Smiling for Smiddy, and I know that David Smiddy and all the team at the Mater Foundation will mirror these words, I just wanted to finish by expressing my sincere gratitude to each and everyone of you for coming on board this Smiddy event. Whether it’s your first or tenth Smiddy event, the fact that you are here is what is important. For without you guys caring enough to look outside your own personal sporting goals, and look inside the Smiddy and Mater cause, we would not have raised over 10 million dollars for research since 2006.

Smiddy events, right from the start, have attracted people, such as assembled in this room tonight, that care more of others than themselves. So please when the going gets tough out there, and it will, lean on your mates for support, keep digging deep into that reserve of courage that we all possess, for it takes events like these to realize it’s in all of us. And most of all remember the people you are going to help for years to come. All because you had the guts to do something about it for just three or five days of discomfort in this Far North Qld Smiddy Challenge. 

Sharky

Day 1 - 2 May 2021

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.

Day 2 - 3 May 2021

Cape Tribulation to Port Douglas

Stats for the Day:

Distance ridden: 114 kms

Average Speed:  25.1 kph

Elapsed Time:     5:42 

Riding time:        4:31

Metres climbed:  704 m

Temerature:   Min 19 / Max 31 

Blog by: Rowan Foster & David Smiddy

We’re pleased to be writing this blog together today. With some 15 years together across Smiddy rides we’ve never been teamed to write a recap of the day’s stage. David recounts the last time he was assigned blog writing duties in 2012 with Maria Smiddy and the road crew, however he exited stage left because he thought it was more important to be socialising with the riders. Suffice to say it didn’t end well for David that night when Maria caught up with him. I’m pleased to say he stayed the course on this one, determined to make amends.

Night one ended in stellar style, a great night had by all after a brilliant first day’s riding. Ferntree Rainforest Lodge put on a great show with live music and a cracking feed. Nicole shared her reason for riding this Smiddy Challenge, in support of her niece who lost her partner to melanoma aged just 3X. Well done Nicole, you are doing an amazing job. Brendan Flanagan was awarded the ‘Spirit’ Jersey for his long-held commitment, leadership and passion across Mater Smiling for Smiddy events. Brendan is a great bloke and has raised some serious dollars through his participation and fundraising.

Some celebrated Brendan’s jersey win a little too enthusiastically, with Mark ‘Hollywood’ Traynor the only person requiring medic attention this morning with a heavy dose of Panadol. At breakfast, there were mumblings from Stephen Russell’s roommates about the decibel levels from his snoring, with paint peeling from the walls. Having shared a room with his offspring Tim and Hayley, they have not inherited their father’s talents.

As a high value sponsor and donor we are now lobbying for Stephen to be assigned his own room for the remainder of the tour.

As the sun rose on day two, the riders were buoyed by the prospect of the shortest stage on tour – a mere 113 kilometre trip from Cape Tribulation to Port Douglas. Mohammed was given the honour of ringing the cow bell for peloton one and Mel Speare did the honours for peloton two. The day started with picturesque river crossings under a rainforest canopy. Charles, aka “Chuck”, was inspired by the landscape, seemingly thinking he was in a Great Northern Beer ad, smacking his lips at the prospect of a frothy at day’s end.

Before long the riders were headed up a couple of sharp climbs, including the return ascent back atop Mount Alexandra Lookout. Brendan Flanagan’s category jersey inspired him to the fastest time on the Strava segment. David assures me peloton two’s climbing ability far outranks peloton one. This is based on no statistical evidence whatsoever, more so his “gut feel” driving behind countless pelotons.

Kudos to the determination of those that don’t acknowledge themselves as fans of the ascent, keeping the pedals turning. A shout out to Janet Curran, a long time Smiddy supporter and rider from Townsville. Janet was a close friend, and colleague, of Maria Smiddy and we are so delighted to have her back in the peloton on this trip with husband John in lead vehicle.

Professor Brian Gabrielli is constantly being put on his pedestal for the great work he does leading Mater’s world leading research into melanoma, ensuring Smiddy funds have the greatest impact. Unfortunately, a man of such incredible intelligence sometimes lets slip in other parts of life. By the first stop it was revealed Brian had left his notoriously thick wallet behind at Ferntree Lodge – some happy road crew were sent back to retrieve it. He doubled down at morning tea when he pulled his room key his back pocket and innocently asked “were we meant to return these?”.

