Press Release: Damian Watson and his Crohn’s Crusaders – who cycled out of Monaco on 4 June to take on the 3,500km 2009 Tour de France route to raise awareness and research funds for Crohn’s Disease – have cycled into Paris and onto the Champs-?lys?es: victorious over the arduous physical and psyhological challenges of the ride.
“It feels great!” Damian said only minutes after getting off his bike. “I feel like I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Straight after we ﬁnished, though, it was just astonishing relief that it was all over.” While admitting that the ﬁrst thing he wanted was “a rest” followed by his ﬁrst beer in eight months, Damian said that physically, the rigourous schedule was often a greater foe than the demands of the ride itself. “It was the total lack of sleep that was hurting us. We kept getting in late each night and starting early each morning which was so draining.”
The complex psychological challenges, too, failed to get the better of the team until towards the end, when Damian admits that they “got a bit impatient and angry. The Alps and the Pyrenees were the best as my mind was constantly engaged and we were all amazed at the scenery – so there was no time to feel sore or dwell on negatives,” he said. “You also feel like you achieve more on the mountain stages as they are so tough on every part of your body.”
Of all the different stages, the team found Stage 15 “the killer. We had the worst headwind and freezing conditions with lots of rain. It was incredibly hilly and just felt like it was going to take us forever to complete,” Damian said. The middle six stages, each over 200km per day, also took their toll on the Crohn’s Crusaders. Facing physical and psychological depletion, team member Dale Buchholtz took a dramatic tumble from his bike while traveling at 50kph. Luckily, he landed on the grass beside the road and after repairing his burst tyre, Dale got back on his bike and rode on. Damian’s partner and Crohn’s Crusader Marika Mulqueen also suffered a burst a tyre while travelling at over 37kph and was lucky to keep it upright ? but Damian had nothing but praise for his girlfriend’s determination: “Marika’s ability to break through pain barriers and continue riding even though she was in tears just amazed me ? she was awesome!”
Damian’s parents, who traveled as the teams’ support crew, also weren’t immune from Tour de France drama. “Dad crashed a support car into a concrete barrier about 20 minutes after we had collected them which cost us a lot of time – and a fair bit of cash,” Damian said. “We were also pulled over by police four times (for riding on roads that we weren’t meant to be on twice, once for going through a tunnel that we shouldn’t have and once because Dad was driving the support car too slow and holding up trafﬁc). Damian credited his Mum for her wonderful sense of humour throughout the entire ride: “Mum was a crack-up the whole way ? which kept everyone’s spirits high,” he said. “She also did all the cooking which was fantastic!”
Now that it is all over, the Crohn’s Crusaders will return to Monaco to witness the start of the 2009 Tour de France before holidaying in Italy and recovering from their adventure.
For Damian, who was retrenched only days before his departure for France, the luxury of a well-earned rest while watching the Tour de France on TV instead of actually riding it, is now foremost on his mind – other than the reason for taking on the ride in the ﬁrst place: “I want to see a cure for Crohn’s Disease in my lifetime ? and if this helps me realise that goal, then that’s the most important thing I could have hoped to achieve.”
Visit www.thecrusaders.com.au where supporters can donate directly to Crohn’s & Colitis Australia?