Day 1 - Saturday, December 3: Community ride from Singleton to Wyndham Winery Estate
Dramatically, the ride began with a necessary diversion in itinerary as the New England Highway was blocked with a serious and tragic accident between Singleton and Branxton. Our condolences go to the families involved in the tragic accident near Singleton. In unfortunate circumstances, it continues to highlight the need for motorists to exercise caution on our roads.
Fortunately, Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly) was on hand in his home town to re-map the route for organisers, Pete Forbes and Nick Gallo, so that the group of around thirty riders from the local clubs of Muswellbrook and Singleton could still make their way to the Wyndham Estate Winery. Muswellbrook Cycling Club showed their presence with four father and son teams. Amongst our riders was a keen cyclist getting back on the bike after a knee replacement and a pacemaker that was not two months old. Our local riders were joined by the core group that will be making the adventure to Brisbane (Nick Gallo - Maitland, Pete Forbes - Brisbane, Craig Sorensen - Maitland, Terry Peters - Brisbane, Dave Thomson - Brisbane and Pete's brother Michael - Melbourne). Our special guest Matthew White together with Ben Brooks led the riders through the more scenic regions of the Hunter Valley to rejoin the New England highway at Branxton.
Amy was truly with us today, providing us with a ride in fair weather and a tailwind. With a massive tailwind blowing at their backs, the riders made good pace to complete the ride and gather at the picturesque Wyndham Estate Winery (at least the finish location was appropriate for a few wine buffs!). A well deserved BBQ lunch was provided for the riders, well sponsored by Bakers Delight and Muffin Break, as well as the Cravin' Coffee Cruiser. The uniquely pimped Landcruiser able to produce superb coffee will be travelling with the team through to Ballina. Our riders do travel with a touch of class!
At the Estate, the Amy Gillette Safe Foundation Ride was officially launched and in Pete Forbes' address to the supporters of the ride, he emphasised how safe driving and riding were the foremost aims of the foundation and that this morning's accident only served as an extreme reminder of what the foundation is promoting: the importance of safe driving.
At this gathering, supporters were able to contribute to the Foundation through the daily raffle as well as purchase tickets in the progressive raffle to be promoted at each of the venues along the 900 kilometre course. The major prize draw for the progressive raffle is a Cannondale Six13 bike kitted with Shimano Dura-Ace components. A tidy sum of $1500 was raised today which included a contribution of $100 from the Singleton Council.
A progressive silent auction for various memorabilia including signed cycling jerseys was also initiated. Our jerseys include a signed world championship long sleeve track jersey donated by Anna Meares, signed by the Australian Track Team that recently returned from Moscow; those same signatures also find themselves on another AIS jersey with the all-too-familiar world champion bands on the colour and sleeves; Amy's surviving team-mates donated a skinsuit and road jersey with all of their signatures; Stuart O'Grady from his overseas base has donated a signed Cofidis jersey; our two-time World Cup champion Oenone Wood has donated one of her Nürnberger jerseys. Lorian was also invited to address a group assembled at the winery and they took the opportunity make donations to the cause. She was overwhelmed with the support shown.
After our auction today, we are fetching a starting price for Anna's World Track Jersey of $350. This is sure to increase as we pass through our northern coastline of NSW. Tomorrow, our riders kick off early for the Pacific Highway Bitumen between Maitland and Forster a distance of 160km. And the next function will be in Tuncurry at John Wright Park commencing at 2pm, Sunday, December 4.
Our riders will be staying with Best Western Motels at each town in a sponsorship arrangement. Corporate sponsors Australian Financial Solutions, Insurance Australia Group and Rio Tinto Coal Australia have helped kick the foundation ride along with healthy financial contributions. Riders will be supported on the road by Lorian Graham in control of the support vehicle provided to us by Safe Drive Training.