Indian Pacific Wheel Race – Part Three Melbourne to Sydney

The pressure in the race was now really ramping up. The climbs to come would be killers. It is hard to believe in hindsight it was only five days, five days of pain and probably five of the hardest days of my life.

Day 13 Geelong to North Yallourn

The day started well, I made good progress into Melbourne although getting on out Geelong on cycleway presented some challenges in the dark. There were lots of sharp bends and would frequently just disappear, leaving you to work out where it started again. There were also sections covered in sand leaving it more like a cyclocross track than a cycleway. I later found out Callum had navigated this section the night before without lights because of issues with his dyno hub. How he got through this section without lights is beyond me, once again I was impressed with his determination.

As I approached Melbourne, I was once again some what amused with the number of dot watchers who made the time to come out and cheer me on. To all of them, I say thank you, your support was nice. One of these supporters was a work colleague who had provided me with useful tips prior to the start. He escorted me into the city, saving me the stress of navigating in and generally took my mind off the ride as we made our way into the city.

I arrived in Melbourne feeling pretty good, but it went downhill from there. Firstly the two bike shops I went to looking for a tyre couldn’t have been more unhelpful if they tried. Abbotsford Cycles really could not have cared less to try and help. They didn’t have the tyre I was looking for and wouldn’t even assist in helping me clean my chain. So I moved on to Bike Bug in Prahran. Once again not overly helpful but they did have the tyre I was looking for and let me use their facilities to clean my chain. It was just the attitude of the staff, it seemed like unless you were riding a Colnago and wearing Rapha, you probably didn’t belong in their shop. Ironically they said they were too busy to help, but when I walked past the counter on the way out, they were too busy watching and discussing the IPWR.

To add to my frustration with the bike shops I experienced the first of the charging problems. The heavy dew had seeped into the USB port on my phone, stopping it from charging. This was problematic when I was relying on the phone for navigation, there was no way I was getting out of Melbourne without it. I got it dry and charged before it became a problem but it added to the stress levels. The other factor adding to my frustration was my overly enthusiastic supporters all sending me text messages asking me why I was off course or giving me advice. When my phone was going flat, the last thing I needed was to be bombarded with dozens of text messages.

Just one of those days

I was feeling frustrated with the time lost getting the tyre changed. This didn’t put me in a good mood to tackle the Yarra Trail, navigation was confusing, it was twisty with a lot of starting and stopping. When your legs are tired all the start/stop action really wears you down. I longed for the open road where I was free to tap out a constant pace. For Melbourne riders, it was a real home ground advantage. The hits just kept coming when my phone mount broke making navigation almost impossible as I now had the phone in my back pocket.

By the time I got out of Melbourne I was really on edge, the climb out from the Basin wasn’t particularly hard, but I wasn’t enjoying it. The heat had crept up on me, and I wasn’t drinking enough. I had another navigation mistake around Seville. I don’t think it cost me any time but just added to my frustration for the day. Shortly after I stopped for a break and a feed, it was a quiet spot, out the back some of the local scout hall the break, which was just perfect as a spot to take stock and reset.

It was the day before Easter, there was a noticeable increase in the holiday traffic heading out of town. The climbs seemed unrelenting but manageable, I was travelling ok now. I arrived in Noojee just after 1630h, all the shops had shut. The pub was open but food service had not started yet. I was hungry and all they had were crisps and ice-cream, that was not going to cut it to get me through to the next stop. The kitchen hand preparing something that looked like it was going to be rice puddings. I was desperate enough to ask if I could buy some of the tubs of plain rice. The bar staff were quite bemused and after some discussion with the manager gave me three tubs for free. It wasn’t much but it was better than crisps. As I was leaving, some of the locals started a conversion, they seemed disbelieving anyone would be crazy enough to riding on to Yallourn North at that time of the day.

I had to push on to stay in touch with Callum. There was one more big climb then downhill to Yallourn North, I was working pretty hard to get to the bottom, but it is pretty good fun. I didn’t want to be descending in the dark. I arrived at some intersection and saw a sign saying 5 or 10Kms to Moe. It was tempting as I knew there wasn’t much at Yallourn North but it was just too far off course to be practical.

