Many of our readers and EnerMech EPS staff will be familiar with Conor’s story. Conor is part of the EnerMech EPS Group family having worked as a High Voltage Operator on EnerMech EPS’s FMG Solomon site. While on his R&R, Conor was involved in a serious motor accident which left him completely paralysed from the chest down. Initially treated in Royal Perth Hospital (State Major Trauma Ward) and then Shenton Park Rehabilitation Centre, Conor surprised everyone by completing his rehab in just six weeks when he was initially told it would be at least four months. Now, Conor continues to break the mould, aiming to become the first ever athlete to complete the gruelling 224km Cape to Cape Mountain Bike Stage Race on a handcycle.
Inspired by Conor’s positivity, the EPSA team set about raising the funds required to assist in achieving his goals. The whole group came on board, raising nearly $82K, and EPS were recently able to supply Conor funds for a stand up wheel chair, renovations to make his house more accessible, as well as the off-road handcycle he’ll need for his ground breaking Cape to Cape attempt.
A stand-up wheel chair features gas struts which allow the user to assume a standing position. Conor is thrilled with the extra independence it affords, “It’s awesome to have the feeling of standing up again, it helps around the house with cooking and working out in the garage… I think these sort of things make it a lot easier now than it was a few years back”.
“If I’m doing it, I’m doing it!”
When Conor decided to take part in the Cape to Cape, the sage advice from everyone was to take it easy (two other paraplegic handcyclists will do a couple of stages but not the whole track). His attitude was simple, “If I’m doing it, I’m doing it”, and with that he set out to become the first ever to complete the event on a handcycle in its seven year history. He was recently featured on Channel 10 News and wants to inspire other paraplegics to chase their dreams, “we’re trying to get awareness out there of what can be done, don’t sit on your backside, get out there, there’s way too much to live for”.
Due to rough terrain and varying surfaces a special $25k off-road handcycle is required to make the journey possible. The hand-built American cycle was custom-ordered and Conor has his Lasher Sport ATH-FS (Full Suspension) on the way for the October event. The rugged full magnesium frame handcycle has state-of-the-art adjustable shock absorbers on all three wheels and reinforced 1/2" threaded axles to stand up to the punishment of the extreme Cape to Cape course.
So what sort of training are you doing? “Currently I’m doing on road training, probably a bit more than 250km a week before receiving the off road hand bike through EPS. We’ve got a nice hilly circuit where I’m living at the moment so it’s good for the stamina. Then hitting the gym 3-4 times a week to get my strength up. Diet is my next step, I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth!”
What will be the most challenging part of the Cape to Cape? “They reckon the first stage is a killer, there’s a massive beach section with 3km of pure sand so it will be interesting to see how we navigate that. Heart break hill as well. With the hand cycles when you pedal it drives the front wheel so if you’re going uphill on a pea gravel surface it’s not the best, you can’t get traction. I’ve got a few support riders who might be a bit sore after pushing me up that!”
Who will you be riding with? “I’ve got two support riders with me, Trevor Prescott my Father in Law and Stuart Morrison, a good family friend. And there’s a couple of other guys on handcycles who will be doing two of the stages with me.”
Are you going to go the full lycra outfit? “Of course, of course. Don’t dis it mate!”
What’s next? “I’m hoping to go over to Victoria to compete in the first round of the National Championships for the on road handcycling in February. When I’m dreaming, I’d love to get to the Paralympics one day. The old Europeans are gnarly buggers, they train like there’s no tomorrow so it’s definitely a long way away, but I’m going to train hard, I enjoy it, so we’ll see how I go.”
The Cape to Cape MTB
Running from the 25th to 28th of October the Cape to Cape is a four day mountain bike stage race through the Margaret River region in Western Australia. It is challenging to riders of all levels and attracts elite international riders to vie for the top prize. The four stages include a variety of terrain that will be immensely challenging on a handcycle, including river crossings, limestone rock gardens, sand dunes, log jumps and steep inclines.
To read about the event in more detail or to register (if you’re game) go to -http://capetocapemtb.com/.
To keep up with Conor’s training and progress, as well as for updates during the event you can visit his Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/conormcgroryathlete.
To see what Conor is in for check out this video from Stage 1 of last year’s event.