On Friday 20 November, whilst Sydney sweltered in 40+ degree heat, I took the day off work and embarked on the hardest challenge yet; riding 203km from Sydney to the Hunter Valley.
I was accompanied by 6 amazing bike riders from QBE; Warren Bradshaw, Nick Chia, Andy Hinks, Mike Small, James Stewart, and Andrew Thomas. A massive thanks must also go out to James's dad, Ian, who joined the ride in a support car. Without his esky of water and ice at key stages along the route we would not have even contemplated riding in those conditions, and we certainly wouldn't have finished safely in one piece.
The date for challenge 9 had been set long before we knew the temperatures were expected to sore into the 40s. So, with weekend accommodation already booked we decided to start the ride much earlier than planned, to avoid as much of the heat as possible.
We got underway at 4.30am (yes 4.30am!), and although the temperature was already in the 20s, the going was pretty pleasant until we hit Wollombi, 120km into the ride. At this stage the mercury was in the high 30s.
After a stop, we continued on through Broke, Pokolbin, Cessnock, and Millfield in conditions that were described by all as "brutal". Temperatures edged over 40C and at one stage the temperature of the road surface maxed out at 49.7C.
The finish of the ride, at Mont Valley Vineyard, featured a 9% climb up a 7km unsealed gravel road, which was probably the last thing we all needed, but the achievement of finishing the ride was amazing, as I'm sure you can see from our faces in the photo!