The last week and a half has been extremely busy, first with a trip to Port Hedland, the gateway to the Pilbara in Western Australia. I was invited up to be an Ambassador for Bike Week up there and to speak to the local kids about all things Paralympic and bicycle safety. I was up in Port Hedland last year a bit later in the year and boy could I tell! The temperature was forecast for 40 degrees each day, but I swear it got much hotter each and every day, plus throw in the humidity and it was extremely hot. Port Hedland is the busiest port in Australia and one of the days there were just over 50 ships waiting to come in and load up with Iron Ore.
Port Hedland is an intersting place with a population that is constantly changing because of their “Fly In, Fly Out” or FIFO as it is known, work force. These men and women who go to Port Hedland to work certainly work hard, but I can also tell you that a few of them then party pretty hard!
It was an amazing week speaking at 4 local primary schools, The School of the Air, two community centre groups and the Community Day held at the Civic Centre. We were able to reach just over 2500 children with our safety messages and spoke with disability groups about believing that anything was possible. I rode with people of all ages on the Community Day, a 15km ride for older riders and then a 5km ride for the families. Even had time for 2 radio interviews one with ABC radio and one with Spirit 1260 in Karratha.
We had a great team that went to each of the schools, Officer Sophie (our local police officer), Elise our wonderful MC (who also moonlighted as an ABC radio reporter), Matt – The Bicycle Bloke (who happened to be Canadian and from Toronto!!!), Greeney (President of the local BMX club), Schmitty (for a couple of schools – Head BMX Coach WA), Dan (BMX Hedland), a number of kids from the BMX club and Izzy (Road Safety Mascot for WA). This team and the week was put together by Kellie Williams from the Port Hedland City Council and what an awesome job she did!
The kids absolutely loved Izzy, although I don’t think Izzy loved the heat in that costume! But I think we were able to get some good safety messages out there. Each school also had a “Dress your helmet competition” and let me tell you there were some amazingly decorated ones out there. I think one of my favourites was a rams head scull complete with horns. The young boy who had that on his helmet had to hold the horns to keep it on his head it was so heavy! But the kids loved it and we were able to give out lots of prizes to them for their helmets and answering safety questions. It was also great to be able to let some of the kids wear my medal from London and hopefully that will inspire some of them to just give what they are passionate about a go!
But I think that the highlight of the week for me was speaking to the children who live in remote Western Australia on Stations and are schooled through The Port Hedland School of the Air. It was awesome being able to talk to these kids and have them ask me questions. 4 of the children even drove in to the school to meet me, that was exciting! This school is certainly amazing being able to deliver a full curriculum to kids living so far away. All of them seemed very eager to learn and asked lots of amazing questions. At the end they all wrote a message on the computer to myself, Matt and Kellie which was then printed off for each of us. I think one of the best messages was from Casie & Emma – “You are amazing and have blessed us with the power of beliving. Thanks for that.” This is what speaking to these children is all about! Thank you to Michael Jennings the Prinicpal for inviting me in to speak to the kids, I loved it!
It was a great week in Port Hedland and one I won’t forget in a hurry! But it wasn’t the only reason that I was in WA. After leaving the heat of the Pilbara I headed to Perth for the 3rd round of the National Para Cycling Series which was being held in conjunction with the Tour de Perth. Our Time Trial was being held around Champion Lakes on Friday morning and the Road Race after the Tour’s RR at Perry Lakes. With all the travelling with my trike I had a few issues with the back wheels with Giant Perth fixed right up for me. Once back at the hotel I put my trike together and found that my electronic gears had been slightly damaged in transit so had to ride the ITT on two gears, hard and harder! Thank god it was a flat course! I didn’t actually race it very well as I went out too hard for the first lap (we had 4 to do) but I was happy with the overall time and speed. So after that race it was back to Giant Perth to see Jeff (owner) and his team. They were amazing and fixed it all right up, Jeff even decided he had to check that the gears were working. right
The Road Race was on Saturday afternoon and again I was not the only trike racing, which was fabulous. This year alone we have had a few new riders which is fabulous for the sport. A young guy named Andrew had come along to race and had done a good job in the TT so I was looking forward to seeing how he would go during the Road Race. It was fabulous to be part of a mainstream event as there was commentators letting the crowd know about each of the different type of cycles and we had them all there, tandems, 2 wheels, hand cycles and trikes! We even had crowd cheering us on during the road race at different parts of the course and I must say it makes it much easier climbing when you have people motivating you along! I took out the win in the Road Race and the overall win for the weekend and was happy to hang on to the Leaders Jersey!
Thank you to Cycling Australia – Sean Muir , The City of Perth, Organisers of the Tour de Perth, all the volunteers, Kimberley Conte and Michael Taylor for all your hard work to make this weekend a success. Thank you to all those riders who took part, it was awesome to see the numbers grow. I look forward to the last round of the series which is included with our Nationals in Echuca May 10-11. It looks like we will have a record number of riders taking part and if you want to see some really good racing come up to Echuca that weekend. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!