Heading off from the Willaston Scout Hall, it was rather overcast but the Bureau of Meteorology radar showed no signs of rain within a 512km radius.  The road from Willaston to Mallala had some little rolling hills but then it was all flat up to Balaklava.  The only hindrance was a wind coming from the W to SW which was the story all day, only it just varied in intensities.  Around 15km from Balaklava, there were letters taped to the white posts over a couple of kilometres which made for something interesting.  Reading them backwards as they were positioned for drivers coming the other way, I was wondering what it would spell out?  S R E K C E P O G which if going the other way is GOPECKERS.  It made sense when we got to Balaklava, the local football club must be in the finals. 




At Balaklava, Richard Scheer, Andrew Kennedy and I enjoyed some delicious food from the local bakery as well as getting our cards signed.  Well worth the stop!  From Balaklava to Port Wakefield, we had a strong head wind.  Richard and I rotated the front each kilometre to give each other a bit of reprieve from the wind.  Andrew continued on at his own pace for the 300km option.  The view as we neared Port Wakefield for me was fantastic, seeing the Hummocks range and the highway way off in the distance where it climbed the Hummocks seemed more memorable on my bike.  Knowing I have to ride there through my own physical effort, and not that of pushing an accelerator.







We went straight through Port Wakefield, out across the flat and up the Hummocks.  The view from the top was also well worth the look, I just wish I had bought my camera!  Turning right at Kulpara, we headed for Bute with the wind over our left shoulder and the road mainly descending but there were a couple of rolling hills.  Before getting to Bute, we were fortunate enough to see a crop duster spraying the paddock right next to the road (also fortunate the wind was blowing the spray away from us).  His first run bought him about 10 meters from us heading in the other direction.  Surely something you don't get to see each day.




At Bute, it was time for another control, and some nourishment and while we were outside the shop under cover, there was some light drizzle but it soon went as fast as it came.  We could also hear cheering and umpires whistles from the local football oval a couple of streets away.  Turns out there were finals being held there that day and would explain the constant stream of traffic from Kadina as we were heading the other way.  The road to Kadina was also mainly descending with some rolling hills and the wind picked up.  We just rotated each kilometre and soon made it to Kadina.  As we went out the other side of town, we could see Andrew coming in from Kulpara (300km route went Kulpara, Kadina, Bute, Kulpara and the 400km route Kulpara, Bute, Kadina, Wallaroo).  But since we still had a long way to go, we decided to continue on.




Between Kadina and Wallaroo, we still had a reasonable head wind.  Stopping in Wallaroo for another control and some more nourishment, we then turned south.  The road became rolling again with a gusty wind coming from the W to SW.  Through Moonta and south to Maitland, the road then began to rise steadily, with lots of rolling hills and an ever persistent off to our right head wind.  Along this stretch, I lost count as to how many toilet stops I had taken.




Arriving in Maitland for another control, we stopped at a local eat in / takeaway store for a pizza.  It was a welcomed stop to refuel and give the feet a bit of rest out of the shoes.  While in the shop, three showers came and went.  We were quite lucky as the road into Maitland was wet but we hadn't got rained on yet.  Now turning east with the wind finally behind us and the roads wet, we headed for Ardrossan.  Out of town we rolled down a nice steep hill.  Then the road went over a couple of small gradual hills, but after that it mainly went down with long gradual downhill sections and long fast flats.  This was made even better with the wind behind us pushing us along and the road drying out.  Along this stretch, the sun was receding fast so it was time for the lights (Highly recommend Ay-Up lights, first time I've used them and they are fantastic and light in weight!)




On the whole 400km ride there was two moments that reminded me of why I love riding.  First being the sensation of cruising along at a faster than normal speed on the gradual downhill to Ardrossan with a tail wind pushing us along.  And second, descending the hill down to Ardrossan after the sun had gone down with the view of the entire Gulf before me.  The moon was reflecting off the water and you could see, Adelaide, Port Wakefield and other towns far off in the distance.  These two moments to me were memorable!




Turning north, it was 50km to Port Wakefield.  I was starting to feel it at this stage as I had an extremely sore mouth due to a minor altercation with a box during the previous week.  Hence this made eating at times painful, so I didn't really eat nowhere near as much as I should have.  This resulted in the going to get a lot tougher from this point on.  The road was rolling and you could see all the lights of Port Wakefield way off in the distance.  But you know you have to go past the lights to get around the top of the Gulf which gave an indication of how far to go.




Making it to Port Wakefield, 300kms down and 100 to go, we hadn't encountered any rain while riding yet.  We got our cards signed and some more nourishment with Richard standing at the counter in full cycling attire getting asked the question of the day "Any petrol today?" 




From here on in, we rode through various showers and the temperature dropped fast resulting in my fingers feeling like ice.  Across to Balaklava then south to Owen was slow going for me.  I was feeling it more since my previous furthest distance was only 300km.  After Owen, I was doing some maths and with my speed slowly decreasing to 22kmh, 21kmh etc I figured it would still take another 2 and a half hours to finish.  So after shoving in a heap of sugar filled jelly beans, I was up out of the saddle and pedalling in short bursts, bringing the speed up to over 30kmh again and Richards' rear light started getting closer again.  Just before Hamley Bridge, it started raining again.




The road from Port Wakefield was pretty much flat with some slight ups and downs.  Once through Hamley Bridge, the road had a couple of ups and the rain starting again near Templers.  Right to Wasleys then left to Willaston, I was on the home stretch and feeling it a lot.




Knowing the roads quite well as I live in Roseworthy, and knowing the last 10kms of road are flat didn't help.  The road felt like I was climbing a mountain.  On various parts of the ride, your mind thinks ahead to "I can't wait to get to ..." Mine was the railway crossing just outside of Willaston and I was sure happy to reach and pass that point.  It meant there was not far to go.  Up over the highway and down to the BP for our second to last control, then back to the scout hall for the finish.




Being my first 400km ride and looking back, I enjoyed the ride.  The scenery was great and the weather actually not too bad.  The wind was a bit of a hindrance at times but the wind will always be wind!  A mind of its own and looking for a way to make your ride just that little more challenging.  Next year, I reckon I'll give the Copper Coast Wanderer 400 another ago.  I'm sure I'll be able to have a better lead up and be able to eat more without having a painful mouth.




Thanks to Richard Scheer for sticking with me and giving me someone to ride with the whole way and to Claudio Pompili for organising a great ride!




Footnote from Richard Scheer:  Congratulations Ben on a great ride.  For a 400, and in particular for your first 400, we had pushed pretty hard for the majority of the 225k to Maitland.  The last 175k to the finish was completed in just over 7 hours, which is an impressive pace despite how you might have felt in the last 50k.  Riding after sunset is a very different experience to riding in daylight, the body approaches this task quite differently.  Total time just over 19 hours, that also makes your achievement very worthy.