Congratulations to Lesa Ashford for setting a new CCW Circumnavigation of Australia from Mar 8 through Jun 8, 2023

Rider’s Narrative Summary: Circumnavigation Australia, Counterclockwise, Female


START Time/Date:     6:05 am, 8 March 2023  

Start Location: The Wheel of Brisbane, Russell Street, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


On discovering there wasn’t a formal female record to Circumnavigate Australia, I was stunned.

I couldn’t understand why a formal female record didn’t already exist in 2023.

I knew I was suited to long rides and had already cycled much of the route over the past 5 years, I decided to give it a crack. Why not?

The Gear

I spent over a year planning, slowly accumulating and researching camping gear, as much of Australia is remote to the extreme. I knew this as I grew up in central Queensland (Qld) and worked in far North Qld.

I’d camped on one-week rides and cycled from Perth to Broome which took a full month during a cyclone in 2017.  I had a good deal of prior knowledge as to what the environment and conditions were going to be like.  A few of my initial crew members, however, did not.


In addition to chains, tyres, tubes, lights, and a Garmin InReach tracker, I attribute to my success to the following:

Bianchi Specialissima, Bianchi Infinito, both fitted with an E3 Infinity Seat and Culprit aero bars. XeNTiS Carbon Wheels.

Infinit Nutrition, Premax Skincare, Supersapiens (glucose monitoring), Protein Hunters biltong, and canned rice cream.

These never failed me, day after day after day.


I sought out Joe Barr and Jillian Mooney from Team Joe Barr on 5 March 2022. My doctor at the time had been on the Irish Olympic rowing team, and recommended I get in touch with Joe. I’ve never looked back.

Joe and Jill changed my life. I felt an immediate rapport with both.  Together these two are a dynamic duo.

Joe put together a program aimed at training my heart and maximising my recovery. My training regime was specifically aimed at endurance and significantly different training to what I’d expected. Over the months that followed we discussed potential issues I’d likely encounter and my needs in detail. The longer rides were scheduled much closer to my start date.

Jill worked with me to develop a nutrition plan. I have a stomach lap-band and this causes me endless issues and needed special consideration. Jill monitored my glucose stability on a daily basis from Ireland.

They enabled me to understand and plan for what lay ahead, sharing their wisdom and understanding with enthusiasm, positivity, and encouraging support.

Queensland (The Sunshine State, Qld)

I expected tail winds and sunshine. Not a chance.

Australia had had some serious flooding and as I set off, many road sections of Northern Qld and the Northern Territory were closed, and bridges flooded. My personal experience, as a country gal, was, if we didn’t get further rain, the roads would open, and I’d easily get through.

It rained heavily as I headed north through Queensland. I struggled to see the road in some locations although I appreciated the warmer climate. Regardless, of the rain, it was fabulous to cycle on the highways and through towns and communities that I knew well.

As we approached the first road closure prior to Camooweal in North Qld, on my birthday, we got the green light to proceed with caution. What a birthday present.

Those floodwaters beside the road heated up to create a steaming sauna effect. Darn it was hot and humid. The mosquitos and grasshoppers were in plague proportions and the stench of rotting vegetation was not pleasant to say the least. At night the grasshoppers flew up from the road and thumped me constantly. In the evening, I removed bugs from inside my jersey, and as I showered, I pulled grasshopper legs out of my hair. Yuck.

Did I mention, it was HOT.

Each night my drink bottles filled with Infinit Nutrition were frozen solid and given to me one at a time throughout the following day. These stayed cool for no more than 30 minutes. We pushed Techni Ice cubes into my pockets, under my sun sleeves and into my crop top. Every. Single. Stop.

I ate can after can of rice cream and these were often frozen as we followed advice from my coaches and endeavoured keeping my core temperature down.

Northern Territory (NT)

Temperatures in the NT continued to rise. The crew were grateful for the aircon inside the vehicles, during the day. At night, I had air conditioning in my van however the crew slept in the tents. With humidity in the extremes, there were days that the crew struggled with this.

I expected I’d have a ripper of a tail wind north in the NT and tough going on the way back down to Kathryn.

I had neither, which I was happy to accept, as long as I didn’t have headwinds. There were a few more rainy days of course.

The big road trains were fantastic, and the truckies honked and cheered me on as they passed me. I loved the long straight endless stretches of road, the red earth, and the feeling of isolation. 

A number of unique remote communities and townships are no longer; Covid has reduced these to ghost towns. This makes the distance between rest stop locations significant. 

Much of my cycling days throughout the NT were cut short in order to travel to areas where there was cellular coverage. This was due to the huge undertaking and planning required to get our vehicles over the Western Australian border and a bridge that had been destroyed in floods. It was looking like this would be the end of my attempt. I prepared myself reluctantly for this.

