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2017 Chain Reaction Challenge QLD – Day 2 Blog

1 May 2017 Chain Reaction

The Forgetful Sparrow lost his wings today. But more of that later.

We spent the night at the Best Western in Maitland.  A famous ex-Bronco, Todd Lowrie, came from Newcastle (where he coaches the Knights under 21-side) to the team dinner to speak about the difference AEIOU had made to his son and his family.  We were very privileged to have him, and one of our cyclists, and the founder of AEIOU, James Morton, in the same room.  Todd spoke about a moment when his son had tried to communicate something to him, whilst standing in the driveway, and then shrugged and walked away in frustration.  He spoke about the complete turnaround in language and happiness since they started attending AEIOU.  Very inspiring.

The Hutchinson team ran the presentation evening at the end of day-1 and to be honest, they did a better job than any team ever has (albeit that comment is self-assessed as this post is being written by Hutchies team members). The award jerseys were presented as follows…

  • Black, sponsored by Mercedes – for truly living the spirit of the ride and of Chain Reaction was awarded to Luch Crema riding in his 8th Chain Reaction!
  • Red, sponsored by Nova – for innovation was awarded to Jen Cowle for her outstanding fundraising including hosting the first ever Criterium Training session as a fund raising event.
  • White, sponsored by Star City Casino – for best ‘young/new rider’ awarded to Brian Woods.
  • Green, sponsored by Transurban – for best sprinter awarded to Wes Ballantine.
  • Polka Dot, sponsored by APN Outdoor awarded to James Morton.
  • …and the coveted Yellow Jersey, sponsored by The Courier-Mail for leading in fundraising was awarded to Peter O’Keeffe.

Photo: cr_qld_2017_day_2_o-nev-14592

We left Maitland at 6.30am in a bus for Dungog.  The truck went ahead with the bikes and we arrived on the bus at 7.30 at Bennett Park. The bus driver says that the district was a thriving centre of rural industry but dairy and poultry are now lost to other areas.  He also says that it may be the only breeding ground for pelicans apart from Lake Eyre. Not sure about all of that, but very beautiful countryside nonetheless with Ghost gums, and beautiful, grassy flood plains. The rain fell steadily as we travelled and windscreen wipers did their job, which was rather ominous for the ride ahead, but fortunately cleared up before we arrived.  It was about then that one of our number, the young fellow, Patrick Kortum (aka “the Sparrow”) realised he’d left his cycling shoes in Maitland.  Mercy dash by support staff back, and Matty B. lent Patrick shoes in the interim. So he was back on the bike.

Dungog is not famous for much.  Home of Doug Walters.  And a 50 km Peddler festival for ‘’serious’’ cyclists once a year.   We rode out through a clutch of firies at the local First Station who called out that we should take care of the potholes.  That turned out to be a good heads-up.  There was a short, flat ride out of Dungog, peppered with gravel,  kinks in the road, and potholes so big that some water bottles bounced out, but it was a good wake up before we started ascending. The group stretched out in “free play” through some steady hills.  Honest 380 metres in elevation over 6.5 kms to a town called Stroud. Not quite as famous as Dungog… Settled in the 1820’s, home of the Australian Agricultural Company, and has an “international’’ brick and pin throwing contest every September!

More climbing with rolling hills and then a big climb before we stopped for lunch in a village called Bulahdelah. Support staff had set up at the showgrounds.  Big, verdant bullring with a sign saying you couldn’t use the place for agistment, but made for a very serene venue.

After lunch, there was a short flirtation with the Pacific Highway before we moved across to the quiet country roads and then there was a steep climb up the Lakes Way before heading to the coast and the Lakes National Park. It was heartening to see so many of the cars that we held up on this climb wave and honk their horns in support of our efforts. Coming in to the lakes district we saw our first glimpses of water through the trees and knew the hills were behind us. The last 30 kms or so into Forster was a particular treat for the peloton – tail wind, downhill, along an isthmus with lakes on one side and the Pacific on the other. We rode proud into Forster which has a kind of nineteen fifties, Wes Anderson, vibe about it.  We found our way to Main Beach where there was a beautiful ocean pool and a wonderful glimmering beach for a group photo.

We’re spending a night at the Island Palms hotel in Forster.  Like much of today, it was an experience that we may never have again, but we are awfully glad we had it.