I arrived at Yallourn North just after the general store shut, it had been one of those days, I missed the shops at Noojee, at Yallourn North and by the time I got to the pub, I missed the main service and all I could get was a pizza. At the pub I was surprised to see Callum. He was just leaving but I still had caught him, albeit briefly. It was the first time I had seen since another rider since day 7. He looked tired and rattled. I think he was frustrated, he was riding longer hours with less sleep but I was still catching him. This goes to my strategy of riding smarter, not harder and staying in control.

Being Good Friday the next day I was worried it would be difficult getting food so I ordered two pizzas, one for dinner and a cheese pizza for breakfast. After dinner I bedded down for the night at the camp ground behind the hotel, the ground was rough and I had really poor night’s sleep. It wasn’t until the morning I would discover the public toilets had recently been redone. There was shelter, soft green grass and water. it would would have been an infinitely better place to spend the night. It really was one of those days when I didn’t a break.

 

Day 14 Yallourn North to Omeo

I didn’t get much sleep, waking up countless times. Eventually I gave up and got started for the day. By the time I reached Heyfield I was fading and needed sleep. I found a covered picnic bench and it was actually really comfortable. I must have looked quite the sight, passed out on the bench in my orange bivvy bag. I woke up well rested but knew I had now lost time time on Callum and the possibility I would not catch him again today. It was cold and I was wondering where the hell I was going to get food on Good Friday. Then like magic, Sheree and her coffee van appeared across the park at the petrol station. I could not believe my luck, maybe it was because I was cold and tired but it seemed like the best coffee I had since Perth.

A coffee, a pie and sausage roll later I was feeling much better and was keen to make up time. At some point on this section I fixed the phone mount by super gluing the 2 parts of the mount together, which meant the phone could be only be removed by peeling it out of the cover. This was difficult with sore hands but it was good to have the phone mounted on the handlebars again.

The ride to Bairnsdale was pleasant enough but I remember instead of taking the main route to Bairnsdale, which was flat, the course deviated to a set of rolling hills. All I  thinking was “Thank you Jesse, can I have another”. Bairnsdale was chaotic because of the Easter holidays, I’ve never seen a McDonalds store so full but I was impressed how quickly they still managed to get the food out.

Because the road to Bruthen leads to the Snowy Mountains, traffic was heavy with car towing caravans. Frankly, I felt safer on the Great Ocean road with the logging trucks. I hadn’t stopped in Bairnsdale to resupply because the only IGA was about 5kms off course. Unfortunately, the situation in Bruthen wasn’t much better, as a consequence, I was reduced to eating snack foods again. From here the climbing started, First, it was a nice gradient, and the climb into the highlands was enjoyable. The countryside is so picturesque, and the traffic slowly thinned out as more and more people turned off to find a camping spot along the valley.

I stopped to resupply at Swift Creek as I was sure the shops at Omeo would be closed by the time I would arrive. I lucky enough to find everything I needed in such a small shop but this of course meant I was now carrying a full backpack of food. The result was more weight to carry up the final climb of the day which was also biggest. I was expecting the climb but to hit it at the end of the day was tough and it was getting dark as I approach the summit. The final descent into Omeo was quite a relief.

Once again because of Easter and Omeo Rodeo there was no accommodation in town and I really didn’t fancy sleeping rough in the high country as it would be pretty cold. I bounced around town looking for options, but nothing was available. Then on arrival at the town’s second hotel, I bumped into Callum, he was looking tired but was still contemplating riding on, up into the alpine ranges. I was concerned, we went back into the hotel, had dinner and discussed it. I was relieved when he said he would hold in Omeo for the night. Competition aside, I wasn’t comfortable with anyone taking risks like that, riding up into ranges in a very fatigued state was fraught with danger.

I also discovered the general store at Omeo had extended its trading hours for Easter, So it meant I had lugged all that food up the last climb for nothing, oh well, better to be safe than sorry I guess.

I arrived at the caravan park after Callum to discover he had managed to score the last basic caravan. Of course, I had the thought “what if he doesn’t want to share?”, that would be awkward. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, which was awesome considering the alternative would be sleeping rough. It was a good night, it was good to share some of our experiences. It put us both at ease on so many of the problems we had faced, knowing we had both experienced them, right down to the issue on day 8 when I thought my power meter was acting up on the slow roads in South Australia, Callum had the exact same experience. Even though I was exhausted I had trouble getting to sleep, but I relieved to see Callum fall to sleep quickly, he needed it.

