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MS Sydney-Gong ride ‘was amazingly well organised’


Like most Australians, you would have seen the Tour de France, and wondered to yourself how they manage to stay upright, with so many cyclists on the road. The Tour de France has up to 198 cyclists in the race.

The Sydney to Wollongong ride has 10,000. Fifty times the number of cyclists on the road!

‘It’s freaking massive!’ Esteban burst, in recollection. Having expected 3,000 people in the race, he was blown away by the huge numbers. More especially given that his time in Sydney almost caused him to reconsider doing the ride at all.

After raising $650 and cycling more than 800 km during October, our chief here at Optimo Home Loans was reconsidering getting on his bike!

Why?

It turned out that just getting to the starting line proved to be difficult, because of a series of challenges that came to the fore one after the other. And it began with getting his bike on the plane to start with.

‘I’d never done this type of thing before, so when I got my bike box on Friday, I went to the airport and they helped me. Then on Saturday I just had to take a very small bag with me. But it turned out that the airline wanted to measure everything! Even though they helped me and assured me it was sporting equipment and would be fine, they ended up charging me an additional $150 because of the weight of everything!’

Luckily, his return flight was a much smoother affair, but Esteban’s experience just getting onto the plane made him restless about what it might mean for him on the way back.

Unexpected problems surfaced, one after the other

Earlier in his training, Esteban had worried that he wouldn’t be able to put his bike back together. This turned out not to be a problem. The bike went back together ok, even though the handlebars seemed to be a little rattly. The biggest problem was pumping up the tyres to the required pressure was not.

‘There are no bike shops open on Sunday!’ Which, it has to be said, may be an exaggeration in Australia’s largest city. But even if a bike shop had been open, there’s no way they would have been at 6 am on Sunday, which was when Esteban needed them - just before the race.

Esteban had a hand-pump with him. But if you’ve ever tried to pump up a bike tyre with a hand-pump, you’ll know that you can get up to 40 psi. It’s a far cry from the necessary 120 psi that a roadbike takes.

Wondering how he would deal with this problem, Esteban and his friend went off to Woolworths to get some food. And that’s when it started to rain.

‘We woke up at 6:00 am on Sunday, and it was still raining. It wasn’t looking good. We started to think about this race from the danger perspective! In the end, though, was all wet. It was still raining and it wasn’t looking good. It’s 6:00 am and we said, “Okay.” We thought it through from the danger perspective like, “Wow, if we go here ... “

Together, the two started debating whether or not to participate in the race.

‘In the end, I said to myself: Look, you’re here. You paid for it, plus you paid $150 extra to get here. You’re not going to stay in a freaking hotel room the whole day wailing, “I didn’t do it”,’ Esteban recollected. ‘I was thinking at least that I have to go, and if I have to do it really slowly, I’ll do it really slowly. It’s fine to be really cautious when it’s slippery. Eventually I convinced my friend to come with me. In the end he said, ‘Okay, let’s do it. If you do it, I’ll do it.’

Then, the first lucky thing happened. When the two got to the starting point, the first person they saw had his son with him - and a proper bicycle pump.

You can’t prepare for everything

Esteban’s anticipated ride, with its beautiful scenery, was overshadowed by continuing problems and terrible weather. After enduring more than 800 km over the previous month without an issue, Esteban found himself face to face with not just one flat tyre, but two.

It was also Esteban’s first time at fixing a flat tyre by himself.

‘I had my first flat tyre exactly on the race. What that brings everything to is inexperience. I had my flat tyre kit there in my pockets of the back of my uniform, so I started by thinking, “Okay, how do I do this?”

He continued, trying to change it - until a good Samaritan stopped and gave him a hand. All went well until they were trying to put the tyre back inside the rim. At this point, both of Esteban’s tyre levers broke.

The tyre levers are needed to put the tyre back into the rim. They help you to get everything back in the right place, and while you can work with one if you have to, having two is ideal.

Nearly an hour later, Esteban was back on his bike. Except, his other tyre went flat about ten kilometres down the road.

At this point, Esteban was deep in the National Park. It was still wet. He was really cold. He had no way of fixing the flat, either, because he hadn’t bought two replacement tubes, thinking he wouldn’t need two.

Just at the right time, another rider stopped and gave Esteban a spare tube. But he was still out of tyre levers! The rider couldn’t help because he was riding with a group, and had to move on, so Esteban was still out of luck.

Walking along with his bike on his shoulder, Esteban was preparing himself for a long, slow trek. Eventually, a police

officer came past. He couldn’t help either, because he didn’t have anything with him. But he did say that there were people coming along who could help.

It’s just that they were apparently still two hours away!

Resigned to the fact, Esteban kept walking. Then to his amazement, the guys who helped him with his last flat came along just ten minutes later. Once his bike was fixed, they said to him, ‘You go on ahead of us. You know, in case anything else happens.’

The rest of the ride was happily uneventful, and Esteban made good time. His friend, meanwhile, was in a state of advanced agitation. He’d finished hours ahead of Esteban, and during the delay, two major accidents had occurred. Those who’d finished heard about them, and Charlie was starting to ask people if they’d seen or heard from Esteban. He was terrified that his friend had been seriously injured - or killed.

‘When I arrived, he just hugged me! He said, “Oh, my goodness, you’re alive.” I told him in reply: “Yes, idiot. It’s your fault. You left me. You left me to die”,’ Esteban laughed.

Despite the setbacks, Esteban would do it again

When he cycled in through the finish line, lots of people were there cheering for them. Esteban said that his prediction about people with multiple sclerosis being there making it mixed-emotion kind of event, came true.

‘You could see the people in your wheelchairs, and people affected by multiple sclerosis, and that hit me hard,’ he reflect. ‘When I got to that finish line, I didn’t have a freaking phone to take a picture because mine just didn’t have a battery already. I remember standing there and saying, “Wow, man, we did it.” What this involves is also like, “Wow.” The people that we’re doing it for, they’re cheering us on from here.’

The race gave Esteban time to reflect on everything in his life.

‘It was really good. I don’t know if it is your state of mind, and your physical sensations - that you’re tired? Thinking about the people that you did this for, and thinking about your family, and being grateful. Everything. It was really cool, really cool.’

There is still time to donate!

If you’re impressed by the dedication that Esteban has shown in relation to this effort, there is still time to donate! The donations page will be open for a little while longer, and we only need $100 to have raised over $700. Donate here.

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