By HARRY CLARKE
A SWARM of city-based cyclists will roll into Longreach today, marking the end of a gruelling 1311km journey which has taken them from the bright lights of Queensland’s capital to the open plains of the Australian outback.
RideWest is a biennial charity bike ride which is well on its way to raising $2 million for the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS).
More than $1.4 million was generated over the first decade and the tally from this year alone is $400,000.
“It’s about giving back a bit,” said event coordinator Petrea Sloman, when asked by the Caller why 33 fitness enthusiasts would put themselves through such a physically and mentally arduous challenge.
“We eat amazing food in the city, it’s all available and it’s all because of the farmers who grow it out here.”
But Sloman is far more specific about the ethos behind RideWest.
The charity raises money for the RFDS’s Wellbeing Out West program, which provides mental health services for people living in rural and remote areas.
“We’re basically the primary funder for that program,” Sloman said.
“If we weren’t doing this ride the RFDS would have to be scrambling to find some funds elsewhere, so they rely on this funding every two years to be able to plan ahead and have a continuity of staff.
“Rather than that traditional first aid where someone’s broken their arm and you have to triage it, the Wellbeing Out West program is about how you deal with someone who is depressed or anxious.
“Not everyone knows how to deal with those situations, so it’s all about that education and awareness.”
The ride from Brisbane to Longreach has taken the team of 33 cyclists and 14 volunteer support staff up the Toowoomba range, along the country roads from Toowoomba to Roma, then west on the Warrego Highway before heading north to their final destination.
They’ve travelled up to 200km on the big days and 80km on the “easy” days with qualified health staff and support vehicles in tow.
Each of the riders paid $2,500 to take part, and then individually raised money to contribute to the RFDS fund.
“People are raising the money from their connections in the city to show that there’s a whole group of people in the city who care about people in the country, and we want to make sure that you guys are being looked after,” Sloman said.
“Most of them have a country connection, they’ve got family out here or they grew up out there, so it’s about a group of people who like riding and want to do it for a reason, and this is a really good reason.
“It’s a big commitment from everyone involved but it’s so much fun.
“This sort of charity attracts the same sort of like minded people who have a good heart and want to do something good.”