Day 15 Omeo to Granya

Callum started the morning 15 minutes before me, I was comfortable with this, it would allow us both to tap out our own pace. As I rode through Anglers Rest I was glad Callum had not pushed on, there was nothing there. The first 40kms was easy and thought to myself so when does this get hard, then turned onto the Great Alpine road and wham WTF! Literally, the climb is called Way To Falls climb. Wow, the first 5kms was a cracker but being fresh I felt very comfortable. Shortly after I caught Callum and we rode together for a while. Then I admit I started to play games and pulled away from Callum. There was awesome sunrise as the sun climbed above the cloud cover in valley below. I didn’t stop for a photo because I was too busy handing it to Callum, which was a moot point because I knew we would stop for breakfast together at Falls Creek. What was interesting we were putting out similar power, so what was the difference? We were both big guys, so was it the bike, my new tyre or just having a clean chain giving me that few extra watts.

The choice of the bistro at Falls Creek for breakfast was a mistake, it took forever to get an average breakfast, should have gone with the pies and coffee at the bike hire shop, we would have saved ourselves 45 minutes. We were cognisant Rowan was on the move and if we weren’t careful he would catch us both. After breakfast, it was a quick resupply, but only the absolute necessities because as you can imagine it was expensive at Falls Creek. I led off, that would be the last time I would see Callum. I was so focused, I hadn’t noticed I had dropped him on the descent.

The next big climb for the day was the climb out of Tawonga, I was keen to push home my advantage, I was motivated and feeling good. Next stop was Bright, the place was crazy because of the Easter break, just getting down the main street was a challenge. Once again because I had been there before it was a significant advantage as I knew where the shops were and was able to resupply quickly. While filling my bottles, I met another dot watcher who seemed to be in awe of me. I still found it hard to except, I really just felt like some guy riding my bike but was happy to chat. The only problem was it distracted me from what I was doing and forgot to change the batteries in my power meter. Lunch was a couple of pies and a sausage roll while riding, I was keen to keep moving. Eating pies while riding is always an interesting challenge.

The next few hours was enjoyable, but then at around 200kms, I hit the climb into Stanley, which caught me by surprise. I was starting to struggle when some dot watchers showed up from nowhere bearing gifts, coke, water and chocolates, what a lift, both physically and to my morale. It certainly helped get me going again. How good where those Road Angels, to everyone who helped me, I can’t thank you enough for all the support.

I was hoping to resupply at Beechworth but thanks another Easter Festival the town was crazy. The local IGA was packed, and half the shops were blocked off through road closures. It was all too difficult, so I rode on. This meant I needed to stop at Yackandandah to resupply. Once again it was likely the shops at Tallangatta would be closed by the time I got there, so I had to get enough food for dinner and breakfast the next day, it also meant I would be carrying another full backpack of supplies for 70kms. I stopped for chat with another dot watcher, this guy certainly knew his stuff and been bouncing around Victoria following all the riders. It was interesting but I cognisant, it was another 10 minutes lost. Doesn’t sound like much but when you add all the breaks in a day it is easy to lose 2 hours of riding time.

I got to Tallangatta and was keen to press home my advantage over Callum so I knew it meant giving away a motel room for sleeping rough. On the upside, the local takeaway was still open which I wasn’t expecting, so I grabbed a burger put it in the backpack for later and continued to ride.

I was expecting the climb at Granya Ranges, but after a big day of climbing I did struggle a bit, but I couldn’t complain because it was my choice to push on. I did, however, stop for a rare photo moment. The photo sort of does it justice but the moment was quite surreal. It was just how the light from the full moon was catching the fog lazily drifting below over the Murray River while the occasional tree would peer through this fog. It was just so tranquil, it was just one of those moments worth stopping for.

I arrived in Granya around 2100h, this small village is but a dot on the map consisting of only about 12 houses, no shops and no mobile phone coverage. But it did have a brand new toilet block, and for an ultra-distance cyclist, that’s all they need. It was clean, and there was a full moon, so there was plenty of light. I was quite comfortable, so I sat down to eat my burger which I had now been carrying for about 2.5 hours. Not having mobile coverage meant I could not check on the race progress. I had a reasonable sleep on the grass, only to be woken up around midnight by gunfire in the distance, I feared I was in deliverance country.

