Andrew Liddawi wrote his place into the history books when he became the first person ever to contest an Australian mountain-bike event on a hand-powered tricycle in the 2013 edition of the Cape to Cape MTB stage race.
Now the driving force behind Break the Boundary – a not-for-profit organisation, information resource and website that connects people with mobility issues to the emerging sport of off-road hand cycling (OHRC) – Andrew has completed his most sustained attack on Western Australia’s four-day MTB event yet.
In 2013 Liddawi contested a single C2C stage and the Red Bull Shootout. In 2014 he stepped that up to three stages. This year, on his third attempt, he’s ticked off all four stages, a mammoth 220km task.
And Liddawi wasn’t the only Break the Boundary hand-triker to contest C2C 2015. Fellow WA native Conor McGrory – riding his first-ever MTB event – contested all four stages as well.
See also: Rider profiles from Cape to Cape 2015
The 2015 Cape to Cape was the eighth running of the event and held from October 22 to October 25.
In the men’s division Trek Factory Racing MTB’s Kyle Ward overturned a 23-second overnight deficit to Mark Tupalski on the final stage to steal the yellow jersey and the overall win (7h55m04s).
National women’s MTB/road champ and SRAM Yeti Racing rider Peta Mullens, meanwhile, shredded the women’s event into a fine powder with wins in every stage to take ownership of the pink jersey (9h07m00s).
C2C 2015 was no less of a success for the Break the Boundary pair, both of whom came home with a hard-earned finisher’s medal.
See also: Making a tandem dream a reality
McGrory, on a new power-assisted hand-trike, averaged 14.0km/h over the full distance to end up 796th in the 847-rider field (15h46m10s). Liddawi clocked a 12.2km/h average to finish 837th with an 18h02m29s overall time.
Liddawi contested 2015 C2C on the same hand-trike he used last year (provided by Wheelchair Sports WA), with some minor modifications to the gearing and other details to better cope with the challenges of the four-day race.
For McGrory, it was only the third time he had ridden his power-assisted hand-trike, which he’d picked up a fortnight before the event.
While Liddawi is yet to fully analyse his effort relative to last year, the 2015 result was his best yet in terms of average speed.
“My average speeds have been clocking more than 10km/h and usually I’m averaging 9km/h,” said Liddawi. “Straight away that’s an improvement there and that makes a huge difference at the end.
“I attribute that to the training and my support riders. Because I’ve ridden with them here and there, they’re just switching on straight away. There’s no warm-up, it’s just – bang! – and we’re straight into it.”
See also: Greenspeed recumbent bikes
Liddawi also praised the work done by race organisers, which he believed was another key contributing factor to his record speed.
“The race coordinators have done an outstanding job,” said Liddawi. “They’ve gone out and done extra alignments for us, gone there with a spray can and sprayed extra signs, they’ve fixed the trails where they needed to. And all the marshals are switched on, they know we’re coming, they know what time we’re coming, they know how many of us there are.
“They’re just a lot more prepared this year and that takes off that extra stress we have of, ‘What if we get lost?’ or ‘What if we take the wrong turn?’. I can’t speak highly enough of them. It makes our job easy and we can just enjoy the scenery, the riding and the challenge.”
Liddawi said he finished the event in his best shape yet, even with the added challenge of the extra stage and distance.
“It’s been great,” he said. “In terms of recovery, general fitness and health I haven’t had any niggles or anything. I’m a little bit sore here and there but it’s nothing like last year, where a day later I was barely getting out of bed.”
See also: Cycling solo but never alone
Finally, Liddawi would like to thank his Break the Boundary support crew, without whom these achievements simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Warren Lane – Support Rider
Matthew Lee – Support Rider
Jamie Whitworth – Support Rider
Brad Basden – Support Vehicle Driver
Sebastian Mitaros – General Support
Frances Papalia – General Support
Bianca Burro – Physiotherapist
McGrory, meanwhile, was ably assisted by his Team EPS Australia support crew.
Stewart Morrison – Support Rider
Trevor Prescott – Support Rider
Liddawi has even bigger plans for the coming year. A full helping of C2C 2016 is a formality but some even more exciting developments – not just for him and Break the Boundary but for the sport of off-road hand cycling in Australia in general – are soon to be announced. Stay tuned for details.
Since we left Andrew those promised exciting developments have come to fruition. The third round of the 2016 WAMBA XCO State Series mountain bike event on will see Andrew racing in Australia's first-ever handcycle category at a state or national MTB round, on the country’s first trails built specifically for hand cycles.
Andrew was the inspiration for the stand-alone handcycle category and a key contributor to the design and development of the new trails. A collaborative effort between Andrew, South West Mountain Bike Club’s Graeme Adams and Barrie Thomas from Cycletrek, made the dream a reality.
“After last year’s Cape to Cape I went to a WAMBA meeting that had all of the clubs and associations together in one room,” says Liddawi. “I was talking about how one of my initiatives was getting out and exploring as many trails around WA to see what was possible. Graeme offered for me to come down and be guided through some of the popular trails down at Mt. Lennards, Pile Road, so we teed that up and hit the trails."
“We were just throwing around some ideas and Graeme’s head was just ticking with ideas about what events we could get hand cycles involved in. Then about a month and a half ago I got an email from him saying they’d started building trails for the third round of the state XCO series at Kambarang."
“That caught me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting something to happen so quickly. They really took the initiative, which is something that really gets me excited. It shows that people in the MTB community take hand cycling seriously – they want it to be part of all the events they’re promoting."
“A massive thanks goes out to everybody who helped. Graeme has been the driving force and really encouraged everyone else to get on board. The guys from WAMBA, in particular Jodie Stembridge and Louise Wallace, really pushed the agenda as well. And Barrie, he just loves building trails. I’m really grateful for his effort and enthusiasm. To have someone build something specifically for hand cycles is just amazing.”
To further spread the message, Break the Boundary is teaming with Perth’s Rock and Roll Mountain Biking and West Cycle to host off-road hand cycling beginner’s clinics in September and October 2016.
To find out more about off-road hand cycling, visit www.breaktheboundary.com
Image credit: Emily Dimozantos
Big thanks to Travis Deane for the great shots of the boys in action!