Cyclists hit great trail for arthritis on longest day

EMMA BEER EMMA.BEER@NELSONMAIL.CO.NZ
Last updated 13:17 06/12/2012
cyclists
MARION VAN DIJK/FairfaxNZ
Paul Jennings, left, and Tama Easton will be cycling over 175 kilometers during The Longest Ride.

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On the longest day of the year, three Nelson friends will cycle 175 kilometres from sunrise to sunset.

The charity bike ride will raise funds for Arthritis New Zealand, an organisation close to rider Tama Easton's heart.

Mr Easton was diagnosed with reactive arthritis in his feet in 2009. Being "obsessive" about bike riding for 20 years, he was devastated, at times thinking he would never ride again.

Three years later, he is about to complete his third Longest Day Ride to raise money to help others with what can be a debilitating disease.

"[Being diagnosed] was a bit of a shock to someone in their mid-30s. I needed a walking stick.

"One day I had an epiphany and thought: ‘I'm going to bike again'."

He worked towards riding from sunrise to sunset on the longest day, taking pictures and posting them on the internet at different stops. Suddenly, people around the country were asking him how they could be involved.

Because cycling was a relatively low-impact sport, it worked well, he said.

This year on December 21, Mr Easton and friends Paul Jennings and David Bonnett will be riding the more than 175km Great Taste Trail.

Mr Jennings, a member of the Tasman Great Taste Cycle Trail Trust, is also a keen cyclist, having ridden for Britain in track cycling at the Olympic Games.

"[Doing this ride] comes down to Tama. He needed a willing victim to do it with him." Being a trustee, he was also "as keen as anybody" to ride the trail and see how realistic it was to complete.

They would begin the day at the airport, "because it's the first coffee shop opening in Nelson". They would do a complete loop of the track, aiming to get the last ferry from Mapua at 5pm, and ending back at the airport.

Both men said they would also stop at cycle trail sponsors along the way for food, coffee and perhaps even a beer.

For more information about the ride, to sponsor the men or to join in, see mfla.org.nz

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