 

Day 16 Granya to Adaminaby

The day my ride fell apart.

It started well with a substantial breakfast with the now familiar UpnGo, fruit and Nutrigrain bars. It was flat all the way Walwa, so I made good time, but it didn’t help as it would another 1 hour before the shop would open and 90 minutes until food service started. The trouble was I was hungry, and it was making tired, so I stopped for a 10-minute nap on a rather cold roadside bench.

As I picked myself up to get going again disaster struck. I plugged the USB lead into my phone to charge it, and the phone lost all charge, I’m guessing the heavy morning dew somehow shorted the battery as it just dropped from about 50% to 3%. I was stuffed as I had now lost my access to my course maps. Then to compound the problem, I tried the connection on my Garmin and completely kill it dead. Yeah probably wasn’t the brightest idea to plug it into the Garmin after what had just happened to the phone. But there I was now with a hand full of dead electronics. Still, nothing was open in Walla, and it didn’t make sense just to wait there so I continued on hoping I would find something open at the next town.

I arrived at Tintaldra, the shop had still not opened and by the looks of it, wasn’t going to open for some time, if ever. Without a phone for navigation I was resigned to having to wait for Callum to catch up and then follow him to the finish. So just when you think your down, fate has a way of helping out. A couple of families staying next door to the shop helped me out. Thanks to having a quick charge adaptor I was able to get my phone back up to 30% quickly. While it charged they gave me breakfast and some food for the road, including some baby food. I just remember the young child giving me that look ” Who is this man and why is he taking my food?”

I was still consigned to getting caught. I had lost a fair bit of time, I was going to lose more because I still needed to get supplies and the only place I could find was Corryong, which was 5kms off course. I will confess this was the only time was abrupt with a dot watcher. I was on the side of the road trying to work out my options, all they wanted to do was talk, it just wasn’t the right moment for it.

Getting to Corryong was a chance to reset. I stopped for breakfast and to get some badly needed supplies. If I knew what was up ahead I would have got more, lots more. At this point, my power bank was working again so I was able to charge my phone and I was back in the game, but I had lost some time, I was now the hunted, and it does place greater pressure on you.

I knew this climb was going to be difficult and it was, it was 50-60k of sheer hell. I was not in a good frame of mind and was already suffering on first small climb around Mt Elliot. I was determined not to stop, besides nature breaks I pushed on without stopping. Even when you get to the top, the hits keep coming with series of rolling climbs all the way to Tumut Pond reservoir. Then you see the communications tower at Cabramurra and the descent into the pond, you just know there is going to be another bastard climb before you get relief. I was absolutely fried by the time I reached Cabramurra. People make a big deal about the Falls Creek Climb, it really has nothing on this one. Of course, you need to factor in this was the second day of big climbs, so the body was probably a little bit more fatigued. It was also the only time I found my gearing selection wanting. But to be honest, I’m still not sure I would change. I used the 53/11 combination a lot across the Nullarbor and Great Ocean Road, so the compact option is out. Maybe just dropping the small chain ring to a 36 might have been enough.

As luck would have it, by the time I arrived in Cabramurra, the shop had shut, and bistro had not opened yet. At this stage, I had not showered since Geelong or shaved in about 7 days, I was looking quite ragged. I was resigned to buying chips and coke from the bar when chef offer to get me a lasagne, throw some fruit salad into the mix, which was awesome and it really hit the spot. I was full but exhausted. I think the food only brought me back from total collapse, it hadn’t fully restored me.

While eating I had been talking to a mountain biker who was passing through and had told me the worst was behind. This was true but it was by no means over, there was still plenty of climbing to come. I headed off with a false sense of security it would be all downhill from here, but the hits kept comings. I was totally spent and was really suffering, even the smallest hills felt like mountains, and I was hating every moment of it. The only positive was the Alpine roads were beautiful to ride on, really smooth hot mix, you would struggle to find roads this nice in the city. It was probably only the last 15kms where I got some relief with the downhills I had been hoping/expecting for so long.

