As we faced our fourth straight day of cycling, Brett Hadley was once again first in line for breakfast when we arrived at McDonald’s Taree. After a quick breakfast thanks to Licensees Craig and Amanda Evans, we gathered for our morning briefing before hitting the bitumen once again. Each day Ross Bingham from Ronald McDonald House Charities awards a yellow jersey, and today there were three worthy recipients. Congratulations to Dave Munro, David Bridger and Billy Cox, who were recognised for their commitment to the ride and the support that these strong cyclists give to their less experienced fellow riders.
A short ride through Taree saw us arrive at Cundletown Public School where a vibrant group of students were educated and entertained by Ross Bingham from the Ronald McDonald Houses in Newcastle and Tamworth, and Lynchy our bike safety spokesman. The students were having a Mufti Day to raise funds for RMHC and presented a large container of gold coins to Ross. Once again, the Ride for Sick Kids team had donated two new bicycles to be given away to students at the school and the lucky winners were thrilled to receive their prizes.
From Cundletown Public School we headed out of Taree and for a short time we re-rode the same route South that we had peddled yesterday. It was a long 48km before our first drink stop at Coolongolook, where Brett Hadley was excited to see that his fellow riders had affixed a pink floral basket to the front of his bike for easy access to the hundreds of snacks that he seems to eat each day.
It wasn’t long before we were heading for the Bulladelah Range and some of the non-athletes amongst us were questioning why anyone would choose to divert from the flat highway to ride this mountainous route. The grueling 13km section was steep and windy and provided the perfect opportunity for Nathan and Dave to battle it out for the King of the Mountain title. Nathan took out the title with Dave nipping at his heels, and Thommo and Sam only minutes behind. As each rider made it safely over the range, we waited for our fellow cyclists and clapped each other to celebrate the effort that everyone put in to conquer the mountain.
The afternoon conditions were testing, with all riders battling the force of a strong crosswind. The front group worked particularly hard to protect the rest of the pack as much as possible from the elements however it wasn’t until we turned off the highway to head towards Tea Gardens that there was any relief.
The final 11km of riding included yet another hill climb, which Chris Rogers is convinced has never been there on any of his previous rides in the area.
And just in case 125km of riding wasn’t quite enough, we added an extra 500m to our distance at the very end of the day by missing the turn-off into the last street thanks to a missing street sign. We took it in our stride, knowing that we were only minutes away from today’s final destination, the Tea Gardens foreshore, where we gladly dismounted and boarded a ferry bound for Nelson Bay.
Tomorrow, we will make the final journey from Nelson Bay to Ronald McDonald House at Newcastle. Through the blood, sweat and tears, the laughs and the aching muscles over the past 500km, we have not lost sight of why we are doing this. We, the riders and support staff of the 2012 Hadley Cycles Ride For Sick Kids team, are passionate about supporting the families of seriously ill children and raising awareness of the wonderful services provided by RMHC.