Those two efforts earned him a new moniker, Professor Obvious. As a result Jamie Forster was able to sneak under the radar, with many not aware he left his laundry behind.

 

Day two heralded a few early comments about fatigue in the legs. I tried to convey some advice I received from the great Phil ‘Skippy’ Anderson over a decade a go on his first Smiddy ride. He told me “no one should be in the big chain ring” – that one should maintain a high cadence to look after the legs. Muscular Skeletal expert Sam Woods has taken this advice very seriously and can be regularly found spinning at 100+RPM. Sam is now “Captain Cadence” in peloton one. The same can’t be said for Mick Young, who after 14 years in the Smiddy peloton, has never recorded a cadence above 40RPM. It may explain why he cracked his crankset on day one and had Ryan strip Killer’s bike to replace it at the end of today’s stage.

As riders enjoyed another ferry crossing of the Daintree River, the reality of a reverse tailwind came apparent. As beneficiaries of a great tailwind on day one it was clear the return trip south wouldn’t be so kind.

Peloton one knuckled down as a tightknit unit working seamlessly and supporting one another into morning tea. The same can’t be said for peloton two. They were given the green light for “every man and woman for themselves” and a small breakaway group smashed themselves over the 10kms into Daintree Village. The Spirit jersey must have been made of heavy polyester judging by the saturation of sweat Brendan presented in at morning tea. The road crew have arranged for twice daily laundry for the great man.

At morning tea, there were whispers of a wee vehicle accident with a Smiddy great. Captain Kev has been fining riders at a whim for making mistakes on tour with regards to sun safety and other minor offences. It’s fair to say Kevvy could be issued a fairly hefty fine for reversing the Smiddy ute into a pole and giving it a little bodywork. Peloton 2 were told nothing of the incident such is Kev’s ability to quietly cover up his own misdemeanours.

The stretch after morning tea was a challenging time for both pelotons as the reverse tailwind picked up. With more traffic on the road, both pelotons were forced into single file at times to ensure road rage was kept to a minimum. DSS Cope did a stellar job in his police escort vehicle keeping the riders safe. Thanks so much Copey for taking time away from home to look after the team.

During these tough times on the road the Smiddy spirit shines through with riders looking out for one another. There were some stellar efforts from the likes of Kirsteen Masson and Stinky Dave, leading from the front. Wongy also deserves a call out for her care for other riders, effortlessly gliding through the peloton to help others. It may have been the excitement from riding through Wonga Beach, her riding strength seemingly going up another level.

A left turn off Captain Cook Highway and the riders had the sniff of day’s end; a wonderful lunch was enjoyed seaside in Port Douglas. We can’t thank the road crew enough for all they do to look after each and every rider out there. It was a wonderful location for the day’s huddle with Stephen Russell and Brendan Flanagan acknowledging the road crew and riders respectively.

A short pedal back to Oaks Resort and day two was done. Tomorrow shapes as our biggest day on the pedals, as we climb into the Tablelands. The riders are naturally resting up with protein shakes and massages, treating their bodies as a temple.

Day 3 - 4 May 2021

Port Douglas to Atherton

Day 3 BLOG BY: Gaz, Chuck and Dr B (Team Epic Consulting)

Stat’s Day 3

Distance:        135.3 kms

Average:       22.6 kph

Max Speed:   57 kph

Ride time:      5:58

Elevation:       1423 metres

Temperature: 15 min / 32 max

 

After a great night sleep at the Oaks Port Douglas, the riders and crew rose to a slight drizzle and a top buffet brekkie to get us ready for a big day of riding. This setup is usually very easy, but some found the coffee ordering system a little challenging (Mr Smiddy!) and despite repeated efforts to secure a soy chai frappe being delivered to the table, had to resort to a takeaway iced tea just as riders were leaving.

Peloton 1 were ready and rearing to go at 0630 and were rung out by Prue. Peloton 2 received their wake-up calls and dragged themselves out of bed closer to 0700, rung out by Luisa.

On the road, we headed north with a slight tail wind before turning left and prepping for the climb up Rex’s Pass to the tablelands. Once our police escort arrived we released “The Rowski” who smashed the Strava segment for the climb in a cracking time of 16 minutes and 22 seconds. He reckons he could have gone faster, but without his “domestic” aka Sharky close by he needed to stop for a pee. Well done Row. Our vegan / vegetarian friends also reminded us that 3 of the 10 fastest today were non-animal consumers. Good for you guys.

