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The Pedal4Paramedics Challenge is a cycling event that arose from the Jamie Jackway Appeal Brisbane to Townsville and Brisbane to Cairns events conducted in 2012.The Jamie Jackway Appeal Brisbane to Townsville ride was a three week event and two of the participants decided that this type of event would be a great way to raise money for a fund that would help to support QAS personnel. Thus the QAS Legacy Scheme and the Pedal4Paramedics Challenge were born. In 2014 two organisers devised a route that had the riders travel from Brisbane to Cairns in two weeks. Five cyclists set off and travel nearly 2000km and raised several thousand dollars for QAS Legacy as well a spreading the word about the Scheme at every station they stopped. The event was deemed a success and planning began for the next event. Due to issues with obtaining permits the event for 2015 was postponed until May of 2016. The same route was used for this year’s event and the last permit approved at 1430 on the afternoon the day before the ride was scheduled to begin. A huge thanks goes to Deon in the QPS Cairns Tactical Branch for his efforts to get the permits finalised.
The route for the 2016 event was drawn up by Adrian House from Mission Beach and had the riders starting in Cairns and travelling to Port Douglas on the first day. This was a relatively easy 65km ride up the beautiful coast line. Due to a small section of road identified as dangerous a Qld Police escort travelled with the riders for approximately three kms. The riders had a short stop at the Ellis Beach Bar & Grill for a great cup of coffee and then headed up to the Rex Lookout for a few group photos. After reuniting a tourist with his camera that he almost left behind the riders rode the final stretch and arrived in Port Douglas in the early afternoon. The riders then took some time to rest and prepare while the support crew did a quick stocktake on what food and water was on hand. The OIC at Port Douglas (Ian Day) had organised for the riders and crew to have dinner at the local restaurant Rattle-n-Hum where they were treated to discounted gourmet pizzas that were absolutely fantastic. Left overs were packaged up for lunch the next day. Cold pizza, yum! Guess you’ll eat anything when you’re hungry.
Day two was 85km and had the riders leaving Port Douglas with a Qld Police escort, thanks to Brett from Port Douglas and Liam from Mossman for their support. The riders hit the base of the beautiful Rex Range which is a 9km winding road that goes up 450m and was the first of several challenging days for the riders. After a gorgeous rainforested 7km the riders made a quick stop at the first lookout before completing the final two kms of the range. The group said goodbye to our QPS escort and rode on to finish in Mareeba for a well-deserved rest. The OIC at Mareeba had arrange the comforts of the recently completed Mareeba Fire Station where the local staff and LAC provided a mixed group of dishes for the riders and crew. With plenty of food left over the crew left several untouched dishes as thanks to the QFES crews that were roster on and still had plenty for lunch the next day. The riders definitely wouldn’t starve on this ride.
Day three and the riders set off for Malanda along a 74km route that took them on a steadily increasing grade for the first 40km. The riders then headed out to visit the Afghanistan Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra where our exADF medic spontaneously spoke of his time during international deployment which resulted in a very emotional visit for several of the group. From there the group progressed to Lake Eacham for a refreshing swim and several team members allowed the freshwater fish to nibble at their feet for a different style of relaxation therapy. Sufficiently cooled and rested the riders again mounted up for the final short ride into Malanda. Here the riders stayed at the ambulance station, and after a quick shower made a visit to the nearby Coffee Worx for a great cup of coffee and a chance to buy locally grown coffee and chocolate. Thanks to local paramedic Adam Byrne who cooked a very welcome slow cooker casserole and vegetable soup for the entire team that night despite still being on break-from-duty. There was plenty of food left over so the crew decided to leave this at Malanda to keep the rostered crews fed for several days.
Day four and the riders faced another challenging 75km day with the route traversing the short, very steep, Halloran’s Hill in Atherton, then up the Herberton Range (accompanied by our third QPS escort), and along the highest declared road in Queensland at the elevation of 1143m. As the riders climbed higher the clouds got closer and the roads became slippery with light rain. Fortunately, none of the riders had any bad luck with the changed conditions. The riders then finished in the town of Ravenshoe to be met by the sobering sight of the singed ambulance station sign at the front of the station. In Ravenshoe the riders and crew were again treated to a great meal thanks to the LAC.
