Day 7 – Blackall to Longreach:
A heroic day. The stuff of legends. What a team!
Watching this very special bunch arrive into Longreach around 5pm after 7 tough days and 1237 very long km’s was just sensational. They arrived to huge applause from the locals, shared hugs all round and couldn’t get into those cold, icy beers fast enough.
When Brendan briefed the team this morning of the 240km ride from Blackall to Longreach via Isisford, the finish all felt like a distant dream for the very tired but incredibly focused bunch. But they did it, one leg at a time.
Setting off just after sunrise made for a magical start to the day. Soft light, beautiful pale pink and blue skies, and not a breath of wind. The Peloton were all set for their big last day with every rider in the saddle for the start.
The first 70km leg was done in faster times than previous days and the group looked comfortable. At the first break, spirits were high. Sensational outback landscapes and clear blue skies made for a unique photo shoot of the group with Damian’s De Rosa in prime position – now, there’s a photo to be sent back to De Rosa’s road testing headquarters in Milan – ”Road-Tested in the Australian Outback”. The Italian bike manufacturers would be horrified by what these bikes have been put through over the past 7 days. Long dirt roads, cattle grids, fresh tar and poorly corrugated bitumen have all wreaked havoc with the Casati’s, the De Rosa, the Colnago’s, the Pinarello, the Time and the various Specialised and Giants that have endured these iconic Australian roads. Trevor has definitely had his work cut out this week.
The ride hotted up into the second and third 70km stints. With air temperatures up to 29 degrees by midday (or 34 degrees on the road) and the wind behaving itself, the Peloton held their 30km/hour average speed on the quiet back road to Isisford, and then on to Ilfracombe, despite the bodily stresses taking their toll. The toughest legs of the day mentally, the whole team were outstanding in how they supported each other through. God bless PC and his singing. Just when the group needed the extra oomph, PC always came to the rescue with his tunes. What a legend. Huge effort by the V8 or should we say V18 engine!, with many of the team taking turns in leading out front, helping down the back and playing the all round team support and motivation role…..special mention to Brent with his legendary efforts out the back in pushing team mates up hills and running errands to paramedic Evan in the support vehicle for painkillers for the sick and wounded…..and together with Simon, running water bottle refills for the pack through the hottest parts of the day. True Tour de France style.
Departing Ilfracombe, the team could smell the sweet feeling of success. Led in by hometown boys Dave Neal and Steve Eussen, the 27km homeward stretch into Longreach was almost a dream with the tail wind behind the Peloton, the kangaroos looking on and the late afternoon sun of this gorgeous Outback country shining brightly.
Let that sun shine on this very special team.
What a week!