Monday, 4 September 2017

2017 Townsville to Brisbane Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge - Day 8

Written by: Mark Sharky Smoothy

Distance: 172 kilometres
Ride time:  6 hours 32 minutes
Ave Speed:  26.4 km/h
Max Speed:  88 km/h
Elevation: 2039 metres
Min Temperature: 8C degrees
Max Temperature:  31C degrees

Stats for the 2017 Townsville to Brisbane Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge: 
Distance:1581 kilometres
Ride time: 55 hours 26 minutes
Average speed: 28.5 km/h
275,000 pedal revolutions
9650 metres climbing
9747 metres descending
57,000 calories burned

Blog Dedication
As you may or may not know, this Challenge event, my 12th, is my final one. Just prior to this year's event a very good friend of mine passed away and I wish to dedicate this blog to Dr David Sugg. A mate I knew and whose friendship I valued for 14 years.

Let’s Roll Smiddy Peloton and Head For Home!
Our 6 am roll out from Blackbutt saw us leave right on Smiddy time, 6.10 am. The honour of the final ringing of the infamous Captain Kevvy cow bell went to Linda Little of the Benarkin Lions Club. After seven days on the road the peloton quickly fell into the usual banter with regards to the antics of the previous night. The immediate descent down the Blackbutt range was long, fast, brisk, foggy and the most exhilarating start out of all our mornings on the road.

New Communities
Now the beauty of doing the ride from Townsville to Brisbane meant that we got to introduce the Smiddy family of riders and road crew, and share the Smiddy story, with three new and appreciative communities—Dingo, Munduberra and Blackbutt. A huge thank you to the Blackbutt Showgrounds and the Agricultural Show Society, managed and run by Ian Tigell and Jeanette Berry, for allowing us to take over the Showgrounds for the night. Also to Linda Little and the Benarkin Lions for hosting the riders and providing dinner and breakfast for the hungry crew. The Lions also generously donated $400 last night. Lastly, thank you to Mark and Desley Gaedtke, our Nanango hosts for 12 years now, for the beautiful afternoon tea they put on and for joining us for dinner in Blackbutt.

Guest Speakers and Blog Writers at Blackbutt
Our guest speakers last night were Melissa Speare and Mick Farrag and they shared with us their amazing Smiddy journey, which began back in 2012 for Melissa and 2013 for Mick. They've completed seven Smiddy events between them and raised many tens of thousands of dollars. Thanks guys for collating all the memories of the Smiddy Challenge event since 2006 up to the present day. The day's blog was expertly written and very funny by Allan Reilly and Ross Andrewartha which was a monumental effort after a 12 hour day on the bike! 

Smiddy Gets A Hold Of Your Heart
To finish into Brisbane today for the very first time after 11 Challenge events has been one of great excitement. For seven days we have been looking forward to seeing family and friends, and on this final day, the mixed emotions of not wanting to leave the Smiddy family of 49 riders and 16 road crew, but desperately wanting to see our families, has been messing with our heads. The bond formed between riders and road crew has been unbreakable, and for ever and a time these guys and girls are now linked intimately to the Smiddy family.

Hills and More Hills
Our course today took us up and over the Blackbutt Range, through Kilcoy and after a grueling climb up and over Mt Mee, with more than 1500 kilometres in our legs, the group enjoyed their last morning tea together at Mt Mee Lookout. From there we all enjoyed the plunge down the final big descent into Dayboro, home of the famous 2016 Australian Volunteer of the Year in Captain Kevvy. Samford was our final lunch and after eight days of being fed by our amazing road crew, I can guarantee you all the riders have arrived home healthy and a little on the heavier side. A huge thank you to all the families that traveled out to either Mt Mee, Dayboro and Samford to catch up with us prior to arriving at the University of Queensland.

Qld Police and Big Hearts
From the time we hit the Mt Mee road, off the very popular ‘Sharky Shortcut’, the Father's Day traffic was incredibly busy. If not for the support of the Queensland Police, especially our escort in Jake who joined us on day five as we came into Biloela and has been with us ever since, we would have arrived into Brisbane a good hour later. To witness their professionalism in stopping traffic and expertly and safely navigating us through had to be seen and experienced to be believed.

