A bead of sweat drips from the top of my helmet onto my top tube. I’ve finally caught my breath again. I stand on the pedals, two hands on the hoods and the front wheel pointed slightly off centre to the left... it may have been to the right- that memory escapes me at this point. I see a train of lights coming through a left hand bend. I push down hard on the right pedal and get into the saddle and up to speed jumping on the back of the train. I hear Bull (Shannon Goard) scream out “Here comes Panther out of the bushes”. Still feeling the effects of radiation for cancer treatment I had no option but to take the short cut through Parra Park. I wouldn’t be stopped but I wasn’t capable of doing what I once could. That’s the start of the second half of my journey on a bike…
I started riding about 8 years ago during some personal hardships and I was instantly hooked. The pain, the hurt, the challenge. I was addicted.
I think what hooked me was the sense of peace I found on a bike on the open road. It was truly my time. It was meditational and no matter how I felt when I clipped in I was a different person when I finished.
In 2014 I joined a local club (I didn’t stay true to) and started racing. Mid way through my first race this guy rode up beside me and said “in the next corner I want you to plant your right foot, easy on the saddle, get into the drops and brake before the corner not through it”.
Four weeks later I won my first D grade race and the whole time Nash helped start my development (he and the Park Bikes crew would support me through much of my health battles as well).
Slowly I was becoming part of a community. Most of my development as a rider started in and around Park Bikes and I started to see a community develop that essentially became Park Life.
In May 2015 I took someone to the doctor. As I sat in the room with them, the doctor asked what the lump on my neck was. I told them it was a cyst and nothing to worry about. Two days later I had been diagnosed with cancer. Being faced with my own mortality at such a young age was very daunting. The following weeks of tests deemed it wasn’t terminal and had not spread. I underwent a 7.5 hour surgery that essentially removed the rear right hand side of my neck. I was released from hospital after 9 days and was on a stationary bike for 20 odd minutes a day later. It is to this day the most satisfying ride of my life. The surgery was followed by 3 months of radiation and I was declared cancer free on 20 December 2015. I struggled with the effects of radiation for the next 12-18 months.
Struggling with my recovery Birdy and I formed a bond and I set some goals based around my riding that he would help me with. Throughout much of 2017 I spent countless hours climbing the gorges and mountains in and around Sydney. I remember chasing Rosco, Greg, Chris Barr and Marc Ago around. Birdy was there beside me for much of it. I achieved my goals I set in one week- but both of them took a year of training. I moved out of D grade by going solo at Marconi after 2 minutes. I stayed away for 38 minutes for the win. That Saturday I completed L'Etape 2017.
Riding for me is therapy more so then ever before. I don’t have club mates I have best friends and Stingrays. The highlight of my week is when I get to ride with Ago, Connor, Brian, Chris, Birdy and Cesar who have become some of my closest friends and like family. My battles have given me a zest for life and never quit attitude. That’s how I like to ride. I think just dig in and have a crack. If that doesn’t make you smile and happy then you’re doing something wrong.
Cycling for me is more than just a sport. This year I went through another health scare that was kept very private until I let on to the Red Flag gents. I have never been so humbled by the outpouring of help, concern and genuine investment in me. I realised I wasn’t just part of a community or didn’t have a group of friends. I realised that I was part of a bigger family and to this day I cannot believe the lengths people were going to help me. Throughout this though the one constant that drew us all together and kept me going was to “don’t stop the fight”. We rode for hours and my mind was at peace.
So what drives me now? My givens are I work hard and provide for my family. Outside of that is the uncompromising drive to bury myself and cook myself on a bike. In a sadistic manner I love going deep into the red zone and knowing that I am hurting and the bunch is as well. I love being dropped on a ride because it means I have to train harder, eat better and stay focused. That all sounds really serious but that’s not me. My happiest moments are with my friends on the way home at a café laughing about how we’d hurt each other in a race or on a ride. That to me is happiness. Knowing I’ve given 110% even if it means I didn’t win (cause I race dumb) but I can confidently joke and get amongst the banter of the bunch.
Life’s too short to be serious and not have a smile on your face all the time.