On the other hand, we need to discuss Peloton 2 who tried to catch the last train from Port Douglas. Unfortunately, their plans were derailed and once they got themselves back on track were able to push through the rest of the climb. On a positive note, Ryan has offered a 90% discount on any new bike products Peloton 2 may need to repair their faithful steeds. On a serious note, it is really good to see all riders back in their saddles and completing the day. Well done folks.

The climb also answered the age-old question of what happens when an accountant and a gynecologist spend a lot of time together – they fiddle the books!! Thank you Geevsey and Tal, it is very comforting to know that you both are able to look after our most important assets.

The massive brains of these two could also have helped Booba who was borrowing Killer’s gravel bike while his new cranks are being shipped express post from Japan. We got a call through the two-ways that a rider was in need of a Di2 charger because their front derailleur was not working and it was likely a battery malfunction. Soon after, another call came through to stand down because Booba realized that if he pushed the left gear lever just a little bit harder the cable would engage the mechanical control and the chain would change rings. Miracles do happen on Smiddy rides!

We faced a few other challenges on Day 3:

  • Di was attacked by a swarm of African Crutch Bees
  • Lou remembered why she should not ever ride behind Brighty after he has smashed 2 litres of baked beans for breakfast
  • Wongy enjoyed the full gin experience at lunch, maybe a little too much and forget where she had put the sunglasses that were in her helmet while her helmet was on her head
  • We understand Ryan is very well endowed, with a huge deck whereas John Masson acknowledged his medium to small-sized deck was only suitable for a skateboard or two

There was a lot of traffic today and we need to acknowledge the efforts of our road crews, Copey and the QPS and ride leaders who have been keeping us safe. It is great to take the piss, but behind all of this is a dedicated group of largely volunteers who take their roles incredibly seriously to ensure we all get home safe.

Day 1 - 5 May 2021

Atherton to Ravenshoe Loop

FNQ Smiling for Smiddy Day 4

 

Janet Curran & Wendy Muir

Happy birthday Jenny Frazer!!

Distance:            160 kms

Average Speed:  22.6 kph

Climbing:            2489 metres

Moving Time:      7:05

Temperatures:     9 Min / 32 Max

Day 4 started with a delicious cooked breakfast prepared at the Big 4 Caravan Park at Atherton. A cool morning at 17 degrees was made even more beautiful with the enormous Cairns Birdwing Butterfly paying us a visit. Rolling out of the accommodation onto our first climb, which bought us above the carpet of mist that blankets the tableland hollows, Michael Fellows was bought to a photographic climax and quickly got to work snapping the amazing scenery on offer.

The new single (Golden Brown) peloton was learning to roll together which was not helped by an undulating terrain. After some careful guidance from Kevvie & Krista we became a slave to the rhythm which bought us into Millaa Millaa Falls for our morning tea with a million dollar backdrop of the Millia Millia Falls flowing strong as ever thanks to the recent rains.

Rolling out from morning tea two new pelotons were created for the upcoming climb of Old Palmerston Way. The joy of division was those who thought they could, and those who were wiser. They departed on the misty mountain road not to meet again until a hearty lunch at Ravenshoe.

Michael Fellows was caught out reading Cycling Weekly; obviously trying to pick up a few tips. Our always sharp dressing photographer expansive wardrobe a safari helmet straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Upon seeing Michael Fellow, Andrew Baker decided to adventure into his own safari straight into the long grass after misjudging a sweeping bend, but with his talented skills managed to ride straight back into the peloton with a few grass seeds in his jocks.

It was lovely to see long term Smiddy supporters from the north Cath & Mick McDonald pop into Ravenshoe to surprise the peloton & road crew for a lunch visit. Although not road crewing this time, they still continue to fundraiser for Smiling for Smiddy all the way from Ingham.  The lunch at Ravenshoe (Queenslands Highest town) was well received after the long but stunning Old Palmerston Way climb, that included some fun and fast downhills to start before climbing through beautiful rainforests for over 10 kms and eventually coming out to reveal rolling hills dotted with fat happy cows and majectic wind turbines spinning quietly in the gentle breeze.   

After lunch there was some further climbing from the highest town to the highest road in Queenland taking the riders to an elevation of 1162 metres above.  Stephen Russell, in his youthful exuberance was a little too excited on th prospects of being at the highest point of the day and ready for the coming descents, overshot the turn off a short highway stretch.  But it has become apparent it was all a plan - knowing that he would be the only person on that Strava segment thus gaining his only KOM.

