"I don't know whether to smile – or spew!" an exhausted, but elated rider once said as she dismounted from her bike in Cooktown at the end of the Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge.
Here’s what you can expect…
Day 1 Cairns to Mt Carbine (126.9km)
The ride starts at Smithfield, at the base of the Kuranda Range. For the past two years, organisers have obtained a partial closure of Kuranda Range, enabling the ride to truly start in Cairns and in safety. This road closure will be for the most experienced riders only. All other riders will start at the Kuranda Village. This is a recent change to the format that reflects the conditions applied to the ride permit by Dept of Transport and Main Roads as a safety consideration due to the high volume of traffic and heavy vehicles using the Kuranda Range road.
From the lush tropical rainforest of Kuranda, the route becomes progressively dryer as you pedal inland, through the country townships of Mareeba and Mt Molloy (where busy volunteers will be waiting to offer you morning tea and lunch) and then on to Mt Carbine and the local rodeo grounds, a popular camp and dinner site located conveniently close to the local pub, where you can socialise over a cold drink.
Day 2 Mt Carbine to Lakeland (115.6km)
Day two will see you riding through drought-parched savannah country – a traditional outback landscape - and climbing a muscle-screaming 3.7km stretch of road up the Desailly Range.
After a reviving lunch stop at the Palmer River Roadhouse, you will welcome the downhill spin, via the Byerstown Range, before tackling the final push to the overnight camp site, at the Lakeland Horse Sports.
Country hospitality is at its finest in Lakeland: the school’s Parents & Citizens Association provides a slap-up dinner and even conjures up exotic entertainment, such as Polynesian dance performances, staged by visiting Tongan banana pickers.
Day 3 Lakeland to Cooktown (79.4km)
The final day is a mere 80km jaunt. You will pass the striking rock formations of Black Mountain, before gathering with the other riders on the outskirts of Cooktown, a historic and peaceful township nestled beside the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea.
Then comes the great moment, when you will all pedal together – in a colourful cavalcade – down the main street of Cooktown, under police escort, until you reach the official end of the ride, in parkland near the mouth of the Endeavour River (hey, if it was good enough for Captain Cook, it’s good enough for us!).
You will have plenty of time to relax and freshen up in your accommodation or at the camp site (in the Cooktown State School grounds) before heading to the local entertainment centre for a mouth-watering buffet dinner, accompanied by live music and the presentation of awards to the ride’s biggest fundraisers and most outstanding participants.