I arrived at Adaminaby completely mentally and physically spent, the end of this dam race could not come soon enough. I got a room and enough supplies to get me started in the morning and get me to Cooma. I had a shower, and I was looking forward to dinner. I had in mind something substantial, like a big steak dinner only to be told the kitchen was super busy and the only thing I could get quickly was a pizza. Well, that was a let-down, I was sick of pizzas but the waiting over an hour for a steak dinner wasn’t really an option, my knees and hands were hurting big time, I needed rest. Back in the room, I fired off an email to some friends in Canberra hoping to get a replacement Garmin. As always one of the last things I did in the night, I logged on to see where Callum was and to my surprise at 2100h he was pushing on from Cabramurra. Which was brave considering the climbing he would still have to do and doing it at night is not something I would fancy. I was sure he would arrive Adaminaby by 0000h and would stop here for the night.

Day 17 Adaminaby to Sydney

This would be the day of days.

I was up at 0230, the first thing I did was check on Callum’s progress, to my surprise he had reached Cooma. Even though he was my competition, credit where credit is due, from Tallangatta to Cooma in a day, with that climb, that was a massive effort, bloody impressive. I was feeling awful, it was the first time I really didn’t want to get back on the bike. If the finish wasn’t so close, I might have abandoned the race. Clearly, I wasn’t feeling very positive and was prepared to concede to Callum.

I set off and even though I was being careful I had a very close call with a kangaroo. It really is one of those things, if it is going to happen, it will happen, and you are not going to have a lot of say in the matter. I wasn’t travelling fast, continually checking left and right and from nowhere a kangaroo appeared less a meter in front of me. Well, that woke me up.

On arrival at Cooma, it was a stop at McDonalds for a huge breakfast and then some, just to make extra sure. Normally by second breakfast I would be feeling good but today I was still feeling completely worn out, I just had no energy or power, riding up any sort of a hill was a chore, and everything was in very easy gears. On the upside, Callum was still in town, so we were now level. Time to push on. I reached Bredbo and checked on Callum, even now still no movement, so I had a lead of some 35k, I had reclaimed my lead from yesterday. A bit further on down the road, I was hailed over by some dot watchers with the offer of food, these guys had come well prepared to support the riders with all sorts of treats. They provided me with an update, it was clear I now had a lead of some 50kms, I was feeling comfortable but now as the hunted, you cannot rest and the pressure was now on me.

Having lived in Canberra for 7 years, there was a real sense of coming home for me and felt I now had the home ground advantage, I knew these streets, where to get food and resupply. A had a couple of brief stops Canberra, one with another dot watcher and one to collect a replacement Garmin from a friend. Also discovered an interesting difference between the Garmin Edge 500 and the 520. You can use 520 while charging; the 500 shuts down while charging, making it a little harder to use. There was a final stop in Dickson for resupply and a fine dining experience at McDonalds. Like I say, it was fast and easy to eat and at this stage that is all I needed.

 

 

There was a fair wind picking up from the North West, and this was now going to work to my advantage, I would be getting some assistance from it while Callum would now be facing a headwind. The ride to Bungendore was harder than I remember. Even riding up old Federal highway seemed difficult and that was with a tailwind. The road to Bywong  just felt really dead it was hard work getting the rest of the way.

It was another quick stop at Bungendore to top my supplies and more food, you can never have enough food. The section to Tarago was good and another quick pit-stop. It was on this section I learnt from a dot watcher that Rhino was just up the road about 50kms. I knew he had been doing it tough, but he must have been in a bad way given he had started in Canberra this morning.

The road from Tarago to Marulan was sketchy with lots of road works, lots of gravel and no road markings. Safety was a concern, it was the last day of the Easter Holidays and traffic was higher than I was expecting. I was beginning to fade, I needed more food and rued the decision not buy more in Tarago.

I arrived at Marulan, refuelled and resupplied, in fact, stuffed myself stupid with as many calories as I could find. I had now caught Rhino, he was close by, but I couldn’t find him, I suspect he had already checked into the motel, that is what his tracker suggested. I had mixed feelings about this, gaining another place is always good, but when another rider is hurting, it just feels like you are putting the boot into them when they are down, especially so close the finish.