Krista ‘Pagey’ Page used her rarely heard Mum voice at the peloton today. General consensus, the children were once again well behaved. As Forrest would say ‘And that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.

With all the riders on the right track - the two pelotons were able to enjoy a series of fast open downhills - the benifits of reaching the highest roads in Queensland.  And after a 120 kms of roads trending upwards a fast finish was well in order.

Each peloton rolled back into the Big 4 in Atherton to a warm welcome and congratulations were shared all around on the longest and biggest climbing day on tour.

The Smiddy huddle was lead by Neil Brown & Wayne Messer from Alpha Sport. They thanked the riders & road crew for a fabulous day on the road. Stewart Webster added his personal heartfelt thanks to the crew for getting him here & encouraging him on his first ever Smiddy Challenge.

It has been voted that Rob ‘Brighty’ Bright need to reconsider his Smiddy Spotify playlist as it wasn’t well received. His retro taste in music is shite.

These stories are based on hearsay, as Wendy spent the day becoming close friends with Mrs Washing-machine & Mr Dryer and absolutely no time with the peloton, while Janet had a sleep in. Oh.........Neil finished the day trying unsuccessfully to slice his finger off with Jenny Fraser’s mandolin.

Thank you to our volunteer support crew for sharing their stories of the day.

We love road crew!!

 

 

 

Day 5 - 6 May 2021

Atherton to Cairns

Chris & Nathan 

 

Day 5 - we made it here together!!!

Distance:               114 kms

Average speed:  25.5 kph

Climbing:               900 metres

Moving Time:        4:27   

Temperatures:      10 min / 34 max

As we rose in the morning, we had already ridden more than 550km’s and climbed approximately 5,600m whilst also enjoying many many magnificent descents. Come 7am, we rolled out of Atherton for our final ride together. We have viewed so many amazing sights during our travels and today would be no different. Credit must be shared to the event planners who managed to lead us on another scenic tour where we stopped to view FBT (not fringe benefit tax, but f****** big tree - Curtain Fig), waterfalls and the amazing Lake Eacham which is a volcanic crater that was created more than 2,000 years ago by two massive explosions of superheated groundwater. 

 

To add to the excitement we were greeted by a couple of roaming dogs taking on Stinky Dave until Krista unleashed her bark at the dog. Just to keep us on our toes Don and Sterlo decided to lay their bikes over during a controversial wrong turn. 

It has been pretty clear all week that people have been striving to get into team gold which was obviously the elite peloton. This is an impossible task for outsiders as it is a fortress tightly guarded which leads us to explain the two attempts today.  Firstly, at Malanda Falls we split back into our original two pelotons. As peloton two were about to depart, Simon appeared from behind a tree pretending to have taken a phone call. We couldn’t put him on the bus so we had to escort him to morning tea. 

The second attempt was a very last ditch effort for glory by the very own Doctor Dan himself where he faked a mechanical to try and sneakily slide in to finish with the gold peloton.

 

Following morning tea we made our way to the top of Gillies Range for a safety briefing ahead of the truly awesome decent that was ahead of us. The safety briefing was necessary as we were about to descend 800m over 19km’s with 263 corners. We were fortunate to have the two QPS vehicles (in addition to our road crew) guarding us front and back during the entire descend as there was high risk with cars and trucks cutting the tight corners. Depending on your speed, if you were lucky you would also catch a glimpse of the mountainous view and possibly a small waterfall here and there.  

The completion of the awesome descend lead us to Gordonvale where we enjoyed a fantastic pub lunch at the local Bottlemart before our final 30km leg to complete our journey to Cairns. Just when we thought the day was done, Gary who has gone under the radar all week took on the curb to get the attention of television crew. 

 

This leads us to the end of the Far North Queensland Smiling For Smiddy event. As two first timers it has been an amazing experience for us and to be in the huddle for Sharkies final words was a really special privilege. As Sharky said, we are all here for our own reasons. That could be raising funds for cancer research, being here to support others or maybe you are here to remember someone who you have lost. Either way, we are all here to carry on the Smiddy tradition of mateship, spirit and teamwork for those near and fear. 

Since 2006 the Smiddy peloton has cycled throughout Queensland. Australia and the world, challenging riders not just on the bike but to make a real impact on cancer research.

You can read all the stories from our past rides at our blog

Sharky's stories from the Saddle

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