Words by Su Pretto, photos by Bob Barrett (@bobbarrettphotos)
It was strange starting a race at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, particularly this time of year when it starts to cool down about 3 o’clock. And with the clear skies, you know you’re in for a cold night. A bit of tar was a pleasant start to get warmed up, then came the dirt and the undulations. Looking up the valley, seeing the sun go down and the low clouds roll in was a spectacular display.
I’m sure there were some amazing views on the way up the climb, but as soon as our lights went on it was time to concentrate, especially on dodging the local wildlife crossing in front of you at high speed. The moon came up while we were going across the tops and riding in and out of the misty patches, and we could hear the shuffling and snorting of the brumbies in the bush. It was cold and a tad damp, but beautiful and I was lucky to have the company of young Lucy on the way down to Moonan Flat. Wow, that girl can descend!
Arriving at the pub and seeing the roaring fire and the smell of beer and wine made it quite tempting to take a seat, but no, the show must go on. A quick top-up of food and water, battery change, and I was off again. As I was leaving the pub my good mate Meredith was just arriving, so I thought I best get a wriggle on as she is normally in front of me and were only halfway.
Then some more climbing—which was okay because it kept me warm—then more descending and it was cold, really cold. I had to stop a few times to check that my numb hands were on the brake levers. It’s a funny thing seeing the sun come up and being in the same place I was the night before watching the sun go down but heading towards the finish. It was such a special time of the morning, watching the world waking up. That moment was what it’s all about and why I was out there.
Arriving at the Roundabout Inn Gloucester at 7:25 in the morning, just in front of Meredith, was a very proud moment for me as this lady is a formidable competitor, an amazing athlete, and an all-round nice person. I’m looking forward to next year and seeing what Graveleur can come up with, because it would be hard to top this one. I would like to thank Mike, Kerry, James and all the sponsors.
A recap from the organizers
The dust has settled on the 2021 Thunderbolts Adventure. After a COVID affected the 2020 edition of the event, this year promised to build on the success of previous years. Compared to the years before, it did deliver a total of 249 km and over 6,000 vm.
The number of riders participating in the Thunderbolts Adventure has continued to grow over the last five years. This year saw 188 riders roll out from Gloucester to tackle the route that takes in some of New South Wales’s most spectacular scenery, and more 90% of the riders completed the entire route. This year was an out-and-back route as the Mid North Coast of New South Wales was heavily impacted by floods in March, leading to a major reroute of the course from previous years.
A motley crew of riders rolled out from Gloucester on all manner of bikes, including drop-bar mountain bikes, XC mountain bikes, and a broad range of gravel bikes. Entrants were from a wide range of riding backgrounds too, including experienced ultra-distance racers, experienced bikepackers, XC racers dabbling in longer distance riding, roadies on their first overnighter, as well National Road Series hitters. The terrain was brutal and beautiful at the same time.
Riders spent the night in Moonan Flat, a town that is literally made up of a hotel, a post office, and a café. The local hotel catered for the riders and became the event centre. Activities at the halfway point included beer supplied by Moondog Craft Brewing on arrival, fire pits, and CURVE brought the live entertainment with Andras, a DJ playing throughout the night. Andras has toured extensively worldwide, working the gap between dance and ambient music.
This year saw the reintroduction of completing the 249-kilometre ride in one effort. Kerry Staite from kLite decided to up the ante and provide $1,000 in prize money, split 50/50 for first male and first female to complete the route. There were 15 entrants in the ITT. The twist on this event was that it rolled out at 2 p.m. and was dark by 5:30 p.m. While the men’s division was hotly contested, it was decided that the overall winner was Su Pretto, a 59-year-old female from Newcastle. Su took the major prize of a custom bespoke knife made by Oblivion Blades and $500 prize money from kLite. The men’s prize money was donated to charity.
Graveleur are a long-time supporter of the Masaka Cycling Club and the Thunderbolts Adventure contributed to the ongoing community development of the cycling community in Uganda through providing a donation. We are proud to be associated with this initiative – a community of cyclists supporting cyclists.
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