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It’s tough and dusty but these schoolkids will tackle a 600km outback track on their bikes

Email Gibb River Road challenge taken up by six school children striving to be the youngest ever team ABC Kimberley By Matt Bamford

Posted May 04, 2019 07:00:00

Safie Matthews is preparing to ride the Gibb River Road for the RFDS Photo: Safie Matthews is preparing to ride the Gibb River Road for the RFDS. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford) Related Story: Changes to Gibb Challenge unveiled Related Story: A challenging ride on the Gibb River Road as rain fell Map: Broome 6725

The Gibb River Road is one of Western Australia's roughest outback tracks where bone-rattling corrugations and a jagged rocky surface have claimed countless cars and campervans.

Key points:

  • The Gibb River Challenge is billed as an ultimate endurance test with teams of riders slogging along the dusty track over five days
  • School children, teamed as the Gibb Groms, are using the ride to raise awareness for the Royal Flying Doctor Service
  • The team has been training by running up hills with backpacks and heavy ropes

Despite its fearsome reputation, six Kimberley school children are preparing to tackle the 660-kilometre route armed with only pedal power.

Broome resident Wyatt Smith, 12, has faced some doubters but was ready to prove his classmates wrong.

"They think I won't survive, but I will," he said.

As a member of the Gibb Groms, Wyatt has been training for months to compete in the Gibb River Challenge.

He is hoping to be part of the youngest team ever to complete the challenge.

"I want to push myself and see if I can finish it," Wyatt said.

The Gibb Groms have been training around Broome, Western Australia. Photo: The Gibb Groms have been training around Broome, Western Australia. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)

Endurance test

Billed as an ultimate endurance test, the event runs over five days and involves teams of riders slogging along the dusty track past breath-taking vistas of untouched country.

The Groms are using the ride to raise awareness for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), which has already played a significant role in their lives.

The Gibb River Road Challenge is considered an ultimate endurance feat. Photo: The Gibb River Road Challenge is considered an ultimate endurance test. (ABC News: Erin Parke)

As an infant, 11-year-old team member Keats Sullivan was badly burned in a farming accident in rural Queensland.

He was flown by the RFDS to a Brisbane burns unit for emergency treatment.

"I had two and three-degree burns, it looked really bad and I was in bandages for a long time," he said.

Keats Sullivan was treated by the RFDS for severe burns he suffered as a child. Photo: Keats Sullivan was treated by the RFDS for severe burns he suffered as a child. (Supplied)

His brother Cayden said help was often far away when accidents happened in the bush, and many relied on the RFDS.

"Most of our families have had to fly with them," he said.

When Caleb McMahon's father had a heart attack in Fitzroy Crossing, the RFDS helped him reach a specialist in Perth within hours.

"It was scary when we found out dad had a heart attack … I didn't find out until he was already in Perth," Caleb said.

The Gibb Groms have been riding up to 30kms in preparation for their Gibb challenge. Photo: The Gibb Groms have been riding up to 30km a day in preparation for their Gibb challenge. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)

Wyatt said he would have lost an arm in a remote buggy accident two years ago, if not for the Flying Doctors.

"When my arm broke it cut off all the blood flow in my arm, so it would have had to be amputated if they didn't bring me up," he said.

Like most country kids, they are acutely aware of the importance of the RFDS.

"It can save your life, most people don't think they need it but sometimes they just might never know," he said.

A Royal Flying Doctor Service plane helps country residents who need urgent medical care. Photo: The Royal Flying Doctor Service helps country residents who need urgent medical care. (Supplied: RFDS)

Hard yards

For several months, the team has been under a strict training regimen to prepare their bodies for the gruelling conditions.

Three-to-four mornings a week, before school, the Groms have been running up hills with backpacks and heavy ropes.

They also complete rides up to 30 kilometres around Broome.

It has been a challenge for their parents to keep up, according to Kate McMahon.

"We've got to get them out of bed and go along to the training, so I think we are just as tired as the kids," Ms McMahon said.

"As a mother, you do worry about them but at the same time they've put a lot of training in — we're so proud."

The Gibb River Challenge will begin next month.

The Gibb River Challenge takes cyclists past dramatic Kimberley landscapes. Photo: The Gibb River Challenge takes cyclists past dramatic Kimberley landscapes. (ABC Kimberley)

Topics: community-and-society, regional, kids-games-and-links, extreme-sports, sport, family-and-children, children, cycling, health, doctors-and-medical-professionals, accidents, charities-and-community-organisations, broome-6725, derby-6728, kununurra-6743, darwin-0800, perth-6000, melbourne-3000, sydney-2000, brisbane-4000, bunbury-6230

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