Friday was a day for last minute waxing, a little carbo-loading at some of Canberra’s fine selection of restaurants and a few team dinners to ensure team protocols were agreed and any last minute team introductions were completed before day 1. From all reports riders resisted the temptation to go hard early and managed to all get to bed at a reasonable hour and gave themselves the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
Regardless of our early turn in last night, the alarm felt as though it went off just a little earlier than we have liked. We were all up before 6am, and unaccustomed as we are to daylight saving time, the most of us were surprised that the dark blanket of night had not yet been replaced by sunrise.
After savouring the buffet breakfast at the Canberra Novotel, and noting the late rising of the Melbourne Storm who shared the hotel with us last night following their victory over the Canberra Raiders, we were all present and accounted for as we assembled in the carpark for our pre-ride briefing. Nervous energy abounded throughout the group – and we hit the road just on 7:30 in a rather cool 11 degrees under a ceiling of heavy cloud.
The morning of day 1 on a Chain Reaction ride is a special time. The atmosphere equal parts anticipation and trepidation. There is pride as we consider the funds we’ve already raised and a strong desire to encourage our potential donors to dig deep to support the amazing work of our charity partners. The first timers amongst our number are particularly on edge. They’ve done the work, but having not completed a 7-day ride before, they are understandably anxious to be underway. Smiles abound, hands are shaken, messages of support and wishing each other the best of luck for the ride are shared. This is a slice of the human face of Chain Reaction. But there is another side, and it’s the logistical challenge that is transporting, accommodating, feeding and hydrating 58 riders as they traverse 1,000kms in 7 days. If you haven’t seen it up close and personal, it is very easy to miss the enormity of the task. We are incredibly fortunate to be supported by some fantastic people who make this logistical challenge seem almost effortless and who each contribute energy, enthusiasm and skill to ensure our ride goes off without a hitch and that our safety (particularly when on the bike) and comfort (at least when we’re off our bikes) are the highest priority.
First port of call after rolling out of the Novotel, was Old Parliament House – we made a quick circuit and then assembled for the traditional opening day photo. We assembled at the rear of Old Parliament House and were treated with a spectacular view up Capital Hill towards Parliament House.
As we made our way through Canberra we all noted the quality of the asphalt – Canberra sure does have some good roads! We rode past Manuka Oval, and headed south east towards Queanbeyan. Turning onto quitter back roads at Gordon we rolled west along Point Hut Road and left the traffic behind us. In its place we were treated to our first of many alpine panoramas. Through rolling hills our gently winding ribbon of roadway gave us spectacular view after spectacular view as we left each valley we were greeted, after a short climb by warm embrace and stunning vistas of the next.
Before we knew it, we had travelled another 20km and it was time to turn right at a sign alerting us to the presence of the ‘Moon Rock Café’ ahead. After turning off our radios and mobile phones to avoid interference with our monitoring of deep space, we made the climb to the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Communication Complex for a quick pit-stop and to marvel at the various dishes and arrays that enable the monitoring of satellites and interstellar space.
Our final challenge for the day was the ascent of Mt Stromlo which rises from the Canberra plateau and is site of the Stromlo Observatory.
After enjoying a few quick selfie-opportunities at the summit and ticking off the first of our 7 peaks in 7 days we descended, and after completing a ‘victory lap’ at the ACT Veterans criterion track near the base of Stromlo, we boarded our Brisbane built Wangaratta Coachlines coach and enjoyed our transfer to Adaminaby. It was noted by several riders that more than a few of the beverages provided for our riders were consumed by a number of our late arrivals who would be riding on day 2, but who were not able to be with us for day 1.
As is our custom, the evening meal was enlivened by a team presentation. Tonight was the turn of Limitless McDonalds, led by Nick Barr and ably supported by Luke McKew and Michael Tritton. The highlight of the night was a powerful personal story shared by Luke McGrath on the value of medical research. It reminded us all why we ride – thank you Luke.
Jersey presentations rounded out our night.
Jersey winners stage 1
Yellow (McDonalds) - John Barton
Green (Transurban) - Jon Erbacher
Polka Dot (Channel 10) - Mason Cowle
White (Courier Mail) - John Rowell
Black (LSH Auto Australia) - Cath Daley
Blue (JC Decaux) - Paul Hewett
Red (Nova) - Sandy Murdoch