The previous night's ride briefing had warned us that we had a tough 78km day ahead of us and in most ways, Ben sure got it right. Our first destination for morning tea was Carters Ridge, and true to CQ form it wasn't too far out of camp before we started the first climb of the day. Lots of undulations today, with some great sweeping descents and equally tough uphills to test tired legs. A spot of rain, but really only a passing shower and not enough to warrant even pulling out the rain jacket.
Now one of the first questions people ask when they hear that I do an event like CQ is, 'aren't you worried about riding on the road?' For the most part, the answer is usually a resounding 'No'. If you've ever been on a BQ event, you would be well aware of the planning that has gone into play to ensure we are travelling on well maintained roads, have space for cars and trucks to pass safely, have low traffic volumes and the like. At tonight's ride briefing we even learned that they had contacted the local logging companies to let them know we will be on the Rainbow Beach Road tomorrow and that the company had changed their schedule to assist with arriving safely.
Today, however I had two instances that made me wonder why we do what we do. The first involved a two-laned (one lane each way) road with some of the shoulders having started to deteriorate. I could hear a truck approaching from behind, and see a truck coming in the other direction. Because the truck behind me couldn't pull across to give me the required 1.5m clearance, instead of slowing down and waiting til it was safe to pass, he continued to pass me as we met the teuck travelling in the other direction. I maintained my line, breathing deeply to stay calm as his B-double passed within arms reach of me on my bike. Ahead I could see the shoulder crumbled away to a rocky gravel. To stay upright I moved about 10cms closer to the truck to avoid the poor surface. Once he was ahead of me, I released my breath, cursed like a sailor, put my head down and continued on.
The second instance was similar, with a car who just refused to give me space. As he passed me, I got swooped by a bloody magpie. Thankfully kept my wits about me and didn't wobble into the car. If only drivers realised that the 1m rule isn't about trying to inconvenience them, but to help avoid accidents when the unpredictable happens.
From Carters Ridge we continued through to Kandanga via Imbil township, a place I'm more than familiar with as it's close to a campground we used to spend Christmas and Easter at. Looped around the school so the kids could see us and cheer us on, laughed at the ride marshal who asked if I was doing the long option, stopped for the obligatory chicken dim sim at the Railway Cafe and then hit the road for Kandanga.
Having ridden this route before I knew we had a fair bit of work to do to get up and down hills, with a particularly nasty long slow grade just outside of down. Breathing technique employed and as I crested the hill I got a little cheer from the two people who were pushing their bikes up. Lunch (corned beef, cheese and salad sandwich, cheese and crackers, killer Python and orange juice) did not disappoint and was in a pretty spot at the bowls club, right under an old railway bridge. Once again we were faced with a climb straight after lunch that just kept going and going and going.
Funnily enough though, the hills that made me groan on my first CQ now just make me smile, as I love a long slow ascent - it's the short, sharp gradients I've learned to hate! I actually enjoyed today's ride and didn't find it nearly as difficult as I'd expected it to be.
About 10k out of Gympie, with the hills behind me, it was nice to a) be on a road that didn't feel like my teeth were rattling out of my head and b) be rolling at a nice pace after the slow slog over the range. Even the heavens opening with 5k to go couldn't dampen my spirits (did you see what I did there?) and one very drowned rat rolled into camp in Gympie an hour before it opened, and so sat in the rain until it was time to unload the luggage trucks and set up for the night.
Following a deliciously warm shower and dry clothes, and with the sun now out and a warm breeze drying everything out, I hit the town centre for a spot of shopping (umbrella, compression socks, snacks, volunteer pressies and the obligatory Pepsi Max). Spotted a sign for Parmy Tuesday and returned to the pub later that evening for a sneaky cider with dinner as I didn't feel like the spag Bol, apple pie and custard on offer tonight.
We are off to Rainbow Beach tomorrow. Just a couple of short hills out of town and then a lot of boring flat road to trundle down. Looking forward to the rest day (I get sick of striking camp each day) and hopefully the weather gods will be good to us.
Oh and our trusty Comms guy (who ironically is also named Guy) was wearing an Arab's keffiyeh today. I forgot to mention yesterday's get up - a Puritan's cap during the day and Turkish military skullcap in the evening. I love looking out for Guy each day to see what he's wearing - and he's a lovely man as well.
So until tomorrow, remember that everything is better on a bicycle.