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2017 Chain Reaction Challenge Victoria – Day 3 Blog

13 March 2017 Chain Reaction

CR17 Day 3 _Guest Blogger

“Open the door.” “Opening the door.” “Nup, close the door, silver Landcruiser, caravan and a couple of trucks.” “Door closed.” “OK, try again. That blue Commodore wants to come through; open the door.” “Door open.”

“Mechanical.” “What, JJ?” “Grindal, flat. Keep going. He’ll get back on OK.” “Copy that.”

“Where’s Kristi?” “Up the road, sorting out lunch. Some issue with the wraps…”

“[insert name here] double cramping. He looks totally cooked.” “Put him in the van.”

I’m a Chain Reaction regular, but not riding this year.  Instead, I’ve tagged along for the first 3 days, traveling with the support crew in their cars, vans and “The Truck of Dreams” – our bikes and bags transport – as they make the ride happen.  Sure, the riders do the riding, and pull in the donations, but without the crew, when it came to ride day they’d be a bunch of blokes with fancy bikes standing around in colourful lycra wondering what to do next.

Today was a typical Chain day: 150 kms up the NSW coast, from Crescent Head to Coffs Harbour, with about 1500 vertical metres.  That equates to about 8 hours on the road, and 5 to 6 hours riding the bike, depending on the conditions and how well we travel.  For the riders, that means warming up for the first hour or so, keeping the peloton tight as it streams along the flats, tapping it up the hills (some doing it a lot easier than others), flying down the descents, keeping food and fluids up, staying upright, warding off the cramps, and pacing themselves so they don’t crack before the day’s ride is over.  Despite the fact rider speeds vary from 8kmh to well over 80kmh over the course of the day, depending on the terrain, as a rider you try to keep things super steady, avoiding unnecessary exertion, knowing you’ll need all you’ve got in the tank for the rest of the day’s climbing or heat or rain or wind.

Yet, around all of this controlled commotion, the crew moves in myriad and mysterious ways, much more “stop, start” than the riders: blocking, corralling and marshalling the traffic to keep the riders safe; ensuring there is enough water, electrolyte, bananas, and sunscreen at the drinks stops; our massage therapists, physiotherapist and medic kneading and pulling at weary and tight legs, backs and necks, releasing knots here, dispensing medication there.  There’s JJ (Chain bike mechanic) truing wheels and tightening cables, while Tim (Ride Director) talks to the local constabulary, smoothing our way for the next 50kms.  Kristi (Off-Bike Director), having deftly defused the Wraps Crisis, is on the phone to Tuesday’s hotel, or Thursday’s caterers, while Cindy (medic) applies gauze and antiseptic to a recently gravelled knee or elbow, or hands out the Imodium and Nurofen.

At the end of each day, when we roll in to our accommodation for the night, the riders’ work for the day substantially done, again the crew goes into turbo mode: the massage tables pop up, the riders’ dirty kit gets hauled to the laundry, the bike mechs get busy, while Kristi and John (CEO) attend to logistics, and Cori, Veeral and Ryan (Chain’s marketing, photographic and videographic brains trust) attend to media stuff and edit and upload the day’s pics and vids.  The crew are last to bed and first up, well before the dawn, making sure the riders are ready for the day’s ride.

Photo: bridge shot 2

Today was light relief when compared with the first two days.  (When 1500+ metres is “light relief” you get an idea of how very testing the early conditions were.)  After a 2 hour coach ride to Crescent Head the peloton set off from a seaside carpark under a dull, damp sky.  It was not quite cool enough to put on a vest, but not warm enough to keep the goosebumps away.  Our traveling caravan – which stretches about 300 metres along the road – warmed up along the quiet banks of the Macleay River before a drinks stop near the Nestle factory in Smithtown, and its Giant Milo Tin. (Up here it’s the land of the giant “thing”, usually rendered in decaying concrete and flaking paint.)  Soft drizzle cooled the bunch on its way through the Macleay Valley Way, along the old and dead roads of the Tamban State Forest, and past the mossy fences and curious cows of Eungai Creek.  Every now and again, a steep berg would challenge the riders, cracked roads curling around the hill like it had been ringbarked.  In the distance, the low ranges of Dunggir National Park were draped in mist and cloud, all around a rich palette of lush green, from an almost shiny lime to a deep cypress.  A near quarry, with its beige and grey exposed soils, highlighted the verdant landscape: it’s a seriously beautiful place to ride a bike.

The peloton looks a treat this year, with most of the kits having a blue theme.  That homogeneity makes the competition jerseys stand out.  Today’s standard bearers are wonderfully representative of the Chain Reaction ethos: Michael Knoff, the baby-faced Chain Reaction veteran, with 10 rides to his name, in black; Tim Mills, one of our newbies, in white; Andrew McMillan, the Jellis Craig jester, in green; Duncan Smith, ex-pro, silky smooth, and full of stories, in the polka dots; and in yellow, Sebastian Catalfamo, a man who just exudes the joy of riding his bike and embraces all that Chain Reaction stands for.  Well done, boys!

We stopped for lunch by the beach at Nambucca Heads, a stunning place to wolf down a few wraps, fruit juice and the obligatory “strong latte”, ordered en masse from the beachside café.  By now, two and a half days in, guts are a bit wobbly (too many energy bars), but riders are coming into their form, muscles toughening up and all riders getting more comfortable riding as a bunch. It makes a big difference, because your riding becomes more intuitive, more flexible, more confident.

Tim had warned about storms and rains of biblical proportions.  Happily, the rain stayed away and, instead, the peloton steadily worked its way north to Coffs Harbour, to finish a wonderful day out. However, as always. Our Ride Director Tim Chadd had one last surprise for us. A 150 metre 15 degrees climb up a suburban street, complete with local bus turning and heading down the hill right in front of us. Many had to ride an extra 200 metres past our home for the night, the Aaunka Beach Resort, to clock the 150 kms for the day.

As the riders clambered off their bikes and the crew moved effortlessly into their post-ride routine, the riders gave thanks.  I’d always thought our Chain crews were something special.  Seeing what they do up close has confirmed it a hundred times over.  Thank you, to all of you.

Distance: 150km exactly! 
Metres climbed: approx 1500 m
Time on bike: 5hrs 30 mins