Australia: HMAS Stirling Team Raises Money for Navy’s Local Charity

An eight-man team from HMAS Stirling (CAPT Brett Wolski) successfully completed the 2012 Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge and raised much needed funds for the Ryan Marron Foundation as well as the Navy’s local charity, the Malibu School.

The team of six riders and two support personnel chose the name “Blue Edge” and rode to a creditable 5th place overall in this year’s event.

After a three day journey from HMAS Stirling the team set up camp at the NORFORCE Army Barracks in Broome. Training rides together with local MTB Riders and another along the pristine Kimberley coastline at Cable Beach, set the scene for five gruelling days in the saddle with 63 other teams in the 760km ride that would begin in Derby and finish at the luxurious El Questro Station Resort.

Day 1 saw the field off to a 6am start with the Blue Edge team employing some clever early tactics and remaining at the front of the field for the first 70km sealed road section of the ride. Severe headwinds punished any of the teams that dropped from the lead pack and they were quickly left behind. As the event transitioned to the corrugated gravel road that is the Gibb, Blue Edge found themselves in 4th position. With a strategy that saw two of their riders remaining on the road at all times to combat the wind, the team was able to consolidate their position to finish in 5th place at the completion of the 220km first day at Imitji Store.

As the sun heralded in Day 2, it became obvious that there would be no respite from the 25km headwinds that had punished the field the previous day. As the day wore on, Blue Edge found themselves in the company of the TME Team from Bunbury; with both teams joining forces to complete the 168kms of Day 2.

The Blue Edge team changed their strategy slightly on Day 3 to coordinate riding changes with their new-found friends. Both teams worked together tirelessly into the headwinds and by completing 5km legs, extended the lead over their nearest rivals. Arriving at Ellenbrae Station in 5th place, Blue Edge were poised to achieve a highly placed finish — a just reward for all the hard work and training that had been completed over the three months leading up to the event.

Mercifully, the headwinds dropped to 20km/h and the ride through the Cockburn and MacDonnell Ranges on the fourth day was almost enjoyable. Despite some tough uphill climbs, the scenery was nothing short of breathtaking and on several occasions, all team members mounted their trusty steeds for an exciting 60km/h downhill run.

For the first time in Gibb Challenge history, competitors were given the opportunity to ride across the Durack River; with crocodile spotters in position, all teams successfully navigated the water course without incident. As the team rode the last 7km downhill of the day, CPO Ian Miles recorded an impressive top speed of 74.4km/h, which equalled the recorded highest downhill speed for the Gibb Challenge.

With the “Challenge” section of the Gibb ride completed and a very competitive 5th place cemented, the Blue Edge team decided to ride the final 60km leg together to enjoy the camaraderie of the other teams as they were once again treated to a Gibb Challenge first—the opportunity to ride across the Pentecost River. With water levels up to 500mm in places and an unstable rock bottom, this challenge was accepted by all but a few of the 450+ riders who participated in this year’s Gibb Challenge. Only a handful successfully navigated the 250m crossing without falling off but this in no way dampened the enthusiasm of all who attempted the crossing. Unfortunately, visiting US exchange sailor Eric Cornelius was the last Blue Edge team member to cross the river and was subsequently fined at the evenings festivities at El Questro!

Blue Edge team OIC, CPO Trevor Syme said he was very proud of the team and the way they conducted themselves, both on and off their bikes.

‘As part of the fundraising strategy, Blue Edge team members set up a bike cleaning station for the use of the other teams,’ CPO Syme said.

‘This initiative was extremely well patronised during the five days of the event, raising $1,060 alone toward our fundraising effort.’

A total of $2,000 was raised for the Ryan Marron Foundation, and a sizeable $6,020 for the staff and students of the Malibu School. Another $1,340 was raised on the My website thanks to the kind donations of individuals. This will be put to good use in a number of school projects that Navy will undertake in the upcoming school holidays.

‘The Blue Edge team would like to thank the Australian Defence Cycling Club for its support by funding the team’s entrance fee of $3,000. Without their support, we would have had to pay our own way,’ CPO Syme said.

This enormous contribution allowed us to concentrate on raising funds for charity. Other valuable contributors included the HMAS Stirling Welfare Committee, FleetNetwork, Complete Angler and Camping, Rockingham and Port Kennedy Cycles and Fishing.

Naval Today Staff , June 29, 2012; Image: Australian Royal Navy