The flood waters had risen, and the vehicles would not get through. The bridge would take 2 years to replace.

My father, Noel, had put a plan together to get us through. A barge booking for the 8th of April was allotted to us. We wouldn’t be allowed to cross before this date, and we’d have to rebook if we didn’t arrive for this date. We were not done.

We hired two 4 x 4 vehicles from Broome and flew additional crew in to drive these 400km to Fitzroy Crossing and meet us on the western side of the river. The 2 support vehicles then returned to Darwin and Katherine to go on trucks and be transported down the centre of Australia, across the Nullarbor and back up the coast, to meet back up with us. Our Let’s Go Jayco RV had to be driven back to Brisbane.

We got across, the flooded Fitzroy Crossing, using small barges and multiple trips back and forth taking a good part of the day.

Western Australia (WA) Main Roads went above and beyond and enabled us to get our trailer across, without it ending up in the croc infested flooded river.

Western Australia

Everything was looking great; I’d lost some serious time on the bike due to the logistics getting across at Fitzroy, I looked forward, there was no point focusing on what was now in the past.

We now had a different crew configuration, and our spirits were high. The new crew had more experience with outback remote areas and lack of facilities, and I pedalled on with a few slightly overcast days that prevented sunburn, feeling rejuvenated.

I rode on one of the most remote highways in Australia. I was thrilled with my up-close personal view of Australia. Massive flocks of black cockatoos and budgerigars seemed to follow me every day. The scenery was beautiful in its harshness and the colour of the earth forever changing. Giant baobab trees gave the country an ancient feel.  I recalled the Dreamtime stories I’d read as a young girl, my memory bringing up images like a film strip, as the landscape matched the illustrations of books I’d read a lifetime ago.

In front of the follow car, out on my own, I was alone but not lonely. My thoughts were roaming from one thing to another to nothing. It was peaceful and I loved this feeling.

As we approached Broome, there was talk of a possible small cyclone approaching us.

Every message, day after day, after day, went along the lines, “Do you know there’s a cyclone building”?

Geez, did anyone think I wasn’t checking the hourly weather forecast, the temperature, the likelihood of rain, humidity, the wind, windspeed and even wind direction. Roughly, 10 people a day, for a good week, ‘updated’ us on the impeding path and details of the category 3 cyclone.

Fair dinkum, you can’t invent this stuff.  The cyclone was named Ilsa, declared and upgraded to a category 5 and due to hit the coast north of where I was. We had lunch at the Pardoo Roadhouse, before most of the crew headed south to Karratha to get out of the impact zone. This left just Wayne, my crew Chief, Ann my World Ultracycling Association (WUCA) official and me. We stayed the night at Pardoo. I would ride the following day as far south as I could and fingers crossed, we’d be out of Ilsa’s reach.

I pedalled on past Port Hedland.

The following morning Cyclone Isla took out the Pardoo Roadhouse. It was flattened.

The force of the winds took Ilsa across the coast and into the centre of Australia. The residual cross winds, I endured as I continued south were harsh. I coped and managed to stay south of the majority of rain that followed over the next few days.

Fortunately, the humidity dropped as I continued south, the cans and cans of rice cream, and my drink bottles didn’t need freezing anymore. In fact, it got cool to cold, very quickly.

The roads narrowed, making it, a tight fit for 2 x quad semi-trailers to pass each other let alone my follow vehicle and little old me. I had some very close encounters with several big heavy haulers as they passed me. I did my best to hold my line as time after time I was slammed with solid walls of wind. When I got into Geraldton on one particularly hard day, my friend Julie was there to join my crew, and I cried on her shoulder in relief at seeing her as much as relief that the section of road I negotiated all day was done.

By the time I reached southern Western Australia, the temperatures had dropped dramatically. Winter was fast approaching and my daylight hours decreasing rapidly.

We eventually reunited with my vehicles and returned the hire vehicles. The follow vehicle had been forgotten by one transport company, so we had to quickly fly two crew members back up to Darwin and drive the car down the centre of Australia, and across the Nullarbor. This was another onerous logistics task, with gear needing to be transferred and reconfigured. It was, however, nothing compared to the mammoth task that the crew had undertaken at Fitzroy Crossing.

South Australia

By the time I crossed the border into South Australia, I’d completed 10,000km.

