'Tough' ride for local cop

SWAN Hill Senior Sergeant Bradley Bennett returned from Cambodia earlier this year, having completed a more than 650km bike ride for children's charity, Feeding Dreams Cambodia (FDC).

Snr-Sgt Bennett joined 23 other riders in a gruelling eight days, biking across the Cambodian countryside from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. 

Describing the experience as "one of the hardest things I've ever done", Snr-Sgt Bennett is already recruiting others to join him on the ride next year. 

Swan Hill police Senior Sergeant Brad Bennett travelled to Cambodia earlier this year to help raise funds for local children through a 650km bike ride. Picture supplied.

Swan Hill police Senior Sergeant Brad Bennett travelled to Cambodia earlier this year to help raise funds for local children through a 650km bike ride. Picture supplied.

FDC is a grassroots charity, founded to support impoverished children living in the slums of Siem Reap. 

Since opening its doors in 2012 it has kick-started a number of programs to support local youth, including serving 600 meals daily, providing education to around 800 students and offering vocational training and job placement to 60 underprivileged youth per year. 

The charity also offers 200 yearly accredited six month IT courses, and runs a kindergarten. 

This was the second year of the 'charity challenge' bike ride, following on from the success of the 2018 inaugural event which "exceeded all expectations". 

Promised an adventure unlike any he had experienced before, Snr-Sgt Bennett said FDC more than delivered. 

"I heard about it through a friend of mine, his daughter works at Feeding Dreams and I have known him for over 30 years," he said. 

"I was around there having tea and a couple of bottles of red wine and thought, 'Gee, this sounds like a good idea'.

"So I signed up to go and do it."

Not only was this Snr-Sgt Bennett's first year attempting the bike ride, at the time he signed up, he hadn't been on a pushbike in 35 years. 

Asked if the old adage 'like riding a bike' rings true, Snr-Sgt Bennett said at the very least, he didn't fall off.

"The total ride was 650km, it varied from day to day how far we rode, but there were two days where it was over 100km a day," he said. 

For the most part, riders spent between 90 and 95km in the saddle, pedaling through off-road terrain or along dirt roads. 

"We went through villages in Cambodia where most had never seen white people like us ever, and it was quite amazing the reaction of the little kids seeing all these people riding through in lycra on bright orange mountain bikes," he said. 

While 23 riders started, 21 finished, with one unable to continue and another suffering a fall which left him with broken ribs and a broken collarbone. 

While he made it through relatively unscathed, Snr-Sgt Bennett said he had a few muscles still feeling the effects of the mammoth effort. 

Each rider had a nominated 'child' who they rode and fund-raised for, with Snr-Sgt Bennett riding for Nasa. 

"At the end of it all, we rode into the school where these kids were and we had a ceremony where they all sang songs for us," he said. 

"It was an amazing, emotional experience to be honest, to ride into this school with hundreds of kids cheering it was unbelievable. 

"And then to present the girl I rode for, Nasa, with her pushbike, it was overwhelming, it brought a tear to your eye and she was overwhelmed to have a present like that." 

Snr-Sgt Bennett said the bike ride was one of the biggest physical challenges he has ever faced. 

"It was an amazing experience, but you have no idea how tough it was, there was such oppressive heat, it was relentless," he said. 

"It was the toughest physical thing I have ever done in my life. 

"And if I'm absolutely honest with myself, when I first started I didn't think I could to it, the first day was 97km and the furthest I had ever ridden before that was 23km." 

Breaking the distances up into "four or five lots" of that 23km was a mental trick Snr-Sgt Bennett said finally helped get him across the finish line. 

Tough as it was, he's adamant he would do it again, and in fact he already has his eye on the 2020 ride — though he adds he'd "be more prepared" next year. 

"The smiles on their faces made it worth it...but there were some days that were so tough," he said. 

Snr-Sgt Bennett said while the bikers also managed to combine some sightseeing into their trip — visiting the temples and the killing fields at Phnom Penh — the bike ride provided a very different experience of the country. 

"It was an incredible trip, they have a saying, 'If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you', well it challenged the hell out of me, and it certainly changed me," he said. 

"It's just a worthwhile cause, I'd recommend it to anybody, but you need to be prepared. 

"It is really, really tough, but if you're prepared you can do it. 

"Look at me, I'm a 60 year old man who hasn't ridden a bike in over 30 years, if I can do it, anybody can do it." 

To find out more head to: http://feedingdreamsbikeride.org/

Registrations for the 2020 bike ride are now open.