Day 6: Nambucca Heads to Grafton - LONG!

Thursday, December 8 to Tuesday, December 13

There were very few words that could describe day 6 of our journey... Hot, lumpy, rough, narrow roads, long, and did I mention HOT?! The temperature from the asphalt as we passed the house of Crowe (Russell Crowe) soared to 46 degrees. We were met by three members of the Coffs Harbour cycle club not far north of Nambucca, who joined us to well north of Coffs Harbour. I was concerned about some of the terrain we had in front of us today, though with local knowledge of our Coffs Harbour counterparts, we diverted through Hungry Head off the Pacific Highway. Pete came close and personal with the local 'Skippys' near Hungry Head, only to scare them into the shrub before a picture could be taken. With our local riding guests we were taken to the local café for some cinnamon toast, muffins and very good latte. After a few media commitments we were on our way over the range and up Orara Way toward Grafton. There was 76km of dead road and lumps and the temperature gauge continued to soar the closer we got to Grafton.

Riders on arrival to Grafton headed directly to the Crown Hotel for a Bistro meal and six jugs of liquid to replenish the dehydrated bodies. As the day did not seem long enough for TP, Pete and Hughesie, a decision was made to visit the bike store for some replacement parts and complete a regular loop up the Summerland Highway from Grafton. Well, the heat was for something: as the riders left for the bitumen, the skies opened in a heavy downpour. Once the storm had passed, Pete headed back to the Motel to reunite with Lorian, and TP and Hughesie headed out the Gwyder highway for extra kms. Many will be familiar with the Gwyder as it forms the start of the Grafton to Inverell race of torture. Nick, Craig and Dave all headed directly to the motel, getting drenched by the heavy downpour.

As the skies cleared and preparations for tomorrow's ride were made, riders found themselves heading to the Market Square function prepared by the Lions Club of Grafton and attended by Kerry Lloyd of Clarence Valley Council. The afternoon storm seemed to deter some locals from making it to the square. But with some local juniors and acquaintances we met on route to Grafton, funds were still collected in our daily raffle and more interest in the foundation was attained.

Day 7: Grafton to Ballina - 140km

By Pete Forbes

Our core cyclists were joined today by seven riders from the Sunshine Coast, that will help our riders back to Brisbane on Monday 12th December. As well as the additional riders from North of the border, Grafton raised its hand in support of the foundation by providing a further eight riders all the way to Ballina and more joining us out of Grafton. With over 20 riders en route to Ballina across some fairly ordinary shoulders, a decision was made to divert the riders through the more quiet back roads of the Far North Coast. Our first town we passed was Laurence, where many riders turned back to Grafton as they had work commitments.

Yours truly had a slight issue in crossing a plank bridge, hurting his pride as his new bike wedged itself between some timber and bucking him off. Some quick repairs of the bent dropout, and we were on our way to our first ferry ride of the day, this time to cross the Clarence River. A second plank bridge was crossed without a hitch as we found a coffee shop in Maclean. An opportunity was taken to visit the local school and address the assembly about the Amy Gillett Foundation and safe riding and driving. Our response from the school was very positive as we finished on the note of the importance of recognising a car as a lethal weapon as opposed to a toy.

Day 8: Ballina to Surfers Paradise - 130km

By Pete Forbes

Our heat-drained cyclists were joined by a number of local triathletes from Ballina along the scenic roads between Ballina and Byron Bay. Our ever growing group was led out today by Henk Vogels, and once again our team driver, Cameron Hughes. After passing through a very narrow stretch of road with multiple road works, James Victor (QAS Head Cycling Coach) included the sojourn to Surfers as part of the training program for some of his up and coming male cyclists. The pace was steady and wound up as the smooth roads of the Yelgun to Chinderah bypass offered low resistance to riders. A short rest at Tugun, and our scheduled arrival to Surfers was on target.

Terry Peters, in communication with the USM-organised riding with the stars, lifted the pace with Henk Vogels through Cooloongatta to meet with the south bound riders at Southport. The South bound riders were joined by the CEO of our major sponsor, Michael Toohey from Australian Financial Solutions. Toohey flew the flag high for the Amy Gillett Foundation by wearing the striking kit made for this charity ride.

The increased pace from the 'old bull' (Peters) almost got the Amy Gillett Foundation Charity riders to Southport - short by 500m - only to pass the cyclists' groups on the Southport Bridge. A quick U-turn off the main road and our riders met with the large group that came from the north in Cavill Mall. Those riders that grabbed a bite to eat in the mall were swarmed upon by our conversant riders that had pedaled from the Mining and Wining district of the Upper Hunter.

Two riders today cracked the 1000km within a week. First to make the grand mileage was Terry Peters (TP), closely followed by Pete Forbes. TP denied all claims of the use of multiple magnets or spinning his front wheel at night before retiring. For many of the riders, it was a return to their home state from the NSW roads. Unfortunately, coming to the Sunshine State where the weather treats cyclists all year round, motorists didn't show the same courtesy. A selection of motorists seemed to be less patient and more aggressive toward our two wheeled vehicles.

