Saddle-sore bike riders on home stretch

ALMOST 600km of the Ride For The Chopper will be completed this morning by some 32 mountain bike riders and support groupies when they cycle the final 61.8km leg from Manilla to Tamworth.

Organisers are also confident of reaching their fundraising target at the lunchtime arrival at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service hangar and base at Tamworth airport.

The riders set out from Tamworth last Friday for the 12th annual ride beginning at Wee Waa. Winding its way through Narrabri, Bingara, Barraba and Manilla, the  course ends in Tamworth today with a dinner at the Calala Inn tonight.

“It’s been a big week,” said regional coordinator Barry Walton, who mapped out the course and organised the 571km charity ride.

“It’s been another good trip. We might have been a bit down in numbers, but we were up in spirit, and having fun. I’m sure we will reach our target of raising $55,000, too.”

The group should arrive at Tamworth airport about 12.30pm and then prepare for a presentation night where among others, two major awards, the Brian Birchley Award and David Evans Perpetual Trophy, will be handed out.

He said the annual ride had its moments, too.

“The first day we rode to Yarrie Lake and back at Wee Waa and at dinner that night raised $2062 for the local support group. 

“The Monday ride from Narrabri to Bingara was tough. We had strong winds. We left at 7am and reached Bingara about 4.30pm. It was a very long day over the Nandewar Range. We had a very steep 8km climb up Killarney Gap.

“The tandem pair of Richard ‘Hawkeye’ Newberry and Graham ‘Davo’ Davidson broke their chain about 100m from the top. A quick repair job had them back on the road.

“On Tuesday we went to Bingara Central School and they had a gold coin donation that raised $193 for us. They also sang us the Oranges song that is part of their Orange Festival and commemorates all the fallen Australian soldiers in the different wars. It was very emotional. 

“Steve Livingstone did a bike safety talk and Hawkeye told the children how he enjoyed the ride, even though he couldn’t see. They had a big cake for us with some helicopters on top. 

“Then we were back on the bikes to Barraba on Wednesday for another climbing day, but had a head wind.

“Alistair, at the Commercial Hotel, had a camp oven dinner for us. A raffle they had been running there for a couple of weeks raised $700.

“We had a lot more climbing from Barraba to Manilla as well and didn’t get into Manilla until 4.30pm. We’ve had a lot of hills but everyone is still going okay.”

Yesterday was an easier day with a 58km ride around Manilla before finishing with this morning’s final stage to Tamworth.

Next year’s week-long ride will be from Parkes to Tamworth, retracing the same route as the famous 2010 Barossa Valley to Tamworth Mountain Bike Challenge.

Barry has a few week-long rides planned before he “retires” as well as a “holiday” ride from Cameron’s Corner to Tamworth in 2014.

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