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The Water Way – Part 3

The end of the river Over the past three weeks we have journeyed alongside the meandering 2520km of river and finally to the mouth, where it disappears into the surf of the Southern Ocean. My pace has slowed - it's hard not to when you share a journey with a river that moves at 1km/hr. That means that the bubbling stream water we began with is still many kilometres upstream. Our slow pace is still rapid compared to that of nature, and it makes me feel more than ever that our lives are just a blip in the passage of…

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The Water Way – Part 2

Lines of tar, as straight as straight can be, hundreds of kilometres with nothing but crops and bush. 'It was a lake out there once upon a time. Flat as can be, salt flats to the south, and nothing much before Adelaide' the lovely Ian Lockhart explained. We thought we might be better and safer skipping the long dull ride, trading it for more time by the river, but the realisation dawned that there are only two buses a week - we just missed one, and they don't take bikes anyway. And nobody wants to give a ride to our…

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The Water Way – Part 1

The Murray River, from its source high in the Australian Alps to the Southern Ocean near Adelaide, is a near-3000 km long ribbon of water, the longest river in Australia. On April 10th, a few days after racing in the Commonwealth Games, I began 'riding the river'. There hasn't been rain here for months, the region arid and threatened by wildfire, and even with a complex system of water management, the amount of water that flows down the Murray in a year is similar to the volume flowing down the Amazon in a single day. But we have brought a…

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Mexico and ‘What Next?’

It’s been my intention to write the last blog about the Canada to Mexico ride for the last…errrr…well, it’s long overdue. Yesterday a journalist asked me “By the way, did you get to Mexico?” The final days were long, hot and sweaty in an unusually hot Californian autumn, but we made it to Mexico on the 29th October, 41 days after leaving Vancouver, 3000km and 38 days of riding. I’ve just calculated that is an average of 79km a day…WEIRD…it wasn’t planned that way to fit with Quest 79, but the mysterious magic of the number seems to have been…

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The Express Way – Part 4

Tyre Tackling. "What do you mean by telling me to 'get a life' Rich?" Niall asked in a belligerent tone as a tyre lever snapped on him. "Forget it mate." Rich responded, and I felt myself cringe inside, tired of the tension. It was a hot afternoon on the shoulder of a busy freeway, yet another puncture on Niall's rear wheel and too many kilometres still beckoning. In Southern California, the dusk doesn't linger. We've rolled into camp in the dark a lot lately. I tried to stay calm, thinking how we may snap at each other on a journey…

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The Express Way – Part 3

The past nine days have been a kaleidoscope, the wetter more gruelling experience of the north transformed by the vibrant colours, sounds and smells of the south. Our senses have been infused with the aromas and energy of things we've ridden through: the mystical Giant Redwood forests, the heavy wafts from hidden plantations of cannabis, the salty kelp piled in by the Pacific rollers and the smog of wildfire that has tinted the sky and filtered the sunlight. Add to that the endorphins running through my blood from long days and the physical intensity of tackling the rollercoaster ribbon of…

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The Express Way – Part 2

As we sun-and dream-chase southward on our bikes, the smell of warm pine and layers of rolling forest stir childhood memories. I grasp at them tight, shutting out the roar of RV's and juggernauts whose backdraft sucks us along or throws us into dangerous wobbles. I try to block out thoughts of being inches from death, and focus on the forest, or on the waves that roll in loudly from the gape of the Pacific. I think of being ten years old, of the year I lived in Oregon with my family, and try to be that same wide-eyed experience-soaking…

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The Express Way – Part 1

"It's far too early to stop yet" Niall said, the sun still too high for long shadows or golden tints. I knew then he had caught the bug, the addictive virus of cycle touring, choosing to keep moving rather than kick back and rest up in a random American RV park. We are on the first section of our long road from Canada to Mexico, following the Pacific Coastal Bike Trail from the American Adventure Cycling Association. From Vancouver to the state of Oregon, the freeways and highways have never seemed far away, pulsating traffic like blood, background America not…

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Quest 79

The number 79 showed up in my life last year. I have no knowledge of numerology, but the constant appearance of the number got me intrigued… Gold is the 79th element in the periodic table. I spent three years as a geologist researching it, but never saw any – it was so tiny, in the lattice of the rock, that it was barely visible even with a super high powered microscope. Gold has eluded me most of my life (definitely in bike racing until last year!), and to be honest I would always choose silver as a colour over gold.…

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The Wild Way

I've heard an adventure called ‘a journey with an unknown outcome’. I seem to have an addiction to them; I’ve never been one for too much routine, certainty or predictability in life, hence the attraction of riding a very long gravel road to a dead end in the South American wilderness. It turns out that National Geographic has pronounced the Carretera Austral one of the top places in the world to ride a bike – but our trip was inspired by party games rather than a magazine of such acclaim. Christmas. 2016 was almost upon us, and with it a…

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The Road to Rio – The Inner Warrier

This weekend was the official British Paralympic Association launch event. With less than 60 days to go until competition starts in Rio, we’re into the final leg of four years of hard work. It’s got me thinking about how I got here and why I do what I do. My Paralympic focus began in 2008. It seemed a crazy dream to try and get to the 2012 Paralympics in London; little did I expect to be here for another four-year cycle and heading for Rio de Janeiro. Since I began training in 2008, a handbike has become an extension of…

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The Road from Rio & 79 Degrees

Sport is full of extreme contrast: one moment you feel indestructible, the next you are almost weeping; one day you feel amazing, the next you feel wrecked. A few weeks ago I became a Paralympic champion. I felt physically fit and mentally strong. Now I feel exhausted; my body the most broken and tired I can remember, and mentally everything feels discombobulated. My head has been spinning – actually a positive sign, as it means my brain hasn’t settled into the cabbage-like state it was so often in whilst training for the Paralympics. It also seems a good indication that…

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