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2013 Challenge Series Ambassador

Cycling Victoria is very excited to have Helen Kapalos as the 2013 Netti Challenge Series Ambassador. Helen is relatively new to cycling but is eager to come try out the Challenge Series rides. Helen's blog on "My Weekend in Lycra" is definitely worth a read...

So, me and lycra. It was not a relationship I wished to enter. However, sometimes the pull of duty is tidal strength, and this was one of those times.
It started with a very professional meeting in my office about five weeks ago, with representatives from our publicity department.
It was explained to me that I had been nominated to be part of a group bike ride, to raise money for Cancer. It was a 200 kilometre bike ride to the Yarra Valley and back, with proceeds going to Peter Mac.
Before the full details were even fleshed out, I was signed up, envisaging myself pushing along in my little hybrid bike, taking in the scenic posts from Albert Park, all the way to pristine wine country.
Two days after that first meeting, I came across my first obstacle. I had my bike stolen from the work car park. Talk about unfortunate timing. Here I was thinking the big, sloping hills of the Yarra were my most insurmountable obstacle. My saviour came a few days later in the form of Giant Bicycles Australia General Manager Darren Rutherford… Darren’s brand is synonymous with his Giant generosity. He offered to loan me a very flashy road bike so I could complete the ride. Of course, I was overwhelmed and I warmly embraced the offer. I wanted to complete the mission I had signed up for and there was precious little time to get prepared. There was just one little thing I had overlooked. I didn’t know how to ride a road bike. In fact, having lived in Elwood for a few years, I was well aware of the beach road set and had met own mixed opinions about group riders.
Within days I was one of them, compromising the lycra by wearing tracksuit leggings over the top of my padded bib set. OMG. Was this really me? It turned out, it would just have to be till I finished the ride. I had no choice. I had so many people generously supporting me and I was so grateful. So I had some one-on-one training on safety principles around the use of the bike, and just a few days later, came Around the Bay, an iconic Melbourne cycling event. It was a tough initiation, and I kept slipping off those weird pedals. I counted around a dozen bruises. But there was Darren and the Giant team right beside me literally pushing me along and super safety conscious around the cars and within the cycling community. This is how its probably meant to be done. As drivers, we have all been on the wrong end of tricky cycling manoeuvres, maybe even witnessing their aggressive dominance of the road. But….. it’s a two way street. Cyclists who show respect for the road deserve respect from its drivers. We can co-exist. I have so much to say on this topic.. but we’ll have to leave it for another blog.
I want to wrap it up by saying I did end up completing the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Every rider with a yellow flag was a cancer survivor. Others had photos of loved ones departed on their bikes.. or their shirts or shirt sleeves. It was incredibly moving.. and I think for the first 50k’s I had a quiet cry at the collective and gutsy effort of these riders, some hardly experienced, tackling such a tough course, for such a good cause. It also reminded me of how many of us are touched by cancer. I rode most of the course on my own and met some beautiful people along the way… Ross from Ross Plumbing hello!!! Then the girls from Liv Giant approached me at a pit stop in the final stretch and we had an exhilarating journey to the finish line.
Its made me look at lycra and the cycling community in an entirely different way. There are so many well-intentioned and safe riders out there. I am humbled to have met them… and who knows, one day they may just get me over the line with the full Lycra suit… although I shudder at the thought. I can’t wait to get out on regular group rides. I am keen to join the Liv Giant girls on a Saturday morning, and its even motivated me to become the non-professional cycling ambassador of the “Netti Challenge Series” next year. Bring it.


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 Helen's blog
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