Newmarket man Adam Burns is on a charity mission to raise $20,000 by cycling 1,400km across Australia.
Together with three friends, the 28-year-old has just set off from Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, heading to Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne dressed as jockeys, all in 13 gruelling days.
The quartet, including Chris Sowerby (31) Kevin Masters (35) and Phil Prenter (26), will attempt to climb Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, tackle the unpredictable conditions of the The Snowy Mountains, before completing the epic journey on the finishing line of Flemington, in front of a 90,000 strong Derby Day crowd.
It’s all to raise money for Riding for the Disabled, a charity which works with disabled people by developing ability and enriching lives through specialised programs and relationships with horses.
And you can follow their progress every day with their Live blog right here at newmarketjournal.co.uk
Day 1- Sydney to Wollongong- 100km
The lads set off from the starting stalls of Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Sunday morning as they started their epic journey to what Australia calls ‘the race that stops a nation’, the Melbourne Cup.
If they were hoping for plain sailing their hopes were dashed within what you could call the first furlong, as the only Irish rider in the quartet, Phil Prenter, hit a stray branch just 16km into the 1,400km journey and went over his handlebars, buckling both wheels.
Luckily it was only Phil’s pride and his two wheels that were damaged and two hours and two new wheels later, the four lads were back on the road and heading towards the Royal National Park, to take on some steep hills in the 29-degree Australian sun.
As the boys traversed 35km through the difficult terrain of the Royal National Park they had to put pedal to the metal, as they were now in a race against time to avoid cycling in darkness through Australian country roads.
As the sun set in Wollongong, the first stop on the Sportsbet Million Metre Stakes, the lads finally made it to their camp site for the night and set-up their tents under the stars.
With 12 days left of their crazy adventure it’s unknown whether they will make it to the most famous race in Australia.
Day 2- Woolongong- Shoalhaven Heads
The day started like most of the next 12 will, with tents being packed up, sun cream being applied and bikes being prepared for another long cycle. I
n front of us we had 86km of undulating Australian tarmac, a stop off at a famous blowhole and hopefully a well earned beer at the end of a tiring day.
Phil ‘The Printer’ Prenter, had been awarded the Muppet of the Day Vest for his over the handle bar antics on day one, so was looking like something out of an acid induced Beatles video.
As we made our way through the centre of Wollongong we spotted the local Rugby stadium, home of the St George Illawarra Dragons, and decided a pitch side photograph was needed. Pre-empting that the old lady on the box office would say no to four strange looking jockey on push bikes, we decided to slip into an open gate and get our pitch shot without permission, after all we’re supposed to be explorers.
We were swiftly asked to leave by a disgruntled security guard, but we had our picture and we added to our Wollongong sporting images by doing the ‘Wollonconga’ with a couple of rugby players.
Our next stop after a tough 40km was the famous Kiama blowhole, which sounds rude, but is actually just a rock that shoots up water when the waves come in. I’ve had more fun at Roller Bury if I’m honest.
With the sun beating down on to our jockey silks we battled through the remaining 46km and stumbled upon a very Australian pub in the small town of Shoalhaven.
After locking up our bikes it wasn’t long before the locals were insulting our odd dress sense, chucking money into our donation bucket and telling us stories of their own adventures.
This for me is why I do these crazy trips, meeting random people from different parts of the world that I would never normally meet and sharing stories over a cold beer. Before things got out of hand in the local pub our safety and logistics manager suggested we best get to bed as we had a 100km day waiting for us tomorrow.
Tents up under the stars, our heads were on the pillow for little under five minutes before we were all snoring our heads off.
Day 3- Shoalhaven Heads to Nerriga
Waking up at 5am with the temperature already hitting the late teens would usually be a delight, but when you know you’ve got 116km to cycle, delight soon turns to dread. It was certainly the hottest day of the trip to date, so after dismantling our tents, filling up our water bottles and applying a generous amount of factor fifty sun cream, we set-off on our journey to the small farming town of Nerriga.
Fighting against the ever increasing heat, some monster hills and contending with smell of rotting kangaroo carcasses, team morale was low as we all fought our individual battles. With our bodies sweating as much as they ever had, the need to take on fluids regularly was vitally important, but we also had to ration our water intake as we really were in the middle of nowhere, so the chance of a petrol station top up was out of the question.
With my water levels dwindling and the boys a few kilometres behind me, I was forced to walk up a steep hill to a remote farm to ask for some thirst quenching H20. Luckily the old Aussie farmer greeted me with a warm “G’day mate, what the bloody hell do you want?” and after explaining why I was looking like a Frankie Dettori and Bradley Wiggins lovechild, he filled up my bottles and even gave me a 10 buck donation to our charity.
I finally reached Nerriga desperate to get out of the sun and pining for a cold beer, so as I climbed the final hill and saw a Carlton Dry (an Aussie beer) sign above the Nerriga Hotel, I hoped to God it wasn’t a mirage and peddled as fast as my weary legs would take me.
As is now a custom on this trip the locals in the pub all welcomed me with puzzled faces, but were soon throwing notes and change into the donation bucket that’s strapped the back of my bike. After downing an icy schooner I waited for the boys in the shade. As the boys pulled up it was clear they were in a bit of distress, they had also ran out of water but hadn’t managed to find a kind farmer to top them up and had struggled through 15km without a drop. We finished the day by setting up camp next to beautiful Shoalhaven Lake and discussing our learning’s, which centred mainly around a tightening rations of water and holding your breath when you cycle past a deceased roo.
Day 4- Nerriga to Quenbeyan
As we crawled out of our tents on to the dusty riverside bank at 5am in pitch darkness, we knew we were entering unchartered territory.
This was day four and as very amateur cyclists, who only purchased our bikes four months previous, never before had we cycled big distances for four days in a row. We entered the unknown on a breakfast of bananas, cereal bars and a cup of tea from the lovely English couple, Tony and Brenda, camping next to us.
Thankfully the clouds had finally answered our prayers and were shielding us from the sun’s rays as we embarked on the 116km slog to the town of Quenbeyan. Now I’m a Newcastle United fan, all my family are Geordies, so imagine my surprise when on day four of the Million Metre Stakes we were attacked by no less than FOUR magpies. Stalking us down a long stretch of road the black and white predators swooped and squawked as they came perilously close to hitting our helmets, as we ducked and dived trying to avoid their snapping beaks. We decided not to stop and tell the magpies that we were trying to raise money for charity and instead peddled faster than ever before.
As light faded on day four of our adventure and with the temperature dropping to its lowest point on the trip we made it to our bed for the night, a cabin in Quenbeyan.
Day 5- Quenbeyan to Cooma-
A monster climb, not too dissimilar to three Edinburgh Road’s, took us out of the town of Quenbeyan as we headed to the ski town of Cooma with Mount Kosciuszco in our sights.
With our legs felling like eight heavy slabs of lead, a fierce head wind and lashing rain, going was tough as we edged closer to our halfway mark.
Halfway through the day we were again rounded by our arch nemesis, a violent beak wielding magpie, who seemed intent on bringing the Million Metre Stakes to an end. With huge lorries flying past us and the downpour increasing, the last thing we needed was over friendly birds turning our charity cycle into a Hitchcock horror.
Having survived the onslaught from the black and white army we climbed into Cooma with more layers on than we’d ever had on the ride. Battered and bruised we slowly put our tents up in the bitter cold and bedded down for a night under the stars.