From his social media, it was clear Callum was seeking to finish at 0822h the next morning to be within 16 days, so I had no option but to push on if I was to stay ahead. I was full of caffeine and very alert but soon found myself questioning the idea of pushing on. It was after 2100h, it was dark, drizzling and the roads were narrow. The one good thing was there was now towns every 10-15kms “just get to the next town, and we’ll see it from there” it was these baby steps and setting small objectives which helped me continue. Soon enough I was at Moss Vale and noticed Callum at Marulan, good I still a 50k lead. I had reached another decision point, it was getting late, stop here or push on? I was unlikely to find accommodation and thought it was pointless to sleep rough, I might as well keep going. Because of the drizzle, I was having charging problems, I stopped at McDonalds for coffee and managed to dry the connections out using the hand dryer in the toilet and wrapped the connections in glad wrap hoping to seal the water out.

So its now getting late in the night, somewhere between 2300h – 0000h. I’m making my way to Robertson when I notice a car come up behind me. Nothing unusual so far but then it just sat behind me without overtaking when it could. Okay, getting a little worried. Then the car overtakes and goes up the road a bit and pulls over. Okay, getting more worried, maybe this is a disgruntled motorist who doesn’t appreciate the finer art of ultra-distance cycling. The driver gets out as I approach and I am thinking what is he going to do. Nothing! I ride on by without a word being said. This was all over in a matter of minutes, but I was puzzling who that person was and why were they on this very quiet stretch of road. It was only after the IPWR, after returning to work, that it was a work colleague driving home from Sydney to Canberra tracked me down to show some support. I felt terrible, had I known it was Damien I would have pulled over for a chat. Oh well.

By Robertson, I started to feel drowsy but it was wet so didn’t want to stop because it was quite damp because of the low cloud cover and I thought if I can only get to Wollongong it will be dryer and I’ll stop there. Fast forward a bit, I’m now at Macquarie Pass, and I am really drowsy, to the point nothing is keeping my eyes open. It was a slow descent, the roads were wet which didn’t help, I needed to stop on almost every switchback, just have a drink, food, slap my face anything to keep awake, I was really struggling. I didn’t want to stop on the switchbacks because it might look like I had crashed to the people following me on Maprogress. I was relieved when it was over but knew I needed sleep. I pushed on to Albion park, found toilet block and crashed for 15 minutes of sleep, it was a pretty grotty but I simply didn’t care. I was now a fully fledged IPWR rider.

I got going from my nap only to discover I was only 1km away from shops. McDonalds was now closed so I resorted to Coles Express station across the road for food. First the toilet block, now Coles Express, I had sunk to an all time low to survive. All they had was stale “meat feast” sandwich, it was awful, but I knew I needed food and that was all that was available. The reality is I need a lot more food, I just didn’t know it and wasn’t thinking clearly.

Progress was slow through Port Kembla to Wollongong, I was tired, the roads were wet, and despite wrapping my phone in cling wrap, I was having continual problems getting it to charge. At least the streets were quiet. I was riding on deserted three-lane highways. I could only imagine what this stretch would look like during the day. Checking on Callum, it now appeared he had stopped at Marulan, I guess the previous day’s ride had taken its toll. It was now about 0200h – 0300h in the morning, I figured I might as well push on. I had now eaten almost all of my remaining supplies.

By the time I got Thirroul I was finished, totally spent, I was near complete exhaustion and staying on the bike wasn’t an option. I needed food but nothing open, it was around 0500h. I crashed on a picnic bench for about 45m, I was so tired I didn’t even bother with the bivvy bag. When I awoke, I needed food desperately. I was next to the surf club, but that didn’t open for another hour. I was completely disorientated, I had no idea where I was but then thanks to Google map I discovered shops close by and a found cafe that opened at 0600h. I don’t know if it was cold or exhaustion, but I was shaking. I remember starting with a bowl of porridge, it was great comfort food. After multiple coffees and more breakfast, I was actually feeling slightly human again. I was still having phone charging problems, the cafe staff helped dry the phone out and re-wrapped in cling wrap, and more coffee. I left Thirroul without resupplying even though there was Coles store just across the road from the Cafe, I was guess it shows what my state of mind was like. I was now pretty desperate just to finish, I just wanted it to be over.

Then came the Royal National Park, this was a nice sting in the tail when you are so tired, it really hurts. I was monitoring the progress of Callum and Rhino. We were all going pretty slowly, like punch drunk prize fighters swinging away in the 15th round, desperate for a knock out blow on our opponent. Any other time I would have loved a ride through Royal National Park. But now the rolling hills only meant one thing, for every downhill, there was going to be an equal and opposite uphill. I had nothing left, every uphill felt like Alpe d’Huez, grinding away in my 39/30.

