It’s called Chain Reaction Challenge, not Chain Reaction ‘walk-in-the-park’ – and today, as we wrapped up the day-7 tour of South East Queensland, we were reminded why. What appeared on paper to be a fairly simple downhill roll from Toowoomba back to Brisbane instead turned out to be a serious task for legs that had already completed around 110,000 pedal strokes and pushed weary bodies up more than 10,000 metres of climbing.
The day began with more gradient than any of us were hoping for as we climbed out of Toowoomba central towards Middle Ridge before the steep descent to Flagstone Creek grabbed our collective attention and reminded us of a painful climb up the range on Wednesday afternoon.
The morning was brisk, although as Alex King (a CR Victoria veteran who joined us for a week of CRQ experience and who regular readers of this blog will recognise as the author of our day-1 edition) had noted on several occasions that conditions were in fact relatively benign and that much of the cold weather gear donned by those of us rarely challenged by genuinely cold conditions was somewhat excessive.
Leaving that dispute as an area of an ongoing disagreement between Queenslanders and our southern cousins, all of us were in total agreement that the weather for the entire week had been simply stunning – zero precipitation, barely a cloud in the sky, temperatures that consistently presented perfect conditions for riding hour after hour and wind that was often at our backs and only on a few notable occasions presented less favourably into or across our direction or travel.
As the morning progressed we rolled from Flagstone Creek and onto Grantham, Gatton and Laidley in the heart of the Lockyer Valley. Rains earlier in the year, which on many occasions had been hugely disruptive for our pre-ride training, had also ensured vegetation was lush, crops were bountiful, and dams were at capacity. Many readers will not be aware that the Lockyer Valley is rated among the top ten most fertile farming areas in the world, and the intensively cultivated area grows the most diverse range of commercial fruit and vegetables of any area in Australia. Even so, there was little doubt that were we seeing this little patch of Queensland at or near its best.
With the wind mostly at our backs, we made great time, often travelling around 40kmph – feeling strong, we all felt as though we’d be back home, enjoying time with family and friends very soon indeed. As we pulled out of Laidley, we were reminded that Ride Director, Tim Chadd, would never let it be anything other than a ‘challenge’.
And so the challenge began at the 68km mark as we tackled a climb up and over the Grandchester Reserve – while modest by comparison to the more significant climbs earlier in our week, this little tester coming as it did just as thoughts were turning to home definitely got our attention. But there was more to come – and this time not in the form of a single significant climb, rather it was the repetitive climbing required by what Tim had rather disingenuously called ‘rollers’ at last night’s rider’s briefing. For the non-riders, a ‘roller’ is a hill you can tackle relatively easily as the momentum from the preceding descent gets you all of the way, or at least most of the way to the top.
With a few very enjoyable exceptions along Mt Crosby Road, these were not ‘rollers’. These were testing pinches that strained quads, glutes, calves and minds. Legs that began the day eager for a rest – were now screaming out for a break, and yet no break came. This was our reality as we rolled from Rosewood to Brassall and onto Colleges Crossing and Karana Downs.
From Anstead, through Pinjarra Hills and onto Kenmore, Indooroopilly and Toowong, the testers continued to appear before us. With the finish line almost in sight, we turned onto Milton Road and, taking full advantage of our Police escort, we enjoyed an express trip through the building Friday afternoon traffic skirting the city before heading down one final small descent into Fortitude Valley and onto Breakfast Creek Road for our roll into Mercedes Benz Brisbane where family, friends and supporters awaited.
Finishing a Chain Reaction ride is an amazing experience – but finishing a Chain Reaction ride in your home city, greeted by smiles, hugs and tears, is a truly awesome experience. The riders give much to participate in a Chain Reaction event – we give up time with family and friends, we sacrifice sleep to ensure sufficient training is completed before we depart. We ask our networks to dig deep to assist with fundraising. We take time away from busy careers.
But in the end, we receive so much in return. Experiences like today – of rolling across that finish line, of being reunited with loved ones, of celebrating with fellow riders, of enjoying a quiet glass of champagne and saying ‘thanks for your support’ to a rider who helped you when you needed it most, these are not experiences that are easily recreated. These are rare moments that need to be savoured.
In reflecting on the week that was, I will remember the spectacular beauty of our Scenic Rim, Southern Downs and Lockyer Valley regions. I will recall the pain of our day-4 climb up the most intimidating climb I’ve ever seen – Head Road into Killarney. I will relish the memory of climbing to Beechmont and looking back across the Gold Coast surrounded by my teammates climbing as a group.
I will look back with pride on being part of a group of riders that raised more than $780,000 to assist AEIOU and Traction. I will remember the teamwork demonstrated on multiple occasions, but never more so than on our teams event on day-6 as we completed lap after lap on the very ‘lumpy’ Toowoomba crit track.
I will forever appreciate the dedication of our expert support crew – each of whom are truly special people, and without whom none of the Chain Reaction magic could happen. But most of all, I will remember riding with a group of humans who were prepared to make a few sacrifices, share some pain and make a difference in the world of the beneficiaries of the great work undertaken by our charity partners – it was a pleasure to ride with each and every one of them.
Blog written by, John Barton of the MGD/TRACTION TEAM.