Up until now racing had been quite relaxed, if you can call 300kms a day relaxed. The course was flat and navigation had not been an issue, let’s face it, for most of the race so far there had only been one road to follow.
The tempo of the race was increasing, through Port Augusta and Adelaide I had leapt a number of riders and was now in the top 10. It was time to start attacking and in my sights was Callum. This would become the epic battle, right to the last day.
Day 10 – Adelaide to Kingston SE
It was a later start to the day, starting at 0600h. This was in part so I could say goodbye to my mate, rather than sneaking out at some ungodly hour. It was also self-imposed time penalty, in order to stay with my mate I had gone off course and cut about 30kms off the ride. So delaying my start by a couple of hours was a fair penalty, of course, some would argue getting another couple of hours of sleep wasn’t really a penalty. However this late start came with another penalty, I now had to navigate down Port Wakefield road in heavy traffic to get to Adelaide and this was not for the faint-hearted. It was dark, trucks, high-speed limits, poor roads, no shoulders in part, in short, it was about as bad as it gets when it comes to commuting on a bike.
Conversely, the ride out of Adelaide was good, mainly because I was now going against the flow of traffic. The climb out of Adelaide over the ranges was enjoyable, I still had concerns about my leg muscle, but it felt ok going up the hill. Being peak hour there was still a fair amount of traffic on the roads meaning I had to pull over a few times on the climb to let the cars through.Navigation was now becoming a factor as I started to work my way around the roads in the Hahndorf region. I wasn’t using my Garmin for navigation, so I didn’t have access to turn by turn directions. Instead, I was using a set of maps on my phone, this probably slowed me down a little as I was constantly pausing to check I was on the right track. The Adelaide Hills was a lovely region to be cycling in. Traffic was probably a little heavier than I would have liked but it was a Friday morning, but could certainly see the appeal. It was also a fair bit cooler up in the hills compared to the city itself.
It was a day of ups and downs. I arrived in Murray Bridge feeling good and was being assisted with a tailwind. Managed a quick stop and good feed before continuing on to Tailem Bend. Then I turned south into a head/crosswind, and just like that, it almost broke me. Travelling south down along Lake Alexandrina there is minimal cover, and you are very exposed to the crosswinds. I remember stopping multiple times through frustration and exhaustion, then one of the stops I checked the race situation on Maprogress, which I had never done before during the day up to this point. I surprised to see I had made ground on Callum, I guess we were all doing it tough. But this provided me with the motivation I needed to get me going again. So it was a quick stop at Meningie for food and resupply before turning south-west and catching the wind again. The chase was on again.
I arrived at Salt Creek at dinner time, in early days of the race I would have stopped for the night, but the tempo of the race was building. It was still light so I wanted/needed to push on, it was another 84k to Kingston SE. I knew it would be dark when I arrived, I called ahead and managed to secure the last cabin at the caravan park, this gave me a sense of security as I knew I had somewhere to stay. So it was a quick burger at the roadhouse and then back on the road. The roadhouse was itself was quite bizarre. Quite austere on the outside and then an eclectic mix of fishing rods and mounted deer heads on the inside.
With 84k to go I was in full time trial mode and feeling strong, I smashed through the first half but then run out off puff and progressively went downhill and not in a good way, the last 5kms was a struggle. I rolled into Kingston SE around 0930h straight into the roadhouse and was able to resupply, I must have been tired because I made some poor choices with my food, it was good enough, just not enough of it.
I found the caravan park but is close to 2300h before I was settled and in bed. It had been a long, but I was happy to make it to Kingston SE, given the late start I had in Adelaide.
Day 11 Kingston SE to Portland
I started the day without enough food and struggled, I stopped frequently through exhaustion even for a lie-down once, which attracted the attention of a passing motorist who was concerned for my well being. I thanked him for his concerned but assured him I was alright. Breakfast finally came when I reached Beachport after 88kms. Breakfast wasn’t what I was hoping for, but a couple of pies and sweet treats from the local bakery got me back on top. It had taken me I while, but it was this stint that finally made me realised how much I should be eating. From this point on, I vowed to stuff my face at every opportunity.
As I rolled through Millicent I had my first encounter a first dot watcher. There was a man on the side of the cheering me on and streaming the moment live on Facebook. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I just wasn’t prepared for any sort of attention, I really didn’t think it was that big a deal. Maybe for the leaders but I was just another rider in the pack.
The road into Mt Gambier was unpleasant, busy and the shoulder was in terrible condition, forcing you to ride on the right-hand side of the white line but this required constant checking for cars coming up from behind. It was mentally draining.
I was feeling motivated thanks to my overly enthusiastic cheer squad sending me regular updates. So it was a quick lunch at McDonalds, it was also from this moment McDonald’s became my go-to place for food, it was fast, cheap, high in calories and I knew what to expect. I’ve previously visited Mt Gambier a number of times, so I knew the town and its lakes. I was keen for a photo stop but couldn’t find the right opportunity, and I was becoming too focused on the race to waste time with photo stops. As I was leaving Mt Gambier I hooked up with another dot watcher who rode with me for a while. It was great to have some company, importantly he was able to give some great intel on Callum and his condition, it was good to be the hunter.
