Blog – Pollie Pedal 2016 Day 1: Canberra to Yass
It was a cloudy Autumn morning in Canberra as Lycra-clad riders assembled on Federation Mall at Parliament House for the start of the 19th annual Pollie Pedal.
We arrived in Canberra the evening before for the 1,000 kilometre cycle through central New South Wales.
About forty riders and a volunteer support crew are making the journey, passing through Yass, Cootamundra, West Wyalong, Forbes, Orange, Oberon and Goulburn before returning to the national capital. It will be a testing ride.
The Pollie Pedal was the brainchild of Tony Abbott, and some former colleagues. It was designed to take MPs to out-of-the-way communities they would rarely visit.
Every year since then, the 1,000 kilometre ride has transversed the country, taking a different route each time.
Last year, it was in Tasmania, the year before from Moree to Sydney, and the previous time from Adelaide to Geelong.
Like previous editions, this year’s Pollie Peddlers range from executives of some of the sponsoring firms to a band of riders who have ridden and assisted with the organisation of the event for many years.
This year, Tony Abbott, Josh Frydenberg, Angus Taylor, David Gillespie and myself were at the start for the first stage. Other colleagues will join for a day or so during the ride.
Many riders return year after year to enjoy the camaraderie on the bike, and conversation over dinner in the evening. The ride has raised more than $3 million over the past few years.
The standard of riders varies greatly, from former elite competitors to recreational cyclists. Usually the peloton breaks into three or four groups, allowing each rider to travel at a speed they can manage for the average of about 130 kilometres each day.
Along the way, we meet with a variety of community groups, including carers in the small towns and villages we pass through. It is a chance to learn firsthand about the issues and challenges that Australians living in rural and regional areas experience.
Today was a relatively short ride, an 85 kilometre cycle to Yass via Uriarra, the historic forestry area that was established in the shadows of the Brindabella Ranges the year that Canberra was declared the national capital.
We met with a group of Canberra carers and their families before the start. Later we stopped at the Fairlight Bushfire Brigade before riding onto Yass where a local refugee group was waiting to discuss asylum seekers.