Last year Daniel Horne and his 10-year-old son Sebastian rode their first 42km Paluma Push together. This weekend it will be the three Horne boys out on the track, with eldest son Nathaniel, 12, joining the iconic race. It’s a momentous occasion for Daniel, even more so with the father-of-three only recently recovering from spinal surgery.
“I try to instil in the kids that it’s not who wins, it’s how you get across the line” – Daniel Horne
Daniel Horne officially got into mountain biking in February last year: “I’d always wondered about the Push and thought it would be a bit of an adventure, so I bought a bike and signed my life away,” he says of the burgeoning annual race that takes riders either 42km or 70km from Paluma Village to Hidden Valley through some picturesque and varied terrain. Sebastian, now 11 and already into triathlons and athletics, quickly developed the same enthusiasm for the sport as his dad. Yet Nathaniel – equally as sporty, but preferring the bitumen – took a bit more convincing. “It was one of the best moments of my life getting to do that ride with my son, so I wanted them both involved this year,” Daniel says. “Nathaniel’s not much of a dare devil, but I said to him, ‘Look mate’, it will be me, you and your brother and we’ll all go and ride as mates’. I try to instil in the kids that it’s not who wins, it’s how you get across the line.”
One story that demonstrates that sentiment and sums up the spirit of the Push — which sold out in the record time of four days this year with Rockwheelers needing to release another 100 tickets — was the rider than Daniel and Sebastian encountered 9km out from the finish line last year. The Horne boys were both doing well, on track for a cracking finish, when they came across a lady pulled up on her bike in tears. It had been one of those mornings — she’d forgotten her water, snacks and electrolytes, and all she wanted to do was finish the race, but her legs weren’t playing. They gave her water and something to eat and sat with her until she was ready to move to the next checkpoint. The trio ended up staying together till the end and even passed a few guys on the way there. “There’s always time to stop and help others and it’s not about winning,” Daniel says. “Seeing that lady cross the line and riding with my son were the best parts of the day.”
But Daniel’s riding hit the brakes later that year when he hurt his back at work and herniated three discs, with their contents leaking into his spinal cord. The worst case scenario was ending up in a wheelchair, but after a couple of months shuffling to the end of the driveway before he could eventually walk two or three kilometres at a time; he was able to get back on the mountain bike three weeks ago. Daniel’s focus since then has been on getting back to that start line at Paluma Village. “There’s no pain in my back, it’s just my fitness that will be hurting this time,” laughs Daniel. “But I’ll definitely be suffering with a smile on my face — I could be sitting in a wheelchair, but instead I’ll be riding with my friends, have my two boys at my side, heading through World Heritage-listed scenery — you couldn’t get much better.”
The Paluma Push is on Sunday, July 20 from Paluma Village to Hidden Valley. Tickets have sold out, but spectators and volunteers are welcome to attend and embrace the spirit.