Ten years of Port to Port

Eddie Barkla wearing a Powercor cycling kit

Team Manager Eddie delighted with team members contribution over the ten years. Photo: Neil Gladman

Can you cast your mind back to 2002 and what you may have been doing around this time of that year? A small, very diverse group of riders known as the Powercor Peddlers had combined with Bendigo Special Development School to undertake their first Port to Port cycling tour. The then principal and vice principal Russell Honey and Bill Burns both keen cyclists who had previously been involved with the Powercor Peddlers at Kalianna were keen to try this relatively new event.

The two day bicycle ride starts in Mildura and runs through Swan Hill and on to Echuca. Cyclists leave the Mildura riverfront bright and early on Saturday morning and head down the Calder Highway. At Hattah, they turn and ride on to Wemen for a break and refreshments. Then it is on to the Murray Valley Highway with the Murray River over their left shoulder. After a food break at Boundary Bend, the riders head for Swan Hill and a well earned overnight break. Sunday morning the riders are back in the saddle and look forward to about a five or six hour ride to Echuca making a total of 400klms.

Like most things when you first take them on there is an air of anticipation of what be in front of you as a team.  Some had used the Bay in a Day option of 210 km as a training ride to test the legs and ability to recover. After putting the call out to the general cycling community a strong team was rallied and we set off north with a very lean budget for food and accommodation. Seeking out local sponsors for product that would be suitable was encouraging to say the least and a 10 year partnership was formed with Pasta Master.

Powercor management at Bendigo and Mildura were most supportive of the idea of having team that rode through the middle of the business area in broad daylight. A Powercor vehicle, cycling kit and other sponsor material was supplied to all in the team as well as accommodation at both Mildura and Swan Hill depots to sleep on the floor keeping costs affordable.

Most of the riders were all in uncharted territory after reaching the 210klm mark in distance travelled in any one ride let alone backing up the next day on the bike for another 150 km. Necessity becomes the mother of all invention. The team was very fortunate to have Rob and Chris Grant attend as a rider and support as Chris is a native born to the northern end of the state and had the right contacts to make some special touches to the weekend.

Memories are a powerful part of life. The heat off the road was something we had not contemplated. Keeping the team hydrated with cold water, what distance was appropriate to cover before making a stop to regroup and refuel.

One of the most memorable moments among many of the characters we had taken was reaching Nyah in extreme heat and close to exhaustion to be greeted by Billy Burns with a huge bundle of hot chips with extra salt, seemed bazaar but certainly added some inspiration to the perspiration to continue.

Over the ten years some 60 odd riders have joined the Powercor Team raising around $20,000 for special needs students.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing


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