Two serving Army officers and a retired officer rode their bicycles 1000km in seven days to raise money for cancer research in the annual Tour de Cure.
The punishing ride began in Newcastle on March 26, and travelled through Muswellbrook, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes and Grafton, before finishing in Coffs Harbour.
Operations Officer at the School of Army Aviation Major Cameron Stephenson, former SAS officer Lieutenant Colonel Reg Crawford (retd) and Public Affairs Officer at Headquarters Forces Command reservist Captain Mark Beretta were up for the challenge.
Major Stephenson, who is also the president of the ADF Triathlon Club, had a personal reason for taking part.
He was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago and, after successful treatment, is now in remission.
“It really brought home to me that cancer can hit anyone, any time, and completely turn your world upside down,” Major Stephenson said.
“Whatever I can do to help others beat cancer, and produce new cures and better treatments, then I’m all for it."
Tour de Cure funds research into all forms of cancer in men, women and children.
The charity has raised almost $70 million over 15 years to fund about 500 research projects that have led to 45 major breakthroughs in cancer research.
The riders have also visited about 5000 schoolchildren each year, with a ‘Be Fit, Be Healthy, Be Happy’ message to help them reduce their cancer risk.
Mr Crawford said he always thought he had been lucky not to have had cancer strike a significant person in his life, but that changed.
“In 2016, a friend, Sarah Tait, who was an Olympic silver medallist and one of the toughest people I ever met, succumbed to cancer and then, the following year, a respected former Army officer and mate Andrew Drayton passed away,” Mr Crawford said.
This year’s Tour de Cure was Mr Crawford’s third.
It was a friend who first encouraged him to take part.
“A friend and Tour De Cure ambassador had been telling me that I should do it for years, and Sarah and Andrew’s deaths made me realise that I needed to get off my backside and do it,” he said.
“I love the Tour de Cure (TDC) family and the camaraderie and common focus the riders and support crew bring to every TDC ride means I simply cannot stop.”
Captain Beretta, a Tour de Cure board member, has completed 12 rides, and said Tour de Cure was an experience that’s changed his life.
“I always meet people who say they’d like to do it, and I just tell them to go for it,” Captain Beretta said.
“It is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also hugely rewarding, and when you see the benefits and how the research and support impact people's lives, it gives you a great feeling.
“I’d love to see more Army members get involved and help this great cause that touches so many of our lives.”
This year’s event helped to raise more than $2.5 million for cancer research, support and prevention across Australia.
The 2022 Tour de Cure ride will have a ‘coast to the mountains’ theme, leaving from the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and travelling through the Victorian Alps before finishing in Canberra.