My coaches Joe and Jill, reminding me, I still had the distance of RAAM to go. (Race Across America)

Crossing ‘The Nullarbor’ (absent of trees), is an iconic Australian cycling route for the Indi Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR), now a ride rather than a race. I don’t know how cyclists do this without a follow vehicle throughout the night. The huge, oversized trucks pass me constantly.   I ensured that my crew get to stop (on my lunch break) to enjoy the view of the Great Australian Bight from The Bunda Cliffs. In my opinion it’s the most breathtaking view of our coastline.

In March, when crossing the Nullarbor, you’re almost guaranteed tailwinds that slingshot you all the way across the country. I missed the window and felt the full brunt of mother nature laughing at me. My bike was on a constant lean as I held one of the drops in one hand and had a firm grip on the upper handlebar in the other.

Headwinds across the Nullarbor reduced my speed and I felt like my cadence and speed matched at 2 kph, I am of course joking, but you get the idea. It was frustrating, heartbreaking, and soul destroying. The vegetation so rigid and solid that even in gale force winds these plants barely move. The brutal factor that I had no physical indication or perspective that I was working hard, broke me day after day.

I kept on keeping on. I worked on keeping my bike moving, moving forward, no matter what.

I’d lost about 10kg at this stage and my bibs no longer fit. My winter bibs were at least 2 sizes too big and I ended up with a small saddle sore. Bugger and darn it.

My Infinity Bike Seat, (best seat ever!) fortunately allowed me to adjust my body whilst riding to allow this to heal. It took until I got to Adelaide to buy some new much smaller winter bibs. Until, this point, I was nursing a very sore undercarriage.

I used more Sudocream (baby rash cream) than I’d used on all three of my kids as babies and managed to cope with copious amounts of this and anaesthetic cream. It would take me until I got to New South Wales to heal.

The daylight hours continued to disappear along with the road shoulder. The roads twisted and turned now and this became increasingly stressful for the drivers in the follow vehicle, as the road trains had little warning to our presence as they approached quickly. From Port Augusta all the way home, this was going to be a safety issue, My crew chief and officials decided I wouldn’t be riding after last light, until further notice. Mentally, this was hard to accept and I struggled with this decision.


It felt like I’d just set one waypoint and then suddenly I was setting another and then another.

In Melbourne, I stopped at the Princes Pier to photograph my waypoint, another stunning location that to me, is astonishing.

The spectacular colour of various golden wattle contrasted with the green rolling hills, large, towering gums with patchy coloured trunks and coloured parrot species thrilled me. A deer watched on as I entered another eucalypt forest.

It’s confronting and haunting to ride through these forests that are still regrowing after the fires devastated the area a few years back. Much of the forest is obviously struggling to regrow. I rode through like a silent witness to the horror that was, the blackened trucks of tree trunks stark reminders.

I passed through Victoria and across the border into New South Wales before I knew it.

New South Wales

The blackened trunks of gums stood like soldiers beside the highway. The fires that swept through here took so much. It took days and days to pass through these areas. There wasn’t a lot of noise here. An absence of bird calls added to the sombre feeling.

Eventually, I began to hear the trill of bell birds and as I neared Sydney.  I expected to have some serious climbing to do in the upcoming days.

I am surprised, my body has changed so much that the hills are easy to me. As I climb, I rest on my aerobars and enjoy the views from the Seacliff Bridge and the forest as it runs alongside the beach.

I’m headed north and Brisbane (home) is listed on the distance road signs. I remind myself; be careful, cautious. It’s not over until that last Garmin file is saved.

Queensland (again)

A little bit of Queensland is left for me to complete before I’m done.

I cross the border, into my home state Queensland, I’m now in familiar suburbs where nostalgic memories of my childhood embrace me.

Bygone days, days that contributed to how I see myself as the woman I am today.

As I set the last waypoint at Surfers Paradise my charming friend Mark surprises me. We’d grown up as kids together. Every day of this adventure, he called me and was my emotional support and sounding board when I needed it. He also gave me the kick in the pants when I needed it. It felt like he’d physically been there, with me all the way around.

I know the route home now, the road, where the glass is, where the cracks are and where the road narrows.

I know where home is, I point my trusty steed in that direction, and I power home.  I’m elated and mindful that anything could happen. I flick my eyes across the road surface, watch the traffic, and delight in seeing that bike path road work upgrades have been finished.

As I approach the finish, I call on my radio to my crew.

“Any Coyotes online, this is the Road Runner, turning down the final street now. I’m coming in”.

I cross a streamer finish line, my WUCA official behind me somewhere, a crowd of my loved ones, friends and family are there to welcome me in.

I ensure I press stop on my Garmin and the back up one too. I save it. I check it.

I dismount and oh boy. I’m home!

FINISH Location: Wheel of Brisbane, Russell Street, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

FINISH Time/Date:   12:38pm, 8 June 2023