Hardy cycling bunch turn out for good cause
Fifty Southlanders from various backgrounds are fundraising and cycling 240 kilometres for this year's chopper appeal.
Westpac Southland area manager Andrew Moreton is the organiser of the annual Westpac Chopper Appeal, which culminates with a bike ride from Frankton to Invercargill (240km) on Friday. As in past years, Moreton approached a variety of businesses to see if one of its staff would take part.
Some people approached Moreton to enter. This is the appeal's fourth year.
Competitors agree to do their own fundraising and all money generated is donated to rescue helicopter services in the south. The money is spent on rescue equipment and training.
Last year, the 37 riders involved helped to raise $22,000, while in 2012 20 participants contributed to the $14,000 generated and $8000 was made in 2011 with help from eight riders.
The inaugural ride in 2011 was the only time it ran from Balclutha to Invercargill.
"The first one was a killer," Moreton quipped.
"We only trained for two months, on borrowed bikes."
Occupations of this year's riders include policemen, farmers, a dentist, a surgeon, veterinarians, a publican, a truck driver and a 15-year-old college student.
The student, James Hargest College's Josh Taylor, is the Jyoungest to take part in the appeal's history.
All riders will meet in Queenstown for the final briefing on Thursday night. They start the race in Frankton at 6.15am on Friday and are expected to cross the finishline outside the Kelvin St office of Westpac, in Invercargill, about 4.40pm.
Policeman Reuben Boniface will play the bagpipes before the start and then jump on his road bike for the trip to Invercargill.
"It's pitch black for the first two hours of the ride," Moreton said.
"Last year it was zero degrees for the first three hours."
Eight support vehicles will follow the riders, who must stay together as a group.
"There's no obligation or pressure to lead because the strong riders will get us home," Moreton said.
Conversations are struck up as riders move forward and back. "It's a bit like speed dating on wheels," the banker said.
This year's ride will travel through Riversdale and Gore, with brief stops at the Garston, Lumsden, Gore (main) and Edendale Schools, as well as the Riversdale pub. The schools and publican, Gary Kirk, have been fundraising.
- The Southland Times