In the dawn light 120 lycra-clad men and women had gathered outside Taronga Zoo for the annual 400km Zoo2Zoo bike ride to Dubbo.
While lions roared and monkeys screeched off in the distance, most attention was focused on one rider, local Federal member and Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott.
The PM had agreed to turn up at 4.30am on 17 October last year to lead cyclists for the first 25km of the ride, from the zoo to Castle Hill in Sydney’s north-west.
It was legendary Australian political journalist, Mungo MacCallum, who named his famous book recounting three years covering the Whitlam Government: Mungo on the Zoo Plane.
So perhaps it was apt our current PM should lead off the Zoo2Zoo ride, which concludes at Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo and raises money for Wells Haslem client, the Black Dog Institute.
Since 2009, the Zoo2Zoo has raised in excess of $500,000 for the Institute, a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
Wells Haslem approached the Prime Minister’s office on behalf of the Institute, which we are assisting with efforts to build stronger relationships with state and federal governments.
It seemed an obvious fit, given Mr Abbott is almost as famous for his love of lycra as for his budgie smugglers.
The PM responded in a flash. His presence on the ride helped generate national coverage for the Zoo2Zoo event.
Ride organiser, Andrew McKay, told the Dubbo Weekender: “We were fortunate to have Prime Minister Tony Abbott ride the first 25km with us from Taronga Zoo to Castle Hill”.
“The publicity that was drawn for the Black Dog Institute from his involvement was fantastic,” Mr McKay said.
The Prime Minister told Australian Associated Press prior to the ride that “mental health is the hidden epidemic in our community”.
“It’s something that’s happening everywhere, so often unrecognised and so often untreated.”
The first day of the ride finishes at the top of the Blue Mountains in the small township of Mt Victoria. Day two takes riders to the National Trust-classified township of Molong, where the local RSL club hosts a dinner for the cyclists.
The final day is Molong to Western Plains Zoo, where the riders and support crew pass 'Animals On Bikes', a 120 kilometre paddock art sculpture trail displaying 111 two-metre high structures (and some smaller letterboxes) on the back road from Molong to Dubbo via Cumnock and Yeoval.
The sculptures were created by local farmers, farmers wives, men's sheds, sculptors, preschool kids and playgroup mums.
Sydney GP, Nigel Woodhead, who participated in the 2014 Zoo2Zoo, said he likes “the physical challenge” posed by the 400km ride.
“I see cycling as my own little mental health outlet and I saw the ride as a good way to promote that,” Dr Woodhead said.
He has already signed up for the 2015 ride, which rolls out on 16 October.
Ben's charity rides
Wells Haslem’s very own Benjamin Haslem is no stranger to charity bike rides, having completed the Sydney to the Gong journey five times; Tour de PIF Charity Cycling Challenge twice and the Bobbin Head Cycle Classic once.
Ben achieved a milestone last year when he finished in the top-100 fundraisers (80th) in the Sydney to the Gong ride, securing $3,135 in donations for MS Australia. 10,000 people registered for the ride.
A number of Wells Haslem clients donated generously.
Ben rode as part of the Lunarcy Team, which raised $11,140, the most by any team in the Hospitality & Tourism category.
Ben is riding in the 104km Bobbin Head Cycle Classic (‘The Bobbo’) on 29 March, which raises money for Lifeline and other charities.
You can sponsor Ben at bit.ly/1Ky1Xdn
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