THE ICING ON THE CAKE

And that’s what today was really.  In so many respects we experienced the icing on the cake. There was only one thing the boys hadn't had the opportunity to complain about up until now and today they had that as well.  The rain.

After sitting around outside the motel in Morwell in balmy 20 something degree weather late into the evening listening to Charles’ story and dodging mozzies we arose from our rooms about 5.15am to pouring rain and a temperature drop of at least 20 degrees.

Actually I awoke at 3.43am to the smell of Deep Heat cream.  As I rolled over in bed there before my sleepy eyes was Fred Peacock in his undies rubbing down his aching legs.  I simply shook my head rolled over and went straight back to sleep. When I woke an hour later I had to ask Fred if I had indeed seen what I thought I’d seen. He confirmed that he had gotten up at about 3.00am and had a shower because he couldn’t sleep. Probably because he was flat out on his back snoring within about 15 minutes of arriving in Morwell last night.

Anyway we set off in the rain, dressed more like we were ready for a Himalayan Trek than a cycle ride into Melbourne.  Man was it cold, and wet, and windy.  Much like our first two days actually with the added inclusion of that wet stuff falling out of the sky. I have to say that Craig and Sebastian were absolute troopers today.  They took turns aiding Fred along much as I had done yesterday.  Not easy in the rain and up the hills.  (I am going to jointly award today’s Bear Grylls award to these two boys, truly worthy recipients – well done men. Sebastian has been a great coach all week, keeping us all inspired with his comments, “Arrrre we there yet? Are we therrre yet?” - “Steeaaady” – “Hey Terry, where d’you think you’re going? Come back here!” – “One more hill.”) I was very thankful for their efforts because there’s no way I could have done it today.  By far today was my weakest day on the bike.  Despite the relatively flat terrain, which generally suits me I struggled considerably more than at any other time on the journey.  Perhaps the efforts of pushing Fred along yesterday was taking it’s toll.  In fact I faced my first real battle in the mind after our stop at the 40km mark.  I was shivering uncontrollably and soaking wet from a mixture of perspiration and rain and started to hear that voice inside me head, “C’mon Rohan, don’t be stupid now, you’ll get sick, you’ve done enough.  Get in the bus as soon as you see a sign that even remotely indicates you’re within the generally vicinity of Melbourne.”  It took all the will power I could muster to push through but after about 20 minutes of that the body warmed and I felt OK again.  I think in one way or another we all faced an experience similar to that at some point along the road.  Mine lasted 20 minutes Fred probably experienced those thoughts for about 20 hours out of the 55 he spent in the saddle.  That’s why he’s my hero this week.

Drama at home
While the M3 boys and support crew were facing our own challenges on the ride this week many have had to face a variety of challenges on the home and work front as well.  Out of respect it would not be appropriate to discuss it in this context.  Suffice it to say that the week has been a challenge to not only the boys on the ride but to many of their families as well.  Your continued prayers for the M3 team beyond our return would be greatly appreciated as things get sorted through.  Perhaps we may even be able to share some of the stories in the eBook, “One More Hill” which we’re hoping to have ready within the next month or so.

Punctures
Well if you’ve been following our training progress throughout the year you’d know that we had challenges with punctures, particularly early on in the year.  Once we all switched to better tyres the punctures became considerably less.  For instance I was getting a puncture about every 60km early on.  Once I switched to better tyres I had done close to 2,500 km without a single puncture.  Until today our trip had been relatively free of punctures.  I had one on the unanticipated dirt roads of Day 1. Fred had one on Day 4 and Neil had one somewhere along the way too.  Today collectively we had no less than eight punctures among us. (Craig 2, Neil 1, Mario 2, Terry 1, Peter 1, and for the icing on the cake Matt experienced one less than 500m from the finish line! Now that was just too funny.) The reason for this is two fold.  There’s a lot more junk on the highways than on the country roads and when it’s raining it gets washed off the road into the shoulder.  By the end of the day we had tube changes down to about 7-8 minutes and were getting quite proficient at it. Despite the delays we still managed to arrive at our destination by 3.30pm clocking up exactly 1000km as we arrived at the font door of our motel.  This was by far the earliest arrival time for the entire week.  This gave us ample time to shower and relax before heading off to church at 6pm.