An Emotional Stop At Smiddy Park, Then on to UQ
We made a quick stop at Adam Smiddy park in Milton to pay our respects to Adam, where I also shared the story of how the park came to be and then onto the Coronation Road bike path to arrive safely at UQ to the massive turnout of love ones, friends and supporters. As most of you witnessed this afternoon, and what transpired out there behind the tennis courts was one very emotional scene as all the riders and road crew celebrated a most successful eight days on the road.

The Chuddle (a cross between a Huddle and a cuddle), with David Smiddy in the centre, was without a doubt one of the biggest in the history of Smiddy. The big man is loved by all and today there was enough positive energy to get our favourite man through the next 12 months.

Night Time Function
To finish the day, we came together again for one last dinner. The male riders have shed their beards and are unrecognisable while the ladies, with not a Smiddy t-shirt in sight look stunningly beautiful and relaxed. 

The only hint that these amazing people have traveled almost 1600 kilometres under their own steam is to watch them get in and out of their chairs, or to walk down anything resembling stairs. It's all done a little slower than normal, as muscles are used to churning the pedals some 40 000 revolutions per day and not accustomed to sitting in one place. 

But best of all, is that we get to share this occasion and accomplishment with all the beautiful people in the room. For without your love and support, none of us would be in a position to spend those hard, but life changing, and memorable eight days on the road. We are in awe of you all and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Serge Simic Guest Speaker
Serge very bravely got up and shared his heartbreaking story of losing his dear and beautiful wife Emma to melanoma earlier this year. Our hearts went out to him and we can only hope that all the love in the room that night gives him strength to keep moving forward.

Jersey Presentations
The first Spirit Jersey was awarded to Claire Schneider who accepted on behalf of all of the ride leaders, and the incredible job they do to help Pagey and Killer in getting the peloton safely home to Brisbane. First time Smiddy rider Leanne Miller was also awarded a Spirit Jersey for taking 11 years to be convinced to do the Smiddy Challenge, then turning around and expressing that she wished she had of done it sooner. Leanne was also the third highest fundraiser with more than $10,000 raised.

Road Not Kill and Stats
The final road kill tally was delivered by Ben and Jacque and this time around they decided to count live animals, which was a welcome change to the smelly dead ones. Stats was delivered by Stinky's replacement in Geoff Owen. A big thanks to you guys for stepping up and doing that for us.

Sharky Recognition
Lesley Ray and Nigel Harris run the show at Mater Foundation and they were present on the night. Unbeknownst to me, they and the Smiddy team, hatched a little plan to thank me for my contribution to cancer research over the past 12 years. A lovely speech was delivered, really scary photos of all my different hairstyles were shared with the group on the big screen, and a beautiful framed jersey presented that was signed by all the riders from this year's Challenge. A huge thank you to all involved and while not expected, it truly was appreciated.

David Smiddy
The night concluded with me asking Mr Smiddy for permission for the Smiddy name to be used for all our events next year. This is a yearly tradition, and one that I am always grateful for that the Smiddy family gives us the thumbs up each time. David concluded with a beautiful, and as always, emotional speech and the night then rocked on for those wanting to celebrate and let their hair down.

Funds raised to date from this event are $275,000. Thank you to all who helped make this happen.

I would like to leave you with a few things I am extremely grateful for, and what I'll miss and not miss about the Smiddy Challenge:  