The section from Mt Gambier to Nelson was good. A combination of favourable winds, quiet roads, being fuelled up and newly acquired intel on Callum had me fired up. It was clear I was in better condition than Callum, and I was keen to press home the advantage. It got a little trickier from Nelson to Portland. The roads were tight, rolling twisting roads with very little shoulder. This would have been okay except the logging trucks. Unlike the Nullarbor where the trucks had a good line of sight to the riders, because of the twisting, rolling roads it meant there was little warning of approaching trucks. On numerous occasions on this section, I found myself just getting off the road as a matter of self-preservation.
I was making good time as I arrived in Portland only to discover two things. The first one was how accurate the Spot Trackers devices are. I had just arrived at the Woolworths to resupply when Shannon, the King of Portland and avid dot watcher found me. This lead to discovery two, that I had made a navigation mistake and cut off about 15kms of the course. This lead to a dilemma, what to do as I was closing in on Callum and taking the shortcut didn’t seem fair. Strictly by the rules if this were an official race, I would have needed to go back to the point I left the course and start again. But given this was an unofficial race so Shannon and I agree the best thing to do was rejoin the course part way to make up the 15kms to ensure I at least didn’t gain any advantage.
To help me out, Shannon rode with me to show me the way, this culminated in Shannon taking me to his place. He had set up the most fantastic rest stop for the IPWR riders, food, water, beds, whatever we needed. Apparently many in the town had contributed to setting it up. It was a welcome gesture and certainly appreciated. I considered staying there for the night, but I was keen to chase down Callum, so I kept going. However just as I got to the edge of Portland it started raining, and it was getting dark, this was enough to convince me to call it a day. So instead of staying the relative comfort of Shannon’s stopover I was now sleeping on pine bark at the caravan park, it was as close to sleeping rough without sleeping rough.
Day 12 Portland to Geelong
Thanks to the pine bark I didn’t have a great night’s sleep and ended up making it an early start. Callum had ridden long into the night and built up a good lead on me again. As I made my way to Warrnambool, I passed a number of places that would have made a better overnight stop than the caravan park I had stayed up, but them’s the breaks when you’re racing. I arrived in Warrnambool in good shape, in had been a good morning, I had quick breakfast at McDonalds, a resupply, and I was on my way again.
A howling tailwind was picking up, and I knew it was going to be a good day, I hit the Great Ocean Road and started to crank it up so there was no time for tourist stops or photos. The one exception being Martyr’s Rock, only because I didn’t have to leave the course to get the photo, it’s also probably the least spectacular of rock formations. Shortly after Martyr’s Rock, I had another encounter with some dot watchers. As I was motoring along, I sensed a vehicle coming up behind me, I didn’t think much of, it was probably just another passing motorist. To my surprise, it was a white van with a couple of guys hanging outside, one with a camera and one starting asking me questions, interview style. It was all quite surreal.
Lavers hill was bigger than I was expecting and probably steeper but I so fired up at this stage it really didn’t matter. I stopped in Lavers Hill for lunch, there wasn’t much on offer, but it was enough to keep me going. I suspect I stopped at the wrong place, a tip for future riders, don’t stop at the first cafe at Lavers Hill, it looked like there were better shops up the road a bit. Still, I did find out upon my arrival Callum had only left 20 minutes before my arrival, if I made it a quick stop, I could limit the gap to under an hour.
The descent from Lavers Hill was the first long and steep descent. On any regular ride this wouldn’t be a challenge, but when your bike so loaded up, the weight distribution really throws handling off, meaning you need to pay a little more attention going into those corners. I arrived in Apollo Bay, it was all about catching Callum now, so this was the formula one of the pit stops for the IPWR. I literally ran into the shops for food and water, and I was back on the bike. This was not a day for sightseeing or long lunch breaks.
I was making good time along the Great Ocean Road, but I could not catch Callum. There were numerous road works along the way, which meant forced pauses waiting as the road was reduced to one way traffic. At one of these stops, I was talking to the traffic marshal who was able to provide me with another update on Callum. He described him as being somewhat agitated because of all the road works and had expressed his frustrations at being held up all the time because I was catching him. Once again, this was good intel because it gave me an insight into Callum’s state of mind. In comparison, I was quite relaxed, enjoying the ride and catching him. I was in no rush to catch him, there was still a long way to good, but by my estimates, I had reduced the gap to about 10kms.
The plan had been to get to Torquay for the day, but the chase was on so there was no way I was stopping when it was still light. Which is unfortunate because Torquay looked really nice compare to Geelong. By the time I got to Geelong though it was getting dark, while I was keen to catch Callum, there was my golden rule “Don’t overextend yourself”. It was about 1830h, being a big town I wasn’t keen on sleeping rough for security reasons. I was tired and probably wasn’t thinking too clearly but finding a place was harder than it should have been. In the end, I found a rather seedy looking motel which was close to the course, and when I say seedy, it was the sort of place where the owner knew the “working” girls on first name basis. By the time I found shops, food and got myself cleaned up it would be pushing 2230h.
The last thing I did for the day was to check on the progress of Callum, he had pushed on Lara. I was quite impressed; it had been a long hard but satisfying day, and Callum had withstood my challenge. Overall I think had reduced his lead marginally. I knew he had ridden longer into the night and would probably start later the next day, but I was planning the same. I planned to pit stop in Melbourne for a tyre change, knowing the shops didn’t open until 0830h, there wasn’t much point to super early start, so an extra of sleep would do me good after the hard day we just had.