News feature, December 13, 2005
One thousand kilometres and ten days after it began at Maitland in central New South Wales, the inaugural Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride rolled into the Queensland Capital of Brisbane on Monday afternoon, where a peloton of forty riders assembled for an official function in King George Square adjacent to the city's Town Hall.
For those who were in attendance, it was an emotional occasion as reigning Australian Women's Road Race Champion Lorian Graham spoke in loving memory of her 'cycling sister' Amy Gillett, whose tragic death in Germany four months ago inspired her to conduct the epic ride, raising awareness of cyclists on our roads.
Graham was one of the five brave young Australian women, members of the Institute of Sport Cycling Team, who survived the head on collision with an out of control car, only to be left with shocking injuries.
But even in the midst of painful rehabilitation for a potentially crippling shattered knee, there was no stopping the champion cyclist making good her plan to conduct the charity ride, even if it meant driving a car, while watching her friends ride.
"Unfortunately my teammate Amy Gillett lost her life within a matter of seconds and I'd do anything to bring her back," a teary Lorian told the assembled crowd. "But the best thing I have done is this ride and raised funds for the foundation."
Graham made special mention of the work put in behind the scenes by her partner Pete Forbes and his good mate Nick Gallo, who did much of the organizing for the ten day epic, which turned from concept to reality within a matter of weeks.
Joining the group for today's final stage from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, Amy Gillett's husband Simon paid tribute to the efforts of all involved in helping raise the profile of the foundation he set up following Amy's death.
"It's very important from the point of view of raising awareness for the foundation," Simon Gillett told Cyclingnews. "It's been an enormous amount of work and I've done very little, they've done everything that's had to be done."
Six riders completed the epic journey from start to finish, but hundreds of cyclists joined the group at city's and towns en-route, where Lorian and her team of helpers spread the message about cycle awareness and safety on our roads.
"We've got to do something on a regular basis to remind people that cyclists are on the road and we've just got to look out for them," ride organizer Pete Forbes told Cyclingnews. "But as well as that having these community rides we're training cyclists in groups to have better road skills."
The epic charity ride enjoyed strong support from Australia's pro cyclists, with Robbie McEwen and Henk Vogels among the many big names to join the peloton at various stages en-route. A fish out of water, so to speak, Olympic swimming gold medalist Duncan Armstrong also saddled up for this morning's ride from the Gold Coast to Brisbane.
Subway's Cameron Hughes was another who jumped at the chance to help out, riding at the front of the group for most of the 1000 km journey north. "It's been a very important cause," Hughes said at one of this morning's rest stops. "Teaching the public about us on the road, them on the road and raising funds for the foundation."
Lorian's recovery a gradual process
Although the charity ride has taken her focus temporarily away from recovery and rehabilitation, Graham is still hoping to one day soon return to elite cycling and wants to re-unite with the National Women's Team in Europe, sometime after the Commonwealth Games.
Biomechanists at the Australian Institute of Sport are presently engineering special cranks for the Queenslander, to accommodate the present lack of mobility in her injured knee. The Australian road champion is still undergoing intensive physio and hydrotherapy and with the charity ride now at an end, it could be time to focus on matters closer to home.
"Ten long days in the support vehicle, I want to concentrate a bit more on me," Graham told Cyclingnews. "I think I should have a bit more 'me' time, I think with more focus on my knee and try to get back into a full recovery, I can get back into a more daily routine now."
No-one who was there at the end of today's Epic Ride would deny Graham that opportunity! The ride, which to date has raised $80,000 for the Amy Gillett Foundation, may yet become an annual event.
"It's been the most positive thing I've done," Lorian said. "I've done it for Amy, I've done it for the girls, I've done it for my rehab and more importantly, hopefully I've saved another life on the road."
Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride diary
July 28: Rhodes and Yaxley recovery 'amazing'
July 24: Yaxley improving, Rhodes still unconscious
July 21: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19: Unprecedented carnage in GermanyJuly 18: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany