THE chance to support RACQ CareFlight and meet an Australian sporting legend at the same time saw Olive and me up and about nice and early for a very special breakfast this month.

As the sun came up on Friday, 4 April, we made our way from our Gold Coast home to the CareFlight hangar at Bilinga – next to the Coolangatta (Gold Coast) airport – for the breakfast launch of the 2014 CareFlight Base to Base Cycle Challenge, hosted by RACQ CareFlight’s executive fund-raising manager Leanne Angel. Special guest at the breakfast function was former champion cyclist Robbie McEwen.

This year’s Cycle Challenge will be the third and is an invitation-only event that will see 50 elite cyclists, including Robbie McEwen, ride a gruelling, 270km course from the Bilinga hangar to CareFlight’s hangar at Toowoomba airport on Sunday, 4 May.

It was a pleasure to meet Robbie and learn how CareFlight is in attendance at all the cycle challenges. I learned how CareFlight has expanded over the years but mainly due to generous people supporting fund-raising activities.

I wish Robbie and all the cyclists every success in the fund-raising effort. It takes a big heart and strong legs to cycle over 250km in a single day.

The inaugural Base to Base Challenge raised $21,000 and last year’s event eclipsed that with a massive $80,000 gathered towards the work of RACQ CareFlight. It is hoped this year’s ride will be even bigger and better, with the target set at $100,000.

At the breakfast, Robbie McEwen auctioned off a signed and framed Orica–GreenEDGE 2013 Tour de France team jersey, which went for $10,000, to help the community rescue service. Forty guests attended the event, including dedicated CareFlight supporters, Base to Base Cycle Challenge sponsors and cyclists Luke Lucas, Alex Wohler, Byron and Josh Smith, Brendan Dobbin, Andrew Hacker, Brad Donald and Kerry Stubbs.

Leanne Angel said Robbie McEwen had been a strong supporter of RACQ CareFlight Rescue’s helicopter service and the organisation felt privileged that he was returning to tackle the cycle challenge for a second year. He will hit the road on 4 May, along with a number of well-known cyclists, former patients, corporate executives and CareFlight crew, including the CEO of the Gold Coast Suns Travis Auld and CareFlight paramedic Brad Solomon.

Robbie McEwen will turn 42 years of age on 24 June. He last rode for Orica–GreenEDGE on the UCI World Tour and is now a technical advisor for the team. A triple winner of the Tour de France’s green jersey sprinters’ classification, at his peak he was considered one of the world’s fastest sprinters. A former Australian BMX champion, he switched to road racing in 1990 at the age of 18. He raced as a professional from 1996 until 2012 and retired from the World Tour after riding the 2012 Tour of California.

Mr McEwen lives in Australia with his Belgian wife Angelique Pattyn, his son Ewan and daughters Elena and Claudia. In 2011, he published an autobiography called One Way Road.

WW CareFlight02Olive and Willie Wallace (third and fifth from left) with the 40 other guests who went along to the breakfast launch of this year’s CareFlight Base to Base Cycle Challenge on Friday, 4 April.

Pictures: Garth McMillan/RACQ CareFlight.