I was in the domain of club racing enthusiasts with corporate sponsored lycra and bikes which cost more than a car.
This was no place for an arthritic on a flat bar bike.
I thought this ride would be a step up from the 100 kilometre Brisbane to Gold Coast ride, which I did in a half respectable three hours and forty-five minutes. I didn’t realise it was a giant catapult fling up to a field packed with semi-pros and a course to challenge Cadel Evans.
I admit, I didn’t study the race cutoff times too closely when I entered the Subaru 160km cycle which was part of the Noosa Winter festival – a weekend event of runs, cycles swims and triathlons where Endura, grunt and muscle rub get soaked up in the Sunshine Coast’s premier resort. But when I read that it was not a race, had no prize placings and that “the challenging ascents will be far outweighed by the spectacular vistas”, I was in.
I hadn’t completed this distance or time on a bike before and certainly not over Noosa’s notorious hilly hinterland terrain. A guestimated seventy hills, over 160km adds up to around six hours in the saddle for me.
Still, I’ll finish it, I told myself. It’s just me against the course.
The starting horn sounded and within five minutes the field of cyclists disappeared over the horizon. Paul and I were part of a small but determined pack of back riders. Stalked by the official ride ambulance, we all made a pact that we would cross finish line come what may.
At the first water stop the officials were encouraging “well done, keep going.” At the second stop they had a look of “oh dear” and at the final stop they were packing up.
“It’s finished,” an official said. “The cutoff time has gone.”
I’d endured well over five hours and 130 kilometres of countless climbs. For the past 20 kilometres the grim-reaping sound of the low gear revving ambulance right up my behind reminded me I was the back rider.
There was no way I was giving up now with around thirty kilometres to go.
Then the sinister Sad Wagon – a mini bus with a bike trailer on the back – pulled up to take the non-finishers back. To make matters worse it was filled with the broken-pact looks of our course companions. “It’s finished, were taking the marshals off the course,” shouted the driver.
“Were finishing it on our own,” Paul said for the umpteenth time as we set off once again in defiance.
But the race organisers still weren’t finished with us. Another official in a Subaru chased us down and pulled in front of us with hazard lights flashing to unceremoniously strip us of our race numbers.
After seven hours, we entered the festival grounds surprised to see the finish banner still inflated and floating high in the air. We cycled underneath numberless to our own weary cheers, a few strange looks and a new record time spent in the saddle for me.
Australian professional racing cyclist Ben Kersten was among the 160km riders. “It is a fast and hard course but you have to challenge yourself and enjoy these events,” Kersten said.
With the hard challenge behind me, all I need to do now is work on the fast and Subaru dodging.
A big thanks to the volunteers who were supportive all the way.