Well, after much anticipation the 2015 Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride is over (sob). This was my first year doing it and my husband Troy also joined me for the ride. We were in the Eagles ride group. I can honestly say, thanks to the 250+ riders and numerous volunteers, I haven’t had such a ball in a long time. Here’s a wrap up for you so you know what to expect if you decide to sign-up next year (and we highly recommend you do!).
Day 1 — Thursday, July 23 — Townsville to Ingham 112km
Apart from the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride (TCBR) committee and volunteers, who had to be there super early, most riders rolled into the Mercure Townsville at about 6am ahead of the 7.15am start. There was a mix of emotions in the early morning air — excitement, nervousness, that frantic feeling of ‘Did I pack my chamois cream?’ Troy and I had both done several weekend rides with most of our ride group in the lead up to the TCBR, but there were some members we hadn’t met who had travelled from far and wide to be part of the fun — there were the ‘Ayr boys’ (including the identical Sherrington twins who were the source of much confusion at first), Scott Stewart who travelled from Dubai — yes, Dubai — and Elias Youssef (AKA Habibi) from Adelaide, whose quick wit made for entertaining roll calls. Our group leaders had organised nicknames for us, printed on nametags, which stuck for the rest of the ride.
As each group had their pre-briefing departure it was great to check out the effort that some riders went to in the dress-up stakes — a special mention needs to go to the colourful Koalas, the tutu-clad Bandicoots and, of course, the beautiful Butterflies. A quick address from Mayor Jenny Hill and then it was time to roll. This was the big smile experience of the ride — I was totally blown away by how many people turned out to cheer and wave us on — the support went all the way to the Northern Beaches and I think this had a lot to do with the terrific job fellow first-time rider and 4TOFM presenter Minty did in highlighting the ride in the lead-up.
It was a fairly slow roll out of town due to the traffic and our first stop was a brief one at Woodlands Shopping Centre to make sure everyone was OK. After another stop at Bluewater, we arrived at Rollingstone Hotel where we were greeted by some local school kids. They were given goodie bags on behalf of the TCBR, and they also wanted our autographs. Feeling very Chris Froome ‘a la Tour de France’, we all got busy signing; but Troy and I got a bit too busy — we looked up and saw our group disappearing into yonder — oops! (I should note here that this was not the fault of our dear Captain as the roll had been called and we’d been present — just got a bit side-tracked between then and actually pedalling off. Anyway, it resulted in what I’ll dub ‘Lubicz Law’ — a policy change so that the roll was called at the very last minute. Our penance? Some very attractive ‘jewellery’ in the form of a ball and chain).
The longest leg on this day was after lunch at Frosty Mango — 30km to Francis Creek, which included a couple of gentle hills. I personally found this to be the hardest section of the ride — I don’t know why as there were definitely more challenging bits to come, but think my bum was still getting used to saddle-time and we had a truck that got uncomfortably close and rattled a few nerves (yes, he got reported — the beauty of having policemen in your group).
So Ingham Showgrounds and the showers were a welcome sight. After cracking our first well-earned beverage the cricket came out and soon drew a crowd — it didn’t matter if you could play or not (I am testament to that). Cricket ‘evolved’ into a unique game involving two rubbish bins and trying to throw either a tennis ball, football or Frisbee into them at distance — this is what happens when you get a group of tired cyclist together and feed them a couple of beers.
Snoring aside (lesson 1: bring ear plugs next time), most people got a good sleep that evening. Apart from the mascots. A few cheeky thieves in the night cunningly made off with some of the animals that were on the support cars, while others had theirs snaffled from their bikes — this tit-for-tat mascot warfare was something that continued over coming days.
Day 2 — Friday, July 24 — Ingham to Innisfail 160km
The true test of how you are going in a multi-day ride is how much grimacing you do when you sit back on the saddle the next day. My pain wasn’t nearly as bad as I’ve experienced in the past, but it was still very much there and resulted in me doubling up with my cycling knicks.
Day Two is the longest and most dreaded day for most as it involves a climb up the Cardwell Range early into the ride and — historically — heaps of rain. Riding in the rain was probably the thing that I was least looking forward to, but we were so lucky — aside from a few sprinkles leaving the Ingham Showgrounds at about 6.30am, the only downpour we had was coming down the Range (not the most ideal spot, but that’s how it rolls!). But before we got up there, there was a bit of a wait at the bottom as all the rider groups took their turn to get to the top, supporting each other as they finally reached the crest.
