News feature, January 10, 2007
Prior to the start of the fourth stage of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, the Amy Gillett Foundation and Cycling Events Downunder staged the second running of 'Amy's Ride', a mass participation ride held in memory of Amy Gillett, the AIS cyclist tragically killed on a training ride in Germany in 2005. Mal Sawford reports.
The entire field of professional riders from the Bay Classic completed either a 120km loop around the Bellarine Peninsula, or a 40km course around the Geelong Botanical Gardens accompanying close to 3,000 recreational cyclists. Unlike the inaugural Amy's Ride, the weather was far from ideal, with a near gale force wind springing up mid-morning, making for very slow going along the picturesque roads around Barwon Heads - with many riders taking over seven hours to complete the journey.
Amy's husband, Simon Gillett, and her parents Mary and Dennis Safe were joined on the ride by four of Amy's team-mates who were seriously injured in the accident that claimed Amy's life. Both Lorian Graham and Louise Yaxley, who had been training in secret for four months ahead of her participation, made special trips to Geelong for the ride, while Katie Brown works as one of the on-course commentators during the women's racing at the Bay Classic. Alexis Rhodes, of course, has made an amazing recovery and raced in the dominant Pitcher Partners team in the Bay Classic. Rhodes had won Friday's stage on the Geelong waterfront, and backed up with her second win in the Botanical Gardens after Amy's Ride.
"It's a big, big job, but you've got to start somewhere" - Melinda Jacobsen, general manager of the Amy Gillett Foundation, knows the path to a harmonious relationship between cyclists and motorists is a steep one
Cyclingnews caught up with Alexis after her win on Saturday evening.
CN: Do you think you're back to the form you had before the accident?
AR: Hopefully I'm stronger. I'd really like to be stronger that what I was before. Obviously it takes time and it's hard work, and I'm willing to put in both so we'll see how we go.
CN: Do you still have much physio treatment for your injuries?
AR: Of course. I'll have physio for the rest of my life, that's all part of it. I want to ride my bike, so it's like drinking water for me now I guess.
CN: Obviously the tough conditions for Amy's Ride didn't take too much out of you this morning?
AR: It wasn't that bad. I did about an hour and a half - actually I didn't get to the front all that often, so I don't know!
Cyclingnews also interviewed Melinda Jacobsen, the general manager of the Amy Gillett Foundation after she had completed the 120km journey. The AGF's stated objective is 'to reduce the incidence of death and injury caused by the interaction between cyclists and motorists, by promoting a safe and harmonious relationship of shared respect between the two groups'.
CN: Are you pleased with the response to Amy's Ride?
MJ: Absolutely delighted. It was a fantastic turn out - I'm still trying to get confirmation on exact numbers because we understand there were a few people who jumped in and didn't pay, but I don't think you'll ever stop that. Our estimates are somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 riders.
CN: Conditions were much tougher than last year
MJ: Absolutely! Last year was the most perfect day. There wasn't a breath of wind, sunshine and 24 degrees - today quite a contrast! Fortunately it didn't rain, but the wind was really tough, and if it wasn't coming sideways it was coming straight on so I think it probably sorted out a few people today.
CN: How important is it to have the support of the professional riders to attracting this level of participation?
MJ: It's a wonderful opportunity for people, average punters, to come and ride with some of Australia's top cyclists, and there's not too many occasions in Australia where you can actually do that. So I think it's important and we're really grateful for having the pro riders to come down and do that for us.
CN: In its second year, how has the support been from the local community?
MJ: The traffic management, the police marshalling was excellent and I think made the ride much safer. We were very happy and delighted with the support from the City of Geelong and the police. Similarly, all the traders and retailers all along the course had signs out saying that we could stop there and get food and drink, so the whole community support was just excellent.
CN: The Foundation seems to be starting to get some mainstream media support?
MJ: For the last six months we've been running a community service TV commercial on Network 10, and that's been running nationally, and we've had the ad running in selected Val Morgan cinemas nationally. It's a fairly broad marketing campaign, just to initially raise awareness of the issue. In the next year or two we hope to have some more targeted campaigns to suit particular demographics.
CN: Can you see light at the end of the tunnel?
It's a big, big job, but you've got to start somewhere, and we're really fortunate that we believe the foundation is in the right place at the right time to actually do something about it. So slowly but surely we'll try and make a difference.