Things I will miss

    Number one, the camaraderie with my fellow riders that comes from enduring eight hard days in the saddle.
    Being able to use the old recruitment strategy to my closest friends, if you do Challenge, I'll do it with you.
    Tony Pratt for his positive affirmation each time he'd pass me in the peloton. Actually I believe he was doing this with a lot of riders.
    Bruce Frazer and our name game each rotation.
    To see the ride leaders in action and their selfless acts each and every day in helping to get those riders that are struggling safely home.
    Jacque counting down the days each day and telling me that she hates me. Which meant she was having a great time!
    Lofty and his awesome Dad jokes.
    Hearing Liz sing.
    Having Chris by my Syde (Chris Sydes).
    Serge throwing kisses my way every revolution of the peloton.
    All the pats on my bum, mostly by male riders.
    David Smiddy paying out on me as a rider. Next year he will have to come up with new stuff when I go across to road crew duties.
    My chats out the back with Damo and Ken, our protectors.
    Seeing James in action. Mark Cavendish has nothing on this man.
    Offering Paul O’Sullivan up to $3000 for his saddle as his butt was the only one not sore in the peloton.
    Getting Geoff Owen and Graeme Christiansen mixed up when they did not have their helmets on.
    Witnessing Pagey and Julie Andrews descending. Those girls rock!
    Seeing our Physio and massage girls torturing the riders in Helen, Nikki and Sammi Jo.
    Seeing David the Hillmeister in action on the climbs.
    Riding with Copey!
    Riding with Stinky
    Kevvy getting angry at me at least once.
    Our photographer in Michael Fellows popping up all over the course for eight days.
    Sleeping with Berty! Same room…

The things I will not miss

    The headwinds, rough roads, potholes, angry motorists, the heat, the cold and having to eat so much food over those eight days that my gums ache.
     Youngy telling me the same stories every year from past Smiddy adventures.. 
    Being snotted and farted on by a Smiddy rider in front of you. Accidentally, of course. Actually I think I may be one of the guilty ones. Whoops.
    Drinking electrolyte for hydration and consuming gels. Both necessary but sickening when on them for eight days.
    Applying chamois cream
    My bottom resembling a cheese grater at the end of each Challenge
    Garath today telling me the story of how he won the Mt Mee king of the mountain 17 times in 20 kilometres.
    Dr Koala at the first school visit in Clermont telling the primary aged children eventually they will have to pay tax when they grow up.

Grateful Grateful Grateful
  Marie and David Smiddy giving me permission in 2006 for that first ride, and every ride since to go ahead. Without your faith in me there would be no Smiling for Smiddy. The staff at Smiddy and Mater Foundation have now run 53 Smiddy events we are closing in on raising $9 million dollars.
  All the people that have come into my life because of Smiling for Smiddy; riders, road crew, work colleagues, sponsors and supporters. We lost an incredible human being in Adam Smiddy but gained a movement that helps to keep my mate alive. Just think about how many people in Australia now know the Smiddy story, it must be in the ten of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
  It took me 11 years to convince my mate Leanne Miller to do her first Smiddy Challenge. To do my last with her in the peloton was a dream come true for me and our greatest adventure together for sure.
  To the team at Smiddy for allowing me to do the presentation of all the special category jerseys handed out to standout individuals over the past eight nights and for allowing me to introduce the guest speakers in each Huddle. 
  To all the 2017 riders and road crew, I am so extremely grateful to share my final Smiddy Challenge with such good people. I love you all and everything that you have done leading up to this years Challenge, during the Challenge and spreading the good word about Smiddy going forward.
  I'm so grateful to two of my closest friends, Mick and Melissa, for the incredible support not only to me over the years, but to the cause I am so passionate about in Smiddy and Mater.
  Smiling for Smiddy was responsible for me meeting my wife Alyssa just four years ago. I can't describe how grateful I am that she came into my life and then gave me the greatest present of all, a beautiful little girl, Estelle.
  Lastly I just wanted to say to Jennifer Penfold that we all believe in you. This tour did not work out for you because of your health but you have been there and completed Challenge before successfully. We know next year you'll be back and fighting fit. We love you, Jen, and are all extremely proud of you.

2017 Townsville to Brisbane Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge - Day 7

Written by: Allan Rielly and Ross Andrewartha

Distance: 234 kilometres
Ride Time: 11 hrs and 15 minutes
Ave Speed:  27.5 km/h
Elevation: 2357 m climbed
Min Temperature: 3C degrees
Max Temperature: 31C degrees

Tonight's blog post comes to you from the COBWEBS (Cranky Old Blokes With Expensive Bikes) Alan Rielly and Rossco Andrewartha, not to be confused with the old gents from the Muppet Show Mr Statler and Mr Waldof.

We found it quite interesting that the blog writing honour went to the oldest riders on the toughest day. Guess the organisers know there is life in the elder peloton statesmen and we can meet the blog deadline.

Dinner last night in Mundubbera was a fantastic BBQ and ice cream provided by the Rotary Club of Mundubbera and both were consumed in a record time. We think the Rotarians were a bit stunned by the ‘vultures’ and no doubt will be wiser for future Smiddy challenges passing through town!

The cool air rolled in and the big fire pit attracted the Smiddy crew and riders for the evening formalities. In true Smiddy fashion it started with a completely informal summary of the day’s events from everyone gathered around the fire.

The Priscilla Award was transferred from Sharky to Stemmy as a standout for his driving indiscretions (leaving the back door open on the car as he drove off from lunch!).

Our new statistician Geoff did his best Stinky Dave impersonation, including stripping down to his dodgy boxer shorts which was very fitting.

Accommodation for the night was split between the Three Rivers Tourist Park and the second best accommodation in town, the motel across the road.

Spirit jerseys were awarded to Copey and Kelly in recognition of their efforts. Brenton Cope shared his story of his many Smiddy adventures and Kelly despite her sore throat regaled us with her stories of how she got ‘started into the Smiddy family’ by cleaning and drying swags.

Jeff McKeon shared a heartfelt story of his mentor Al who filled the roll of his absent father when he grew up in Laidley. He talked about ‘life’s choices’ and left us with his words of wisdom. We are Smiddy and we are awesome. 

We received a very generous $1000 donation from the Three Rivers Tourist Park and the Munduberra Rotary Club also offered the catering proceeds as a donation.

Jenny and Bruce Fraser presented awards to Lofty of a pizza cutter for his sharp wit and to Sharky was given a small scale metal bike to match his boney bum.

We were greeted by another beautiful morning for the team and once again the local Rotarians stepped up to provide a great cooked breakfast. The event did not go without incident however as the porridge that was ordered especially by Doctor Koala had mysteriously disappeared. We all found out how much can a koala bear.

Fortunately the police were at hand and an investigation is underway. It does have the markings of a previous well documented stolen porridge/bear case where a certain Goldilocks was found guilty. Coincidentally , someone matching that description was sleeping at the Tourist Park that night. Let's just say, Brooke F will probably be taken in for questioning.

This morning's bell ringing honour went to President Mark of the Mundubera Rotary Club. And David Smiddy addressed the riders before we departed, reflecting on the first challenge when Sharky, Steeley and Ollie wore their backpacks the who way to Home Hill. In tribute to them, the riders wore their day packs to the first water break.

At Gayndah, we were introduced to another tradition dedicated to the women riders who were transformed into fairy mothers and sprouted wings.

We were given a dissertation on the art or climbing by James and he shared his best tips—stay calm; keep the bike vertical; and don’t waste energy. But he did not mention his other technique of shedding as much weight as possible—your kit for example.

At the next stop, the women riders each bestowed their wings on a male rider or road crew members and, for good or bad, I finally got my wings.

The 'save of the day' which we think should be a new award, goes to Copey who did a 90 degree flick of the back wheel on a 40 km/h downhill.

We planned to pick up on Ken’s delivery at Belyando for the whole blog but time was against us as we rode in on dark so here's a little sample. I was listening out for a catch line in the peloton, and must credit Scotty with the perfect phrase.

There was road kill on the outskirts of Goomeri
It was ginger and I think it was a stray
His end was quick and probably quite scary
But for us it was tough all f***ing day.

We also had three serious (not serious) police misdemeanors that are worthy of a mention. First there was the already mentioned the Great Porridge Heist and the early breakfast eaters stealing Dr K’s food.

The second incident is known as ‘The Great Water Bottle Bundy Doping Scandal’ which produced an immediate response from the QPS who were on the spot immediately. Thanks Jake! The culprit Berty was sprung at lunchtime, cuffed and incarcerated. Apparently he's still protesting his innocence.

The third incident was heard from the Police car as we passed, "Will the man in the white 4WD please PUT DOWN THE WALKING STICK".

