My last Oppy was in 2011 and was an epic in inclement weather, in 2013 I had an opportunity to complete my 4th Oppy at relatively short notice and jumped at the chance. The team was comprised of diverse and it turned out "reduxing" riders who for one reason or another had been off the bike for a period of time (heart problems, foot problems, cramping problems, etc). I didn't know about the reduxing part until during the ride but it was going to be interesting so I said yes.
The route was to take us across the north of Sydney to Hornsby and then to Fennell Bay in Lake Macquarie along the old Pacific Hwy and Expressway. From there we would return around the Lake via Morriset and Wyee before tracking into Wyong before retracing our path back through Peats Ridge and Hornsby to our sleep stop at Seaforth. The last leg was from Seaforth to Parramatta park via the harbour bridge.
I had arranged to spend Friday night at Seaforth to save an early start on Saturday morning and was glad I did. Stephen's home is nestled on the shores of Middle Harbour and provided terrific and relaxing views over the water and pleasurecraft. We enjoyed a quuite evening preparing and talking bikes before heading to bed.
The day dawned spectacularly and by 8 o'clock the team had gathered and was organised, Philip, Russell, David, Stephen and me. We set off, Stephen leading us through the maze of streets that wook us through Seaforth and beyond. The early stages of a ride are always interesting, observing how others ride, settling in to ones own rhythm and remaining observant. The Saturday morning traffic was also heavy and we were glad to leave the relatively busy roads of suburban north Sydney for the quieter conditions along the Pacific Hwy. We were travelling along quite well together, and I was feeling strong and comfortable.
Shortly after crossing the Hawkesbury River bridge some close passing traffic froced me through a bad patch of tarmac and I pinch flatted my front tyre. No big deal (and as it turned out the only puncture on the ride) and I set to repair it aided by Philip while the others decided to ride along and start the climb up Mt White. It was a beautiful day though growing steadily warmer as the clouds burnt off. Puncture repaired Philip and I soon caught the others and we continued along the climb past Mt White and onto our first control at Peats Ridge where it was now becoming quite hot, with 30c showing on my garmin.
From Peats Ridge we enjoyed a period of descent enroute to the F3 and Toronto. I was feeling pretty good and with the tailwind we were picking up some pace. Word came up that we were to make an unscheduled stop at the Service Centre at Paruna for water so we pulled in for a quick break.
Before heading onwards for the 30kms to the Toronto exit. I was travelling at the front of the group swapping turns with David and Phillip, and we paised at the turnoff for Russell and Stephen, who was struggling a bit in the heat, to catch up.
From the turnoff we had a good run on quieter roads to Toronto, taking a turn along the foreshore to see the cool waters of Lake Macquarie before heading to the turnaround point at Fennell Bay. I was starving so we called in at the Macdonalds for some salt and fat and it was here that Stephen succumbed to the heat, experience some heat stroke and painful cramps. At first he suggested that he wouldn't be able to carry on and we should head off, but it became clear that he needed some assistance so we hung around, called his wife and then an ambulance. We propped him on a table and amidst his pained groans applied ice to cool him down.
It was a bit of a worry but as things transpired he was OK and had experienced similar issues a few times before. With Stephen tucked safely in an ambulance and on route to a clinic, his bike safely in the boot of he's wife's car, we were free to continue our journey back towards Sydney and a sleep.
We were now a fair bit behind schedule and headed off into the setting sun around Lake Macquarie towards our next control at Wyong. As the sun set we fell into a strong rhythm, taking turns on the front and pulled into a relatively lifeless Wyong at about 9pm.
After a quick stop at an all night service station we continued along, climbing Ourimbah Mountain on the F3 before turning off at Somersby for a return visit to Peats Ridge. The cafe's were long closed but the blutions were open so we filled up our bidons and headed back out onto the road. It was now quite late and we were getting slower and the sleep break arrival time blew out from 1am to 2am then 3am in the blinking of a microsleep.
A slow 300 to be sure, but we were all together and travelling with various degrees of doggedness. And eventually, after a close encounter with a Powerful Owl at Mt White we felt renewed vigour as we sped up the Wakehurst Parkway towards Seaforth and enough time for a shower and 90 minutes of sleep.
An hour and a half doesn't seem like much but I awoke refreshed to see the waters of Middle Harbour riffling in a strong breeze. Once outside again and on the bike, the breeze seemed much stronger, especially comming across the Spit, Harbour and Anzac Bridges.
ONce the other side of Pyrmont and tracking through the inner west, the wind dropped off and we made steady progress towards Parramatta along the various cycleways. I particularly enjoyed the river path at Ryde, but not as much as I enjoyed entering Parramatta Park and tracking towards the finish.
We were the second group in with 15 minutes to spare and 364kms under the wheels. Soon we were joined by the other teams who had managed a simiarl distance, longest being the Psychologists from Newcastle who completed 390km.
So with Oppy number 4 completed I enjoyed a big breakfast before heading off for a couple of ferry rides back to Manly and the drive home.
The scenery on the water capped the day off nicely!
Mileage in Kilometers = 2404
Meters climbed = 26,608