RIDE FOR YOUTH: Pilley turns up heat in pandemic year
MORGAN Pilley knows more than most how the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives and challenged the mental state of individuals in 2020.
The Yamba professional endurance athlete is based in Italy, which was the first European country to be swept up by the global health crisis and in March gave readers back home an insight into lockdowns shortly before similar measures were put in place in Australia.
He's watched events on the season calendar come and go, throwing plans into disarray and putting his motivation and resilience to the test.
"You book a dozen flights and hotels and plan races only for everything to fall apart," Pilley said. "So at the moment it is just very much wait and see. It's too hard to plan for anything.
"I'm meant to be racing at the end of February in a major Ultra-Trail World Tour event in the Canary Islands. I will train as if I'm racing in February, but who knows what will happen. At the moment everything is just so unknown.
"Europe has just gone backwards with infection rates just skyrocketing, so it is very hard to plan for things."
Pilley also recently had to hotel quarantine in Sydney for two weeks in order to turn up to his legacy, the Clarence Valley Ride for Youth 2020.
The sixth annual event went ahead at Junction Hill Criterium Cycle Track last Saturday and Sunday at relatively late notice.
Its theme of raising money and awareness for youth mental health has never been more pertinent.
"Tough year," Pilley said immediately after completing 24 hours on the circuit. "The mental health of a lot of people was certainly tested, so that's why we tried to make it a really sociable event.
"After such a crazy year the theme was just to have fun and for everyone to enjoy themselves."
This year attracted 144 riders and runners, who completed 10,145 laps covering a distance of 8116km - a little further than from Grafton to Tokyo.
For the first time runners were also included, and Pilley hopped out of the bike saddle to run a marathon in the heat on Saturday afternoon and punched out a further 15km on Sunday morning for a total of 56km on foot. In total, he clocked 480 laps, or 384km.
In comparison 142 riders covered 11,036km last year - that's two less participants covering an extra 2920km. But it wasn't just a more relaxed attitude - riders could be forgiven after they were greeted with the hottest conditions in the event's history.
"When we started on Saturday at midday it was already in the mid to high 30s, and then here on the asphalt it was around 40 degrees at one point," Pilley said.
"So each hour we'd stop for a heat break for 10 minutes and make sure everyone was hydrating, getting plenty of fluids well, eating well, and also making sure the kids weren't trying to bust themselves too much, because kids just go as hard as they can without thinking too much. Some of the big kids do as well."
So far more than $11,000 has been raised for local youth mental health and wellbeing initiatives including significant donations from Bendigo Bank and MJO Legal. Other supporters of the event include Flexihire Grafton, Grafton Container Return, I Scream, Toast, Farmer Lou's, Grafton Cycle Club and Clarence Valley BMX Club.
Visit www.givenow.com.au/rideforyouth2020 to contribute to the fundraising efforts.