Day 9: Surfers Paradise - criterium

By Pete Forbes

With the support of USM Events and the exciting racing of the Surfers Paradise Criterium, our Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Riders were given the opportunity to expose the crowds to what the Amy Gillett Foundation is. Lorian took the microphone a number of times announcing the aims of the foundation and what our ride is trying to achieve, our raffle draw was also well plugged throughout the day. Some of the charity riders were given the opportunity to roll on the criterium circuit mixing it with the pro-cyclists in preparation for the elite criterium. Our many riders then dispersed themselves amongst the crowd selling books of raffle tickets for the Major Prize Draw. Cleats were substituted for sandals today as a long day in the sun was endured promoting the foundation at the criterium.

A huge thank you goes to Geoff Myer at USM and all of his team for their support of the Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride from Maitland to Brisbane. Once again the striking jersey of the ride was flown, this time by Cameron Hughes in the elite race. Cameron, after a long week in the saddle on our ride, finished well, but lacked the leg speed to get him into the money positions. Great sacrifice for the week of riding Hughesie, your support for Lorian and the Amy Gillett Foundation is well recognised.

Day 10: Surfers Paradise to Brisbane 90km

The final leg!

By Pete Forbes

The morning began with clear skies and the promise of wind at our tails. Just like the beginning of our ride, Amy was truly with us - fair weather and a tail wind. Our eager riders for the final day rolled leisurely to the meeting point on the Esplanade in Surfer's Paradise. They were joined by many riders, almost 40, including Robbie McEwen, Nick Gates, Matt Hayman and Duncan Armstrong. Of particular note on our last day was the new rider at the front of the bunch, as we were joined by Amy's husband Simon Gillett. The true rower (come cyclist) showed his form, setting a firm pace all the way to Brisbane. Also joining us on the final day was the CEO of our major sponsoring company - Michael Toohey, Australian Financial Solutions. A number of A-Grade riders from Brisbane also made the return trip to Brisbane after coming to Surfers by train. Many media were on hand to film, interview, and capture the finale of our 10 day fund raising and promotional tour.

Loretta Harrop joined by Stephen Hackett accompanied the riders from Labrador to Brisbane. Loretta's support for the Amy Gillett Foundation is of particular importance after she tragically lost her brother in 2002 when he was struck by a car whilst training on the Gold Coast. We do not have to look too far to see that we have lost too many of our cycling friends, not only abroad, but at home. Through the aims of the Amy Gillett Foundation and the way in which we ride on our roads, we can not only save our own lives but those of our cycling friends.

There was a lot of spirit and satisfaction amongst the group on the final day as the final kilometres grew near. Our riders were fortunate to be met by a three-bike police escort from Logan to the Brisbane CBD, a distance of 18km. The striking white and red cycling group attracted a lot of attention from the passing motorists, and hopefully reached into their subconscious for the next time they encounter a cyclist on the road. An emotional and heartfelt message was extended to the welcoming party at King George Square by Lorian as she summed up the organisation and duration of the ride, as well as the tragic circumstances by which the foundation was formed. Lorian always inspires me by her courage and determination for not just herself, but for always putting others first.

Finally, I would like to thank all those involved in making this ride a reality.

Fellow organisers

Nick Gallo
Kirsten Richards
Desley Graham
Darren Rostron
My workplace - Runge Ltd for allowing me to dedicate so much time towards a charity event.
Lions Clubs from Maitland to Ballina

Our riders

Cameron Hughes
Terry Peters
Craig Sorensen
Dave Thomson
Mike Forbes

Our generous sponsors

Queensland Government; Australian Financial Solutions; Insurance Australia Group; Quest Newspapers; Schwalbe Tires; Foxsports; Cannondale Australia; Safe Drive Training; Best Western; Shimano; ZIPP; Netti; MET Helmets; Sundog; Oakley; Jaggad; Manly Hotel; Roofracks Galore; Richlands Party Hire; EGA Print Pty Ltd; Powerbar; Gatorade; Healthworld - Endura; De Grandi Cycle and Sports; River City Cycles; Pearl Izumi; Cravin' Coffee Cruiser

Our Major Raffle Winners are:

All raffle winners will be contacted shortly regarding delivery of their prizes.

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Organised by 2005 Australian road champion Lorian Graham, the 10-day Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride is aimed at raising awareness among motorists and cyclists to promote road safety. Kicking off in Maitland on Saturday, December 3 and finishing almost 1000 kilometres later in Brisbane on December 12, the group wishes to demonstrate that prevention of needless injuries and deaths on the roads, such as the one that killed Amy Gillett and seriously injured five of her team-mates in Germany this year, can be done with patience and respect. "It's not such a big ask for everyone to be more considerate," said Lorian. "Cyclists should obey the rules and drivers should be aware of cyclists and exercise caution. What's more important - a couple minutes of your time or someone's life?" Funds raised by the ride will go towards the Amy Gillett Foundation.