Johnny Warren charity ride raises money for cancer

By Jeff Jones

The third edition of the Johnny Warren Jamberoo Classic for Cancer was held on Sunday, December 18, starting in Australia's biggest city of Sydney and finishing in the tiny south coast town of Jamberoo. The ride was named in honour of former Socceroo captain and SBS TV presenter Johnny Warren, who died of cancer last year and was a patron of the Sydney Cancer Foundation. Donations from participants this year raised over $1000 for the charity, and it was deemed a great success by organiser Mike Tomalaris from SBS.

On a sunny but windy day, roughly 150 riders started out from Waratah Park in Sutherland to ride all, or at least part of the 110 km south to Jamberoo. The big bunch included several of Sydney's top riders, such as Discovery Channel's Matthew White, future Rabobank sprinter Graeme Brown, Cofidis signing Chris Sutton, members of the FRF-Caravello team and Kate Nichols, who was riding with her father and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Kevin. The large group faced a block headwind all the way, along with a few testing climbs, but everyone gradually found their rhythm.

After descending into the Royal National Park from Waterfall, then climbing up to Otford and Bald Hill lookout, there was a new experience waiting the survivors to that point. The coast road down to Wollongong has been closed for several years due to the construction of the Sea Cliff Bridge between Coalcliff and Scarborough, and today was the first opportunity for many riders to try it out. It is a remarkable feat of engineering as it snakes along the cliffs, supported by huge concrete pylons driven into the sea-drenched rocks below, and everyone enjoyed the ride.

When the Johnny Warren Classic reached Wollongong, some 65 km into the ride, the front part of the bunch decided to stop for a coffee at the Emporio del Mar, one of the regular haunts along the beach. Many turned back to Sydney at this point, but not before thoroughly appreciating the efforts of the (mostly female) staff in keeping them caffeinated and fed.

The second part of the bunch had missed the coffee stop pressed on to Albion Park and thence to Jamberoo pub, while the remaining riders were led back onto the true way by a local, suffering into the headwind that had been blowing into their faces all day. A few steep climbs between Albion Park and Jamberoo were overcome without too much lung failure, and the 40-odd survivors gathered in the leafy courtyard of the Jamberoo Pub for a well earned beer, hamburger and chips.

Mr Tomalaris finished off the proceedings by passing round the tin and raising $1000 plus from the riders who were left, before presenting it to the Sydney Cancer Foundation via Johnny Warren's brother Ross. It was a positive end to a pleasant day on the bike.

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