Day 17 - Giralia to Nanutarra 154km

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Today’s theme: team work and spectacular scenery

Today was a measure of the sum of its parts. From this morning where the wonderful family at Giralia Homestead managed to provide a cooked breakfast to 20 hungry cyclists and support staff within a twenty-minute turn around time was to set the tone for the day. This allowed us to pack up the bikes (in the owners ute), put luggage in the trailer and ferry the cyclists in the mini bus down the 4km red dirt road, so we could begin our ride along Burkett Road. And this was only the beginning of what was to be a massive team effort.

With strong north-easterly winds predicted all day, we knew we were in for a challenge as we began the 157km ride to the Nanutarra Roadhouse. The first stretch of 40km was not too bad as we made our way in an easterly direction; the side wind was tolerable as we could once again ride echelon. Just prior to morning tea, we turned right onto the North West Coastal Highway and immediately felt the impact of the wind. We knew today was going to test us all and that working together was key to safely making it to our roadhouse destination.

The All Trails Cafe offered a range of morning tea delights and no-one held back. Energy and hydration would be key to our ability to cycle throughout the day. There were two main groups today and each was able to work efficiently and effectively together. The support vehicles continuously offered us opportunities to refuel and fill up water bottles. A number of cyclists decided that the conditions did not suit them and jumped into the bus. They soon became a critical part of the ‘Sagwagon’ support crew. For the START team, we felt like we were in a grand tour! The chase vehicle and the support crew were sensational. Offering us words of encouragement and filling our water bottles up whenever we stopped for much needed stretches, snacks and nature’s pit stops.

The other factor that inspired those who remained on the bike throughout the day was the changing landscape. As a consequence of the rains that came through 10-days ago the vegetation has come to life. The green and cream shrubbery and grasses contrast spectacularly against the rich red dirt and escarpments. The colours continually changed throughout the day. It was truly captivating!

Today we also experienced our first real dust ‘storm’; not quite a willie-willie, but it moved across the horizon like a cloud in a storm. Our skin was a rust colour from about lunch time. Mixed with sunscreen, it provided an interesting exfoliation sensation!

With 70km to ride after lunch, it became a process of breaking down the distance into small, achievable increments. This worked exceptionally well. With the cheer squad in the Sagwagon, we felt buoyed all the way. The START crew reminisced when we rode over the first of many Royal Flying Doctor Service road airstrips. It took us back to the Ride for the RAH in 2015 where we rode over numerous along our journey across the Nullarbor.

With 10km to go, the START crew was given a Captain Blood style rev-up from our very own Captain Kez . The strategy was crystal clear. “Maz, I want 5 of the best from you and Jelleff, you can bring us home!” The team knew what it had to do to get us over the line! We suggested to JB (Sagwagon driver, bike mechanic and all round sensational guy) that he let the Roadhouse Cafe know that it was about to run out of chocolate milk supplies! Honesty, within a matter of minutes of arriving, the fridge was raided and there were collective sighs all over the camping area as rust coloured cyclists inhaled chocolate milk! I’m sure the truck drivers and other patrons were both amused and perplexed at the sight!

With a 182km ride ahead for tomorrow, again into less than favourable winds, the peloton was focussed on the usual; showers, laundry, hydration, dinner and sleep. We anticipate it will be a save-and–repeat day, but we are ready for the challenge. Sensational effort by all today!

PS: A huge “Thank you” to Kylie who walked out to the highway and cheered us all in as we made the right hand turn into the parking bay.

Richard Cooke