RIDING HIGH: Former pro and Olympic rider Henk Vogels (in black) led 16 Northern Rivers riders on a dream 50km ride around the region.
RIDING HIGH: Former pro and Olympic rider Henk Vogels (in black) led 16 Northern Rivers riders on a dream 50km ride around the region. Supplied

Cyclists get to ride high with their hero

THE dream of riding with your hero became a reality for 16 Northern Rivers athletes last week when they met former pro-cyclist, Olympian Henk Vogels.

Ride organisers, brothers Mark and Andrew Downey, said Vogels was an "all round good guy,” on the event which commenced in Ballina on Fridat morning.

The brothers said it was an honour to ride with Vogels whose cycling career included competing in two Tours of France, two Tours of Italy, two Tours of Spain and eight World Championships and was the Australian Professional Road Champion in 1999.

Vogels took podium finishes in Classics such as Gent Wevelgem and finished in the gruelling Paris Roubaix inside the top 10.

Mark said the riders were thrilled to meet Vogels and they were delighted to have a chance to get some advice from the cycling great.

"Henk was generous with his time and even brought his brand new Colnago Concept to get everybody drooling,” Downey said.

"The route took in a lovely climb up Fernleigh Rd. before heading across to Newrybar, then Broken Head Rd before a quick photo opportunity on Old Byron Bay Rd. overlooking both Lennox and Broken Heads.”

Downey said the route then took in some bumpy terrain reminiscent of the challenging European routes.

"There was even a bit of local pave along Old Bangalow Rd., affectionately known as le Carrefour de L'Abre, after a famous section of cobbles in the Paris-Roubaix, where Henk got to stretch his legs and show why he's known as a hard man of the cobbles,” he said.

"Henk had his work cut out up Fernleigh as a few of the local boys got excited, however, he managed to pull them back without too much trouble before the top.”

After the ride the group shared coffee and refreshments, with many still on a high of meeting the cyclist who has inspired them to improve their own performance at club level.



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