Tour de Cowra, 2001

Tête de la course

All alert, fresh and raring to go... well, that's the theory. In truth Jennifer had been partying until midnight and then been driven, along with brother Leon, to Cowra by their mother Rosie. As Fran and I zoomed into the visitors' centre on our trikes we saw Jen and Leon having breakfast and moving the pillows around in the back of the car.

Simon and Graeme had also left Sydney very early and had rung me to say they had managed to check in at their motel before 8:00 am! Very soon we had a big contingent of cyclists ready to tackle our first day trip. Doug and Steph had Max (the Cannondale Tandem) assembled, Jen and Leon looked nearly awake, Graeme and Simon seemed quite alert; we had arrived the evening before as had Kin-Yat and Vicki so we were ready to ride.

The morning was cool but we knew the perfectly clear day would get quite warm within the hour. We formed a rather long and scattered 'pace-line' along the main road out of town, eventually reaching the first challenge of the tour Broula hill. This we tackled, Fran using the term "evil" to describe the climb. From here the road across to the tiny town of Greenethorpe showed us great scenery and a nice wide road with a good surface. Simon, Vicki and Fran decided that a sprint into town was needed to decide who really was the rotten egg. After a snack, a water bottle refill and a chat we set off, climbing again for a while before the winding downhill, acroos the train line several times, to Koorawatha. From Koorawatha the 25kms back to town seemed long, though Graeme and I did our best to make it a sprint.

During lunch at the visitor's centre it was revealed that Kin-Yat had been seen attempting to run down five kangaroos. Lunch proved to be as enjoyable as the ride with many jokes, good food and tall tales of the ride just completed.

We retired to our respective abodes for the afternoon in preparation for the evening BBQ dinner to be held and the home of Fran's parents with whom Fran and I were staying.

During the afternoon John and Suzy arrived, having taken the train to Blayney and then cycled the 70kms to Cowra! Carolyn and Joan arrived also and we all had a wonderful evening eating drinking and talking. Graeme having done the ride effortlessly (as expected) was dubbed the 'one-spanner' rider - he didn't carry much on his light bike!

Poursuivants

Day two saw Paul and Vibeka arrive so we now had a very respectable pace-line which made a great sight strung out along the main street as we headed out of town. This was a hilly ride and unfortunately produced our first flat tyre. Even more problematically our flat occurred at the back of the group so several riders had to do a few extra hills.

The weather was again superb and we all enjoyed the ride. Doug and Steph declared that this undulating terrain was wonderful for Max. Vicki seconded Graeme as her personal coach for some time during this ride, especially up the bigger hills. Paul and Vibeka had planned a tourist afternoon and wished to get back so they left us while we still awaited the arrival of the now repaired flat tyre, its bike and rider. Their attempt was partly thwarted as Vibeka managed to get a flat as well. During the sprint back to town Max threw down the challenge to us to keep up on the downhills - we worked really hard to keep Max's wheel but with the help of some uphill sections were able to keep pace.

We had decided to regroup at the entrance to the Japanese Gardens, but Jen didn't arrive. She was the only one in the group observant enough to notice the turnoff at the edge of town, which sent here on a 5km hilly detour to the gardens, while the rest of us enjoyed a beaut 1km downhill run!

Lunch was again jovial and fun. Dinner was at the Town House motel bistro in town - great!

Peloton

Bad news. Vibeka rang to say that Paul was not well and they would be returning to Sydney. This was a shame for them as they had only had one ride with us, and a shame for us as we had only just got to know them at dinner the previous evening.

So we set off at the new early time of 8:00 on our third day's ride. The main road to Canowindra is usually busy, but early on Easter Sunday morning we had little traffic to contend with. The countryside is very scenic and the ride somewhat hilly at first, but it gets easier as one approaches Canowindra. In town we took control of the local park and talked, ate and drank. The man in the small shop was perhaps a little taken aback at the sudden crowd in his shop, but he was wonderfully efficient and we were all served quickly.

Several of us took advantage of the flat wide main street to try other bikes and trikes just to see why it was that the owner rode such a beast. After the usual bike type discussions we split; Doug and Steph wanted to see the fish museum, and the rest of us wanted to start the trip back.

Ouch! Kin-Yat had found the only loose gravel on a corner in the entire shire and managed to slide, causing him to depart company from his bike and sustain some minor grazes. Simon had been forced to take evasive action, narrowly missing a stupidly placed tree, which was travelling too fast anyway, as he went bush emerging unharmed and still on his bike a little further along the road.

Kin-Yat was a bit sore but otherwise fine so we headed off again. Suzy, Fran, Simon, Kin-Yat and I decided to visit the Mulyan vineyard (Fran's aunt would be on counter duty today) as the rest of the group went into town for lunch.

Country vineyard driveways are rarely designed for cyclists and this proved not only to be no exception to the rule, but very possibly the archetype of all vineyard driveways. The wine however was worth the effort and we decided to come back later in a car and buy some. As we were about to leave Simon noticed that his rear tyre was flat. Very flat! We inspected it and found tens of thorns all around the tyre. Fran then noticed many more in the front tyre, and, pulling one out, succeeded in totally deflating the front tyre as well. Fran, Kin-Yat and Suzy went into town for lunch and I sprinted back to the house, jumped in the car and drove back to pick up Simon and his bike. He had some repairing to do after lunch!

The cafe staff now recognised us in our colourful jerseys, and again lunch was large, accompanied by tales much better inflated than any tyre Simon had at this time.

During the afternoon Fran's father Jack needed a driver to assist move some equipment from a nearby farm back to his own. Fran was elected, so I drove Kin-Yat, John and Suzy out the farm. We climbed a hill and sat watching the afternoon sun fade through every shade of red and yellow, until we saw Fran and Jack coming in the gate.

Fran and I dined, as we were expected to do, with her family that evening and I believe the rest of the peleton was seen being thrown out of the local bowling club restaurant some time around 9:00 pm.

Lantern Rouge

The finale. John and Suzy were not riding with us today, but came to say goodbye as we set out on our final leg. They each had to cycle the 70 kms to Blayney to catch an afternoon train back to reality. We were sad to lose another few members. The smaller group split a little also, with Joan and Carolyn electing to do a modified route as they planned a longer more scenic drive back to Sydney via Reids Flat and Crookwell. The rest of us headed out, most with slightly stinging muscles after three days of high speed 'touring'. Soon the pace was back to normal, until Simon's replacement rear tube blew a huge hole in itself and had to be replaced with another. Eventually we all reached the summit of Mt Collins.

This sounds very grand but in fact Mt Collins is just another hill in this region, and though there is a climb to get there, its not nearly as big as Bobbin Head for example. And as we all know, if you go up there is always a good reward. Again Max, Graeme and me pushed the downhill speed, were joined by Kin-Yat after a few hundred metres and then kept the sprint going until about 5 kms from town. Phew! That was hard work, but great fun belting along often above 40km/hr doing our best not to let Max have too easy a time. The others were not too far behind. This road lends itself to a homeward sprint.

No prizes for guessing where we took lunch. Then, sadly it was almost all over. Jennifer had now completed the final part of her Gold Duke Of Edinburgh award, and we all congratulated her, posed for photographs and composed the glowing reference needed for her award.

Before saying our goodbyes we sat talking about next year. There was no question as to whether we should do it again (it was obvious to all that we should), just some ideas about other routes, different graded routes, different things to do and see, some notes on accommodation and food...

So, it will be on again next year. This was one of the best cycling holidays we've ever had great scenery, great cycling and above all, great company.