It turns out there’s a tradition with the Eagles — a very attractive King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey and matching shorts for the first male and female rider to the top. As it turns out, I was the first girl to the top, with James “Grinner” Kennedy from Ayr the first guy (perhaps the riders of past years knew what was in store!). Part of our ‘prize’ was to lead the group into Cardwell where we all pulled up and had a delicious pie with mushy peas from the pie van (if you haven’t done this yet, it’s a must). This was our longest stint of the day at 32km.
After that we had just one more stop before a delicious lunch at Tully. At this stage, do you see a pattern forming? Ride. Eat. Ride. Eat — perfect trip really. Check out the group photo that was taken in front of the Golden Gumboot. The next couple of hours got a bit tough for some as we tried to find a comfortable position and keep those legs pumping, but the support of the group kept everyone going and the constant reminder that we were doing this for the kids helped — the pain was nothing compared to what they face daily. Poor Scotty was plagued with punctures this day and the next, but aside from that, there were only to be a handful of flats/mechanicals resulting in people needing to get into the car till they could be fixed at the next stop.
Innisfail looked pretty good when we arrived at about 4/4.30pm that afternoon. We stayed at the Innisfail Showgrounds and all riders gathered their gear from the containers and went about setting up camp for the night. After a shower, our group headed to the Goondi Hill Hotel, which was a few hundred metres down the road — this has, apparently, become somewhat of a tradition. A few jugs got passed around, the jukebox got fed with coins, and the Ayr boys led the singing, much to the entertainment of the locals (who kept asking if there were more of us coming). However, no one wanted to miss the famous pasta dinner back at the Showgrounds so everyone trudged back, had a feast and generally got up to more mischief before collapsing in bed, safe in the knowledge the hard stuff was done.
Day 3 — Saturday, July 25 — Innisfail to Cairns 88km
This day can most accurately be described as an absolute pleasure for me — my bum had reached the acceptance stage and I’d developed a ‘new normal’; we had all got to know each other pretty well in the ride group so there were even more jokes; and the ride into Cairns with the greenery and tailwind was spectacular. The last few kilometres before we reached Earlville Lions Park was a bit hectic in the traffic, but coming through the arch and getting greeted by the pre-arrived ride groups was awesome.
Each group assembled on their little patch of shaded grass as they arrived and you could hear the ‘hip-hip-hoorays’ coming from all directions — what an amazing achievement for everyone. Talking to people in the aftermath, some confided that the experience had taught them things about themselves, others made new life-long friends, while others pushed themselves in ways they hadn’t before — especially those who were brave and inspiring enough to do it with the extra challenge of a disability, like Patrick Reid who rode the 358km as a double amputee.
After each group presented their awards to riders who had stood out for various reasons (like the Ayr boys who got ‘Spirit of the Ride’ for being a constant source of entertainment), then it was time for the final 5km through Cairns via police escort. There were more encouraging cheers and toots before we all pulled up at our final destination of the Cairns PCYC and began the task of packing up our bikes to be transported back to Townsville, collecting our gear and dispersing to the comfort of our various hotels and motels. Everyone was keen to rest up ahead of the night of celebration that awaited — the Gala Dinner.
This is a good point to recognise the huge efforts of the TCBR committee and volunteers for the mammoth amount of work that was put into the event to have everything running safely and smoothly, and this night was no different. King Social came up from Townsville and did an awesome job of getting riders of all ages on the dance floor. However, just because the ride was over, the inter-group rivalry didn’t cease, with mascots getting pinched and a dance-off unfolding to much laughter. Oh yes, after nearly 360km there was still energy left to cut up that dance floor.
We would like to give a HUGE congratulations to everyone who took part in the 2015 Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride, whether you were a rider or volunteer. Not only did you play a big part in raising nearly $300,000 (or over $5 million in total over 17 years) to help the Children’s Cancer Institute put an end to childhood cancer, you also hopefully conquered your own goals and have plenty of stories and photographs to show for it.
If you have any pics you’d like us to add to our Facebook album, please email [email protected]
More information about the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride here: http://tcbr.org.au/. Registrations for TCBR 2016 open in March next year. It’s not too late to donate to this year’s ride here: https://2015townsvilletocairns.gofundraise.com.au/payments/donate/beneficiary/80.