Yet there I was at 7.06am, ready for the day's adventures and it didn't take long to find the first one. Not 200m up the road after exiting camp was a left turn arrow. Seemed harmless enough until I turned said corner and saw the mother of all hills dead ahead. No warning, no warm up, just me, two legs, two screaming lungs and 20% gradient for about 50m straight up. Needless to say I may have been cursing Ben Wilson from BQ as I forced my lungs back down into my chest, crested the hill and settled in for what I hoped was a bit easier rest of the way.
A beautiful morning for a ride though - just cool enough for a jacket early, and with the short climb out of Maleny it was (almost) all downhill to Conondale. Particularly fun to hit the fast 4k descent down the range, with a top speed of 67.7km/hr. I don't want to dob anyone in, but if I hadn't been held up by the two blokes riding their brakes down, I reckon I could have topped 80 today.
Because I was on the road so early, we were directed to the long route (which I'd signed up to do anyway) and enjoyed an extra 15k roll along the Mary (?) River to Crystal Waters Eco Village. Beautiful scenery to the left and right, green paddocks, fat cows all looking curiously at these strange people cycling by, all the while being punched in the face by a head wind on the way out. Thankfully on the way back that tailwind smashed us back to the split point, so quickly in fact that I didn't realise we were back on the main route straight away - it only seemed to take half the time it had to get there!
Conondale P&C put on the morning tea spread today - the scones with jam (I passed on the cream) went down well, along with the ice cold Gatorade. I have it from two reliable Chicks that the chocolate brownie was to die for as well. The riders were obviously hungry today as they ate all of the baked goodies and cleaned out a good portion of chocolate from the local shop as well. Highlight of the day was the kids from the state school standing along the fence cheering the riders on their way.
From Conondale we continued through to our next stop on the banks of Little Yabba Creek for lunch (ham, apricot and salad roll - made with love by BQ's Phoebe - cheese and crackers and pineapple juice). The ride was through some picturesque country with a couple of tough hills to get up and over, but they were offset by sweeping downhills. I was most envious of the caravan perched on the banks of the river in the middle of nowhere - just the birds and nature in all its glory for company.
For the adventurous (and those with appropriate footwear) there was an optional 2km bush walk at lunch, but with only my cycling clips to walk in, I had to add that one to the 'must do' list next time we camp up this way.
My local friend, Andrew had given me warning of another climb after lunch and once again he was spot on. While he didn't say what the hill was like, the heads up was enough to know to expect something, and to know there was a great downhill after the uphill. It was a good steady climb and the down didn't disappoint.
So at 10.30 I cruised past camp and caught up with a couple of the Chicks at a local cafe, treated myself to an ice cream at the dairy and did a spot of shopping, before heading back to help unpack the luggage trucks and set up for the night. After a quick shower, it was off to the Kenilworth pub with Gill, where the cider went down a treat and we met John, a fellow rider, who is originally from London. Great to hear his perspective on the ride and looking forward to seeing him out on the road (on his Merida) in the morning. Joined shortly after by Jenny and Russell, it was a great setting to kick back, relax and enjoy the afternoon sun on the front deck as we watched the world go by.
Down to the dairy again, this time for some cheese tasting (freshly delivered, Phoebe) and finally back to camp for ride briefing and dinner (satay chicken skewers, rice and greens, apricot Danish and custard).
I'm not sure I've ever written about the ride briefings before - essentially each night the riders gather in the cafe to get the lowdown on the next day's ride. It usually goes a little something like this:
Tomorrow we are riding from A to B. Our first rest stop will be at such and such after x km, followed by lunch at this place after y km (you get the gist). Followed by: Riders should be aware of hazards (like cattle grids). The ride has a couple of easy climbs, nothing too hard (translation - there are some bloody hard hills ahead) and there will be a great tailwind pushing you along (do you really need the translation to know that that "tailwind" is going to smash you head on?). Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit with the translations, but let's just say that after the hazard identification, I take the rest with a grain of salt and consult my Ride Guide to check out the day ahead. It's all in good fun though!
Anywho - tomorrow we are off to Gympie via Imbil. 78k of many ups and downs on roads I am more than familiar with. No long option for me tomorrow as they are heading on roads I am more than familiar with and have no desire to ride (the first 11k is lovely, the last 2k brutal - with a 200m 20% gradient. I'll leave that one on the bucket list for another time!
Until tomorrow, when you question who in their right mind undertakes these cycle tours for fun and enjoyment, remember the words of Mark Cavendish: