• ADELAIDE 17 - 25 January 2015
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Rider Stories

The Flatlanders

The Flatlanders

Pam Johnston usually hops on a bike amid the bustle of inner-city Melbourne. As a Prahran resident, most of the rides she enjoys with friends are on even terrain around the city.


“We call ourselves the Flatlanders,” she says. “We started out as a couple of friends and now there’s 14 of us.” 

In January – as she’s done for the past three years – Pam will head to South Australia with at least six equally passionate mates to take part in the Bupa Challenge Tour. She’ll swap flat roads for the undulating tarmac leading through the Adelaide Hills to Strathalbyn, where the group rents a farmhouse overlooking the paddocks.

“We love the Adelaide Hills, the environment and just being over there,” Pam says. “We like getting out and going on the rides; we like just stopping at little country towns and having coffee or lunch and making it a social occasion as well.”

On January 24 the Flatlanders will be among hundreds of teams lining up for the Bupa Challenge Tour, which will travel between the Adelaide suburb of Unley and the coastal city of Victor Harbor.  There’s a few tough spots along the full 154.5km route – including a seven per cent climb over more than two kilometres at Myponga – but Pam and the team are ready.

“Having all of the international cyclists there at the time makes the event a lot of fun. We enjoy the challenge of the ride, and watching the professionals come in,” she says. “The support from people along the road is really good as well.”

There’s less than a fortnight left for teams to register for the Bupa Challenge Tour, with entries closing at 5pm on November 1. Anyone not up for the full distance can tackle a ride of 112.5km, 75.5km or 33km – and team members can start their ride from any of the four locations. Groups of five or more riders can also have their team name printed on the back of their official event jersey.

For Pam and the Flatlanders, what began as a simple holiday to South Australia has grown into an annual pilgrimage.

“Four years ago we went for a week’s holiday and liked the area, so we decided we would incorporate cycling the Bupa Challenge Tour with a week away each year,” she says. “On the days we ride, even though it’s just a social ride for us, we try and co-ordinate it to watch the guys ride through the towns.”

The Flatlanders’ quads might get a workout during their visits to South Australia, but they show no sign of slowing down.

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upNover team

A call out for Bupa Challenge Tour participants to tell us their stories has been met with an overwhelming response. Riders are sharing their passion for cycling, reasons for riding and general love of the event.

If you want to share a story with us like the riders below then email us at 

Peter Taylor is 61 and resides in Sydney, New South Wales. This is his story:

“I moved to Sydney 35 years ago but I’m an Adelaide boy,” Peter says. “The Bupa Challenge Tour is part of a week when you can just totally think about cycling, and at the same time be close to Adelaide and enjoy what it’s got to offer.”

Peter is one of the founding members of upNover, a team that includes his three brothers. A group of nine members tackled this year’s Bupa Challenge Tour and crossed the finish line in Tanunda with more than 6500 fellow cyclists.

“We started coming down because the Santos Tour Down Under was the only UCI WorldTour event in the southern hemisphere and it was a great chance to be part of it,” Peter says.

“It’s just such a spectacularly well organised event. You can’t see this type of racing anywhere else.”

Willunga Hill is among upNover members’ favourite South Australian spots to ride, and Peter was there on Australia Day this year when ORICA GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans fought off eventual 2013 Santos Tour Down Under winner TJ Slagter to claim the stage win in front of a roaring crowd.

“I’ve been cycling since September 2004,” Peter says. “Upnover includes such a spread of abilities that in the last few years we’ve just dedicated ourselves to riding together and having a bit of fun.”

Peter says he’s seen the popularity of cycling skyrocket in Sydney and around the country as more and more people discover the thrill of being on a bike.

His visits to South Australia for the Bupa Challenge Tour also led to an unexpected reunion.

“While I was there I caught up with a kid I went to school with,” Peter says. “We’ve established a really good friendship after 40 years.”

Peter – with a determined group of upNover riders – looks forward to being part of the excitement once again.

“I’ll just keep coming back,” he says. “I’ve convinced all the people I’ve brought over with me that Adelaide’s a great place.”

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