By the time I’d completed stage 8 on Friday night, we were basically half way to Adelaide. And while I was still trying to take each day as it came, I had already sussed that something special was brewing ahead of the second week of Ride2Cure.
When we set out on the Tuesday morning, a day ahead of the original schedule, I had a choice: ease back on the km’s and allow the old plan to come back into play, or press on and smash it clean out the park.
I don’t do easing up. Never have and probably never will. Show me a challenge and I’ll show you a response.
Crucial to the overall plan was the fact that in the original schedule, the stages in the second week were shorter than those in the first: and those in the third week were shorter again. Notice I mentioned the third week: we’ll come back to that later…
I built in contingency to guard against fatigue when in reality the exact opposite happened: as the journey wore on, I just got stronger and stronger and stronger.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Anyway, stage 10 was a case in point. Originally set as 127km from Coolamon to Urana, we turned it into a 186km from Coolamon to Jerilderie. Half a day gained in a single day, and that against the eighth longest leg of twenty in the original plan. Stage 10 was the day I realised there was no going back. I remember posting on social media that Tuesday night “Adelaide, we’re going to be early.”
But the day couldn’t have off to a worse possible start. I was stupid and forgetful. I was sat in business class, scoffing my clusterfux, with the bike parked round the back of the van, when I noticed that folk were already up and about and going about their business. And as we’d moved the van in order to get a stronger WiFi signal, it meant that we were that much nearer to the front gate. So, I parked my breakfast and moved the bike to the front of the van. That way, if anyone was snooping about, I‘d see them, or at least, that was the theory.
You can probably guess what happened next…
Because we’d been so used to dotting in and out of the van with the bike parked in the front seats all weekend, I forgot to stick it back in the van. And as Paul moved off, we ran over it.
My heart sank, and in an instant, I thought the journey was over. I shot out the front to discover our beautiful machine wedged under the front bumper. But two things saved us. Firstly, although it was wedged, it was lying across a small drainage recess in the road so it wasn’t load bearing as much as it might have been: and secondly, the load appeared to be taken between the pedals: the rear derailleur, thankfully, was in free air.
I held onto the frame while Paul slowly reversed the van: bike free. A quick dust down and a readjustment of the brakes, I climbed aboard and took it for a wee spin round the site. It appeared to be okay. However there was only one way were really going to find out, and that was to ride it for real.
The first 15km out of Coolamon was uphill. And cold. And windy. By the time I’d made it to Collingullie on the other side of the hill, the average speed was a miserly 24km/hr, hardly in keeping with what we’d become accustomed to, and absolutely nowhere near what I needed to bank a big one.
There was only one thing for it: in order to rescue the day, the next 100km had to be treated like a time trial so I hunted for the biggest gear that would work, and just kept cranking it. By the time I rolled into Urana at half one, the end of the original stage from Coolamon, my legs were absolutely falling off.
However when you’re in the zone, no matter how tired you feel, you just want to crack on. So the only thing that happened between the end of that ‘stage’ and the next one was a swig of water. But with a change in the direction of the road, and hence the wind, I was really, really struggling.
And Paul knew it.
At two o’clock, he pulled alongside, wound the window down and said “look, you can chuck the bike in the van anytime from here, and we’ll drive to Jerilderie…”
Like a red rag to a bull.
- I don’t do giving up when I’m knackered.
- I don’t do giving up when there are still three hours of useable daylight left in the day.
“Jerilderie, I’m coming for you.”
I’m long enough in the tooth to have been in this same position a hundred times before. The trick is to not look too far ahead. Paul’s kind offer came at 140km but I had other stuff in mind:
10km will get me to 150km. Decent.
Another 10km will get me to 160km. 100 miles.
Another 13km after that will make this the longest day.
And another 13km after that will get us to Jerilderie.
And that’s exactly how I played it. No rush, I just took my time. I told myself that for the rest of the afternoon, I was a semi-pro rider defending a lone breakaway and that all I had to do to win the stage was arrive at each of those kite marks on my own.
One by one, I ticked them all off, and just after half three, the bike rolled into the caravan park at Jerilderie.
It had been my longest day, 186km, and also my fastest, at an average speed of 28.5km/hour (17.7mph). But I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t enjoy any of it: it says so in my notes, and they were written just a few minutes after the end of the stage.
However there was a rare wee bonus waiting in store at Jerilderie: the WiFi signal from the caravan park reached the pub fifty yards away, accessible through a hole in the fence. Tired, maybe, but that’s what I call a result!
Stage 10: 186km. 1463km done. 759km to go.