• Joanna Sharpe

You literally wont believe who called me....I didn't!

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

A wonderful man called Ian Klinac has been kindly helping The LWR with some sponsorship. Hes like a magician sorting out helicopter support to take me across the Cook Strait, from Kapiti Heliworx and Pack and Save, compostable water bottles from The Better Good, you name it so when he called me to say he'd been asked for my phone number by an All Blacks great I was inclined to believe him, although a little puzzled.

Had I heard of Ian Kirkpatrick he asked, "Kirky" would love to chat me me.....Had I heard of him!!!! Even if I was not a full fledged kiwi having lived here for over 20 years I am also Welsh and being the same age as my Daddy, who is the fiercest Welsh rugby supporter you could come across, Ian Kirkpartrick has been an adored hero of mine for years.

I was born in 1975, a year after Ian Kirkpatrick finished captaining the All Blacks. He played in 39 test matches (9 as captain), scoring 16 tries which remained a national record until Stu Wilson surpassed this total in 1983. In 1971, he was a part of the Presidents Overseas XV that was chosen to play against England to celebrate the centenary of the RFU and was captain of the All Blacks when they beat my county of birth in Cardiff Arms Park in 1972. So basically whilst my father was enjoying child free years of his youth watching and going to all the games he could this legend of the sport was playing, living out his fantasy life. You can imagine the stories my brother and I enjoyed as children from the games my Daddy had watched, listen to and rehashed with his mates over a beer.

Yes Id heard of him I said but why on earth would he want to talk to me? Ian had been chatting to "Kirky" about a charity fundraiser for Life Flight that he is arranging in July of this year and whist talking had mentioned this tiny wee cyclist he was helping who was about to cycle the length of NZ, solo trying to set a womans world record and raising funds and awareness for Bowel Cancer NZ. Kirky was in disbelief. This I've got to find out more about he said and so a friendship was born.

Believe me I am in as much disbelief as you are. I'm just a regular girl who likes to ride bikes and is passionate about making a difference. I'm 44,I weigh in at 48kg dripping wet, couldn't punch my way out of a compostable multi use paper sack and have never been picked for team sports, certainly haven't enjoyed them. Kirky on the other hand is a full fledged non disputable NZ legend, hes 72, still weighs in at over 100kg and epidermises what its like to lead a team. I have to add that not only can he still bench press me he cycles 100km a week! Not much in common then, other than the interest in bikes!

So here I am on a workday evening with sweaty palms waiting for a call that I half expect wont come. Its past my bedtime, I have to be up at 2am for training, its been a long day but my heart is racing like I'm at the top of a time trial ramp about to be let go.

When he calls my mouth goes dry, nervous sweat is trickling down my neck but after 5 mins I'm in love with the man like he was a favorite uncle and chatting away like we have known each other for years.

Id thought so much about what I wanted to ask him. My thinking is that this man has been through it all, hes had highs, the lowest lows and come through with grace and his morals in tact. He's honest with himself about his successes and regrets and I wanted to absorb all of that to take me forward into my challenge and learn from his experiences.

The thing is Kirky is so very humble. When I tried to ask about how he overcame adversity, how he kept his head when those around him were loosing there's, how he motivated a team and kept them focused under pressure he just shrugged it off. In my day he said, we just got on with it. We didn't have fancy coaches or training programs, psychologists or nutritionists to follow we just got stuck in and did our best. So what about training Kirky, how did you know you were ready? Well he explained, we worked hard, didn't slack off and hoped we'd done enough come game day. Some may say well that cant help you today Jo, how wrong they are. What it shows me is that passion, commitment and teamwork are whats needed to be the best not the fancy bells and whistles, sure that all helps but when it comes down to it dedication is what makes a champion like Kirky nothing else.

He was clearly more excited about what I was up to than reliving his success, another trait I admire in people, so we chatted away for an hour about training, the planning, the route and pace. We chatted about what I eat....ok really, what don't I eat hahah, about the bike I ride and what I think of disk brakes and DI2. It was the most wonderful time and I explained to him how much it meant to me.

Shes a long time of solitude taking on a challenge like this, I love it don't get me wrong but I explained to Kirky that unless you have been in my shoes you cant understand the huge uplift that comes from small encouragements. Someone road side giving you a wave, a good mate of mine flashing his chest at the top of a climb to make me laugh during the Taupo Maxi Enduro 640km race, a message read out showing support. So a call from a hero is something to keep me going for hours in the saddle. Id love you to come and join me for a while i said, Id love to meet you. Unfortunately people cant ride with me, its a solo world record but that hasn't deterred my new friend. Hes flying to Wellington (Covid 19 now permitting of course) to meet me and take the chopper across the Cook Strait with me, we can chat on the way he says and you can tell me how its going.

So, blown away, humbled, aw struck take your pick, all these things I felt coming of the phone. Naturally the first thing I did was call Daddy and wake him up in the UK to tell him about my chat with a legend!!

Since then Kirky txts me frequently, hows the 900km weekend going he asks, keep going he encourages and most incredibly of all he finds our team inspiring.

Gratitude abounds for those who believe in my crew and I, this great man is just one but I figured you'd like to hear about him, hes a little bit special.

Thanks for reading, Joanna

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