The ride to Paris
For those who may be unaware the last day of the Tour de France is regarded as a celebration day.  It’s tradition among the riders that no one overtakes and they ride into Paris in a celebratory mood sipping on French Champagne and sampling hors d’oeuvres.  In effect the race is finished on the penultimate day. Well I tried to suggest that Graeme stop by the Bottlo and pick up an couple of bottles of bubbly but he wasn’t sure if I was serious so didn’t do it.  Actually I’m not sure whether I was serious either.  Might not have been a bad idea.  As it turned out the rain would have watered it down anyway, unless we could have drank it straight from our drink bottles, might have helped Kenny with his sore knee and bum, who knows?  Anyway Matt was lamenting at the first break that he’d not had the opportunity to sample any French fare so Neil took it upon himself to rectify that. (But first today’s Roadkill Report needs to be inserted here.)

Today the gory ruptured guts of mangled wallabies and wombats were conspicuous in their absence.  (Much to the dismay, I’m sure of Mrs Pope’s Mount Annan Christian College 4P class who had sent us words of encouragement along our journey.  Thanks kids your support means a lot to us.  In fact many of their comments were about the roadkill, “I wish I could see the roadkill,” “It’s cool that you saw a Commodore run over a snake,” “try not to step in any roadkill,” etc.)  Instead of large marsupials we witnessed an indescribable number of worms and snails. Some of these probably came to their untimely death as we took it upon ourselves to try our hand at creating roadkill by running over them. Additionally we saw a high number of birds and frogs.  And that’s where we return to the story of Matt and his French food.

Well clearly Neil was feeling sorry for Matt that he missed out on the hors d’oeuvres because he took it upon himself to serve some up for Matt.  Matt was riding behind Neil at the time as Neil ran over a dead frog and some of its guts flew off his back tyre right in front of Matt and landed on his lip!  Matt was so thankful to Neil for his thoughtfulness and continued to ‘thank’ him for his kindness for the next few kilometres.

C3 Bayside Church
Special thanks to Pastor Rob Buckingham and his entire staff and team for making us feel welcome at church tonight.  We were treated well and ushered into two front rows before being introduced to the congregation.  The people were extremely encouraging of our efforts.  Following the service we were served a fine spread of finger food in their visitor’s lounge before setting off for a celebration dinner at a local Thai restaurant.  By the time we got there we were already pretty full and struggled our way through the banquet.  I think they made their money out of us tonight because we certainly didn’t eat anywhere near as much food as you’d expect from a bunch of guys who’d just ridden 1000 km.  When we asked what was for dessert the waitress told us that they had banana splits.  This led to a long groan from the boys followed by a roar of laughter.  Bananas are an essential part of any cyclist’s diet due to being quick and easy to eat while delivering a rapid energy boost. (You may recall that Kenny had the opportunity to present Tony Abbot with a banana holder earlier in the week.  I was a little disappointed that Kenny didn’t make some remark containing the phrase “Banana Republic’ as he presented it but then again, he’s only been in Australia for about seven years and may not have had a clue what I’m talking about.)  Anyway during the course of the week the boys consumed just over 30kg of bananas (that’s right 30kg!) so you can see why the thought of another banana made us quiver with excitement.

Well folks, it’s over.  All that remains is the trip home tomorrow. Our numbers will be depleted somewhat as Charles is staying in Melbourne to celebrate his 30th Wedding Anniversary with his wife, Peter is staying on with Donna and the kids who came to meet him and Neil, Sebastian and Sam have arranged to fly back.  We’re sure to have some more adventures on the way back though as we reminisce on the week’s exploits.

Let me end by saying that we are deeply humbled and so grateful for the amazing words of encouragement and support that we’ve received from literally dozens of people throughout the week via text, Facebook and Twitter etc.  It’s been a delight to have been able to share the journey to some small degree with you all.

Cheers,

Rohan

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