Sydney to Brisbane 2018 1000KM Cycle Challenge for suicide prevention charity RUOK?
Day 7 saw us ride in the kit of Geo Synergy, the white colours being very welcome later in the day when the temperature peaked at 37C. We rolled out of Evans Head with a slight chill in the early morning air.
The weather was not cool for very long though, and at 30KM we hit a long-ish draggy climb at Dalwood that soon had the heart rate rising and the first real sweat of the day.
Following the early morning exertions, we opted for second breakfast in Lennox Head, where once again I was blown away at the quality, and size of the veggie breakfast.
It took us a little while to get the legs turning again after our gigantic brekkie, but we were keen to crack on as we had a little diversion planned via Byron Bay, Australia's most easterly point. The climb up to the lighthouse and lookout points marked the second highest peak of the day, but it was a much easier ascent than the early morning climb.
Ok, so I didn't do the climb in the big ring...
We hung around a while taking in the magnificent views on this perfect day. We spied our destination of Tweed Heads further up the coast, which acted as a reminder of our need to crack on once again as we still had over 50KM to cover on our penultimate stage. Our route was mainly coastal and as we followed the road inland we would cross over the Brunswick River bridge with its estuary running into the ocean.
Dedicated cycle/pedestrian river crossing.
By now we were back on the M1 and in close proximity to a lot of Saturday afternoon traffic. Our final climb of the day came near Crabbes Creek. In itself not a monster of a hill, but with the best part of 1,000KM in the legs already it was a tough grind in the 37C heat. The 12% gradient was challenging enough. As Mr Tillin and I reached the welcome shade of the top of the climb we looked at each other. "I think this is where he might break," we said looking back down the climb in search of my brother.
There he was in the distance, grinding up the hill painfully slowly in the heat of the afternoon. One painful pedal turn at a time he slowly but steadily pushed his 105 kg frame up the hill. Mr Tillin descended back down to offer some encouragement and ride alongside. They eventually arrived at the truck, parked under the shade of the trees. My brother is normally very careful with his bike, parking it safely to ensure it never gets damaged. Not this time. The bike fell to the floor as he climbed off. The tail of the truck had been dropped, and he sat there, head in his hands in silence. No one spoke. The tears then flowed as the sheer exhaustion flooded over him. The enormous effort of the last seven days had suddenly impacted. We all felt completely helpless as he let it all out.
We made ourselves busy, checking bikes and refilling bottles - generally doing that male thing of ignoring the elephant in the room and hoping it will go away. Eventually, someone had to tackle the question. "Mate, you've done unbelievably well. You are gonna smash 1,000KM in 8 days. There is no shame in getting in the car now for the rest of today".
No way. Not even an option. He just needed a moment to rest and recover from the climb. He was determined to ride every single KM that we did. So after a few minutes rest, we were throwing our legs over the top tube yet again and heading down the descent towards Wooyung.
I've never been more proud of him than in that moment. He was barely riding a bike 9 months ago. He's lost 10kg since then and gradually built up his training. Mr Tillin at his side every step of the way, advising and mentoring him to help him through this challenge. How did we ever doubt him - we all should know by now, you can't kill a terminator, they just keep coming back at you.
We then found a great little cycleway through the Wooyung Nature Reserve, that offered plenty of welcome shady cover from the mid-afternoon heat.
We popped out of the cycleway at Pottsville, where we went in search of moral-lifting ice cream and milkshake rewards. When we started up again on the Tweed Coast Road we were met with our biggest headwind of the week so far. Again, not the fiercest of headwinds, but on top of the week's other efforts we'd had already it was a battle to maintain any kind of rhythm. Our average speed dropped as the wind sapped our tired legs of all remaining strength. By the time we got to Kingscliff we had 150KM on the clock, so we decided to call it a day - since we'd only scheduled 140KM. We loaded up the truck and drove the remaining few KM to our motel in Tweed Heads. We had survived another battle and would live to fight again the next day.
Although stage three and 190KM was the toughest physical challenge of the week, today's combination of physical and emotional stress made it all the more epic. My brother doesn't follow cycling, so the meaning of this will be lost on him, but the biggest compliment any bike rider can ever get is to be told Chapeau! I tip my hat to you bro - today was brutal. But it couldn't break you.
Tomorrow we are joined by 6 guys from RedEye who have offered to chaperone us home to Brisbane and keep us out of the wind on our final KMs. I think we are all looking forward to reaching the south bank of the city and putting our feet up for some well-earned rest.
For a link to today's ride please check Strava.
Please help us reach our fundraising target of $10,000 by donating at our Everyday Hero page. Thank you.
In loving memory of our lost friend Ed Skuza.