Mental health awareness gets bike riders inspired

The full distance: Roberta, John, Gonny and Tom were the four riders who completed the whole distance

The full distance: Roberta, John, Gonny and Tom were the four riders who completed the whole distance

Australian Rotary Health Research Fund co-ordinated an ambitious bike ride around Australia. A relay of 9 stages – starting 21st March in Melbourne and ending 10th October 2009 back at Melbourne. The purpose to raise awareness of Mental Illness with one in five suffering from the illness per year.

Rotary clubs of Bendigo are supporting the bike ride on the 7th of October with a community luncheon held at the town hall around 12.30pm on the day and in the evening holding a dinner at the Rotary youth camp at Axedale to raise funds. Four riders who are cycling the whole way around Australia (almost 18000 km’s) and will be joined on the Adelaide to Melbourne leg by around another 20 riders. On the morning of the 7th they leave St Arnaud to ride to Bendigo, local riders are encouraged to meet the group at Marong around 11.30am.

Jacques Olivier a Rotarian from Bendigo shares his experience of the Great Australian Bike Ride.

About 80 riders rode stage one of the GABR from Mornington to Hobart. I was the only rider with a mountain bike which was renamed “the tank.” There were four groups, yellow for the testosterone pumped men on fancy, carbon racing bikes. The blue team for heavier people on less fancy bikes. The green team was mostly women on hybrids or entry level road bikes – and the tank. The red team of Rotary Exchange Students with borrowed bicycles.
The first day was Mornington to Parliament House for lunch, and the official send-off. Late afternoon we flew to Launceston, support vehicles and bike trailers were on the Ferry. Our bikes arrived in Launceston 8:00am on a cold rainy Sunday. It was this day everyone found their spot in the group including a “free ride” where you can join any other group. The first ride which was about 22 km from Burnie.

Having trained months I was frustrated with the average speed of 18km/h of the green team as well as being taken off the road for hill climbs. One leg of the ride it was deemed a free ride, the testosterone pumped riders with their fancy, carbon bikes came past, I decided to chase them with the tank. Some of the yellow team were surprised to have the tank joining them and were encouraging, others just snorted. This motivated me even more to join the leaders and their rotation at 27km/h. The speed slowly crept up, I ran out of gears at 35km/h. We reached Burnie, my legs were like jelly. I came to realize the next day that it was a mistake to push myself so far, but it changed my status for the bloke with “the tank”.

The next day through the mountains to Queenstown, my muscles were aching. The green team were not do the 25km climb out of Burnie. Sneaking to the blue team, I wanted to do the hills. I was joined by a bloke who moved “down” from yellow to blue. Yellow did on average 120km a day, blue 80km, green 50km and red 20km. The blue team now had more riders than what could fit onto the trailer. Another rider with me stayed behind to be picked up by the yellow trailer. This counted in our favour being dropped off at the top of a big downhill, the tank reached a maximum speed of 63km.

The next day a free ride from Queenstown to Strahan and Zeehan. It was an amazing ride, except for the hills between Strahan and Zeehan. The next morning was a wet one cycling to Lake St Clair for lunch. The country started to flatten a little. The wonderful scenery lifted the spirits of most of us after the first four days of hard riding. We stayed over at Tarraleah.

The sixth day was wet and windy. The first casualty happened, an eighty two year old man, John, was always in the leading group to cycle all 17,800km. Train tracks crossed the highway diagonally. The first rider indicated the tracks, John and the next three riders came down. John was taken to hospital in Hobart, a pin was inserted in his hip, remaining in good spirits planning to rejoin in Brisbane. He was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer in Sydney.
Due to strong winds at Hobart, deemed it unsafe to ride cross the bridge. Most riders stopped in Hobart, leaving fourteen for stage two which finished in Healesville.

Two days riding from Hobart to Launceston we had a headwind of about 25km/h and temperatures of 11 degrees.

Tullamarine to Healesville was pleasant being the last day for some of us a sad day. I bonded with the other riders and fitness levels improved. I hope God blesses me with good health to one day ride around Australia like the two women and men having ridden almost 18,000km.


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