Thursday, 27 June 2013


COLS CLIMBED: Col Du Colombier at 1501 metres


Distance:146 km's
Average: 24.8 km/h
Climbing: 2061 metres
Riding time: 5hr 53min
Temp Min: 8 degrees
Temp Max: 26.9 degrees

Declan Duck blog dedication
Today's blog is dedicated to my little mate in Declan 'Duck' Hegarty. Exactly a year ago today, when we were cycling the Pyrenees' in France, I dedicated our day four blog to Declan, who was fighting an extremely rare cancer that attacks the spine. Today Rowan and I received the text message that you hope you will never ever receive. Declan's father, Marty Hegarty, informed us that today his little fighter, Declan Duck, as he was affectionately known by his family and close friends, had passed away. Our little mate was just ten years of age! For me it resurfaces all the old scars of when my mate Adam Smiddy passed away back in 2006, which resulted in the whole Smiddy phenomena being created. I felt angry back then and I feel angry now. I channeled that anger into creating a platform to raise funds for cancer research and I must once again do the same thing here.

Words never seem enough at times like this...
I feel helpless at times like this, what words do you say to grieving parents who have just lost their beautiful son? These parents, Marty and Dallas Hegarty and Marty's brother Tony and his wife Jocelyn Rowan and I know so well. In the past five years these incredible people have helped Smiddy personally raise in excess of $40,000. We are indebted to them and right now there is not one thing we can do to make this right. I know up until Declan passed away his father would read these blogs to his Son, especially the ones were the Duck got a mention and Marty tells me it would always result in a huge smile from the little fella. Once Rowan and I visited Declan in hospital and we presented Dec with a Smiddy jersey signed by all the lads from the NSW Smiddy ride. Declan turned around and gave Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater foundation a cheque for $10,000, which was the proceeds from the charity ride where Marty and Tony did laps of Mt Kootha for 24 hours to raise funds for Smiling for Smiddy and Brain Child. How good is that? Here they were, put in a cruel position where their son was fighting for his life, yet they were still thinking of others! I really don't know what else to say except that to the entire Hegarty family we are all thinking of you at this very moment.

Smiddy bonding amongst the riders a welcome sight
Today was one of those days on the bike where the bonding in the group was at an all time high, mate-ship was at the forefront, riding conditions were perfect and everyone's form seemed to miraculously overnight improve to the level of a European professional! It was such a perfect day and yet somehow, due to receiving the news about Declan on finishing today's stage, did not seem fair that we are entitled to this incredible happiness. Now I know this is silly thinking on my behalf, Marty and Dallas would not want it any other way. But life has a habit of gifting you with incredible highs, then slamming hydrochloric acid down your throat the next day and saying; "there take that you barsted, how dare you be happy!" Well in memory of Adam, Declan and everyone who has ever suffered a loss, never will we let those hydrochloric type days rule our lives. It would be a gross insult to them and their families and our positive attitude in life affects all those around us and that's what we stand for right? Anyway it was such a positive day for the group and it finished with a round of beers at a bar just five-kilometres from home, and then for some, me, a dizzy ride back to our Chateau at St Jean.

Marty Hegarty's email to the riders
Before I get into my top ten highlights for the day I would just like to share this email that Marty Hegarty sent me last year exactly a year ago. Tonight I read this out to this awesome bunch of respectful blokes and then told them the news of Declan's passing. We then had a minutes silence to think about how lucky we are and our thoughts were not only with our own respective families but with Declan's as well.

Hi there Sharky, Rowan and all you guys doing this ride for such a great cause. Thanks for the kind words, thoughts and prayers in your blog, it sure did put a smile on the little guys face. It meant a great deal to us. Declan will fight this with all his strength and everyone's prayers are sure to pull him through. None of us realise the enormity of what you take on when you choose to do a Smiddy Challenge, be it big or small, as I am sure you now all know. None of you who choose to do these rides realise the impact cancer has on us all until you are faced with the epidemic first hand with close friends and family members. But one thing that you are doing and those who have ridden any of the Smiddy Challenges, raised money, baked a cake, washed our riding gear, made our lunches, or volunteered in any way, shape or form for the Smiddy movement, is creating a huge family of support for all of us that have been involved. The money you raise and work you do is working and this might one day save someone very close to you. So keep up the great work and the fight for cures. Stay safe on your journey and help each other out when it gets tough.

Love, thoughts and best wishes to all.

From Declan and the Hegarty family.

