Tuesday, 25 June 2013


What's Sharky been up to?
Well it is now Tuesday June 25 and the lads are beginning to arrive for the second tour of the French Alps. Since my last blog a few days ago I have enjoyed three days off the bike, a mandatory kip each afternoon, plenty of stretching, a wetsuit swim in a beautiful lake and a run each day. It has been a relaxing three days and only just today am I starting to get excited about getting back on my bike. It will be interesting the second time around if I ride any better on the climbs now that my health has improved - I certainly hope so! Yesterday was a busy day as Neil, Eric and I prepared the Chateau for the arrival of the 14 lads from Australia. There was three trolly loads of food to purchase, sheets to wash and dry and a very large house to clean. The pantry is now fully loaded with enough food for a small army, the fridge is now fully stocked -mainly with beer and wine- and the chateau itself looks immaculate after a good summer clean.

The lads arrive
Eric and Neil left early this morning to collect the first of the crew. Then at 9:45am Rowan and his brother Brendan Foster, Justin Jelenkovich, Mathew Marshall, Mark Anthony, Adam Young and Jimmy Acomb arrived, all as excited as a Jack Russell on heat. It was awesome to see the lads so happy and I immediately loved having them here. For Mark, Justin, Mathew and Brendan it is their first time to cycle in France. While for Jimmy, Rowan and Adam it was a welcome return from last year's Smiddy Pyrenees' tour.

While Neil and Eric returned to Lyon to collect the second group I had the pleasure of showing the boys to their rooms and giving them a tour of the Chateau. Thankfully all their bikes arrived and they quickly put them together to make sure all was in good working order. The only casualty is Jimmy, who got sick just prior to leaving Australia with a flu. I feel for the guy as he looks terrible and I know what is in store for him over the next five days in the mountains while fighting off a flu - and it aint anything good!

Next to arrive where the infamous DeAngelis brothers, Mark, Peter and Phillip. All from Sydney and all returning again after doing the Smiddy Pyrenees' Tour with us last year. Accompanying them were a few mates from Sydney in Michael Harris, who also did the inaugural Pyrenees' tour last year and Tony Smythe and Daniel Salter, doing their first ever Smiddy tour.

Before I introduce the lads properly and tell you a little about each of them, here is a quick wrap of the afternoon. Just like on the first tour, once all the bikes are built and everyone had arrived, Neil and Eric took us out for a 38 kilometre ride that included the groups first climb up the Col de la Croix at 884 metres. With a peloton of 16 we rode two abreast for the majority of the way and everyone did their own thing on the climb. It was a fun 90 minute ride and everyone seems to be in pretty good shape. I get the feeling this is going to be a cracker of a tour. The stats for today's small ride were 38 kilometre ride at an average of 22.5km/h. We climbed 865 metres and were out there for 99 minutes.

Anyway here are the guys joining us for tour number two:

Embrace Sports Staff
Eric Doehrman you have already met from the first tour, but just a reminder that he is one of the staff helping to run this tour, is American and from Huntsville, Alabama . At 45 years of age he has found his calling working alongside of Neil and Graeme as a coach to the many tour groups they run each year. He lists his interest as a triathlon coach and cat herder!

Graeme Buscke you also know from Tour 1, at 31 years of age and tells me he has the coolest job in the world as the company (Embrace Sports) he co-owns with his best mate Neil Aitken, run sporting tours all year round. Graeme is a Kiwi but has lived so long in England, France, Portugal that his accent has no name... Both Graeme and Neil love helping the Smiddy group achieve our objectives of raising money for a great cause while at the same time experiencing challenges outside the norm. Graeme tells me the strong Aussie mind, linked to the cause, combined with the will to never back down from a challenge, is what sets Smiddy riders apart from other training groups.

Neil Aitken is the other owner of Embrace Sports and is from England, where the company was formed. Neil has been with his partner Debbiie for seven years and they have been planning their wedding for the past five. They have a beautiful baby boy at nearly 3 years of age in Jake. Neil is a competitive triathlete and lists his hobby as a wine connoisseur. Both Graeme and Neil are based in England and kindly ran the Smiddy tour last year for us in the Pyrenees in 2012. This boy can climb and will surely give JJ and Rowan a run for their money

Smiddy riders
Rowan Foster is one of the co-founders of Smiddy, he is 32 years of age, a competitive triathlete and married to his wife Carlene the past 18 months, although have been together for ten years. Rowan is making a return to triathlon this year after a two year absence. His first race back was the Cairns Half Ironman and hopes to complete the Busselton Ironman at the end of the year. Today on the main five kilometre descent he had the misfortune of being struck by a rock in the face by a car traveling in the opposite direction. He was lucky it got him in the cheek bone and not in the eye or his teeth.

