Pedalling professors help student relief

An early gathering of Phantoms social riding group members on arrival in Nelson (from left) Prof...
An early gathering of Phantoms social riding group members on arrival in Nelson (from left) Prof David Lont, Chris Latta, Richard Fogarty, Neil O’Fee, Steve Rate and University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise, Prof Richard Blaikie. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Three University of Otago professors have raised more than $7600 for the student relief fund by cycling 1400km from Dunedin to Nelson.

"It’s a great way to see the country," one of the trio, deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise, Prof Richard Blaikie, said yesterday.

"It’s what I call slow-motion tourism, as you travel under your own locomotion through the landscape."

A fellow professor, Prof David Lont, of accountancy and finance, had suggested raising funds for Putea Tautoko, the student relief fund, which was being done through a Givealittle page, until the end of this month.

Students had had a tough, stressful year and faced financial hardship because of Covid-19 disruption.

The professors, including Prof Gerry Closs, of zoology, recently spent nine days on the road, cycling from Dunedin to Nelson via the West Coast, as part of a larger team of riders and support crew, mainly from Dunedin’s Phantoms social cycling group.

The professors are members of the group and also went on the group’s latest annual long ride.

Their ride tracked the spine of the Southern Alps, crossing five passes along the way.

After slogging over the Lewis Pass on the penultimate day, the final day was a shorter final run to Nelson — a mere 120km — "We’re pleased to be here. Everyone’s a bit tired and there’s a few injuries and niggles picked up along the way," Prof Blaikie said.

Most of the 17-strong touring group do not work at the university.

One person who had intended to take part in the cycle trip broke a femur — but was now recovering well — in a cycling mishap three weeks before the start.

The most sobering moment came when a rider crashed into a ditch during a descent on the West Coast and had to be flown to hospital by rescue helicopter, having broken eight ribs and punctured a lung.

And another rider later collided with a wandering bull.

Both of the latter riders were recovering well, and, in the second case, the rider had since taken part in another cycling event.

"This is definitely a mamil group [middle-aged men in lycra] but we’re on that boundary of being oapils," Prof Blaikie said.

"Oapils" referred to "old-age pensioners in lycra".

During the recent trip they had cycled "coast to coast to coast", twice, through some of the South Island’s most spectacular scenery.

"Arthurs Pass was the really hard day, where we had a blustery headwind going up some very steep climbs.

"There was no persistent rain or horrendous conditions to deal with, which was great."


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