Day 3 - Monday, 5th May 2008 - Melrose to Port Augusta
Last night we stayed and dined at the fantastic North Star Hotel in Melrose. It was a pub with some real character, some of the bar stools had been made out of old farm equipment and other scrap metal. Further, the bar and many of the tables had been made from a Red Gum Tree, just one, so it must have been a giant. At the briefing it was revealed that the profile for today had been pretty much a figment of Phil's imagination. There was apparently a pretty decent hill, Horrocks Pass, that was a few kilometres long, with the last kilometre sitting at about 12%. A lot of the riders started to freak themselves out of that, including me, until I realised that I had ridding a few hills that were probably worse, and I had managed those without too much difficulty.
Dinner was a very nice Kangaroo Tail Soup, and then a a Lamb Pasta, which after yesterdays distance was very welcome. I had John as a room mate again, and having learnt from Friday Night, I used a pair of ear plugs, it gave me a much better nights sleep. The Bee Sting John had collected after Morning Tea gave him grief last night, and while he isn't allergic, it was slightly swollen and very warm. As today was only about 60km, we had a later start, there was a walk which I participated in. While it didn't go right to the top of Mt Remarkable, it was a good stroll. There were a few Kangaroos about, but often if one was seen, the spotters made such a commotion about it then they racked off soon afterwards.
Once back at the Hotel, I got ready for the days ride, once Morning Tea was complete, we headed off. I was last to leave, and so I set off chasing those head. I soon caught up with Graeme, Pat, Bronwyn, Anthea and David, the day started off quite quick, but the North wind had already picked up and we were soon riding pretty much straight into it. Even so we were ticking the k's off quite quickly. We soon caught up with some of the early starters, and Pat dropped off for a while to pace Fiona. When we passed Gill, she jumped on the pack of our group and stayed there. Pat rejoined after a lengthy chase and we were back to original strength.
We rolled through Wilmington and kept on towards Port Augusta and the dreaded climb, as we had changed direction, the wind was now coming from the other side of us. After the turn, we started hitting a few small rolling hills, nothing huge, but with the wind they were often climbed in Granny Gear. Soon we did start getting to the start of the pass, and there were a few warm up events before the main one. I had been told by Bronny that Anthea was someone to watch on the climbs, when it started, Anthea launched an initial attack, which I covered, and then Graeme came past on a suicide mission. By this stage, I had a good rhythm with David and Anthea on my wheel. Soon, Anthea joined me on the front and that was just an encouragement for me to increase my tempo. Anthea dropped back, but she stayed with me, as we neared what I hoped was the top, I increased the pace again to shake Anthea and Dave, Anthea dropped back a bit, but Dave was still on my wheel. I gave it a last push and I finally managed to open a gap and take out maximum KOM points.
Phil had put a sign on the road congratulating s on getting over the top. Despite what was said last night, it was no where near as bad as had been made out. I think that it hit a maximum gradient of about 6-7%, nothing like the forecast 12%. We then had the descent to contend with. If we didn't have the headwind, it would have been even more fun, as it was I was going pretty fast and just loving the corners, all good fun and nothing dangerous. Unfortunately, the wind felt like a solid wall. This was the Western side of the Finders Ranges and once at the bottom, you could see the Iron Ore Smelter at Port Augusta and over the water.
To avoid the main road, we were taking a minor road, and Phil and Susan were at the turnoff to ensure we took the correct road. We regrouped there and refilled with water, despite the cool temperature, I was drinking a lot due to the low humidity. By this stage our group was back together and so we rolled out. We very quickly realised that this was a very rough road. It looked like it had been made out of rock in the area, like cobblestones, and then had asphalt rolled over it, subsequently it was as rough as guts. I think falling down a flight of stairs would have been smoother. We had about 15km of this and it didn't get any easier, if anything it got harder. Despite this, the terrain was pretty interesting, red soil, flat and low scrub, like nothing I had ever seen. We could also see the Flinders Rangers to our right and the were pretty abrupt. The group did splinter over this section, but as we just wanted it to finish we simple pressed on, just before the end, there was a railway crossing where we were stopped and our group was able to reform.
Once over the line the road improved dramatically, and at this point, David dropped his chain. We had a few kilometres to cover by this stage, and it was on the main highway, as we approached our destination, Graeme was back on the front and pushing the pace, we had to stop at lunch before the Hotel, and that was at the Information Centre. We hit a set of traffic lights, which is hopefully one of our last sets before Alice. We all made it with no dramas. We initially parked the bikes out the front of the Information Centre, and due to the risk of getting them stolen, we were reluctant to leave them. Sue kindly offered to keep an eye on them. Once we were inside and being served our soup, we realised that we could move the bikes to than area where we could watch them ourselves. The Staff and Sue all got worried as we suddenly upped and left, we were soon back inside and enjoying our lunch though.
After Lunch, which entailed much joking over the route (nicknamed Phil's Magical Mystery Tour), and discussion of the climb and descent, we had to ride to our Hotel, only another 500m or so. Tonight I am rooming with Bryan, who had the spill yesterday, his helmet has taken a serious pounding, but it definitely did it's job and saved his head. As it was an early finish today, I have managed to get some washing done, which will hopefully see me through to Friday and our rest day. The wind has also changed again today, a Southerly Change has come through, and we are hoping that it will keep up and give us some good tail winds for tomorrows trip to Woomera, 180km or so. Despite today being a short day, it pretty much had it all, flat, hills, descents, cobblestones and a solid headwind. Despite the difficulty this is a day to remember on the bike.
A Beautiful Melrose sunrise.
The early sun striking the lower slopes of Mt Remarkable
The North Star Hotel, Melrose
Lining up on the Ridge Line
Phil's Magical Mystery Tour. This road was rough.
for more Photos from Day 3.