It was all George’s idea.
Having successfully completed last year’s Petit Oppy with a trike team he found the idea of riding the inaugural Traces Nationale on three wheels too good to resist.
I went along with the notion thinking it would be fun to sit at the back, exchanging pleasantries with George while the rest of the team got on with the hard work up front.
The other members of the team were Scott McCarthy, Terry Burn and Dave Minter who fortuitously happened to be visiting from the UK at the right time.
A week before the big day George fell down some steps, breaking three or four ribs and leaving me with that sinking feeling that it’s harder to hide in a team of just four.
The route was plotted on RWGPS and would take us from Panoramic Drive Lookout near Toowoomba to UQ via Ma Ma Creek, Laidley, Rosewood and Ipswich with as little climbing as possible.
With only 1,516 metres of uphill over 202kms what could possibly go wrong?
Having spent Friday night securing trikes and Scott’s Lowracer recumbent bicycle to George’s trailer, we were at the start and ready to roll at 0800 as per The Plan.
We eventually got away about 20 minutes later, which was to set the tone for the rest of the day.
There was plenty of elevation at the start and the first kilometre consisted of a twisting 20% descent to a T junction where we turned left and about 50 metres further came to an abrupt halt.
What RWGPS described as 500 meters of unsealed road was actually badly rutted single track through a gully overgrown with waist high grass.
Trikes are awkward to carry at the best of times but when they’re encumbered with a pannier of “stuff we might need” on a long ride and two or three kilos of water slung under the seat they become almost impossible to manhandle so I was very grateful for the assistance of Dave and Terry.
We eventually made it to the end of this 500 metre section but it cost us about 20 minutes including recovery time and making sure that nothing had come adrift during the portage session.
It’s difficult to overstate the value of a pre-ride reconnaissance.
From here on we followed the script to our first scheduled control point at Ma Ma Creek (72km).
The first 40 km of this leg had a few ups and downs but nothing too daunting and we settled into some semblance of order with Scott navigating up front followed by Terry, then me followed by Dave maintaining order and generally keeping a close eye on proceedings from the rear but occasionally riding alongside Terry or Scott to compare notes.
We had to negotiate a not very pleasant few kms on the New England Hwy where the traffic left us alone but a bit of care was required when straddling the edge markings. The effect of a rumble strip on the 16” rear wheel of a trike can be quite unsettling and probably dislodge fillings from teeth.
The day was heating up by now but we duly came to the much anticipated descent to the Ma Ma Creek store where we would rest, cool down and enjoy a milkshake or even a burger before proceeding further.
This is a pretty good downhill on two wheels but I can now report that having taken heed of Dave’s exhortations to leave the brakes alone it is even more exhilarating on the trike.
Of course, it’s not all downhill to the store and some pedalling is required over the last two or three kms but this only serves to reinforce the notion that the break will be all the more enjoyable for having been well earned.
The Ma Ma Creek store was closed.
It’s difficult to overstate the value of a pre-ride reconnaissance.
So… we pressed on to Gatton after cooling down in the shade of the Ma Ma Creek Community Centre and stopped at a bakery to have a snack and replenish fluids before setting off to the next control in Rosewood (129km).
We escaped from Gatton without further ado and were well on the way to Laidley when I began to feel less than wonderful (Did I mention it was a hot day?).
When Dave pointed out to me that my waterbag under the seat was rubbing on the chain, I needed no encouragement to stop and investigate.
Having dismounted I immediately fell over on the grass and explained to Dave that I thought George might like an excuse to come for a drive and collect me but we agreed that I should wait until Laidley before making any firm decision. Those who know Dave will appreciate that he can be very persuasive.
Once in Laidley we held an impromptu team meeting at which it was decided three to one that I needed to get at least as far as Rosewood and then catch the train.
We spent the best part of an hour in the shade of the shopping arcade where Scott suggested that I should walk around the frozen food section of the IGA, occasionally opening a freezer cabinet door and peering inside. I was sceptical but went with it and discovered that doing this and having a Coke got me over the Grandchester Range and into Rosewood.
Leaving Laidley, we crossed paths with the Lockyer Loonies who were riding the “Real” Oppy of 360kms which boosted my morale considerably.
Chapeau to Ral, Kristan, Nick and Paul for sticking with it in the hot conditions.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at the Rosewood control by which time I had lost interest in the idea of catching a train.
We took sufficient time for drinks and snacks again with the intention of arriving at Chez George in Petrie Tce. (195km) without another stop if possible.
I began to regain my mojo as the temperature fell and rode the remaining 66km fairly comfortably, probably assisted psychologically by being on what has become a very familiar road dating back to the original Midnight Century route.
I even towed Dave for part way up the hill past Limestone Park in Ipswich, although a casual observer may have thought he was pushing me.
It was an uneventful trip through Bundamba and Dinmore with fewer idiot drivers than usual to contend with although the bogan factor made itself evident on a couple of occasions.
I don’t think I had ever ridden along the Centenary Bikeway at this late hour previously and certainly not on the trike. The lack of other cyclists made the long descents more enjoyable and allowed sufficient momentum to carry the next hill.
The fun was interrupted as usual once across the Centenary Bridge at Jindalee. I have never enjoyed the climb towards Kenmore Rd. but at least on three wheels it’s just a matter of remaining seated and using the granny gear to winch the trike to the top.
From there, I could almost smell the roast chicken that George had promised so it was a relatively quick run to Coronation Drive and then across the Suncorp Stadium Precinct and up Caxton St.
We were lucky that the Broncos match was well and truly over so there were just a few stragglers falling about the place and it turned out that Caxton St. is easier to navigate by trike on a Saturday night than after the Tuesday morning river loop.
George had been waiting patiently and plied us with the aforementioned roast chook followed by stewed apple. I was a bit nervous about the chicken as I had noticed the day before that he only had one left in the coop but I needn’t have concerned myself as she was there again on Sunday morning.
The ride to St. Lucy’s was a very tame affair (shut up legs!) and gave me time to reflect on my good fortune in having had such a supportive team.
Apart from Dave, Scott and Terry, thanks are due to George who supported us even though he couldn’t ride in “his” event and to Philip who so kindly rocked up with his car at 5:00AM to take riders, trailer and machines to Toowoomba.
I’m not sure what we’ll plan next year but I suspect that a pre ride reconnaissance is likely.