Ballarat to Melbourne – 90km

After a wonderful evening in Ballarat where we cheered Kerryn and Renee on for a terrific interview on WIN TV, we enjoyed a high octane dinner where we reflected on the ride so far and had each person share their highlights of the trip. In many ways were all very excited at the prospect of completing the ride, having supported Kerryn to achieve her sporting dream of riding from Perth to Melbourne, but also rather sad that it would all conclude in less than 24 hours.

We woke to a bleak day in Ballarat. Rugged up and with front & rear lights flashing, we rolled out of the Sovereign Park Inn headed for Ballan. Rain persisted most of the way, but every now and then there was a reprieve, which allowed us to take in the magnificent countryside. As we approached Ballan, we could see three brightly dressed cyclists waiting for us at an intersection. With waves and cheers, followed by hugs and a quick dash into the local cafe, we all welcomed Manni, Purdie and Sonya back on our final stage of the ride.

Carol and her staff welcomed our cold, wet and rather excitable group into her cafe. Coffees, teas and hot chocolates came out to the back room at a great rate of knots. The conversation soon picked up as we all dried off and felt warm again. As luck would have it, a local journalist was sitting in the cafe with her daughter and could not resist the opportunity to speak to us and then let her radio station know we were on the ride. Within minutes I was handed a mobile phone to do a live interview! It's been amazing how some of these impromptu opportunities have presented. We quickly learned it was Carol's birthday, so on the way out she was given a rousing version of 'Happy Birthday' START style. The smile on her face was priceless and once again we had all experienced one of those magic moments on the trip.

Back on the bikes we continued to make our way toward Melbourne. The next stop was Bacchus Marsh where we collected two more riders, Jo (who rejoined the group) and John (Jan's husband). The peloton was now up to nearly 20 riders! The skies had cleared somewhat, so with renewed energy we were off again. The winds were exceptionally challenging, but the riders were handling the conditions exceptionally well. In addition, we had to continually assess the route relative to safety, so a few amendments were made enroute. As John likes to say, "Safety first and the plan needs to be fluid!" We embraced these challenges and worked together as a cohesive unit, supporting each other along the way. I was so impressed at how everyone kept focus on the main priority of this ride all day; this energy and commitment kept carrying us along.

Before we knew it, the skyscrapers of Melbourne were in full view as we approached our final destination. While I was in the bus I took a call from Richard Stubbs, 774 Radio, for an 'on the spot interview'. It was so rewarding for me to be sitting in the follow vehicle watching the peloton in all it's START kit, cruising down Old Ballarat Road heading for the city. As Richard asked questions, my heart was bursting with pride as this collective of people, which also included a vast network of family, friends, sponsors and advocates, was about to achieve something quite extraordinary.

A few short kilometers from our finish point the group pulled off the road to ensure all bikes were in working order (no flats!) and everyone was clear on the approach to take for the final stretch. With Wagstaff taking the lead, the peloton made its way down Spencer Street, then taking a left up Latrobe Street. I had let my colleagues at RMIT know we would be riding past at about 3:30pm, so it was wonderful to see their smiling faces as we rode by. I managed a couple of 'high fives' as we went past. As we waited for lights to change, we noticed Wagstaff's back tyre was deflating very fast. We quickly pulled over and decided just to give it more air and hope we made it to Collingwood without changing a tube. Unfortunately the tyre required further air literally 500m from the finish point, so Cam grabbed the pump from the bus, got the tyre pressure up and then we were off again.

As we rolled down Gertrude St, right into Wellington Parade we started to hear the cheering and recognise our family and friends. As we turned into Northumberland St and into Treia and Alise's wonderful studio, the tears started. It was such a wonderful feeling. We had made it and Kerryn had achieved her amazing sporting dream! Even though we were cold and wet, we were euphoric! The collective happiness amongst the group was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was pure joy!

Treia and Alise generously opened their photographic studio to START to celebrate this amazing achievement. 'Auntie Lyn' and her able assistants provided a spectacular array of food and true to form, we all devoured it! Drinks were handed around and the conversation and laughter flowed. A montage of photographs from the ride were up on a screen and we enjoyed reflecting on the experience and sharing it with those who came out to welcome us home.

Kerryn and I took the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to this phenomenal event. Our sponsors have been fantastic and this trip could not have happened without their generous support. Our management and logistics team on the ride were quite simply sensational. Cam and Baz were the perfect duo to provide mechanical support, drive the bus, join us on sections of the ride, take endless photographs, and give us additional TLC in and out of the bus as required. They were both presented with engraved multi-tools that we hope they will treasure as a reminder of how much we all appreciated their contribution to the success of the ride. John and Janette were thanked for their tremendous work as our management team. Their dedication and energy toward this ride was amazing. Collectively, their work leading up to the ride, on ride days, after hours (including tomorrow as they decamp all the vehicles and equipment) has been tireless. We have all been so fortunate to have them take on this role and we can't thank them enough. They were presented with an enlarged photo of the lead vehicle & trailer with Streaky Bay as the backdrop and all rider names on it as gift to remember their integral role to the success of this ride.

Kerryn also acknowledged all the riders who participated. In perfect Alise style, she gathered us all for the various combination of photos so we can add to our already extensive collection of images.

Shortly afterwards everyone started to pack up their gear and say goodbye. As sad as it was, we all left feeling an overwhelming sense of satisfaction for having achieved something so special. The smile on Kerryn's face as she and Renee drove away in the mini-bus was priceless. We have all created a memory that will never to forgotten!

Richard Cooke