THEY were riding to ensure no one ever has to pay to be airlifted in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and now they’ve set records on and off the bike.
The annual Ride for the Chopper’s fundraising total is on track to top $110,000 – one of the biggest sums in the ride’s history.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that generous donations, as well as sponsorship from local businesses and the community along the way had topped $100,000, and continued to climb this week – something that has blown away the chopper’s ride committee.
“This just highlights what the service means to the communities, and what the community does for the service,” Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s Michael Wilson said.
“And together we’re all helping to ensure no one ever has to pay.”
The riders set a first for the annual charity ride by trekking from the coast, over the Great Dividing Range, and also set a new record number of women on the trek. The 5,000m of climbing was also believed to be one the biggest uphill treks.
No hill big enough for chopper riders
PUSHING uphill, into the wind and on bumpy roads on a bike doesn’t sound like the most appealing to spend a week.
But there was no doubting the drive of the 2017 Ride for the Chopper peloton who trundled more than 500km from the seaside setting of Woolgoolga, over the Great Dividing Range, through Guyra, Black Mountain, Armidale, Gostwyck and Walcha and back to a hot and windy welcome in Tamworth.
The ride raises money for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, aiming to ensure no one ever has to pay.
And they come from far and wide. Kentucky, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Woolongong, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle and the Central West.
But the experience was the same across the board.
Deborah Sadleir was a relative novice heading into the ride, only drawing on about 12 months worth of cycling experience, and was supported by her husband, Matthew.
“There were very, very steep hills and they were very rocky,” Mrs Sadleir said.
“I thought if this is the path, because I have a cycle-cross bike … I just thought, ‘my gosh, this is going to be a lot harder than what I thought.’”
Even the more experienced riders recalled the uphill climb from the coast in reverential tones, but the camaraderie and support within the group were just as helpful as a tailwind.
“Coming up next to other riders and and they ask you how you’re going and they tell you to jump on behind them and get navigated through the hard bits,” she said.
But it’s not the first time Mr Sadleir has cracked a sweat for the chopper, working for Best Practice Constructions, he helped build some of the buildings at the Tamworth base.
Despite the gruelling 650 kilometre ride, Mrs Sadleir said it only made her more keen to keep riding.
Dalene Pretorius, a veteran of five charity chopper rides, told Fairfax Media the Woolgoolga to Tamworth was the hardest.
Ms Pretorius’ first rescue chopper ride was back in 2008 and said the camaraderie kept her coming back for more.
“It was a huge challenge this one coming through the diving range,” Ms Pretorius said. “It was definitely the hardest one.
“The uphills from Grafton probably those two days, just uphill, headwind and corrugation.”
But it wasn’t all about the riding. Along the way the riders visited schools in Wytalibah and Woolbrook, had community BBQs and dinners and also had a taste of the camping life.
The 12/16 Hunter River Lancers’ Corporal Darryl Broadley, Sergeant Nic Showell, Private Michael Taylor and Trooper Cody Johnson set up ’Chateu De Dalmorton’ around a campfire for one night before the Drover’s Run crew cooked a campfire dinner.