Road crew's Andy also managed to solicit donations from innocent bystanders at the lunch and afternoon stops. Thank you to the generous supporters and Andy’s fundraising efforts.

The Dusty Club claimed some more members tonight and we've ranked them Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Bronze goes to Eric who shot off into the long grass screaming ‘Chain, Chain Chain’; Silver to Scotty Manning for a perfect sommersault into the oncoming traffic as part of his tango with Leanne; and the Gold goes to lovely Leanne who got a free ride to the finish and plenty of ‘TLC’ from the road crew.

As a side-story from the 'be careful what you wish for' category, Scotty told us he'd been talking to Mel and Leanne about how good it would be to get a ride in the police car. Lo & behold, just an hour later he was riding in Jake’s police car and playing with the siren and loudspeaker as he recovered from his spill.

Another big thank again for the hardworking road crew for their efforts throughout the day keeping riders safe, well-fed and hydrated and lots of huge hugs at the end of the day.

Highlights of the Huddle were Andrew Curthoy’s heartfelt acknowledgement for assistance from many ‘pushers’ and Liz Butler who sang a very personal rendition of a song that keeps her going when things get tough. Liz will be obliged to join the karaoke session in Belyando Crossing in her next challenge.

This is a special day for the women riders in the group. They are all incredible; so strong and determined and they are admired by all and were given three cheers by the group.

In closing, by Sharky’s own admission, today has been one of the toughest Smiddy rides he has ever done. We fully agree but know that we will eventually forget the current pain we are in and we will fondly remember the good memories of our big ride into Blackbutt which is now been officially renamed by the cyclists as 'Sorebutt'.

Friday, 1 September 2017

2017 Townsville to Brisbane Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge - Day 6

Written by: Kelly Rillie and Dan 'Pottsy' Potts

The Smiddy riders and road crew received a grand welcome into Biloela, a town which clearly exudes Smiddy spirit. After a long day 4, many riders smashed out day 5 with a few sore muscles so were relieved to see the smiling faces of billet families, some of which have been billeting Smiddy riders for many years.

We were also welcomed by the smiling face of Smiling for Smiddy's Brooke F who arrived from Brisbane in style wearing a Banana suit a tribute to the Banana Shire. And man we are so lucky she rocked up – did anyone taste the killer brownies at morning tea? They were well worth the wait Brooke. We are excited to have you with us on Reverse Challenge.

Being the inaugural Smiddy ride for both Pottsy and I (sans bike), we had heard a lot about the hospitality of the local community and the infamous community dinner, and they did not disappoint. We headed to the Thangool Race Course (or maybe the golf club, hey Wongy?).

The hall was packed full of riders, billet families and distinguished members of the Biloela community. We were treated to an amazing dinner hosted by the Rotary Club of Biloela and cold drinks served by the Thangool Race Club. Our host with the most Cameron entertained the crowd with his antics and the night kicked off with Mayor Nev Ferrier welcoming us to the town.

It was fabulous to have with us the Year 6 students from Thangool State School, a long standing supporter of Smiddy and a usual destination on the Smiddy school visits. A touching speech was delivered by the school captains and it was so great to hear the Smiddy visits really are a highlight of their school year, and how delighted they are to be part of the Smiddy community.

They did an amazing effort fundraising donating $400 some of which may have been unauthorised $2 coins pinched from their parents, but none the less a mammoth effort. We were also treated to a lovely reverse karaoke special, featuring our very own Lofty and Wongy (should this be a new tradition?) which I heard a few riders and road crew singing at this afternoon's recovery.

A HUGE Smiddy thank you must be shouted from the rooftops to the Rotary Club of Biloela for the $1000 donation and generous donations from CS Energy from their chocolate boxes, Thangool Race Club, and to the sneaky anonymous donor who gave us $1500.

We also had a number of auction items including a signed Adele picture and signed Cadel Evans Smiddy jersey being the big ticket items. There was also the auction of Sharky and Kevvy. I’m still not quite sure what exactly was being offered, however it was snapped up by Shaun Milburn for a bargain price.

