After volunteering and experiencing the Townsville to Cairns Bike Ride in 2016 as a general helper, it was an easy decision to sign up again for this year’s ride. But when I was asked if I’d like to be front driver for one of the teams, it took on a whole new level of, well, everything really.
The ride takes you through large coastal regional centres, quaint country towns, vast sugar cane fields, views of coastal waters and peaceful valleys. Our path varied from busy major three-lane highways with extensive roadworks, to narrow single-lane country roads embedded with small train tracks for sugar cane carts. All were busy with campervans and caravans, semi-trailers, trucks, and cars – in a hurry to get to their destination in the perfect Queensland weather, with varying tolerance for 12 teams of bike riders hogging their roads and slowing them down. My experience spanned everything from abuse over the radio, to people getting out of their vehicles handing me cash to donate.
27 July: Townsville to Ingham – 112 km
From Townsville, everyone headed to Woodland, then Bluewater, Rollingstone, then a well-earned lunch break at Frosty Mango – an ice-cream shop 65 km from Townsville on the Bruce Highway. Lunch was provided by a very willing, friendly, and capable Lions Club (fresh steak hamburgers and a frosty fruit ice-cream). Then we went on to Francis Creek and finally Ingham Showgrounds.
We spent the night in the local gymnasium. If you were lucky (me), your bed was a nearly-comfortable gym mat. Night life was not ignored. Creature comforts included a delicious dinner, the very important coffee cart team, DJ, bar, and massage station complete with soothing oils, massage tables and competent hands.
28 July: Ingham to Innisfail – 152 km
Lights on at 5:30am and another early rise for the longest day, a 152 km ride from Ingham to Innisfail, taking in the Cardwell Range, Bilyana, Tully and Silkwood, coming to rest at the PCYC Hall in Innisfail. Gym mats would be a luxury here; swags out either on the basket-ball court floor or the open air shed adjacent to the race track. The support crews again provided the welcome comforts from the day before, and the teams seemed to relax more knowing that the worst was behind them. The range was the biggest challenge, testing everyone’s training, and the biggest reward when over the other side.
29 July: Innisfail to Cairns – 94 km
Awoken before dawn by the sound of hoofbeats from thoroughbreds training on the track, we got ready for the shortest and last day of the trip. This morning saw us through Babinda, Fishery Falls, Gordonvale, to finish and have lunch at Cairns Showgrounds. As they completed the last few hundred metres around the showground, riders were greeted with cheers and congratulations from local supporters, family members and other riders. For the riders it’s a job well done, for me, relief, as I realise my team is safely through with no injuries, and every one of them a hero. Every rider is acutely aware of why they’re here, and is passionate about supporting childhood cancer research.
The final delicious lunch was provided by Lions, and bakery delights by ladies from the Country Women’s Association. We took a group photo of all riders and volunteers. Then we got ready for our gala dinner – a chance to dress up, reflect, celebrate, socialise, and maybe have a drink or two. Let’s just say it was a great night!
I finish with a huge thank you to the ‘Bandicoots’, the team I was asked to lead through hill and dale from Townsville to Cairns. Each team has its own personality, its own motto and expectations. Each team does it differently, the rule book only scratches the surface of what the job entails. An individually eclectic, and yet fiercely loyal and singularly focussed team, getting everybody through was most important to them. Driving for a team is a huge responsibility, and I thank them for their patience and guidance in trusting someone so green with this task. Thank you to Gary and Wendy also, my trusty rear drivers, also new to the drive, but who seemed to grasp the job from the very beginning. I was glad it was over, but would do it again in a heart-beat.
About the author: Jodie Giles is a Senior Technical Officer in the Minimal Residual Disease group at Children’s Cancer Institute. This year there were 295 riders and 52 volunteers. Jodie was one of those volunteers. Find out more about our fundraising events.
Top image: Jodie Giles (second from right) with her team, the Bandicoots.