Australian comedian, actor and Gold Logie winner, Hamish Blake, has set himself the task of conquering one of Australia’s toughest bike rides, Peaks Challenge Falls Creek, all in the name of charity. Ahead of the ride, Hamish shares his journey into the world of road riding with Ride On.
RO: Have you always been a keen bike rider?
Hamish: No! No offence to the twowheeled community, but I had a mountain bike for my paper round until I was twelve, then I went cold turkey until I rode a BMX for a year to get around Sydney when I was 18. I hadn’t owned a bike since, that is until this year. And of course, to make up for a huge lack of experience, I deemed it essential to buy an absolute weapon with basically everything made of carbon except the chain and Di2 gears (I then had to ask someone which side of the levers changed which gears, followed by a myriad of other idiot beginner questions).
RO: Why did you decide to take up bike riding?
Hamish: I took up cycling because I love a challenge and without really knowing what the 2015 Trois Etapes Giro was (a threeday, proam cycle series through the Italian Dolomites, totalling more than 300 kilometres: troisetapes.org), I enthusiastically agreed to ride it to support the charity Soldier On on behalf of returned veterans. Soldier On had asked, “Oh great, are you a bike rider?” and I said, “No, I don’t even have a bike, will that be necessary?” and they said, “Yes, a bike will be necessary for a bike ride.” Luckily, I had a few months off to do a few climbs and scrappily attempt to get ready.
RO: Is bike riding and training for a challenging event good recreation for a new dad?
Hamish: When you can get out it is! No one reading this who has kids or a new baby took up bike riding because there were so many of hours of down time and they were looking for something to fill it. But I have a great wife who supports my wild whims, and like anything, if you want to get a ride in, you just need to prioritise it (and be willing to go in the cold and dark if that’s what it takes). Knowing my boy is at home makes me take far fewer risks than perhaps I would have two years ago—he’s always my first thought if I’m in heavy traffic or descending a little too quickly. I have no qualms about being the world’s slowest descender if it gives me a 1% better chance of getting home to see my son.
RO: So how did you go in the Trois Etapes Giro?
Hamish: It was unreal. Our Soldier On team were guns; we had a blast riding together as a unit. The Trois Etapes Giro event is really perfectly shaped to be just hard enough to question if you’re going to make it, which makes finishing all the more sweet. Riding with Cadel Evans was incredible too. He really was outstandingly generous with his time and a lot of fun. Possibly, the experience was wasted on me as I am, and was, so new to riding, but I feel like I met the Beatles then started listening to their music when I got home. Each day it’s dawning on me a bit more what a privilege it was.
RO: Tell us about the work that Soldier On does?
Hamish: Soldier On runs a range of programs and support services for members of the ADF and the AFP who have been injured either physically or psychologically as a result of their service. It’s one thing to say that, but another entirely to do it, and when you meet the people who are being assisted and assisting others in the veterans community, it’s an extremely uplifting experience. I personally feel a great debt to those that serve our country and am very honoured to be able to support them in any small way.
RO: Bicycle Network’s Peaks Challenge Falls Creek is considered to be one of Australia’s toughest, oneday bike rides. How do you think you’ll go?
Hamish: It really is ridiculous, isn’t it? I’ve signed up for this because I have no right to, but as stated, I don’t mind a challenge. I feel that this event will give me something to work towards. I’ve actually just had hip surgery and currently can only ride about 20 minutes on the indoor trainer a day for rehab. I haven’t ridden for seven weeks, so I’m really coming off a low base of fitness. Like I said, I really have no business signing up, but that’s what I like about it.
RO: Why did you choose Peaks Challenge Falls Creek?
Hamish: Proximity! I’m in Melbourne and when I heard about the Peaks Challenge series, I had just come back from Italy, keen to set my sights on something else. While Peaks Challenge Gold Coast looked lovely, getting a day out to ride is tough enough, let alone a boys trip to the Goldy.
RO: Not all riders complete Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. Each year, hundreds fail to complete the course within the 13 hour deadline. Will you make it?
Hamish: Shit, I did NOT know those were the stats. I kind of assumed it was a bit of ‘we know it’s hard but everyone will make it’ type deal. I’d really better train. I like to finish things I start, so I’m hoping that I can get through on 99% doggedness and 1% skill. This is also basically my technique for anything in life … career, parenting skills, etc.
RO: How are you training and preparing for the event?
Hamish: Well due to the hip surgery I haven’t been preparing. I had what’s called a torn labrum, which is Latin doctor speak for a “messy hip”. They pop your leg bone out, stitch the mangled bits back together, shave some bone down, and pop it back in. It’s been almost two months and I’m starting to gingerly get some strength back, but it’s been a fairly long and frustrating process. I’m hoping I will come back stronger than before though. In fact it’s my only hope, and it’s essential.
RO: Has your riding given you an insight into challenges bike riders face?
Hamish: Without a doubt. Once you have to weave through early morning traffic you are acutely aware that you are really just a flimsy bag of organs (wrapped in expensive Italian lycra) travelling at high speed between machines that could crush you in minutes. It’s crazy to see the frustration of some motorists at bike riders, without seeming to realise that every cyclist is someone’s mate, child or parent. I’ve also seen cyclists do stupid stuff, so I think it’s a giant case of everyone calming down and having some empathy. We’re all trying to use the same road, and we all want to get home. I’m also a real advocate for using a front light. As a motorist, I have had way more close calls not seeing cyclists in my rear view mirrors than not seeing them through my windshield. My theory is, a back light makes you visible through a car’s windshield, which is massive, and motorists are looking through 99.9% of the time anyway. A front light makes you visible in someone’s mirrors, which are tiny and rarely looked into when driving. At the very least, I think being both a bike rider and motorist means I hang back a long way from cyclists on onelane roads so as not to crowd them, and always make sure I yell “lookin’ good” when I can pass. The only other danger I face is my wife hitting me now when she catches me perving at another bloke’s bike while we’re driving, but that’s another story.
Hamish Blake is an ambassador for Soldier On. To learn more about the organisation or to donate to the cause, visit: soldieron.org.au
Photos courtesy of Cosaveli
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