My final stop was in Audley just before the end of the Royal National Park. I knew I needed to eat, but I just had no appetite. It was interesting because after the race I was following Rupert Guinness as he completed his ride and he made the same observation about developing a dislike for eating. Which is an important reminder to riders, if you are feeling down or something is not going your way, take comfort in that you are probably not alone and other riders will be feeling the same way.

Getting to Sutherland, was a great morale boost, on the outskirts of Sydney, I was now in the home straight. I was now feeling quite relaxed and stopped for a chat with some dot watchers. I had already made to decision to ride directly to the opera house. If there was any doubt, the cycle ways leading into Sydney were in a shocking state and I was not going to spend two hours bouncing around on crap paths for no purpose. The reality is whether I cycled around the tracks or not, it was not going to affect the placings. I believe I was criticised by FaceBook users for taking a shortcut suggesting I was now a non-finisher. My only response to this was, If people were not happy with my performance, I would welcome them to pick up the tools and show me how it is done. Approaching the Sydney CBD I abandoned the cycleway because so they were so bad, I opted to ride on the road with the traffic, it was safer.

I as came through Circular Key I ran into Roberto, the untracked rider who on day one had told me about the tradition of riding through the night on the last night, I was so glad to keep the tradition alive. At first, I didn’t recognise Roberto, I remembered him as this pasty white foreigner in Perth, he was now considerably more tanned than when he started, but I guess 17 days in the sun do that to you.

So the question is did I finish 4,5, or 6 or was I non-finisher? Frankly, I didn’t care and still don’t care, all I know is I have ridden from Fremantle to Sydney in 17 days and pushed myself to places I had not done since in my 20’s, and I was happy with that.

 

 

I sat around the Opera house for about an hour, as expected there was no fanfare or finish line. There was no point hanging around, so I rode over to Clarence street where the bike shops are. Managed to secure a bike box and started to disassemble my bike. The bike shop wouldn’t allow me to use their workshop, so I was forced to dismantle the bike on the side of the road in the heart of Sydney. Now that the bike was packed I was confident to book my flight home, all that was left was to get some clothes. All I had was my lycra. I felt a little odd walking around Sydney barefoot and in fluoro green lycra, but there are plenty of crazies in Sydney, so I just blended in. After getting clothes and shoes, it was off to the airport. All I can say is the Qantas club membership was worth every dollar on this day. I was able to get a shower, shaved and food. I reflected for a moment about the previous 24 hours as I sat in the lounge with a Scotch and soda and how quickly things change. That morning I was living life on the ragged edge, and as quickly as that I was back to my normal life. I touched down in Brisbane at around 1900h, it was over.

Post ride issues and thoughts

Injuries – Probably the most significant and most lasting damage was to my hands. It seems it is quite a common injury of ultra distance cyclists. The Ulnar nerve gets compressed leading to a lose fine motor skills and strength in the hands. My left side was particularly bad and for weeks after the ride was constantly dropping things and it holding a knife and fork correctly was impossible. After 2 months the left hand is finally coming good.

The knees were shot, but no lasting damage, after about a week they had recovered.

General muscle fatigue, I would say it was about 2 weeks before the muscles had recovered, but even then there was very little tolerance for lactic acid, as soon as I would try to do some sprints or harder VO2 sessions, the legs had nothing.

The Achilles tendon injury I sustain on day six, took a few weeks to recover. I didn’t really impact me, except for walking down steps. But still, to this day, I have had strange lumps on tendon which weren’t there before.

Returning to normal life wasn’t hard. I remember reading before the ride about post ride depression. My honest opinion is you can’t dwell on the past. The IPWR was a fantastic challenge but its now over, you can’t live in the past. Life goes on.

  
        
          

Comments

  1. Ross says:

    Would you do it again or was it just a bucket list thing, now ticked off and looking for a new adventure/challenge?

    1. Mark Croonen says:

      Yes I think I would do again but maybe a slower pace. Maybe just ride during daylight hours, enjoy the ride a bit more and see the sights along the way. That said, I would keenly interested in doing the Race Across America as well, just not next year.

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