For anyone following the events throughout the challenge thus far it should come as no surprise that the day started off with, you guessed it ladies and gentlemen, rain. After all the hardship, the long exhausting days, the impossible mountain and gravel roads, Iceland still would not give the team an inch. If they wanted to cycle around this wild land they would have to draw on every fibre of mental and physical strength they had in their entire being, and these cyclists seem to have boundless reserves of the latter. Despite being wet before they even started pedalling the briefing was full of determination. Let that sink in for a minute. The team had been through the worst any of these cyclists had ever seen, some of which had been doing this challenge for nearly a decade, and the feeling was still one of determination, even from the new cyclists. At 7 in the morning they set off, as always, without fail. Their destination today was the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustar, 196km away. Today’s hardship came in a different form. By this I do not mean that weather conditions were favourable, that does not seem to be an option in Iceland. Once again the rain was constant, throughout the day, and the temperatures at times dropped to below 4 degrees Celsius, but by now the cyclists were used to this form of abuse, so fate decided to try a different angle, today it got personal, and extremely frustrating. The tone was set by the first checkpoint. A very beloved member of the cycling team had to be pulled off the road due to strain injuries. This was a blow to everyone. In conditions such as these the team draws from the strength of its members and this made everyone’s heart rather heavy. It was as if Iceland had decided to turn it up a notch. What was there to do? Turn it up a notch right back. The amazing thing about the bonds formed during the challenge is that no one is ever really out of the team, roles simply change. While saddened by the fact that the cyclist would no longer be able to pedal by their side, they knew he would be there for them till the very end and this is what counted.
Of course this left Iceland no choice but to turn the heat up once again. The back-up vehicle responsible for setting the route refused to start. The back-up team scrambled to get it started again to save the cyclists from losing time and morale and finally, thanks to a set of power cables and another trucks battery, the engine rumbled once more. As one might expect by now fatigue had set in for cyclists and back-up team alike. As chairperson Shirley Cefai has said, Iceland is as cruel as it is beautiful. During this experience a valuable lesson is learnt. A bond in a team is only significant enough if it can withstand the natural frustration caused by constant adversity. While tested many-a-time, strong friendships and clear leadership saved the team from confusion and disaster too many times to count.
At this point simply recounting the happenings of the day is not enough. At this point if this article is to be honest it must also be personal. I write this surrounded by people that have changed me for the rest of my life, people I never thought existed and people that I am absolutely honoured to have met. Our island is lucky to have such people cycling overseas, showing the world what can be done if you want to make a difference in other people’s live. Maltese renal patients can rest assured knowing that these men and women are not only collecting funds to help them through difficult times, but prove, by putting themselves through these impossible conditions, that they want to empathize, and they are here as a rock upon which the patients can depends at any moment.
You can help this year’s team by donating via SMS on the following numbers: 50618920 for €6.99 and 5061 9229 for €11.65 and via landline on the following numbers: 5061 2020 for €10 and 5170 2005 for €15.