Our Smiddy mates are so special
I would just like to finish by saying that tonight Rowan and I are so fortunate to be surrounded by such good people on this tour. Most of the riders from last year remembered the effect that the Declan news had on them, and tonight when we shared the news of Declan's passing, it hit them just as hard as it did Row and I. To all the guys, past and present Smiddy riders in this group, thank you for being so respectful and just for showing that you care. I know I speak on behalf of my mate Rowan when I say we are indeed very lucky to have you guys as our friends.

Sharky's top ten highlights from the day

1. Number one without a doubt was the support shown by the group to Rowan and I after announcing the news about Declan. Thanks guys, words can't describe what it means to have people like you in our lives.

2. Neil, Graeme and Eric, each and every night they cook up this amazing gastronomical delight with enough food to feed a small army. Tonight they outdid themselves when they served up a green and red curry, two types of rice, salad and then washed down with a selection of different flavoured ice-creams. We could not be in better hands then with these three guys. Mark Anthony said to me today; "Sharky you could not have found three better blokes to lead this tour, I am in awe of what they do for us." No arguments there old mate!

3. King of the mountain today was taken out by a Kiwi in our illustrious tour leader Graeme. JJ was second, Row third, Marky fourth and Jimmy fifth, which is exactly the same as yesterday's climb. Right from the get go the big gear grind came out for Graeme and the other contenders were not even remotely interested. Graeme is showing form at the moment that he hopes will see him do his first sub nine-hour time at Roth Challenge in two weeks time, which is an Iron distance event. We certainly wish him the best of luck. So the score so far is JJ, who is an Aussie, (1) Graeme (1). The Alp D'Huez climb tomorrow will see a Kiwi versus Aussie showdown and may the best man win...?

4. Besides the highlight of the climb today the highlight for the group was the rolling 50 kilometres getting there and getting home. The two abreast peloton were like a well oiled machine and the formation was one any pro team would have been proud of. The buzz in the group during those times was like an aura that enveloped the group, an aura of positiveness that generated enough energy to float along effortlessly.

5. The motorists in France are a funny lot, they will risk life and limb of the other motorists heading in the opposite direction when overtaking our peloton, but will not come anywhere near us. Well, like any country, there is always the odd idiot that does not give two hoots. But in general, they will wait until they can get past, trucks included and then pass very quickly indeed. There is very rarely any blasts on the horn and definitely no hanging out the window and calling us Lycra Clad Poofta's, which happens often back home.

6. The stop at the bar just prior to finishing todays ride was such a highlight. We had just finished a magic two abreast section for the past 20 kilometres and spirits were at an all time high. It is not often I have a beer straight after a ride, but I, like everyone else, got caught up in the moment, the awesome camaraderie, and just went with the flow.

7. I figure if I make this one public the boys will have to follow through. You see each May I take off on a different biking adventure that involves motorbikes for a week. The DeAngelis lads are all into bikes. I have suggested we all buy adventure motorbikes and in May 2014 we will all be together again for another awesome week of adventures. Smythey, Salty and Mikey don't know it yet but they are part of this deal!

8. Today, with 20 kilometres remaining on the ride, I asked Row Man if he would do me the honour of writing the day three blog on Alp D'Huez. Well after he very nearly fell off his bike, his reply was; "Sharky in seven years you have never asked me to write a blog, why now?" I replied; " Well you see Row I have been waiting for the right moment and today I felt that moment descend upon me." Now tonight over dinner, after Salty had done an excellent job in reading out the day one blog, I brought it up again in front of the whole crew and suggested that he team up with Solicitor Man Mikey. They both unanimously agreed that it was the best idea that I had ever had and that it would be their extreme pleasure! THanks boys for giving me a night off.

9. How special was the Smiddy huddle today? Well let me tell you... We decided that as the group were splitting up after the beer at the bar, some going to bike shop, some going to not free but is free wifi, and some going straight home, that the huddle would happen at the bar. So while we huddled up and Phil "Slippery" DeAngelis did me the honour of taking on the huddle, the lovely French lady that owned the bar took some awesome photos with my iPhone camera.

10. And finally, and last but not least, and of utmost importance even though it is number ten, is that I christened my old mate Phil with the nickname 'Slippery', and the awesome thing about this is that it is starting to stick. Another day on the road and 'Phil' will be no more. 'Slippery' is moving in and I can't tell you how happy I am about that. Maybe one day I will tell you why he got this most appropriate nickname. But for now Shark must sleep and this blog, I apologise, has once again been too long dear faithful readers.

Take care my family, my friends, my Smiddy mates, my work colleagues and all my faithful readers of these blogs. Please know that on this emotional evening I am thinking of you all and how lucky I am that you are a part of my life!


No comments:

Post a Comment