Tour De Rocks – Armidale

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The Tour de Rocks committee responds to our questions about their recent 210 kilometre ride to raise awareness in relation to cancer prevention, healthy living and to raise funds for cancer research. 



How was the idea for Tour de Rocks conceived?

Buildplan has a long association as a major sponsor of the NSW based charity ‘Tour de Cure’. The Tour de Cure is a cycling foundation established by Gary Bertwistle and Geoff Coombes that has the objective of finding a cure for cancer. Buildplan’s objective this year was to build on that involvement, with a focus on increasing the engagement both within our business and across our local communities. Buildplan has a corporate vision to build better lives and community.

After being accepted onto the Tour de Cure team, we were looking for a major local fundraising activity that involved a challenge, promoted a healthy lifestyle and would be achievable by a wide cross section of the community.

In 2010, Jonathon Wheeler successfully led a small contingent of mountain bike riders from Armidale to South West Rocks as part of his Gold Duke of Edinburgh program. The ride was christened the ‘Tour de Rocks’.

It followed that this format could easily be scaled up, so it was agreed that the Tour de Rocks would be the perfect format to engage the community with a challenging but achievable activity that focuses on cancer awareness and prevention, while raising funds for research.

How did you conjure up so many supporters?

Everyone has been touched by cancer; it may be a grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister or child, or just a really good friend. When you have a worthy cause that touches the hearts and minds of so many, it is not difficult to engage the community.

When and where did the ride take place?

The ride was over 210 km from Armidale to South West Rocks. Day 1 departed Armidale out along the Waterfall Way to Wollomombi, turned left onto the Kempsey Road, over the Oakey and Styx Rivers, down the Big Hill along the Georges River to the Junction. Day 2 was an extraordinary ride along the banks of the Macleay River to Bellbrook, an afternoon swim in the Macleay and a great evening enjoying the hospitality of the Bellbrook community at the hotel.

The final day had us ride into Kempsey as a 240 strong peloton and then complete the final leg across the Macleay floodplain into South West Rocks. The youngest rider was a 10 year old girl, and the oldest were two 63 year old gentlemen from Armidale.

How were the funds raised, what was the total, and how are the funds spent?

Every individual who signed up to join the Tour de Rocks, whether a rider or supporter, agreed to commit to a certain level of fundraising. This was non negotiable; we needed to attract people and businesses with the right attitude – those with the discipline to commit to a goal and maintain the focus on our objectives.

The major fundraising activities included a Goods Chattels auction and an Open Garden day. Both were a huge success, raising in excess of $15,000. The highlight of the auction was the ‘New England Crucible’ – a hand made sculpture/fire box by local fabricator, Jamie Hook, and the large number of new products donated by our local businesses.

The 2012 event raised $100,000 for cancer research. A cheque from the New England community was presented to the Tour de Cure foundation – a significant contribution to the $2 million raised this year.

The funds are to be allocated to specific research projects, as determined by the board of the Tour de Cure. This year’s research projects include:

Five Research Projects – to help find a cure;

Four Support Projects – supporting those suffering with the journey of cancer; and

Three Prevention Projects – focused on education and awareness of communities.

Please refer to the Tour de Cure website for more information on the selection process.

Who were the supporters of the tour?

The support from the New England community has been outstanding. Not only have we been the benefactors of tremendous support from local businesses, but also there are a number of extraordinary local people who have contributed significantly through their contribution of time and resources.

Local businesses entered teams, raised sponsorships, coordinated fundraising activities and engaged the community in training and safe riding programs. Local clubs, from riding clubs to service clubs, all made a significant contribution to the event.

It is this contribution, that is an expression of our sense of community, that’s exemplified in regional communities. From the dedication and focus of the committee led by Justine Biddle, to the extraordinary contribution of our catering, logistics and safety teams and the significant contribution from the local schools and business houses, it makes you proud to call the New England home.

Any funny moments during the ride?

The ride had many memorable moments that started on day one, when some of our committee managed to get lost in the Styx River forest. The whole camp was amused to see Mick Sozou’s reaction to finding his bike parked well up a tree at the Junction. As with all professional cycling events, it is all about strategy, and the move that resulted in Dave Boundy getting outsprinted as we headed into Kempsey was a classic.

As for one of the sights of the tour, the prize must go to Kevin Hill (63), an Armidale builder smiling all the way, riding in his Blundstone work boots and high visibility vest!

Who would you like to thank?

The New England community is to be congratulated, along with our extraordinary committee and tour members who just kept asking – “What can we do … how can I help?”

As always, our community leaders, such as Richard Torbay, who along with being our foundation patron volunteered to contribute to our fundraising activities. The catering and logistics team: Marco, Endy and Soz, who fed and watered 300 people (who originally agreed to look after 50) have become legends within the tour community. Moose Stephens, for his leadership and can do attitude on tour. The team captains who organised sponsorship, fundraising and shouldered responsibility for their teams arriving at the Rocks safely.

A special thanks to singer songwriter, Nikita Wheeler, who wrote and recorded our tour song – What can I do? How can I help? – see Youtube and Tour de Rocks Facebook for a song that says it all.

What’s next?

The Tour de Rocks foundation has been established as a charitable organisation with three objectives; Cancer awareness, prevention and research.  Whilst we will continue to be associated with the Tour de Cure organisation to ensure the funds we raise are allocated to carefully selected research projects, we also are targeting specific cancer related projects within our local communities.

The Tour de Rocks is now an annual event that will continue to provide an opportunity for our local people to be part of something special. We have objectives that include raising awareness with school children about healthy living and cancer awareness through the Stickman program, encouraging people to be physically active through cycling, whilst raising funds for cancer research.

Like us on Facebook and keep an eye on our website to be kept up to date for the exciting Tour de Rocks 2013 event.

Photographs taken by; Sue Byrnes, Kathie Marquardt & Stephen Glover.

This story was published in issue 61 of New England Focus

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