It was my seventh Tour de Cure this year, the first for Team Salesforce, and the toughest mentally and physically I have been on. It was another awesome journey with a fantastic community so motivated to find a cure.
This is my story of the Signature Tour.
The atmosphere as all the riders and their families met at Martin Place today was incredible. There was plenty of high-fiving and hugging - a lot of energy with everyone really looking forward to getting started. Thanks to all the Salesforce volunteers (including Astro and Einstein!) who were there too. The messages of support was a great way to send us off.
As 160 riders headed south out of the city with a police escort, the support we got from people cheering and clapping was fantastic. I think everyone took a bit of time to ponder why we were on the ride and what it meant to us. All of us have been touched in one way or another by cancer and that’s why we are here – to help find a cure.
The first day was a pretty functional one on the bike. It was a chance for everyone to bed down and get comfortable in the saddle and for us to work out who the stronger riders are. The view riding down the coast beside the Pacific Ocean was so beautiful. A great way to start the tour.
A monster day! We climbed over Woodhill Mountain and into and out of Kangaroo Valley. It was a real solid, tough slog for most of the riders. The Salesforce messages of support from the riders’ families and friends placed along the way including “hills are there to be climbed”, “focus on your destination” and “don’t stop when you’re tired … stop when you are done” were a great inspiration and reminder of why we were doing this..
All-in-all, it was a really challenging day and at the end of it you really know you’ve spent a lot of time in the saddle. It was dark and raining when we finish at the Goulburn Police Academy, with fantastic hosts for the night.
We all had a much more pleasant day on the bike today - nice and dry, and everyone arrived in Canberra on time.
One of the really uplifting aspects of the ride is the community we have built around ourselves. I lost my father Ray Williams to cancer seven years ago and every year since I have ridden in his honour. A lot of us have similar stories and it’s always fantastic to be surrounded by such a wonderful extended community of people who really want to do something.
This was a day that really made me proud to work at Salesforce. The support from our Ohana throughout this partnership has been fantastic and it was great to be there as Barry Dietrich, Vice President Enterprise Sales and the Executive Sponsor of Outforce for Salesforce Australia and New Zealand, presented a $50,000 donation cheque.
Following this, we rode into a solid headwind all the way into Jindabyne and it was very cold. The handwarmers and blankets provided by Salesforce certainly got a workout today! It was a stunning ride into the Kosciousko National Park. From Cooma into Jindabyne, it was an open, stark landscape with exposed boulders and the view was just breathtaking.
Stuart Diver joined us for the ride into Thredbo - a very challenging climb of 2,800 vertical metres. All-in-all it was a pretty significant stage and everyone was very fatigued at the end of it.
There were a few punctures on the way and one of the best parts of the tour is how we all work as a team, to get people through the big parts of the day, work with them on the climbs and help them out of trouble if it does come along.
Getting into town at the end of the day always comes with it a sense of pride, achievement and relief. A big part of that is the warm welcome we get from the local communities. Getting off the bike and getting ready for the community dinner every night is something we all look forward to.
We're lucky to be able to repay their kindness by helping the communities along the way. Tonight we presented a cheque to Can Assist for a palliative care bed in Corryong to offer basic amenities to those fighting cancer so they don’t have to drive to Canberra or Sydney for treatment.
We left a lot of the beautiful scenery behind today and it was just head down along the Murray Highway. At the end of the day, everyone had sore knees and sore backs. It was all pretty quiet when we got into Beechworth and everyone was in bed by 9pm.
After the usual 5am wake up, it was a good, warmish start to the day outside the baker’s on the main street in Beechworth. Unfortunately that was the best part of the day for me due to a stomach bug. It was relatively flat day with heavy cross winds and the sickness makes it pretty tough.
At the community dinner that night AFL legend Tony Lockett, who was on the ride with us, spoke about why he was riding, how he prepared for major sporting events, and how his positive attitude and beliefs helped him enjoy the success he did. He also spoke about being fully prepared, hanging tough and the importance of persistence.
What an epic day! Victoria had the biggest day's rainfall for the year, and we rode through torrential rain. It was four degrees when we left Shepparton and pretty soon everyone was absolutely soaked. 111km into the day several people were showing signs of hypothermia and at the 140km mark, the stage was cancelled because another massive storm was coming and everyone was pulled off the road. We piled into our support buses with our space blankets for the last 60km and ended up in the pub when we reached Daylesford.
In the evening we hosted a dinner at Hepburn Springs and my Salesforce colleague Steve Beard, who joined us for the final two stages, interviewed a current cancer patient who spoke about the support she has had and the stigma around the disease. That people who don’t really know how to deal with it back away, when it’s much better to do the opposite. How you should be there for friends and family going through it and show your support.
When all 160 riders came together to ride into Geelong it was very emotional. All our families and supporters were there when we arrived and plenty of media too.
There was a great feeling of pride for us all having finished the ride. When we first saw the course we'd rated this the toughest Tour de Cure, from a terrain and conditions point of view, in the 13-year history of the race – that certainly proved to be the case. It was my seventh Tour and the hardest physically and mentally for me to get through it all. I lost 5kg along the way. But the $3 million we raised makes it more than worthwhile.
That night, the dinner at the Novotel in Geelong was a celebration of what we’d achieved and included presentations to all the riders.
It also gives you a bit of time to reflect on what we have done and why, and that always helps to give me some perspective on everything else on a day-to-basis.
Check out our highlights from the Tour de Cure on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as Team Salesforce powered from Sydney to Geelong. Visit the Tour de Cure website to learn more about the amazing work they do and how you can support it.