Community comes out in support of Pilley's ride
CYCLING: Despite weary legs and tired bodies, it was nothing but smiles as more than 40 cyclists completed the final lap of the 24 Hour Ride for Youth together at Junction Hill.
Led by professional cyclist and former Yamba son Morgan Pilley, more than 140 riders took part across the 24 hours to rack up a collective 11,277 laps of the Junction Hill criterium track and in the process shine a bright light on youth mental health.
Pilley himself smashed his efforts from last year's annual endurance ride, pumping out 633km over the 24 hours at an average speed of 26km/h.
That is further than the cycle from Grafton to Sydney, and he did it in less than a day.
"I think you have to be a little bit mad, maybe even a lot, to go after a challenge like this," a tired Pilley said.
"Surprisingly I am not as bad this year as I have been in previous attempts at the Ride for Youth.
"I still have my voice and my legs are a bit jelly but they are definitely not as bad as they could be.
"We were determined to go better than last year, and I knew if I went out a bit harder on the first day I would have a few extra kilometre's up my sleeve for Sunday so that's how I attacked it."
The Ride for Youth aimed to raise money for youth mental health in conjunction with the New School of Arts and at last count yesterday had reached past $5000.
Pilley was joined by the whole Grafton cycling community as well as a few special faces from beyond including fellow professional Craig Evers who travelled from his new home base in China to be part of the event.
Evers is coached by Pilley on the professional circuit but does not have the same knack for long distance enduro races that his mentor does. In fact, it was the first time Evers had spent more than 11 hours straight in the saddle.
"I am pretty tired and I am definitely feeling sore in places I didn't even know existed on my body," Evers said.
"I hope he isn't setting me up for endurance racing, because that was just crazy. To think Morgan used to race that sort of thing all the time is just insane."
The former Coutts Crossing kid punched out similar numbers to his coach completing 768 laps of the track for 614km and at times in the dead of night it was just the two of them on the track.
"I think we spent a lot of time side by side just chatting away," Pilley said. "At one stage he was giving me a detailed history of China. I don't know if he was keeping me awake or slowly putting me to sleep, but it was great to have his support alongside me."
The group did have a few special visitors throughout the night including local police officers and a rather famous clown.
"I think we may have had a little support from the local McDonalds at about 2am," Pilley said. "Professional athletes sometimes need a bit of Big Mac encouragement.
"This event keeps growing each year and it is a special event to a lot of people now. A lot of people have been touched by mental health problems either directly or indirectly, and it is just amazing to see how they band together behind a cause like this."
Funds raised from the ride will be calculated this week.