Stage 9 – Ascot To Coolamon

Originally billed as the rollout for stage 10, Coolamon offered itself as the host to the end of the re-scheduled stage 9, and with it, the potential to soon be a full day ahead of schedule in terms of km’s on the road. But in order to get there, I first had to deliver another big one, something approaching Thursday’s whopping 172.

However, before turning a wheel, we had to drive 40km back to the old grain store in the middle of nowhere. Despite an early rise, it was some way after 8am before we got the show on the road. And it was a headwind from the off. I hasten to add that I really didn’t see much scenery on that Saturday morning: I was too busy looking at the number plate on the back of the van, and listening intently for any subtle changes in the engine tone.

In terms of terrain, stage 9 was a bit of a brute: interspersed with 60km of undulating tarmac was further hundred kilometres of climbing: and all of it into the wind.

No one said this was going to be easy….

The first three landmarks were Pullabooka (8:45am), Caragabal (9:15am) and Quandialla (9:45am). Quandialla was the scheduled end of the old stage 9 so I was effectively the best part of a day up the road by the time we made our first pit stop.

I always found that the best way to deal with long stages was to break them down into bite size chunks. In much the same way that I’d managed to digest 500km to Dubbo, 171km to Coolamon was better described as 43km to see off the old stage 9, followed by the remaining 128km to Coolamon broken down into pre and post Temora segments. I’d got well used to demolishing 50km in two hours so anything that rewarded two hours of lactic acid with a banana or a couple of cereal bars was cool in my book.

By the time we stopped for lunch around half twelve, we once again had well over a hundred km in the bank and it doesn’t matter how tired you feel in the afternoon session, having that insurance in your back pocket makes such a difference. My only disappointment on this stage was that the finish, as dictated by the Karoo, wasn’t a couple of km’s further up the road: 171 doesn’t beat a 172 any day of the week. But, hey, we went into the rest days on a real high: and I got a nice “well done” text from Anna Meares on the way to Wagga.

Stage 9: 171km. 1277km done. 945km to go.

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