Smiddy traditions were upheld with the winner of ‘I’m not a toad, I’m King of Thangool Road’ race awarded to Mel Speare and Ken Woods. Unlucky for James who unfortunately picked the wrong lead out partner in Habo—the lesson being fresh legs don’t always get you through.

Garath spoke about his belated Grandfather who he is honoring on this Challenge and the Spirit jerseys were awarded to none other than Pottsy, Boycey and Garath (the three musketeers) who exude the Smiddy values. Congrats guys, it was a treat to see the three of you in the distinct red jerseys today.

Our billet hosts never let any of us down, and we were all treated to home breakfasts and early morning drop offs for a 6.30 am roll out. The tradition of ringing the cowbell to send the riders on their way was bestowed to Stephen Thompson from Teys Meats.

Just before the riders hit the pavement, Sharky was awarded the Priscilla award for his memory lapse in advising Garath of his speaking responsibilities the night before. Sharky, the fabulous head piece really suited your outfit today.

No extra coffee was consumed by road crew this morning (not even kidding) and it was straight to prep morning tea at a great little camp area at the top of a dirt hill. The usual amazing home bake was consumed, and of course a lot of Smiddy hugs exchanged. We all left morning tea relatively unscathed, apart from Stemmy driving off with his back window open!

The next town we passed through was Monto and the road crew thought we would offer some extra security for the school visit, circling the school four times trying to find our way to it! We’d like to say no threats were reported and Google maps had us on our way (on the other side of the main road) in no time.

The school visit was attended by all the riders and was exceptionally well received. The Smiddy spirit was shared with the school along with the sun safe message, and of course zinc face painting.

The riders rolled into a superb BBQ lunch. Wendy, our fearless road crew leader, always has your best interests at heart and tried to find a green pasture for lunch, alas it wasn't that green, but there were steaks and sausages which were cooked to perfection by Andy and Force (courtesy of the amazing team at Teys).

To set the riders off on their final leg of today’s journey, riders and road crew were given a letter from their loved ones to set spirits soaring. I’m not sure tears go well with pedaling but I’m sure you appreciated all the love and kind words from home.

It was a delight to see Mr Smiddy giving some grief to the hardworking riders with a little acquired water pistol on the side of the road, however I think Mr Smiddy may have gotten more than he bargained for, with the riders clearly filling up their water bottles at lunch. Lucky he had that rain jacket!

The video is now on Facebook for you all to check out and spread the love.

I was lucky enough to ride with Captain Kevvy for the afternoon following the peloton from lunch to roll in. It was great to see the peloton in action, particularly the teamwork and the way you pull together to get up the steep inclines, all working so diligently. Stemmy, Kevvy and Jake certainly have you in good hands.

With the riders looking a little weary, Potsy handed out icy poles (lovingly donated by the Eidsvold FoodWorks) which were a well-deserved treat. The highlight of Eidsvold however has to be Yvonne, who is an elder of the Wagga Wagga people, the traditional owners of the land. She was riding a motorised scooter and had a hat donned with many pins and eclectic elements.

She told us she had been riding camels… and was rather persistent in wanting the Smiddy riders to come and see the camels and get a photo but unfortunately we had to give up this lucrative opportunity due to 'time restrictions' (right Kevvy?) but the peloton did pass Yvonne around the corner and luckily she wasn’t added to Ben and Jackie G’s roadkill list thanks to Kevvy’s impeccable driving skills.

I was also told there was a rendition of ‘There was a Smiddy rider who swallowed a fly' today, looking at you Scotty and Clare and I expect a repeat at some stage in the next day and a half.

The riders rolled into Munduberra just before 5pm where the Smiddy huddle was led by Adrian and Alicia (the still married couple) and the Smiddy cheer was heard loud and clear.

Each night, the riders writing the blog have thanked the road crew for all their amazing hard work however given we are road crew, I think it’s appropriate to thank the riders for your endless shouts of 'We love road crew' (thanks Krista), your endless hugs and delight at seeing us around every corner and despite what you think it’s pretty damn fun.

Yes we make the best Saos, change bike tyres and if you’re really lucky fill your drink bottles, but we also get to share a pretty special experience and journey so thanks to you all for that.