Local bike addict and qualified prosthetist Jerry Vella is combining his passions to ride 700km from Townsville to Cairns and back — non-stop — and raise funds for Limbs 4 Life — a cause close to his heart. We caught up with him to find out why he’s doing it, how he’s preparing, his tips for endurance events, and how you can get involved.
“I’m hoping to cover the entire 700km distance in under 24 hours. I’ll have a support vehicle to pass me water and food along the way, but — apart from that — it will be a solo effort”
Can you tell us a bit about what you are doing in your work with prosthetics and bike modifications? I have Bachelor of Health Science and a Masters in Prosthetics and Orthotics and — as a bike mechanic at Cycle de Vie — I have been doing a few bike modifications here and there to help athletes with amputees like Michael Lyddiard. I’m the only qualified person in North Queensland available to perform this work and specifically focus on adaptive athletes.
Was it this work that inspired you to raise funds for Limbs 4 Life? Yes, especially Melissa Noonan who runs Limbs 4 Life [an organisation that provides information and support to amputees and their families while promoting an inclusive community] — she works really hard to try to help amputees to take advantage of opportunities, including making connections with clinics and sporting groups. After studying in the field, I know what these people go through day-to-day so I just wanted to do something to help them out.
Have you ever done 700km non-stop before? How are you feeling about it? Nope, I’ve never done 700km. At the HotRock24 earlier in the year [May] I managed to ride 322km, but that was off-road, which is normally about half the speed, so I’m pretty confident I should be able to do the ride in one hit with a decent support crew.
“With every step and every pedal stroke you’re getting closer and closer, and that finish line can’t run away”
How long will it take? I’m planning on riding up to Cairns on Saturday, September 19 starting at 7am, just as the wind picks up which will — fingers crossed — blow me all the way to Cairns (laughs). Then I’ll ride through the night back to Townsville. I’m hoping to cover the entire 700km distance in under 24 hours. I’ll have a support vehicle to pass me water and food along the way, but — apart from that — it will be a solo effort.
How are you preparing? I usually do a lot of hill climbing but, apart from the Cardwell Range, the route is pretty flat so I’ve been focusing on maintaining a high average speed on long flat roads. As well as the 24-hour HotRock event I mentioned earlier, I recently did the Elev8XCM in Atherton. I was going OK in this race, but had issues with my shoes and had to pull out seven hours in.
Any tips for others doing endurance events based on what you’ve experienced already? Preparation is key — do the training and know your equipment. Not just the bike/shoes/helmet/lights/etc — food and hydration are just as important. Once you’re on your way, just remember the finish line is painted on the ground (literally or figuratively) — you’re the one making headway. With every step and every pedal stroke you’re getting closer, and closer and that finish line can’t run away.
Go to Jerry’s fundraising page and make a donation to Limbs 4 Life. He’ll be leaving from Cycle de Vie Saturday, September 19 at 7am if you’d like to join him to Deeragun.