CYCLING FOR KIDS: Cricket legend Steve Waugh and Paralympian John Maclean are undertaking the Captain’s Ride to raise money and awareness about rare diseases.
CYCLING FOR KIDS: Cricket legend Steve Waugh and Paralympian John Maclean are undertaking the Captain’s Ride to raise money and awareness about rare diseases. Chris Calcino

Steve Waugh’s big ride for sick kids

MUSCLES ablaze and a mind beset by doubt, Steve Waugh will muster the memory of two young faces and press on.

The cricket legend is embarking on one of the greatest challenges of his life: A 920km bicycle ride from Sydney, through Grafton and on to Byron Bay.

He knows there will be moments when he will think he cannot go on.

But it is nothing compared to the daily battles of the kids he is riding for - Bradley and Thomas Farrell.

The teenage brothers were the only two people in the world with arts syndrome when a common cold led to pneumonia and took both their lives this year.

They spent their short time on earth confined to wheelchairs, deaf and almost blind.

And they had a big impact on Mr Waugh.

"I know, on those really big hills, going up the mountains, when I'm struggling, I'll be thinking what would Bradley and Thomas do?" he said.

"They wouldn't give up."

Mr Waugh's Captain's Ride set off from the New South Wales capital on Sunday and reaches Byron Bay on Friday.

Organised by the Steve Waugh Foundation, the adventure aims to raise awareness of children such as Bradley and Thomas whose lives have been touched by rare diseases.

The charity has raised more than $10 million since its inception in 2005 and helped families dealing with more than 300 little-known disorders.

Mr Waugh said the ride would be the most challenging fundraising effort he had undertaken.

He is taking a few friends along with him.

Big names like neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, cyclist Simon Gerrans, motorcycle champion Mick Doohan and former test cricketer Gavin Robertson will join a cast of 65 "captains of industry" testing their mettle on the ride.

Paralympian John Maclean - the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel - will join the team for the final stage from Grafton to Byron.

After undergoing innovative Ware K Tremor therapy, he has regained some of the use of his legs and will ride a conventional bicycle on the 180km journey.

"It's going to be a huge undertaking for me," he said.

"To have mates like Steve along the way to give me a bit of encouragement, it's going to be a great challenge."

Mr Waugh first started "seriously" riding just four months ago in preparation for the six-day fundraiser.

But he said Mr Maclean's story was inspiring.

"John plays it down but he will be the motivation for us on the last day," Mr Waugh said.

"To put it in perspective, before training for this event, the most John has ever cycled was 30km.

"We did training a few weeks ago and John managed to punch out 100km the first time.

"Then he said, 'I may as well do the long stretch. Make it 180km'.

"John knows more than most how to overcome a challenge."

The motivation is clear: To raise awareness about rare diseases and the bravery of the kids who live with them.

"I wanted an event that in some way replicated what our (foundation's) kids go through each and every day," Mr Waugh said.

"I wanted to find out their attitudes to life.

"They never give up, they never complain. They get on with life.

"And personally I'm going to rely on a lot of the kids I've known and met through the foundation.

"I'll use that inspiration to get me through."

The threat of well-meaning retribution will also be in the back of his mind.

"We're going to be bagging each other to get each other through," he said.

"No-one's going to want to pull out because they know they're going to cop it for the next 10 years.

"It's all part of the ride."

The riders are expected to arrive in Grafton on Thursday.


Local ties

STEVE Waugh has his own family connections to the North Coast and is excited to make his return.

"We used to regularly go on holidays up in Bangalow," he said.

"My grandmother, who only passed away about 18 months ago, was 99 years and nine months of age.

"She lived at Ballina about 40 years.

"It's a great part of the world.

"We love the country towns and we're looking for a lot of support, so we hope to see you."

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