The next morning the riders set off in a cool 17 deg with low cloud and misty rain. The fifth day took the riders 122km down the Palmerston Range to Silkwood. As the riders were heading into Milla Milla, Josh had a failure of his rear derailleur resulting him not being able to continue riding for the day. Josh loaded up his broken steed and headed back to Cairns to find someone to fix his bike and the riders headed off towards Milla Milla township. After a prolonged stop for a welcome hot coffee in Milla Milla the riders headed to the beautiful Milla Milla Falls. It was here they decided to include the 15km fall circuit to the ride which added in some challenging short climbs and resulted in the riders having ascended as much as the descended at the end of the day. Next was the steep decent of the Palmerston Range which proved to be a bit hair raising due to the wet road and showers on the way down. A quick decision was made to stop for lunch at a rest stop near Nandroya Fall near the bottom of the Palmerston Range and just after they had set up in the shelter shed it poured down rain for several minutes. Thankfully everyone was under cover and remained dry. The riders and crew were kept entertained by several iridescent blue Ulysses butterflies as they flitted in and out of the surrounding rainforest. After lunch the riders headed further down the range to the entrance to the Mamu Tropical Skywalk where they removed their wet weather coats Here the riders had their second mechanical incident for the day. The spring plate in one of Adrian’s clip-in pedals fell out and he wasn’t able to keep his shoe clipped in. After a couple of minutes trying to get it back in he decided to zip-tie his pedal closed with his shoe in place. Fortunately, all the big downhill riding was finished but the riders still had over 50km to go before the finish. The owners of Paronella Park had offered the riders and crew free entry, a cold drink and a tour of the award winning park and this was the next stop along the way. If you haven’t been to Paronella Park then go there! It is well worth the visit. From here the riders completed the final 20km and arrived in Silkwood around 5pm after having completed over 130km thanks to the detour of the Milla Milla falls circuit. The local South Johnston and Silkwood LAC’s provided another fantastic dinner for the riders and crew and during dinner asked for all riders and crew to provide some information about themselves and why they were riding the Pedal4Paramedics Challenge this year.
Day six, and the riders had another long day of 100km to ride to Gordonvale. Luckily Adrian had planned a relatively flat route for this leg of the journey. The riders first stop was in Innisfail, and the support crew had been in communication with Josh who had finally managed to get his bike fixed. Thanks to the team at the Cycling Centre Cairns for getting Josh going again. Josh arranged to regroup with the riders at the Mirriwinni service station and on the way there they met up with Cairns Critical Care Flight Paramedic Loretta who had ridden down from Gordonvale to ride with the group back to Gordonvale. This lady is just mad! Not long after this Josh re-joined the group and suddenly the number of riders was up to six! With the original team back together and “Ret” along for the journey, the riders headed to Gordonvale with a stop for lunch at Fishery Falls. The OIC of Gordonvale, Rosie, had made arrangement for the riders to stay at the station and organised dinner. After arriving at the station and quick showers the group had enough time to visit one of the local swimming holes for a refreshing swim. Again, an awesome dinner was provided by the LAC and staff which included some very welcome cheesecake.
It was with mixed feelings the riders set off for the final day back to Cairns. Although it was only 24 km from the Gordonvale station to the Cairns station, Adrian had included a route that took the riders up to Lake Morris. This is a well known hill climb at the back of the Cairns area that provided the final challenge for the riders. The ride up to Lake Morris is 15km of steady climbing and several steep undulations along the top. The route rising nearly 500m (taller than the Rex Range) in total. A quick rest and photo stop at the first lookout and then off to the top. All riders made it up the challenging route to the Lake Morris Kiosk, Kirk having surpassed his previous best effort which was the 6.5km marker. At the top the riders rested and then headed back down to local Elva’s café for a free drink and another rest before riding the final few kms to arrive back at Cairns station for a welcome BBQ and ice cold Coronas.
This type of event would not be possible without the support of QPCU (supported the purchase of the jerseys and t-shirts), Qld Police Service (escorts at no charge), Healthworld (donated all the Endura products), Cycling Centre Cairns (for fixing Josh’s bike free of charge), Adrian House (planning the route and organising accommodation and meals), Mindy Thomas and Jodie O’Dell (support team, drove the ambulance). Next year’s event is planned for the Sunshine Coast and will run for seven days from Wed 3rd May to Tue 9th May. Remember, it’s all about QAS Legacy, fitness and having fun. See you next year. Glenn