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Terry Reardon, left, and John McKenzie reached Bluff on February 4. Photo: SUPPLIED

Whitianga man rides across Aotearoa for cancer

A desire to honour his rugby and cycling mate and raise awareness for men’s health led John McKenzie to cycle from Cape Reinga to Bluff with his Mount Maunganui mate Terry Reardon and raise funds for the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust (MBCST).

The Whitianga bus driver and Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger said his mate Leith Wilson wanted to participate in the 3000km cycle from the top to the bottom of New Zealand [Tour Aotearoa] before he died from terminal cancer in 2019.

“Us mates decided to take up the Tour Aotearoa challenge and do it for Leith and we decided let’s make it a fundraising trip as well to raise awareness for men’s health especially,” he said.

“I approached the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust to tell them the idea I had with the blessing of Leith’s family.

“[The trust] was after funds to purchase a [$45,000] vehicle to transport terminally ill patients and the equipment needed for their palliative care around Whitianga which is where Leith grew up and resided for most of his life.”

John said he and Terry, who are both in their early 60s, had cycled at least 3000km as part of their training for their 3000km fundraiser.

“We had a good base fitness…but we needed to spend a lot of time physically on the bike, so over the last year we’ve done at least 3000km just in training on various rides all around the North Island,” he said.

John said he and Terry departed Cape Reinga on January 7 and reached Stirling Point in Bluff on February 4 after 29 days of cycling through at times tricky terrain and weather events.

“It was a fantastic feeling but there was just relief that we made it, that our bikes made it ok and our bodies apart from a few saddle sores and general fatigue made it,” he said.

“On day three we got caught in [Cyclone Hale] just outside of Dargaville, we were cycling in driving rain and headwind, that was unbelievably hard and after that though we had blazing hot weather.

“The Maungatapu Saddle [near Nelson] was unbelievably hard, we walked half of it, it was just a shingle and rock track and coming back down was even more dangerous, one foot was out of the stirrups all the time just sliding down.”

John said he and Terry cycled an average of 100km each day.

“It’s called a brevet race, which means you’ve got a certain amount of time to finish it in and there’s certain points along the way you’ve got to stick to the route as best you can,” he said.

“I think the minimum time you could do it was 12 days and the maximum was 30 days… and you’ve got to take photographic evidence you were at these particular places along the way like Cape Reinga, Tāne Mahuta, and Hobbiton in Matamata.”

John said he and Terry raised roughly $8000 for the MBCST through Givealittle.

“[MBCST] were absolutely over the moon, just to raise awareness of men’s health which is a big thing, they seemed so supportive of us,” he said.

John said the Givealittle page would remain open for another month and that the figure was also expected to climb now that his other mates Doug Hudson and Lindsay Campbell, who were also mates with Leith Wilson, are also taking part in the fundraiser.

The duo departed Cape Reinga on February 16 and are estimated to reach Bluff on March 16.

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