Cyclists honour the Gillett spirit
By STEVE SPINKS
WHEN Gabrielle Murphy learned of the tragic accident that claimed the life of Australian cyclist Amy Gillett and injured five others when a car ploughed through the group of riders before the Thuringen Tour in Germany last July, she felt terrible.
After all, the Ballina-based remedial massage therapist had worked closely with the elite Australian women cyclists for the past two years.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks," Murphy said yesterday.
"I'd been at the very same race the year before.
"Amy had been with us over there (in Europe) for two years."
The shock was compounded by the fact that Murphy is a passionate cyclist herself.
And she's had her share of close encounters with traffic.
Murphy says she's had objects thrown at her, been hit by people as they drive by and had cars tail her, all while cycling around the Northern Rivers.
Her link with Gillett and the other five cyclists involved in the accident ? Alex Rhodes, Louise Yaxley, Katie Brown, Lorian Graham and Kate Nichols ? and her own experiences on the road, spurred her on to organise a fundraising ride for the Amy Gillett Safe Cycling Foundation.
The ride, which will be held on Sunday from Pop Dennison Park at East Ballina to Wardell and back, will also have Lorian Graham as a special guest.
Although Graham won't be cycling due to her injuries, she will be in one of the support vehicles and her partner is expected to be riding.
"I just phoned her up and she was happy to come down," Murphy said.
"I'm hoping that she'll talk after the ride about her experiences and the foundation a bit."
Murphy, a former Lismore policewoman, finished studying massage at the end of 2002 and was then offered a position as soigneur with the Australian Institute of Sport's cycling team based in Italy.
Besides providing massage and first aid to the riders, the soigneur is also like a general dog's body for the team, providing meals, driving and general assistance.
Murphy joined the AIS team in early 2003 and spent the next two years mixed up with cyclists of both genders in Europe and Australia.
She also went to the Olympics as one of the support staff and still rates Sarah Carrigan's gold medal win in the women's road race as one of the highlights of her life.
Murphy has finished with touring for the time being and is teaching part-time at the Gold Coast and setting up a new massage business.
But this Sunday, the 39-year-old just hopes to raise some money for the Amy Gillett foundation.
How to sign on for Sunday's fundraiser
n SIGN-ON for the return ride to Wardell is from 8.45 on Sunday morning.
The cost of joining is free, but riders are asked to make a donation.
The 45km ride is just for fun and is suitable for cyclists of all standards.
Afterwards, there will be raffles and activities, including a barbecue.
Free To Ride Cycles at Byron Bay, Sunrise Cycles at Ballina, Byron Bay Freeriders, the Northern Rivers Cycling Club and the Ballina Triathlon Club are all sponsoring the event.
Money raised from the event will go to the Amy Gillett Safe Cycling Foundation and will go towards the injured riders' medical costs, future elite female riders and road safety promotions involving cyclists and motorists.