Tour De Chance – Phew! What a scorcher – Day 1

February 25, 2018

Day one was a brutal initiation for the fifth Tour de Chance, with an early start, a hot day, dead roads and a persistent if moderate headwind making for a taxing 10-hour day, most of it in the saddle.

The good news is all the riders arrived in Stockton, in the shadows of the Kooragang Island coal stockpiles outside Newcastle, in good order and and good spirits despite enduring an outdoor air temperature up to 35 degrees, which will have translated to a tarmac temperature in the 40s.

The pre-dawn start at French’s Forest, 152kms short of the day’s target, made for a cool opening, with the ferry ride from Palm Beach to Ettalong fueled by Nev Hedge’s breakfast BLT’s and Col Bradford’s fruit salads. But by the 9am rendezvous in Gosford the call was for water – and sunscreen.

The ride route steered a course away from the most heavily trafficked roads, including through the Munmorah State Conservation area, but it was still a relatively hectic day among the urban congestion of the Central Coast and the almost contiguous Newcastle region.

The morning break at The Entrance was restorative, the largely burger lunch at Elizabeth Bay (the other one, know locally as Lizzy Bay) laying a solid foundation for the run home, in large part along the Pacific Highway, an undulating reminder of pre-freeway travel.

The 15km Fernleigh track provided a charming respite from the pressure of car-wielding  humanity as it traced over the old rail line from Belmont to Newcastle, through regrowth forest, hand-hewn cuttings and past remnant stations. It lead the team to the ferry across the Hunter to the accommodations in Stockton, and the well-earned and well-iced refreshment.

Tour fact: The day ended with close to $400,000 in the donations tank, adding around $15,000 from the overnight total, or roughly $100 per kilometre ridden, or $4 per rider kilometre. Hardly seems fair reward for effort. Dig deep.

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