Brendan Foster is 29 years of age and affectionally known by his nick-name as 'Boof' Last year he successfully completed the Smiddy Challenge up to Townsville and allowed himself to be talked into this trip by his brother Rowan. Boof said that he doesn't even really like cycling yet is going on to cycle some of the toughest climbs known to the world in France! Boof works in construction management and his dream is to construct a device that turns all uphills into descents! His partner Georgia will join up with him for a further four week tour of Europe once this tour is over. Boof is also the youngest on this trip and must be looked after accordingly with free beers, foot massages and back rubs.

Jimmy Acomb is 35 years of age but only looks 34 and 11 months. He is back from the Pyrenees' tour last year and this man loves to descend and descend fast! His background is a downhill mountain biker and when he goes, he goes! If you stick with Jimmy on a descent be prepared for the ride of your life! Jimmy has just recently opened his own bike shop in Taringa in Brisbane and thinks this will be his last OS trip for a while as he needs to knuckle down to make the shop a success. I sat on Jimmy's wheel on the final descent of todays ride and it is one I want soon forget!

Adam Young at 29 years of age, works as a manager for a window control company. He did last year's Pyrenees' tour and is back for more of what he loves, riding bikes and descending fast while filming it with his Go Pro camera. His partner Margo Mackintosh is a competitive triathlete and they both enjoy traveling to races together to compete. His hobby outside of cycling is wake-boarding.

Mathew Marshall at 32 years of age and his wife Tash, have a beautiful baby girl Beatrice at three years old. Matt will soon commence a new role with the Smiling for Smiddy team at Mater taking over from my good mate Rowan. Matt completed the Smiddy Challenge to Townsville last year and this is his first trip to the French Alps as a cyclist. He's also one of our highest fundraisers on this tour raising close to $8,000 for cancer research. Matt said to me today during our small test ride; "Sharky I'm not sure I want to go home." Of course was referring to the amazing scenery, the beautiful introductory climb and awesome descent.

Peter 38, Phillip 32 and Mark DeAngelis at 36 years of age are a close knit trio of brothers that not only work together in the chain of hotels that they own but play together. The three of them joined us last year on the Smiddy tour of the Pyrenees' and promised they would be back this year for the French Alps tour. These boy are legendary in their ability to not only party hard but back it up the next day and ride hard as well. All three list skiing as their hobbies outside of cycling, although Phil is an avid collector of Superman comics, telling me he has every issue from number one to the present day. Peter very nearly did not make this trip due to a motorbike crash resulting in his leg in a cast up until six weeks ago. The boys lived up to their reputation and partied hard last night in Lyon into the wee hours of the morning. It's great to have them back and riding in the Smiddy peloton once again.

Mark Anthony at 51 just misses out on the oldest man award on this tour by a few days. Yours truly has that honour. Mark is a motor mechanic and married to his wife Suzie and has two grown children in Brenton and Kayla. He is a veteran of four trips to either the Pyrenees' or the French Alps and is the proud owner of a Go Pro camera and also loves to descend fast. He was originally talked into doing this tour by his mate Craig, who then pulled out and he still decided to attend.

Tony Smythe is 35 years of age and music has ruled his life for as long as he can remember. His love for music saw him get into his own community radio station in Sydney called Eastside. Tony is married to Amber and has a three year old boy in Xavier. He was telling me he is relatively new to cycling with just two years under his belt as a recreational rider. Only in the last three months has he stepped it up in the hope he can survive the next five days in the mountains.

Justin Jelenkovich or JJ as he is affectionately called by his friends, is 36 years of age but only looks 20 but carries on like he is 15! His bubbly personality and zaniness is what attracted me to him as a mate and I like him immensely. JJ is married to Tania and they have twin girls Layla and Eva at three and a half years of age. JJ recently introduced me to whisky at a fundraising night that he put on for this trip and that is all I am saying about that...

Michael Harris, or Mikey to his friends, is 34 and a very smart solicitor. I know he is smart because the DeAngelis boys use his services and they don't mess around with idiots. Mikey graced us with his present last year in the Pyrenees' and was known to ride into paddocks, take out wild pigs and milk cows while descending. His skills have improved immensely as I witnessed today on the descent. Mikey is married to Katie for the past five years and also lives in Sydney.

Daniel Salter is also from Sydney and great mates with the DeAngelis boys and Mikey. Daniel is 35 years of age, has been cycling for four years and this is his first trip to France as a cyclist. Married to Emily and two awesome children in Henry, who is three and Charlie who is 18 months. His list skiing as his hobbie and works as a general manager for digital marketing company.

Sharky, that's me. I am 51 years of age, founder of Smiling for Smiddy, been doing triathlons since 1985 and pretty proud of Smiddy raising in excess of $4 million dollars for research since 2006.

Well that's about it for this intro blog, I hope you enjoyed getting to know the crew. Tonight we had our first dinner together, Matty Marshall had the distinction of reading out this blog to the group. We raised our glasses to a successful and safe tour and we are all very grateful for being here in France. To our love ones back home we say to you salut, for without your support and encouragement being here would not be possible.

Until tomorrow...



  1. Very jealous sitting here in the cold reading about your adventure! Have a blast guys - plenty of photos please :-)

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