He did it! Deniliquin’s Vince Kelly successfully completed the Tour de Cure Signature Tour.
The Signature Tour started at Channel 7 Sunrise Brekkie Central on Friday, May 3.
The journey saw Vince travel to the idyllic seaside town of Kiama, before heading inland to tackle the scenic and beautiful country towns from Canberra to Corryong, before experiencing Central Victoria.
On Saturday, May 11 the 40 year-old had covered a distance of 1348 km — with 16,170m of elevation — and spent 57 hours and 13 minutes on his bike, riding from Sydney to Geelong to raise funds for cancer research.
He has raised $27,497 for Tour de Cure, smashing his original goal of raising $12,000.
In total this year’s tour raised $3,079,285, to give a grand total of more than $10 million raised in the financial year.
When arriving in Geelong, Vince and the other riders were met by a ‘‘massive crowd of people’’ at the finish line.
‘‘It was a bit surprising, but with 240 riders and all their family and friends there it made sense that the crowd was so big,’’ Vince said.
‘‘It was very rewarding (to complete the ride). I felt a real sense of achievement at the end of each stage.
‘‘I would happily do the ride again and would encourage anyone who is thinking of doing it to go out there and try.
‘‘The experience was really intense; spending five to six hours on the bike and then having the commitment to have dinner with the community.
‘‘There wasn’t a lot of downtime but that’s just the nature of the beast.
‘‘Every day I had doubts as to whether we’d make it, but when we made it to Beechworth (on day six) I realised, yes we can do this.
‘‘We had rain on a lot of the days and unfortunately the second last day was abandoned due to flash flooding.
‘‘I would have rolled on if asked, but I was relieved that riding was done for the day given the conditions.
‘‘I thought crossing the finish line would be overwhelming but the overriding feeling was that of satisfaction.
‘‘I felt good physically and mentally after the last stage. I set myself a task and achieved it.’’
While reaching the finish line was a highlight, it was earlier in the tour that was quite memorable for Vince.
On day seven he and the rest of the tour arrived in Shepparton where Vince saw his family for the first time in over a week.
It was an extremely emotional experience for the Deniliquin rider, with Shepparton being the home town of his former junior golfing teammate and Australian professional golfer Jarrod Lyle, who sadly lost his battle with cancer in August last year.
Lyle had twice beaten cancer, in 1998 as a teenager and again in 2012, and returned to play professional golf prior to the third recurrence of his illness.
It was Lyle’s passing — along with Vince’s father’s passing from cancer in 2013 — that was the catalyst for him participating in the fundraiser.
‘‘Our stop at Shepparton, where we got in at about 3pm, was the earliest finish.
‘‘Arriving at Lake Victoria Park seeing mum cheering us in, and followed closely by Lauren and our kids was a moment I will not forget for a long time.
‘‘It was the simple things that afternoon, like watching my kids play in the park which is something I take for granted when at home, which brought such joy.
‘‘However, riding wasn’t finished for me. The passing of Jarrod Lyle was one of the catalysts for me registering to ride this year.
‘‘Jarrod was a larger than life presence and gave of his time freely to whoever asked. It was this example that I wanted to follow when I registered.
‘‘Shepparton was his home town, and Shepparton Golf Club was a special place that I just had to visit while in town. It gave me just a moment to reflect on how far we had come.’’
The stop in Shepparton was capped off with a special dinner, with AFL goalkicking record holder Tony Lockett the guest speaker.
Vince said it was a ‘‘huge event’’ and that Lockett, who participated in the Signature Tour, was an inspiration.
‘‘There were over 300 people at dinner,’’ he said.
‘‘Tony Lockett stole the show as the guest speaker, for such a quiet gentleman, that’s right gentleman — he is a top bloke — he had the crowd in fits of laughter for at least a half hour.
‘‘Even though he had a stellar career in the AFL, he said that Tour de Cure was the greatest thing he’s ever done.
‘‘He’s a phenomenal athlete and to have him on the tour was unbelievable.’’
Another factor that kept Vince motivated during his ride was the support of Deniliquin and everyone who donated to his cause.
It was also his family that kept him motivated, noting the sacrifices they made to ensure he could complete the journey.
‘‘I have to pay tribute to my family, and in particular my wife Lauren.
‘‘It wasn’t just a nine day commitment, I covered over 7500km in training, spending about 300 hours on the bike.
‘‘Lauren was essentially a single parent for long periods over the past eight months. That is a huge commitment, and through that whole time, she provided me nothing but love and support.
‘‘I can’t thank her enough, so if you see her in the street please take a minute to say thank you, as what people see as me having achieved I see as us having achieved. Her commitment to this event is the same as mine.
‘‘We heard stories on the tour from the researchers and they said their work wouldn’t be possible without the money that is raised.
‘‘I’d like thank everyone who donated. The research projects that the funds have gone towards are producing results so the more money raised the quicker we can find a cure.’’