Day 5 – Mitchell to Augathella:

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An early start today with 180km ride from Mitchell to Augathella.

However, before getting into the day’s round-up, it would be remiss to not talk about the fantastic experience at the Old Courthouse Hotel in Mitchell last night. Absolutely personifying outback Australia, this pub has all the character (and characters!) that you only get to see in an Australian country pub. First up was the ”John and horse show” – a regular event at the Mitchell pub stopover and always a treat. To see the connection shared between John the drover and his horse is really something special. Their show full of tricks starts with the horse coming into the pub and ringing the bell for service and ends with the horse licking his lips as he watches John drink his bourbon and coke…..but never to despair, this horse knows he’s getting his own bourbon and coke soon, and boy does he lap it up when it arrives.

Following a hearty country dinner, the one and only PC (Paul Collins) lead us through an impromptu comedy act – reflecting on the memorabilia of the pub, bantering with the characters at the bar, taking us all through a rendition of the Gilligans Island song that he had been singing to Sophia all afternoon, and last but not least hanging the 3rd a’qto hat onto the memorabilia wall – signalling the 3rd RideWest ride through the town of Mitchell- and honouring some of the leaders amongst the rides – this time our Mates4Mates friends in Chris Thompson-Lang and Tyson Murray. These guys have been an absolute inspiration on the ride with their ability to share their very touching stories, find the mental strength to push through what has been a real challenge, build relationships and trust new teammates, and most of all use this experience as part of bridging their own journey post army life.

All in all, a night of great bonding, mateship and fun – it’s at the heart of what RideWest is about.

So, at 7am this morning when the Peloton set off for the 180km ride from Mitchell to Augathella in 3 degree temperatures and brilliant sunshine, the mood and tempo had been set. The bunch was in high spirits all day despite the 650 odd km’s they had already ridden, the bodily pain they’re all experiencing in one muscle group or another and the 180km task ahead. The day’s 30km/hour average speed was set early and the whole group looked seemingly comfortable at that pace……albeit, all complaining of having very sore butts. Mentally though, the group were strong – must be ”Directeur Sportif” Les Hancock’s strategy of breaking down the long days into two 70km legs and a final leg of 40-60km’s that makes the challenge a whole lot more palatable. Whatever it is, it’s working as the group are definitely in high spirits – might be that we’re post-halfway, or it could be the music coming into the ride with DJ Todd Copeland’s tunes blaring out of his i-phone (or dare we say PC’s singing or Mark Zaglas’ dancing)….or perhaps it’s Sophia’s new found ability to have every road train driver honk his horn on request. One thing is for sure, the group are loving the pose – with ”Paparazzi in Residence” Rosie Price taking photos off the back of the support vehicles today and from amongst the roadside grasses – there were smiles all round.

Even bigger smiles were had on arriving into Augathella where more than 30 school kids and their teachers joined the Peloton for the last 2km of the ride into town. This much anticipated ride had made their day. Following a presentation by Les of 2 new bikes and helmets as a donation to the school, smiles were beaming. A very proud feeling for the RideWest group to be making a difference in these small communities.