The Tour de Rocks charity bike ride was held 20 – 22 April this year, with 385 participants. the total funds raised were just over $238,000! The ride goes from Armidale to South West Rocks over three days, covering a distance of 255 km.
The participants came from far and wide and ranged in age, with some in their seventies tackling the mammoth distance, down to youngsters getting the chance to join the ride on day two for their own 26 km event.
Amongst the group were brave people who shared their stories of loved ones who had battled cancer, some of them survivors themselves. The comradery of the teams was overwhelmingly strong and whilst many people found themselves riding alongside perfect strangers, everyone supported each other from the start to the end.
The course has several challenging sections, with participants climbing over 3,500 m whilst descending from the New England High Country to the magnificent NSW coastal village of South West Rocks. The course for day two of the ride this year was slightly different to previous years, with riders crossing the Macleay River and having the opportunity to tackle narrow dirt roads and rocky creek crossings. Most participants would probably agree this was the most challenging and rewarding part of the whole course, as everyone dug deep and got through it.
Each night the Tour de Rocks organisers shared tales from the day on the road, and nominations were made by the participants for stage jerseys to be awarded to those who inspired others or displayed courage and commitment out on the course. To see the group come together at the end of the long hard days and share their stories from the ride, commending each other and also having a good laugh at the funnier moments, is a really special part of the journey.
Of course, organising an event of this size is no minor task. The catering team, led by Paul Marquardt, Paul Malifert and Moose Stephens, undertake an incredible amount of preparation in the months leading up to the event, and the food is five star, this year including roast dinners, gourmet sandwiches and sweets and spaghetti bolognaise of genuine Italian standards!
In addition to the amazing team of catering volunteers, the teams are assisted by volunteer support crews, who undertake the enormous task of setting up the camps for the first two nights and hauling all the bags and equipment over the three days. Without this support, the event simply wouldn’t be possible.
The major sponsors for the event are The Armidale School, the Armidale Ex-Services Club and Bayer, who all contribute a large amount to the overall fundraising and also provide significant support to the running of the event. In addition to the major sponsors, there are many other sponsors whose support is just as important, and these include: SportUNE, Faircloth Reynolds, Superair, Focus Magazine, Crowe Horwath, Giant, Regional Bank Australia, Armidale City Signs, Grant McCarroll Ford and Roberts & Morrow.
Roberts & Morrow entered a team of 28 riders and seven support crew. The ride provided an opportunity for the staff to work together training and fundraising, all the while knowing their contribution would support local cancer programs. In addition, it is incredibly promising to know the Tour de Rocks medical research projects are making a difference to treatment regimes and long term survival rates for local people diagnosed with cancer. The team finished the ride fitter and healthier than ever, with an extraordinary sense of achievement and comradery. Some of the team are pictured above with the Chairman and Founder of Tour de Rocks, Bill Wheeler.
Like every team in the event, the group worked very hard to raise as many funds as possible in the lead up to the ride.
In addition to the $14,059 raised by Roberts & Morrow, the Count Charitable Foundation (CCF) donated a further $7,500 to the team following the event, taking the total up to $21,559. The CCF is an initiative of Count Financial, an organisation for which Roberts & Morrow is a member and licensee.
As part of the relationship Roberts & Morrow has with Count, the firm has access to generous dollar matching offered by the CCF for any charitable fundraising they are involved with meeting their guidelines throughout the year. The team were thrilled to get the news about the CCF funds and really proud of the group effort in raising more than they could have imagined.
Getting into South West Rocks after such a huge three days is an incredible experience for all participants – riders, supporters and organisers. This is the moment that brings the whole experience together.
This year at the South West Rocks Headland overlooking the ocean, where all the riders disembark after crossing the finish line, the Tour de Rocks group was joined by a young courageous boy called Roan Clarkson. At age four, some 14 years ago, Roan was diagnosed with a catastrophic malignant tumour situated in the brainstem.
Tour de Rocks organisers told Roan’s story and shared with the group where some of the funds would be allocated in support of cancer research, prevention and treatment, so that young people like Roan can receive the support and treatment they desperately need.
To date, Tour de Rocks has raised just over $1.3million in funds since it was founded in 2012.
Anyone can participate in this incredible event. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you should consider taking part in next year’s ride, which will be held 26 – 28 April 2018.