It was quite a day this last day of the ride.  It seemed at the beginning of the week that we were about to undertake a mamoth challenge and now here we were on the 7th day wondering where the days had gone!  I don’t know about the other riders but I for one couldn’t quite believe that after today it was going to be all over and that these riders I had gotten to know so well were all going to be going home to their respective families and lives.

2013-03-07 06.55.28We decided to start out a bit earlier than what was stated in the run sheet, right after breakfast, but a few of them had a bit of a big night the night before so although we did start out earlier than we were supposed to it was still later than anticipated. We also had Michael Roberts (Robbo) another AFL Legend riding with us today.  I decided to ride the first 25 km of the day after looking at the profile with Bade.  It didn’t seem too hard but he couldn’t remember what the percentage of the hill climb at the 21km mark was.  I figured it wouldn’t be a problem…WOW it was hard!  But I made it up to the top, even though I was having issues with my lower gears.  I must say a HUGE thank you to Nugget for helping to get me up one of the hills!

2013-03-07 09.50.33Once I was back in the lead vehicle the riders had a beautiful ride into Belgrave where we stopped for our last morning tea together.  I know that it seems like all we do is eat, ride, eat, ride…but it really is needed for refueling so that the riders have the energy to get through these days.  A big thank you is in order for the support crew who drive ahead to pick up healthy food and set up the table in anticipation of our arrival.  There certainly has never been any shortage of food for us.

Once we had eaten, the riders headed just a kilometer up the road right into the heart of Belgrave where the famous ‘Puffing Billy’ century old steam train runs to and from.  Then some amazing scenery into Belgrave and back towards Melbourne.

I think the interesting thing for me was that we had spent so much time on country roads over the last 7 days that hitting all the traffic was kind of heartbreaking.  It is amazing how many cars there were and how impatient we all seem to be getting.  I know that it was very nerve racking for our drivers as they kept the riders safe.  There was one lady during today who pulled up beside Bade attempting to pass the group, with a huge cement truck following her and yelled abuse!  She was more dangerous than the riders, when will people learn?!

City of MelbourneOnce we were truly back into the eastern part of Melbourne, we, the lead car went ahead about 1km, stopped and got my trike out as I wanted to finish with the group and do the last 37km.  As they got to the van I joined them and we headed to Monjon, one of our sponsors for a photo, then on to Hampton Cycles for another photo.  Damo the owner of Hampton Cycles who has been one of our support riders, helping push us up hills, went into his shop and pulled out a box of icy poles!!  Best thing that could ever have been given to me at that point because it was so hot.

We were now down to the last kilometers of the ride and headed along Beach Road towards the finish line at the Catani Gardens in St. Kilda.  Bade had Steve and myself take the front as we approached the crowd of people waiting for us to finish.  Family, friends and staff from MS were all waiting and to be honest it was a very emotional homecoming for some of the riders and support staff.  Everyone had been on this ride for their own reasons.  Some we heard about, some we didn’t, but everyone had a purpose.  Even Bally, our lead driver had a few tears and rightly so, they were probably tears of relief for finally finishing one of the toughest jobs going!  There were hugs all round and introductions made to families and friends.

2013-03-07 14.00.37After eating again, there were some speaches made by Greg with each person introduced individually, riders and support crew and Robyn Hunter the CEO of MS Limited did a thank you to all the riders.  It was then time to say our goodbyes to everyone and it was really hard to believe that Friday morning we wouldn’t be getting up to put on the lycra, have breakfast with everyone and hop on our bikes to tackle the Victorian terrain!  It is almost like having a drug withdrawal, but hopefully while riding along Beach Road training I will have the opportunity to wave at a few of the riders I now call friends.

Thanks to all who committed their time, energy and fundraising for this fabulous week!

Bade – for putting an amazing course together and riding after such a horrific accident in December, don’t know how you did it, but thank you!

Nugget– for being a constant source of support, not only pushing people up those hills but mentally making us challenge ourselves.

Damo – amazing support rider, also doing a lot of pushing up hills, your support with your sponsorship from Hampton Cycles was amazing and I am sure there are 3 children out there loving their new bikes.

Andrew and Nick – our Ironman guys , you were amazing with not only riding each day but also getting the swims and runs in.  Thanks for being so inspirational and Andrew I reckon your dad would love to get on a trike.

Fiona – you are one special woman for flying down from Cairns to look after all of us and our ailments, but not only that, ride the entire route just as fast as the guys!

Alex and Kristene – I honestly didn’t think you would make that first day, let alone conquer the entire ride, but you provided everyone wrong by smashing it and in the end becoming great cyclists.

David – aka ‘Irish’ or ‘The man with two first names’, thanks for your humour and next time don’t let Stewart lead you astray on the last night!   But you proved that cycling with a hangover certainly blows out the cobwebs!

Stewart – you are amazing to control your own illness and complete the ride but also be the life of the party every night.

Darren – although you had an injury you persevered even if we had to put your socks and shoes on for you!  You are truly amazing.

Steve – well so much for 700km, by smashing out 960!  I am so proud of your accomplishment you are unstoppable.

Leigh – only with us for the first 3 days but I know you will be back and without the squeaky wheel!

Gerald – again only with us for the first 3 days and tried desperately to stay longer…mate there is always next year.

Gerry and Lachie – Father and son, well done to Gerry for conquering that hill and Lachie for supporting him.

Stefan – although you were only with us for a day and a half you were such a tremendous help for me coming into the Pinnacle Valley – thank you so much!

Danny Frawley (Spud) – one of our celebrity riders.  You may not play footie anymore but you are still a machine!

Michael Roberts (Robbo) – another celebrity rider, thanks for joining us on the last day even with the effects of jet lag.

Shane Perkins (Perko) – our first celebrity rider, you were such a hit with the kids at the Torquay College, thanks so much for being a part of this ride, even though you weren’t riding.  I look forward to you having a crack at it next year.

And we can’t forget our support team – Greg, Duncan, Jodie, Chris (Bally), Tony and Jill, without all of them keeping us safe, fed, watered and bodies working we would never have been able to finish the challenge.

Lastly I would like to thank the sponsors who believed in this ride enough to put their names to it: Monjon, Hampton Cycles, Dextro Energy, Aussie Butt Cream, Scody,  Garmin 810, Brown Cow and Billboard Media.  Because of their belief and support of the ride well over $100,000 has been raised to help people with MS and I as one of those people will always be grateful to the riders, supporters and sponsors.

As for myself, I covered 429.23km, which is a personal best for me in 6 days of riding, maybe next year I’ll go for the 1000!